I awoke at five o’clock to iron my green blouse, the one the color of pistachio ice cream, the silky one that made me look like Miss America according to my scumbag ex-boyfriend. That’s when I always knew what he was after, “Vicki, Miss America,” he would drool. Miss Hamilton County Fair Queen was my official title, the only one I ever won. It was one of Indiana’s biggest agricultural fairs, but still, I was crowned queen. That mattered to me. I had physical evidence to back my claims. Instead of bragging outright, I would pull out the glossy color 8x10 photo snapped by the fair photographer. I always carried it in my bag.
That fair was back in high school. I’d tried to win other pageants but without success. Modeling for auto shows paid well. All I had to do was wear a tight dress and stand beside a shiny new car for two days and then accept $500 cash payment on Sunday night. The local J. C. Penney’s called me each month for their ads. That was easy to dress in one of the new exercise outfits and act like I was running in the wind. Put on a pair of tennis shoes or model zip-up windbreakers and stand still against the white canvas backdrop. That was lower pay than the auto shows, but the store let me keep the clothes I wore.
If anyone drove by Fairtown Mall, they could see the billboard of my feet wearing Ultra Comfort Sport Cushioned Socks with Reinforced Toes. Occasionally, the ads manager from the newspaper called with an assignment. A sponsor wanted to place an ad and they needed a model. I held babies who wore extra absorbent diapers, pushed vacuum sweepers, carpet cleaning machines and held coffee cups to my lips to show the newly improved coffee bean grinding machine. That was the extent of my modeling career. Thank God the manager never asked me to model lingerie or swimwear. That would be too much.
I also had a dancing career. Even though I was the best looking of all the girls who danced at Mr. Joe’s Lounge, I never got the chance to dance at night. Daytime hours were all he gave me. The other girls were downright sneaky and made it terrible for me, so the owner kept me on the day shift. But that was okay. It was enough to pay the rent, buy groceries and a few clothes to wear to modeling interviews. Night time was the big money and I was getting sick of pleading with Joe to let me dance then.
I had an early start today. As the sun began to rise, I had already made coffee, showered and blow-dried my hair, my long blonde hair. Like corn silk, the men tell me. Like wisps of pale gold they say, and the sweaty, fat, bald stinky men ran their hands through it even though things like that weren’t allowed.
My black skirt was knee-length and modest and the shoes had low heels. I wore no eyeshadow or glitter on my cheeks as I used to for my job at Mr. Joe’s. I had applied only pale rose lip gloss and wore my Miraculous Medal given to me by my father at graduation. I’m sure he would be proud of me now. I’d accepted the offer from one of my lunchtime patrons to work at his insurance company. It would be a real job.
“Hey, sweet! I need a new receptionist. My old one quit to stay home with her new baby. Benefits, good pay and a chance for advancement. What say? Ten dollars an hour.”
“I’ll come by tomorrow. Mr. Joe will have to get somebody else. I am sick, sick, sick of him!”
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