The Initial Insult - Mindy McGinnis Page 0,1

first pen. The gator got Goldie last week, little tufts of gold-white hair floating in her pond as she eyed me, silent in the morning light.

Someone who thinks they’re better than us, someone with—I’m sure—things like air-conditioning and a flu shot and a car with a muffler on it because Cecil and I never heard a damn thing, and the dog never made a peep. Maybe because Goldie was as good as dead already, the deadly V trail of the gator dancing on the surface as she made her move.

Someone who wanted to make sure we know what we are and bothered to drive out of town, past the buildings and the cell towers, past the paved roads and up into the hills, coming back down on the other side out here to our little place. Coming out here to lead Goldie to the water and leave their mark on our doorstep. They left something for nothing and came to take a little bit more from us.

I can see it. I can hear it. I can smell it. She’s in her shiny blue car, music blaring until they’re close to the house, windows open to air out the sickly sweet smell of weed. She probably shushed the others—the new friends she brought along to torment an old one—probably closed her car door real quiet and slipped Goldie-Dog a treat when she came to greet her, still familiar with her scent after all these years. A kind one. A comforting one. A scent she would’ve trusted, right up until the gator’s jaws snapped down on her spine.

I imagine my old friend even did the sign herself, maybe worrying a bit when the spray can was louder than she thought it would be or shaking her hand when her finger got stiff from pushing down. She was smart enough to take the cans with her, and I bet she even threw them in the dumpster behind the gas station on the way back home after dropping off her friends, probably screwing Hugh Broward in the back seat before she went on home.

I’ve borne it all with patience, the years of small cuts that heal over, my heart a pulpy mass of scars. But it was still beating, at least I could say that, right up until she took Goldie from me. Now it’s a dead thing, still in my chest. And if I can’t feel the good things anymore, then doing a few bad ones shouldn’t hurt a bit.

And they are long overdue.

I dig viciously at the last bit of paint, and my screwdriver slips, flying out from under my fingers and sending my hand into a hard scrape against the wood. The pain is sharp and bright, and a shock pulses to the tips of my fingers. There’s a splinter in my palm, running from the top of my wrist up into my fate line, close enough to the surface of the skin that I can see the grain in the wood, but deep enough that it’s going to hurt like a bitch coming out. I grip it with my teeth and pull, the sun baking my back and a trickle of blood snaking down my arm as I do. In his cage, the panther huffs, tail twitching, suddenly bright-eyed. He can smell it.

I spit the splinter into the ditch, where it pings off one of Cecil’s beer bottles.

I’m not like Cecil, wondering who would go and do a thing like that.

I know who.

It was Felicity Turnado.

Chapter 2


I’m being carried again, but this time at least I know by who.

Hugh’s calf tattoo flashes in front of my eyes as he walks, our school mascot—a raven—flicking with every other step. He’s got me hauled over his shoulder, my hip to his ear, my long hair almost reaching the grass as he carries me out past Gretchen Astor’s barn, into the woods behind. Plenty of hoots and hollers follow us: the guys urging Hugh to get some, the girls adding their own thoughts, none of them out of concern. My friends—at least, that’s what we call each other—watching me half-comatose and being carried off into the dark.

Hugh’s tat crosses my vision a few more times, and then he settles me gently onto a rock, the one we always use when the party is at Gretchen’s. I slip like water through his arms, sagging into him as he settles in beside me, his body as steady and sure as the boulder underneath me. No