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Beauty Queen

She wanted to be beautiful, to be loved and remembered. She wanted to be seen and reassured that she was not a monster: a monster with fingers down her throat, one with blood in her urine from the diuretics she abused. Her, with the cleverly hidden scars of augmentation: collagen, Botox, laser dermabrasion, synthetic breasts, cheek implants, hair extensions, liposuction, radical glut restructuring. More surgeries. More drugs. Drugs to heal. Drugs to numb. Drugs to not eat. Drugs to counteract drugs. Then more implants, restructuring and training always to be this doll. The radiant thing of plastic she would become. Her mother told her that to be loved, she would have to be beautiful. She also told her that it would hurt. That it was all about sacrifices and, after all her mother had sacrificed, her daughter would be perfect. Form must always come before function, mother said. And it was all about sacrifices. The junior pageants, strutting caked makeup on baby fat for pedophile judges. Sacrifices always had to be made. It always hurt when the crown was inches away, some other girls bright moment burning hers to ash. She was desperate to win, desire sickened to the point of need. She just wanted to be beautiful. To be loved and remembered. To be seen and reassured that she was not a monster, a thing of plastic and forced regurgitations, a construct of chemicals and scars. She learned early on to give blowjobs and hand jobs to the judges in the regional tournaments. Sometimes they would fuck her, filling her with self-loathing. And sometimes, even then, she would lose. Then more drugs. More surgeries. Nowhere modeling jobs. More hand jobs, more blow jobs. And mother. Mother, the guiding light, mother the failed-beauty-queen-turned-surgical-crusader, the ever driving force behind the knife. More and more, she had become all that her mother could never be in her gaudy pantsuits and Gucci jewelry. The champion of her mothers inadequacy, the mule of her lost hopes. At last she won in the big state pageant and gained the illustrious invitation to the Miss America competition which was being held in Los Angeles that year.

Mother was elated. That meant more PR for her and more surgeries and drugs for her darling daughter. It would be grueling, but mother said it was necessary. "We're making you into a champion," she said, determination and excitement rising sharply in her voice. A doctor in Sweden named, Klaus Bruener, was said to have developed a new surgical technique he claimed resulted in the perfect symmetry of face and body. He claimed he could add and remove bone and even replace it entirely with a new plastic that the American FDA had not yet approved. He could alter muscle, shape flesh, an artist with a scalpel. Mother was ecstatic. She had already booked a flight and made an appointment. They were gone for six weeks, their "vacation" a success. With the completion of the process, she was completely unrecognizable to herself. She had been born through the most unimaginable of pains to become the absolute in perfection. The looks from the other girls, though especially from the men, said everything. Women hated her, men desired her. All just the marks of success, said mother. Then it was back to business. Charities state wide required her charm and notoriety and she required their press to fluff her cosmetic campaign. It was at a charity event for sufferers of colon cancer that she first felt ill. The event was held outside under a sweltering June sun. It was the hottest day of the year and she was boiling. She became nauseous and dizzy. At first she thought it was sunstroke, until she noticed that smell. It reminded her of when she had accidentally left a plastic spatula to melt on the stove. A smell like that was emanating from her own skin, coming through in her sweat. A good beauty queen handles trouble graciously. She politely dismissed herself from the event, claiming a family emergency. She had to be smooth when dodging the press. When she at last made it home, she rushed to take a cold shower, all the while telling herself it was nothing. That everything was fine. She would be okay. But why couldnt she get that awful taste out of her mouth? Two months later, the same doctor in Sweden, Klaus Bruener, had his license pulled for malpractice as the plastics he had been using were proven to be highly photo- and heat-sensitive, releasing a carcinogenic and highly toxic chemical into the blood when subjected to temperatures above one-hundred-and-two degrees. The ten-o-clock news said that the plastic could even become malleable, meaning injurious deformities could result.

