Two weeks ago, I wrote a hard-hitting expose on the shadowy underbelly of the arts and crafts website Etsy.com. I outed five sellers who were clearly serial killers disguised as knickknack enthusiasts, after which three of them sent me very polite messages insisting they were "just regular people" and asked that I "please stop accusing [them] of mass murder." To date, I have not decoded the hidden threats in any of the messages, but with the help of my housekeeper -- who was indispensable in solving the Case of the Cryptic Note from the Verizon Guy last fall -- I expect to decipher them long before the authors show up on my doorstep with ether rags.
Even more interesting than the letters, however, was the package I received from ShiniesAhoy, the No. 1 entry on my list. It was labeled as a "Magical Mystery Box of Curious Supplies."
"Sorry, more deTAILS would be imPAWSible."
I ordered it because I was fascinated by what "curious supplies" meant to a person who regularly deals in cocoons and squirrel jaws. What I received was more than I could have hoped for. The box arrived about a week and a half after the column ran, which meant that she had plenty of time before sending it to read my article and, more specifically, the three long paragraphs where I, perhaps hastily, condemn her as a killer. Here's the note I got with the package:
My first thought was that she was surprisingly kind, considering I had hinted that maybe she pulls apart puppies as a hobby. My second thought was "I owe this poor woman a huge apology." But when I started to unwrap the items from the package, I realized that I could do so much more for her: I could build an apology out of the animal pieces instead.
So should you ever find yourself in a scenario where a very kind stranger mails you sectioned hunks of animals and you want to ensure that you stay in her good graces, I have compiled this blueprint for answering insanity with insanity. I call it:
Now, your lunatic starter kit may be different from mine, but I received:
8 porcupine quills
6 broken doll eyes
2 shrimp claws
10 beetle wings
6 python ribs
8 shark teeth
2 owl pellets
4 butterfly/moth wings
7 baby starfish
Several colorful feathers from different birds
Assorted rodent bones
And a grouse leg
Step 1: Decide Exactly What You Want Your Carcass Project to Say
Before you start slathering everything in hot glue and rolling it all into a casualty ball, take a minute to really think about what type of nightmare says "I'm sorry" the best. For instance, I aimed to build something that looked very much alive to prove to ShiniesAhoy that I don't actually think she's a murderer at all. Yes, she crammed a pile of death into a flat rate box, but from it would hatch a brand new species, an amalgamation creature that she helped birth into the world. I wanted her to share in the pride of playing God, or at the very least, a mother.
Additionally, the new animal needed to convey that my apology was genuine. If the old adage "the eyes are the windows to the soul" is true, then it stands to reason that the more eyes an animal has, the more soul windows and the more sincere it would have to be by default. With that in mind, there is no creature that better exemplifies sincerity than a spider.
Step 2: Choose a Body for Your Affront to Nature
After sketching a loose diagram of what you intend to build (as I have above), take stock of your materials and decide what will work best as the base. In my case, I had two large pellets vomited straight from the stomach of an owl that would work perfectly as the body segments of a spider. The trouble was that each pellet consisted mostly of loosely held together fur and bones, so in order to make it more structurally sound, I had to slather both pieces in puzzle glue. Incidentally, the sealant gave the body segments of my regret spider a sickeningly realistic shine, so that was a happy accident.
Once you have your basic structure in mind, start fusing the pieces together. I used steel wire and hot glue to ensure that the foundation was sturdy enough to survive any accidental encounters with arachnophobes. I also reinforced the abdomen with beetle wings because it was less sturdy than the head. It would be pretty embarrassing if I chose an animal synonymous with integrity for my apology gift to ShiniesAhoy and it immediately broke after only one panicked swat with a hardcover book.
Step 3: Make Every Element a Metaphor for Your Regret
Regardless of what you end up constructing from your pile of animal sheddings, remember that the point is always amends. That means every piece you add should mean something to the person to whom you're apologizing. Also, you're working with the expired bodies of living creatures, and they deserve to be treated with reverence.
I chose porcupine quills, a natural defense, as the legs of my creature, because there were exactly eight in the box and because they made a nice symbolic gesture of disarmament when I snapped them in half. I wanted to prove that my intentions with this gift were anything but hostile while simultaneously making a poignant statement about the Middle East, probably.
The insides of the quills were similar in texture to packing peanuts, which made them easy to stab with angled wire before gluing them back together to give articulation to the legs. The glue, of course, acted as a representation of our repaired relationship. Obviously.
Finally, I made a wire circle for the undercarriage of the spider head so that all the legs could join together on one solid fixture. The steel circle represented ... a, an upside-down halo to symbolize ... a confused innocence? I don't know, I'm beginning to think that maybe this step was bullshit.
Step 4: Just Make It Look Rad
You want to know the best way to make your new species look terrifying? Shove shrimp claws in its face. They make great mandibles for a spider, or really any creature, now that we're no longer bound by the shackles of symbolism or anatomical correctness. I experimented briefly with shark teeth as well, but I sensed that I was flying too close to the sun. Instead, I fixed a single shark tooth to the back of the abdomen as a stinger and hot glued python ribs along the sides like spines, partially because I thought the back body segment needed to look a little fuller, and partially because by that point I was drunk with the power of a god.
Lastly, don't bother trying to introduce wings. I entertained the idea of giving it butterfly wings, but regardless of where I put them, it changed the whole feel of the creature from menacing to infuriatingly festive. In the end, I stabbed one of the wings with the front leg (despite the deweaponization comparison I worked so hard to construct earlier) and poked the other into the mouth of the spider. It turns out that the only way to make butterfly wings look cool in a craft project is to dangle them from the jaws of a vicious predator.
Step 5: Take Pride in Your Creation
Once your creature is complete, give it the proper context of an environment. I opted to display mine on a hunk of wood, towering over the shredded body parts of its prey. My particular monstrosity clearly eats rodents, birds, insects, and probably small children. I also determined it's aggressively territorial and merciless in its insatiable thirst for blood. Oh yeah, it also drinks blood, at night. I don't know exactly how yours will turn out but I can't get over how completely and unapologetically awesome mine is. There's no way I'm giving this thing up. If anything, it is the opposite of an apology now, it is an attack on the senses. Yes! It is an aesthetic attack, that doesn't say sorry, it only screams incoherently while slipping up your calf and injecting enough venom in you kneecap to kill twelve men. Man, this must be what new parents feel like. I just want it to be so happy.
Maybe I'll send ShiniesAhoy a card or something.
Our bodies are changing.
Many of today's celebrities have some real surprises in their family trees.
Science is fun.