After the assembly, Eliza and I picked up little pink pamphlets with a typewriter embossed at the top.
“Boy, some of the idiots they let in this place,” I said.
“Definitely,” Eliza answered. “To think that I would cut my nails to type all day!”
Time passed in a flurry and the contest was near. I was in English class growing restless by the minute. I was trying to concentrate on Mrs. Douglas teaching Haiku poetry. You haven’t lived until you have heard her explain that to the Future Farmers of America. I tapped my pencil on the desk and thought of California palm trees and long, endless beaches.
“Mary Ann, would you like to instruct the class on today’s poetry lesson?” she asked.
“No ma’am, I’m sorry, just a lot to think about.”
“You’re excused. Please pay attention from now on. You can start by reading the poem on page 157.”
I looked up and Rudy Bobby was grinning at me. Darn! Now he would probably remember to ask me to help him feed his calf at the agriculture barn today. Things had to get better than this.
Just one week before the contest, Eliza and I were all set to give a performance for the Lion’s Club luncheon. Our speech class was scheduled to entertain them by doing some prose readings and some mime interpretations. We were bringing literature to the west like literary gunslingers. I was okay with this because it is something that might help me in California with all those creative people, films and everything, you know. My background as a thespian had already included a performance in The Canterbury Tales and acting as Edith Ann. I had performed Edith Ann during the Christmas pageant and hated it because the jokes written for her were just not that funny because it was material from the previous year, but Eliza dressed as a maven with heavy black eyeliner in her long, black dress had talked me into it. “So at the garden luncheon, Mrs. Smith said she just loved the itty bitty tuna sandwiches. I said, ‘Kitty loved ’em too, she at five.’” The audience sat stone-faced. I awkwardly touched the ruffles on my pinafore, size too large. Definitely not the highlight of my acting career, but who knows, in the middle of my medical assisting, I might get some decent acting parts in California.
Looking out over the audience, I surveyed the Witt Lions Club. Most of them were overweight farmers with names that stuck out like Spike, Cotton, Crow, and Slick. Half of them, freed from an afternoon in the fields, were semi-dozing. The culture club in Witt. Minus Boy George, of course. I looked at Eliza. She rolled her eyes. I smiled. California wouldn’t be like this. Mime time, take one.
On June the 1st, we were already out of school and graduation was over. Eliza and I got through it okay. I even got an award for my speech performances. I couldn’t believe twelve years of school were behind us and tonight was the Miss Rutherford County contest. I really needed was second place. If I got second place, I could still get some money and do some promotion things with the town and cotton and all that stuff. Pose for pictures in cotton. Smile in a cotton dress. Walk on cotton. Eat some cotton candy, okay, well maybe not. While contemplating the many benefits of cotton, I ran into none other than Carly Adams.
“Why Mary Ann, I just can’t believe you are competing tonight, it is just so out of character for you.”
“One never knows, I guess,” I replied.
“Well, I just hope you managed to afford a dress for this. I mean, not that you would win or anything, but I just would hate for you to be embarrassed. You’re not going to curl your hair like George Washington again, are you?”
“Don’t you worry about it,” I said. “I’ll manage to look appropriate.”
“Good for you. You didn’t make a dress, did you?” she said with a snicker, then answered herself. “Oh but, of course not. Guess I’ll see you there,” she said batting her eyelashes then turned to hop into her sports car.