"Incest Taboo" is from TWO AND TWO by Denise Duhamel, ©2005. Reprinted by kind permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Incest Taboo continued

on the floor. On the movie screen, explosive
wings and Tippi Hedren. Two clean semi-circles
arched the dusty windshield, a splatter of white bird
poop the wipers couldn't reach. Their father
yelled, "Mommy! Look at that! They're running the wrong
way!" Sea water sloshed in Jane's ears, humming,
the soundtrack fading in and out, dialogue swooping
from the crackling gray box hanging from her mother's
window. Fred avoided looking at her. He parroted
bird screeches. His fat greasy hands hovering
over the popcorn made Jane say, "You ugly beached
whale! Share!...Mom and Dad, look, Fred's driving

me to drink!" "That's enough," their father replied, hum-
drum dad-talk, as though the drive-in
was as good a place as any to announce her wrong
turn, to foreshadow her own alcoholism. Beach
bunny Jane, fourteen, with a father
as good or bad as most, a hovering
mother. Did she know then she'd wind up terrified of birds--
hunched under bar stools, screaming about the parrot
on Baretta's shoulder? The next day Jane circled
the beach house block on a rusty bike. "My mother's
a bitch," she said, meaning Fred. Freckles exploded
on her arms. Her ponytail, a bright chestnut swoop.

Years later, at the party, Jane's husband hovers
over her, trying to control her drinking, swooping
towards each rum and coke, like a father
trying to save the boiler before it explodes,
like a mother bargaining with the beach--
"Give me back my son and I'll be the best mother
in the whole world! I know I was wrong
to let Fred swim alone." She'd trusted that circle
the sun made in the sky, but never again. "Jane drives
herself crazy with regret," her husband says, a parrot
to her whims. The party is humming
with rumors, guests screeching like dawn-inspired birds.

Jane never wanted to become a mommy.
That is, she wanted to stay sexy, unburdened
by diapers. She wanted to walk a birdless beach
without a string of toddlers behind her, pull-toys humming.
She was sure her body would explode
during childbirth. She dreamt of parrots,
instead of babies, flying through her legs. Her father
had wanted a boy, someone he could teach to drive
golf balls into the future, someone he could swoop
down and lift to the basketball hoop, a circle
of victory. He had Fred who hovered
behind him, a cub, until everything went wrong.

Incest Taboo continued

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