Beyond the Pageant

Qualified Entry: Fiction Category

By: Iris Harrison

“Sally Anne get you heinie down here and practice your baton twirling,” bellowed Christy from the end of the narrow central hallway of their flamingo pink double-wide. The trailer shook as Sally Anne appeared in a huff from her room. A thousand freckles dotted the girl’s fair skin, and a messy bun barely kept her thick, orange hair out of her emerald green eyes. Her dark green lumberjack plaid over-shirt hung loosely off her seven year old figure as she trudged into the dated living room with its puke green frayed carpet, yellowed vinyl tiles, and two broken windows, which were a product of Bill’s anger management problems.

“Look here, darling,” huffed her overweight mother, “I done got you a new outfit for the talent portion. Ain’t it pretty?”

“Um, yeah…” responded Sally Anne unenthusiastically. The child’s poor retina’s were burned by the sea of pink and sequins that had just been thrusted into her face. All she wanted to do was go play outside with Champ, the neighbor’s black and white Great Dane, but, as always, she was forced to stay inside the musky trailer and practice pageant tricks. Nothing was a greater bore than throwing the baton uselessly up in the air for hours at a time.

“Alright now, get on with your routine. I’m going to go hang your new costume in the closet,” said Christy in a commanding voice. Reluctantly, Sally Anne started to throw the baton up in a figure-eight motion.

All Christy cared about was pageants. The mother’s childhood obesity had crushed her dreams of becoming a pageant queen, and she still weighed in at a large number. Consequently, Christy chose to fulfill her childhood dream through Sally Anne’s slim figure and baton twirling skills.

When the mail came in that day, Sally Anne’s confirmation for the Junior Miss Austin Pageant came with it, much to Sally Anne’s dismay. That smooth white envelop was the source of the child’s misery, and she looked at it with piercing eyes of hatred. Flashbacks of flappers, spray tans, makeup, and glitter flooded her mind instantly, and a wave of dread crashed over her.

“Noooo,” she muttered under her breath.

“What’s that, darling?”

“Nothing, I said nothing.”

Two weeks wore on. Practice, practice, and more practice filled the mornings, afternoons, and all the time in between. Sally Anne’s homeschooling was put on hold until the termination of the Austin pageant. Nothing was important unless it concerned the pageant.
Finally, the day of the pageant came. Christy’s tense nerves created a sea of pressure in which Sally Anne was drowning. Nothing could be done to Christy’s unattainable standards. As they were loading up their red, rusty sedan, Christy snapped at Sally Anne.
“You grabbed the silver tasseled baton? You need the pink sequined one! What were you thinking you good-for-nothing piece of trash!?” The girl burst into tears and plundered away from the dusty driveway. Sally Anne could not fathom why the pageant took such an important role in their lives. It all just seemed so pointless. For three hours, Sally Anne hid behind a colossal oak in the neighboring lot. Once she figured enough time had passed so that they missed the pageant, Sally Anne emerged from her hiding spot only to find Christy in a state of frustration. After enduring an hour’s worth of chastisement, Sally Anne spoke for the first time.

“Please don’t make me do pageants anymore.”

“You will go, and you will like it! No exceptions! Now, hop in the car. We are making it to that pageant if it’s the last thing I do.” Shocked, Sally Anne followed her mother’s instructions and sat down on the matted cloth of the front seat. Before Sally Anne had a chance to buckle her seatbelt, Christy floored it out of the weed infested driveway, leaving the pink flamingo double-wide in a cloud of red dust.