Beauty Queens

13,031
05.03.2019

“Screw you!” Shanti screamed.

Nicole snickered. “That’s better.” With a grunt, she tossed the vine toward Shanti’s one free hand and dug in her heels. “Grab on.” But Shanti was panicked. She tugged sharply. “Hey! Don’t pull too hard! You’ll —”

Nicole lost her balance and toppled into the quicksand. She made a desperate grab for the vine, but it fell in with them. “Nice work, Bollywood.”

“Oh my God. Why didn’t you secure it to the tree first?”

“You’re welcome, Miss Grabby Hands. Aren’t you the science whiz? Don’t you know about forces and equal and opposite reaction and all that?”

“Like, hello? I was being swallowed by quicksand, okay?” