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Updated: May 3

By Yvonne Osborne:

After my mother died, I found a mink stole wrapped in newspaper at the bottom of the cedar chest. Unlike the one my great aunt used to drape around her shoulders—broadened by her corset—this was just a simple fur collar to wrap around your neck. It was Christmas Eve, so I wrapped it around the collar of my long black coat, like a boa, and went to midnight mass. 

I expected to turn heads, the calculating-but-envious glances you can feel through the hairs on the back of your neck, maybe a remark or two during the sign of peace, but nobody noticed. Don’t they know mink in this backwater church? 

I know mink. 

Mink is a blood-thirsty little animal with razor-sharp teeth. One bit the heads off a dozen of my sister’s chickens and drank their blood without getting a speck on his coat. Her dog cornered it, and her son shot it and hung it on a fence post as a warning to others. A neighbor who should know better caught a baby and brought it into his house and let his daughter bottle feed it. The little teeth went clickety click as it latched onto the nipple. It got fat and slept in a cage.

The neighbor had chickens. My sister tried to warn him.

With all the ups and downs of a Catholic mass in an over-heated church, sweat gathered under my arms and breasts, and I considered ditching my mink collar before Father Unconscious even got to the Gloria. Winters used to be colder and churches frugal with their fuel oil, back when mink was treasured. 

My mother would have scolded me for wanting to draw attention to myself at midnight mass, where one is supposed to be mindful of ecclesiastical matters and disdainful of the material. As if people didn’t go to church to be seen.

There’s no accounting for a person’s motive. Take me, for instance, all decked out in a mink collar, traipsing up the aisle to a front pew so everyone can see me. Nobody sees me. Nobody wants my mink collar, even though it’s soft as spun mohair, and you can sink your fingers in it all the way to tomorrow. There aren’t any beady eyes and five-toed feet attached to my mink collar, no pointy little teeth flashing flecks of white. Maybe that’s the problem. I bet that would have drawn an eye from hymnal to me.

Nobody wants it. Even the upscale resale shop says it won’t sell. I could wrap it in newspaper—that’s what you’re supposed to do—and stow it away for the day mink is back. Why not? Bellbottoms are back with a new name: flared. Maybe a granddaughter or a niece would reclaim it and wear it to midnight mass on a Christmas Eve when the stars are out and the first flakes of snow fall from the heavens on the drive home. 

Resisting the urge to turn on my wipers, I let the snow accumulate and blur the degrees of separation between the road and the ditch, between heaven and earth, between what I have and what I know on a long drive home.


Yvonne Osborne

Yvonne Osborne is a fifth-generation Michigander who grew up on the family farm under the tutelage of a grandmother who loved Shakespeare before Shakespeare was cool.

She is a Pushcart-nominated poet, and her poetry and writing can be found in The Slippery Elm literary journal, Third Coast Review, Full of Crow, Midwest Review, Great Lakes Review, and in several anthologies. Let Evening Come is her debut novel. 

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