Creative Nonfiction: The Taxidermist’s Daughter by Jane Hammons

Five days a week the school bus stops at the house with Taxidermy painted in letters that drip like blood down a jagged board nailed to a dead pecan tree. Nipple. Spine. Clavicle. Breath. Through the worn fabric of the sisters’ dresses everything shows. The youngest girl a year ahead of me in school her little brother the same age as mine. We clear a seat press ourselves together uncomfortable. No sister sits with us. The two older girls quieted by the shunning. Not the youngest loud and boisterous. She asks to copy homework. She cracks her gum offers us sticks from her grimy pocket. Her eyes light blue like ice water running beneath them purple rings shadow the depths. The boy his face caked with snot finds a place with other boys. My brother. 

Once the taxidermist came swimming his whole family uninvited into our reservoir. my brother pushes me off the raft we’d made from old fence boards so he and the boy can imagine themselves fishing fighting off sharks castaways from a pirate ship. No sisters. The parents beneath bright striped beach umbrella hidden under hat and cap. Greasy paper bag picnic on tattered towels. Clothes the sisters shed like litter on the banks. They swim in sagging underwear.

Before one school term ends the family disappears. The house remains vacant. Taxidermy fades. The pecan tree continues to die. Years a decade later the newspaper writes her story. Held hostage by her father brother in a trailer years of rape and torture until she gets her hands on a gun and fills their bodies with blue gaze bullets tried for murder she is found abused defiled driven mad. 

At last innocent. 

Jane Hammons taught writing at UC Berkeley for 30 years before returning to the Southwest to write and practice photography. Her flash fiction is included in the anthology Hint Fiction (Norton), and she received a Derringer Award for Flash Fiction from the Short Mystery Fiction Society. Her short stories can be found in Alaska Quarterly Review, Contrary Magazine, and JMWW, among other publications. Three photographs were included in Taking It To the Streets: A Visual History of Protest and Demonstration in Austin (Austin History Center). She is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.

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