Pennsylvania: A Natural History Volume I, Part One: The Clam and Other Fauna of Pennsylvania

THE CLAM
[See also Thought-Clam; Pond Onion; Diamond-o’-the-Valley; Livid Acorn.]
Pennsylvania clam populations are believed to be among the earliest nest-builders. Units of clams known as gangs or “Christ’s Children” would migrate for up to ten months out of the year, traversing vast expanses of territory, in search of nutrient-rich areas and subsoil germ deposits. Early pioneers in Sugar Notch and Larksville hurled clams against large boulders or shale outcroppings to smash the clams and get at the juicy meat; clam suppers were held in these locations. Alternatively, the clam was kept in the earth for many seasons until a Pennsylvania “sour” clam was cultivated. Prized clam rums, made by squeezing a cold essence from the “sour” clam (see also Gordon, 1975, on the Clam Laws of Prompton and Bethany), are still savored in the parlors of fashionable residents.
Natural Habitat: the Great Interior.
Diet: (see above)

THE EGRET
[See also Bird (below).]
The egret is a large, overly friendly, almost socially needy bird, with a feeble mind and a shockingly conspicuous anterior genital. Members of Pennsylvania communities should refrain from encouraging this bird by feeding it corn or acknowledging its thinly veiled innuendoes. Popular methods of “dismissing” the egret include banging on a prune-kettle and screaming.
Natural Habitat: areas around hotels and restaurants; clearings.
Diet: sweet, sugary foods; parfaits; icing.

THE BIRD
[See also Dove (below); Swan; Nut-Plover.]
The genealogy of the bird indicates a generic, often neutral animal that is descended arbitrarily from any number of different mammal and insect species. The fossil record shows that ancient woodland animals would hurl themselves from cliffs, bluffs, and other precipices. Those animals which survived by suddenly remaining aloft were naturally selected for aerial survival and reproduction (via “cloud booty”), evolving collectively into what has (perhaps misleadingly) become known to scientists as the “bird.” Notable exceptions include the hen, the western oat bat, and the Roseburg pheasant, which was created expressly by Jesus to fly majestically over all the land.
Natural habitat: the Williamsport suburbs; Cedar Ledge; Gleason.
Diet: seed corn; thistles; fibre.

THE OYSTER
[See also Blind Man’s Lozenge.]
The oyster is harvested from the wide-open grasslands of Pennsylvania, with the help of an oyster hound. This hound can detect the subtle buttery scent emitted by the oyster. (A hound may not be used, however, during the oyster’s mating season, when a powerful beery smell drifts above the tall grasses, forming the notorious “oyster winds” of the Tyler region. The Pennsylvania oyster is inedible during this period.) Because the oyster snaps fiercely if disturbed while nestled in its habitat, the hound is fitted with an oyster-yoke to prevent injury. According to the Bible, groups of elves gather the oysters into special hampers by moonlight, utilizing the oyster’s fabled soporific quality to placate their “teams” of large, blind children. Historically, these children are harbored in secret underground nurseries, where they amuse themselves with corn-rattles. The results of forceful attempts to domesticate the oyster using field-cages (Bell, 1909; Wrenzo, 1930) have proven disappointing.
Natural habitat: Oliveburg; Gipsy; Barr Slope; St. Clair; Greble.
Diet: mice; hatchlings.

User Fiction Cover 10

First published in Tin House.