chapter fifteen: witness
excerpted from GIRLY, a novel by Elizabeth Merrick


Racinda was wrapped in Christmas tree lights. The three men had taken them off the moldings of the low ceiling and watched her spin until she was coiled in them. She was finishing the twirl—was all tied up—right as I got back inside, and her face looked different when she was this drunk.

“Time to go,” I said after I’d made my way through pounds and pounds of these men's stares.

“Max, go home,” she said, sticking her right hand out of the green wire in a shoo shoo motion from the wrist.

I wasn’t thinking, just breathing and moving and talking.

“Racinda, let’s go,” I said, and then the three moved in:

“Let the lady do as she pleases,” a hick said as he handed her a shot of whiskey.

“Last time I checked it was still a free country,” one said.

“If there’s going to be trouble we can take it outside,” one said, while the fourth, a short one, his black hair a hard teardrop under his baseball cap, held the end of the lights, and Racinda spun herself out, arms gradually raising, like a corkscrew, next to the low-lit pool table. The string of bulbs fell to the floor when she was done, and he tried to whip them like a towel in a lockerroom, the trails of light distracting me for a second before I grabbed her arm again.

“Max!” she said, drunk eyes widening, “This is the song!” and another old Joni Mitchell thing came on the juke, loud, speakers right next to us.

“We have to go,” I said, grabbing her arm.

“Hold on,” the blackhaired one said and grabbed me, tore me off of her.

“What?” Racinda said, “WHAT?” and she reached back out for me.


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