Beauty Queens


“Good point, Petra. We know that young ladies of the teen persuasion do not use these indelicate words. Nor do they have thoughts about sex, mast***ation, violence, being competitive, or farting.”

“Exactly. Teen girls are made of moonbeams and princess sweat. Which would, of course, not be called sweat but glow, and would be taken care of with an aggressive antiperspirant like The Corporation’s new That’s the Pits! with aloe microbeads. Because when it comes to keeping you smelling lady-fresh, aggressive is A-okay.” Petra waved to the crowd and exited stage left.

Adina turned to the audience. “Oh, super fun fact about Petra? She used to be J. T. Woodland from Boyz Will B Boyz! She’s a proud member of Trans Am Transgender Rights Campaign and is the first transgender Miss Teen Dream contestant ever! Let’s give a big hand to Petra!”

On the sidelines, Agent Jones cursed silently. Why hadn’t they gone with the five-second delay as he’d suggested?

Beside him, The Peacock clapped loudly “General Good Times loves Boyz Will B Boyz! It is his favorite band. Look, he smiles!”

Many miles of ocean away, the call-boards lit up at The Corporation Network. What was going on with these girls? Did they have some sort of tropical illness? Agent Jones glared in the direction of the stage. These girls were up to something, and it wasn’t smiling and waving. But his job depended upon staying hidden and keeping an eye on MoMo. He couldn’t rush the stage and risk exposure. He’d just have to ride it out and hope they cut the crap.

“Last but not least, let’s welcome Tiara Swan, Miss Mississippi. Fun fact about Tiara: She thought you could get pregnant from swimming with a guy.” Adina shook her head. “Oh my goodness! Don’t you just love abstinence programs? So not helpful. Tiara, what have you learned here on this island?”

“I’ve learned that it takes a village to build a catapult, which is not a city in Mexico, and that uterus is not a dirty word or the name of a planet. I’ve learned that if a guy pretending to be a pirate tells you he’s nothing but trouble, he’s probably right. So you should find somebody else, ’cause there are some really cool guys — and girls — out there. I’ve learned that you can use an old evening gown to catch rainwater and that grubs taste a lot like chicken. I’ve learned how to build a good, strong hut and accessorize it just right. I’ve learned that feminism is for everybody and there’s nothing wrong with taking up space in the world, even if you have to fight for it a little bit, and that if you don’t feel like smiling or waving, that’s okay. You don’t have to, and you don’t have to say sorry. Mostly, I’ve learned that I don’t really care if you like these answers or not, because they’re the best, most honest ones I’ve got, and I just don’t feel like I can cheat myself enough to give you what you want me to say. No offense.”

Adina smiled. “Thank you, Miss Mississippi.”

“Am I done?” Tiara asked.

“Do you feel like you’re done?”

Tiara thought for a second. “Yeah. I do.”

They went to a commercial break. MoMo B. ChaCha, cradling General Good Times in his arms, conferred with Agent Jones. “The General must make the pee-pee. We will return, and when we do, it is time for the musical number. It is our favorite part.”

Agent Jones raced for the stage area. He stood outside the curtains and coughed, and Adina stuck her head out.


“You’re going straight to the musical number.”

“What? But we haven’t done swimsuit or picked the Top Five yet!” Adina protested.

The agent rested his hand on the top of his gun. “We’re doing the abridged Miss Teen Dream tonight.”


Mary Lou and Tane bobbed beside the yacht. On board, one of the ROC soldiers kept watch. They’d have to take him out somehow. Mary Lou climbed on board, startling the sleepy guard, who leapt into action with his gun leveled right at her. “Hi!” she chirped. The guard didn’t move. Mary Lou’s knees shook. “Do you have a bathroom I could use?”

The guard aimed. From behind, Tane whacked him with a life preserver and the man fell, unconscious.

“Cutting it a little close there, babe,” Mary Lou said, exhaling.

“I couldn’t believe he wouldn’t let you use the bathroom. What a jerk.”

They crept along the wall and took the stairs to the upper deck to make sure it was clear.

Mary Lou whistled as she took in the boat’s majesty. “Holy cow. Grill. Juice bar. Enormo-screen TV. Pineapple. This thing has everything.” Mary Lou paused before a bowl of cookies. “Do you think they’d mind if we helped ourselves to a cookie?”