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Miss Kindergarten America

by Carol Schacter

Miss Kindergarten America of 1984 hitched up her garters and teetered back to her hotel room overlooking the boardwalk. She was a very small beauty queen and it had been a tiring day, the most exciting day of her whole life. She had done it! She had won the title and next year, Mommy promised, she could enter the preliminaries for the Miss Pre-Sub-Teen America pageant. Oh, Mommy was so happy!

As soon as she closed the door, she stepped out of her high heels and ripped of her girdle. Gee, that felt good! Standing all afternoon at the Coketail press party had been awful.

She undressed and stood at the mirror, looking at her figure. When she had reached the semifinals, she had stopped eating cookies and ice cream and started smoking. Then she had really lost a lot of weight. Daddy called it "baby fat" and said leave it alone, but Mommy said after all, the child is five and it's about time she thought about her shape. (She didn't really like the taste of cigarettes too much, but ever since the sixth graders got their own smoking lounge at school, all the younger kids sneaked a few drags at recess, hiding under the slide. And then it got to be a habit.)

She carefully removed her makeup with some Big Idea Moisturizing Cleanser, slapped on some Big Idea Skin Freshener and Big Idea Hormone Night Cream. She considered not setting her hair but knew it was hopeless. Her perm was growing out and this morning Kenneth had teased her hair so much (to make it look natural), she knew it would collapse over night. Maybe she'd run in for a comb-out after breakfast.

A half hour later all the rollers were in place and she rubbed her aching arms. She laid out her dress for the next day's festivities - a stunning little nothing from Saks, all shape and line. She'd be able to wear it to the PTA first-grade dancing classes next year, so $89.95 wasn't really expensive. Even Mommy had said it was a thoughtful investment.

She set her clock-TV for 6:30 and tucked in her doll family for the night. Santa Claus had brought her the whole set last Christmas. It came in a big box with three double beds and a new educational toy, "The Mating Game." There was Grandma Barbie and Grandpa Kin and Daughter Sally and Son-in-Law Rob and their daughter Lolly and her boyfriend Tom. Sally come equipped with snap-on bosoms and snap-on tummies and a yummy wardrobe of maternity clothes so you could pretend she was in all different "months."

She got under the covers and lay on her side, her arms and legs curled up under her chin. The rollers hurt like anything. She thought how nice it would be to go home and see Daddy. She really hadn't spent much time with him since Tabitha Carleton's fifth birthday coming-out party. Ever since that night she'd been busy working for the title.

The party had been lots of fun but, gee, what a mess after those third-grade boys crashed it and spiked all the Cokes. All those broken windows and doll furniture thrown all over the beach....But still, it was the publicity that had started her on the road to the crown. Mommy took her straight to the modeling agency in New York, and she hadn't been so busy since she was three and a cheerleader for the Little Punks Tiny Football League. Now here she was, at last, Miss Kindergarten America.

She tried and tried to find a comfortable position but something didn't feel quite right. Something was missing. Then she remembered and ran over to the closet. Oh good! No one had found the bag she had stuffed behind her mink stole. She went back to bed. With her mangy teddy bear, and old plush elephant, and a somewhat soiled rag doll cuddled fiercly in her arms, she fell sound asleep.