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Weekly Alibi Chain Link

By Lisa Gill

SEPTEMBER 29, 1997:  Bess and I have been friends since junior high. She was always pretty and a girl.

We hooked up when she got mad at her parents and cut all her hair off. I noticed when she did it. Everybody did. It was a small school and if you were a girl you had hair to your shoulders. So I saw her walk into history with the scarf on her head that first day, and the next few days I watched the way she wouldn't make eye contact unless she had to. I listened hard when she whispered requests to go to the nurse.

On the third day, she had a new scarf. One with pictures of robins and she walked a little stronger and met people's eyes. Then I watched everyone else avert their gaze. What all the staring and snickering came down to: the ground.

At noon, I found Bess by herself on the side of the school house. I offered her a Lucky Strike and she accepted. She took her gloves off to take the cigarette and when I lit it for her, she cupped her hand to protect the flame and took a drag like she knew all about it. I knew she'd been watching the boys. Then she pulled her scarf back to reveal what was left of her hair, and I knew she'd been waiting for someone to make the offer.

We spent recess outside the chainlink fence. I blew rings and she tried to imitate me, kept blowing big clouds, laughing and taking another drag, trying again, until the cigarette made her stomach queasy. She stubbed it out and I saw her pocket the butt. Then she chased the circles I was making, like a little kid after soap bubbles. She started sticking her finger into the rings, without disrupting the tenuous structure though. She let the smoke dissipate at its natural course. I lit another and blew high. We passed lunch this way and when the hour was up, she let me feel the blonde shocks of hair which stuck out unevenly over her head before she pulled her scarf back up.

After school I took her down the ravine and kissed her the way I wanted to be kissed. She knew more than I thought she would. We both knew more than most of the boys we were going with. That day, she gave me her robin scarf. I nodded and put it in my pocket, knowing, this was secret.

Lisa Gill is a poet and fiction writer from Albuquerque. She was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 1996 and recently was awarded the Cottonwood Cooperative Fellowship in Fiction Award for her short stories.

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