David and the Anatomical Venus are pen pals. They write notes to each other in secret when their museums close, and trust the custodians to deposit the letters in the inter-museum post. “You are boring,” writes Venus in March. “No, boorish,” David replies, “and if I am it is only a layer of my perfection.” They disagree on perfection. They disagree on most things.

“The children who visit,” Venus elaborates in April, “merely point at your anatomy and giggle.” “Grown women, and even men, point at my anatomy and swoon,” counters David. “Grown women also giggle,” Venus corrects, “and they and the men and the children point at my intestines in wonder. ‘Look how long,’ they say. ‘Look how glossy.'” “Yet I intimidate the greatest artists,” David argues. “I inspire the greatest healers,” Venus boasts, “and once, diagramming my body, two fell in love.”

“I want a child,” David confesses in May. “My uterus is exposed,” Venus apologizes, “but there is a wax infant down the hall that was my sister’s.” David is not sure he wants the child of a whore. The Anatomical Venus collects all her organs into a bunch so she can visit the infant. The infant is not quite an infant. He is still partially in utero, balanced in half of a wax placenta. He sucks his thumb. His wax baby butt gleams. “He looks like you, perfection,” writes Venus later, but there are no cameras in the museum, no pictures to send. David is unconvinced.

“Come visit,” implores Venus in June. “Nobody wants to see us in August.” She is afraid of being alone. When alone, she wanders the halls of taxidermy, lets her entrails drag to provoke the carnivorous beasts, though the beasts prefer to talk. “I am always popular,” David reminds her. “I am dying,” she pleads. “You will always be dying,” he writes, and wishes he could soften his words. But his words, even written, are marble.

Emma Sovich