chapter eight: crazysitter
from GIRLY, a novel by Elizabeth Merrick

(this is Max talking. He's Racinda's age. It's the eighties, in Sacramento)

When Ruth first walked in the door it was just starting to get dark out, just graying and cooling in the distance. The first thing you’d notice is her strange hair, kinky and sort of metallic brown underneath, but blonder and blonder towards the frizzy ends, and then you’d see the way her cheeks were so round and always a little flushed, real apples. She was thin but her skin coated her like a layer of soft dough, plumping her, in a nice way though. It looked pink in some light, dead white in others, shifting, the way certain shells do.

Her little sister followed her like a mute. Her mother, Amandine, took the soda my mom got her and stayed away, on the couch, squeezing the lemon wedge into her Tab until the pulp coated her fingers.

My mom was leading Ruth around the house in a sort of a tour of all the things she worried about.

“This is where all the phone numbers are. There’s the fire extinguisher. The casserole for dinner is in the fridge and there’s otter pops, ” etcetera.

Ruth kept her back real straight and smiled a tiny girl smile, nodded like she was taking everything in, but she made sure I saw her pinch Racinda’s side—twist the skin hard—a couple times when mom’s back was turned. Racinda just took it like a pussy, blindly attached to her sister. Ruth’s own mom sat on the couch smiling wider when Ruth, my mom and Racinda passed by to inspect some other crucial detail. When Amandine saw the three streaming by in the hall, it was like a breeze swooped past her eyes and she posed to look happy. Not to convince someone else, more like for herself. Otherwise, she just sipped her Tab. I saw her lick the lemon off her fingers in a sort of prissy, greedy way after she rested it on the rim.

When our moms were driving off, my mom yelled, “Praise the Lord!” out the window of Amandine’s car, and Ruth actually said it back to them, loudly, enthusiastically.

Racinda seemed to inch away from her sister when Ruth sang it out again-- “Praise the Lord!”--but I got closer, hovering across the linoleum, fascinated with whether Ruth was fooling or not. I could see the windows of the Dasher lowering—a little vertical movement gobbled up in the horizontal of the car slipping down the driveway.

“Jeez, they are so fruity,” Ruth said.

Racinda and I stared up at her—we somehow got younger than ten with Ruth as the adult.

“Jesus fruity Christ,” Ruth said, pulling the screen door wide to let it go dramatically, to hear the wood bang the frame.

We stared silent.

“Praise the fucking fruity Lord,” she said.


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