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The Case of the Double Jinx

You're Nancy Drew and you drive a blue coupe.
You drive fast. Your mother is dead.
You're solving mysteries that stump the cops.
You sass them back. You're flip-haired and eagle-eyed.
She's the new-hired help and you're a nosy house guest.
She's a model turned jewel thief and you're hot
on her trail. She's a pretender to the fortune
of the county's richest missing bachelor.
You're a daredevil detective. A breathtaking
escape. She fooled you once and won't again.
You're peering in her windows. You're watching
as she hides the proof beneath the sink,
as she scrubs her hands with lye. She splashes bleach
across the tile. You're watching as she runs
the bath. You watch. She's wasp-waisted
and flaxen-haired. You're not the better sister.
You're no one's good-time gal. You're a bayou.
A river caught fire. You're armed with a flashlight
and a revolver. You're casing the estate.
Ned will get you for your date at four. He's late.
She's a cocktail dress and you're day-old rye.
You find a blond hair on the sofa bed,
stockings in the spare room. You come home late
one night and find the house lit like a birthday.
You tiptoe to the window, your skirt's hem
catching on the hedges. She's in your house.
She's dancing slow with fickle Ned. She laughs
at all his jokes. Now you're a pincushion.
You're the sulfur smell of rotten eggs. You do
the only thing you can. You run.
This time you're the belle of Miami Beach.
You're busting up a gang of smugglers.
You drink rum and dance all night. You learn
to surf. A strange man licks the saltwater
from your hair. The smugglers are setting sail
for Cuba. You're an inside job. You're on their tail.
There's a girl here dressed as you. You surprise her
on the ship's back stairs. Now the jig is up.
You've been found out. You're tied up and left to drown.
You tapdance SOS against the cabin's roof.
You run home to River Heights. You bolt the door.
You're a sure shot, an expert swimmer,
a gourmet cook. You bake birthday cakes
and ice them all in arsenic. You learn to knit.
You believe in the jinx. You won't say his name,
won't look at the phone. She's a damsel
in dishwashing gloves. She's at your kitchen table,
sugaring her tea. Ned's a lost sock.
She smiles your smile and wears his jacket.
She hums. You're gimlet-eyed. You're losing steam.
You're on vacation in the snow-stunned Alps
when the innkeeper comes to you for help.
He's getting threats from a dark-wigged woman
who claims that she's your twin. You're snowed in.
He tells you all the town's most handsome men
go missing after dark. You wear a borrowed mink
and sleuth by candlelight. You smell Ned's soap.
She's a false wall. She's a trap door. You're dangling
from the rafters. Ned's tied up in the basement.
He's bound and gagged. He's never been so grateful.
You get him back but he won't stay.
Silly Ned, he wanders off. He's lost
in state parks, disappears on dinner dates.
You're on the case and he's lucky that you
rescue him, time and time again. You get
him back in pieces. You swear you hear
his voice before the dial tone clicks on.
You find his toenail clippings on the tile.
His name's a rock you rub against your teeth.
He's a wishbone saved beside the kitchen sink.
You're digging through her trashcan. You're watching
as she slips the proof beneath her skin.
Her body now the briefcase full of unmarked bills.
She scrapes her palms against the wall's fresh paint.
She swings a bag of bones into the yard.
Her hands flush red and you know you'll never
see that boy again. Born different
you could have been sisters. Like those butterflies
in shadowboxes, pinned and mounted above the mantle.
Now you're the double agent. You're calling all the shots.
She's a foxtrot. She's a jinx and you can't speak.
You're a dahlia and she's the state fair's
bright-eyed Susans. Or she's the real Nancy
and you're a costume party. Didn't you feel
made of paper? Didn't you hide for years
from houses, the streets of windows
that left you feeling skinned and eyed? Even
the neighbor's house for sale, the mulch and rows
of transplant tulips, their faces open--
how their black stamens stared and stripped you bare.
Now you're creeping through her flowerbeds.
There's no crime to detect here but your own
and Ned's long gone. You're the back door's loose latch,
the spare key beneath the mat. You're pawing
through her dresses, pirouetting in her heels.
She's in your town now. You're in her hair.
One quick slit and you're in the space inside
her skin. You hold your breath then whisper.
You thumb the ligaments. You kick the tires.
You loved that dumb boy, too. Before he died.

- Nancy Reddy (from Anti-)