A good beauty queen handles trouble graciously. She canceled her outdoor appearances on account of another "family emergency" and stuck to her indoor events so as not to slow the campaigns inertia. The media was beginning to put the pressure on, prying and probing, but mother was there to step in and defend her precious doll. Mother was an expert liar, just as she was an expert in the ways of beauty and, as she put it, the art of war. She experienced the same nausea during the filming of a local commercial for Wild Bob's Low Cost Appliances. She refused to let it stop her, though, and was sick for the following two days. She couldn't tan naturally, but that was no problem as they, well, mother, found a cosmetology wiz who could airbrush her an even, golden-bronze. Everything fell into place then, and they were on their way to sunny Los Angeles for the Miss America pageant. Her with her umbrella and personal mister, mother with her pinched, bitter mouth and oversized sunglasses. There were so many gorgeous girls. How many of them, she wondered, had had the same surgeries, the same fears and same chemical nausea? She was nervous, but Miss Tennessee with her perfect non-regional diction told her to relax as she taped up her boobs. "You're beautiful, probably the prettiest girl here. But Ill kill you in the talent segment." She said with a wink and a well-practiced smile. Then the show was on. She wowed the judges and, while broken dreams left the stage at the end of the swimsuit segment in a wash of tears, she continued to shine. Her mission statement was winning, packed tightly with compassion for dying children and teddy bear fluff, just enough to make the judges weep past their erections. In the talent segment she belted out an angelic version of "Bridge over troubled water" that wet more eyes than the judges could themselves. Miss Tennessee bombed and was eliminated as where many other girls. Backstage, on a commercial break, just before the evening ware competition, our beauty queen was feeling nauseous. That same sickening plastic smell was again rising from her painted skin, more noxious now than ever before. Looking in the mirror she swore that one of her cheeks had moved, drooping slightly lower than the other, and her breasts were aching. Her legs, too, were sore, especially the muscles that weren't muscles at all. Her vision was getting blurry and that could ruin her poise. She struggled

to keep her composure, sucking deep breaths that only made her feel more ill. She thought she heard a girl mention something about burning plastic. She prayed to Christ that no one would know. "Get it together," she told herself as she slipped into something uncomfortable for the final competition. Tom Jones was just finishing a sweat-stained version of "She's a lady" when the girls went on stage to parade about one last time in expensive silk and satin dresses that no one would ever wear again. As they followed their choreographed paths in arcs about the stage, she nearly tripped but stayed her course. "Determination," Mothers mantra, "Sacrifices." It was all about sacrifices. At last, after an eternity of silence from the judges, only two girls remained: Our beauty queen and Miss Florida who had been doing blow all night during the breaks. Our girl was so elated, butterflies threatened to force bile out of her mouth. She choked it back, our champion. She fought to stand and not topple as the toxins in her blood threatened her equilibrium. Another long silence from the judges and our hitherto nameless beauty queen was being called to step forward, the new Miss America. Suddenly a white hot spotlight blazed down on her. The former champion crowned her with her tiara as the slick-haired announcer filled her trembling arms with flowers. She couldn't smell them though, not through the burnt plastic stench that assaulted her nose and watered her vision. As she took her final trip down the cat walk, she was crying. Crying because the world thought she was beautiful and crying because she was in agony. Her chest suddenly went flat as her implants dissolved, their unnatural fluids running agonizingly into her bodies tissues. It was leaking, this admixture of liquefied polymers and silicone fluid, from well hidden scars only months old. She didn't notice as the seams of her angelic face split open for a runny, wax-like discharge that spilled out in milky-colored rivulets with her toxified blood. She only heard the sound of victory. She couldn't see that members of the audience were fleeing in terror. The vapors from her body were blinding and the hectic thunder of feet in wild exodus rang like applause through the din of horror she imagined was a cheering crowd.

A hundred cell phones were dialed as cameras flashed and frightened judges ran from the sight of the melting woman. She stumbled as muscles that were not muscles at all burst neatly seemed flesh. Her dazzling, jeweled tiara sat crooked above her melting face, blood and unstable plastic ruining her shiny, skin-tight blue-sequined evening dress. She was delirious. Sick and fading in a heap on the stage, flowers strewn about in the sticky goop. She cried tears of joy, mumbling through sagging, distorted lips, "They love me, Im beautiful." Then, she died, leaking a foul smelling slime that bubbled in the spot light. She only wanted to be beautiful. She wanted to be remembered and adored. Mother said it would hurt. It was all about sacrifice.

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