Xiezhi the Goat-God, the Girlie, and the Stag by Abigail Elizabeth Ottley Wyatt

I am Zee-Zee Liáng, exotic dancer. Following my birth, my sloe-eyed mother, still angry at her father’s refusal even to speak to her Italian-American husband, expressed her resentment by naming me for the fire-eating goat-god of justice.
     'Xiezhi,' she would remind me, 'the world is cruel. Make your way and don't be bullied.'
     She hoped, I think, I would build a career in politics or the law.
     When I went to work in a night-club instead her dark eyes opened wide. It made no difference. I loved my job, even the risks. Never quite beautiful, I was slender, supple, and always, always adventurous. I never danced for a living. I danced for life itself.
I don’t dance for money now. It ended with a private function. Some big bruiser's stag night. I was booked to perform. I got lost, arrived there late, found my 'dressing room’ was actually a toilet. Flustered, I went on, anyway. It didn’t go well. 
     Seconds later, I was crouched against the wall, the locked door rattling behind me. His shadow spilled under it.
     'Hey, girlie, he wheedled, 'open up.’ 
     ‘I don’t do extras.’ I whimpered. I was terrified, no question.
     ‘You’ll do what I tell you,’ he slurred, ‘you filthy, slitty-eyed whore.’
     He launched his whole body at the door, straining the lock. The only available exit was an impossibly tiny sky-light.
     If I hadn’t done what I did that night, I probably wouldn't be here. There’s no 'trick' to it either, despite what people say. Luckily, I had my props right there - and enough fuel left for my purposes.
     ‘I am Xiezhi,’ I hollered, ‘exotic dancer and deliverer of justice.’  Breathing fire, a torch in each hand, I burst through that door. 
     He went up like a Roman candle. Mama would have been proud.


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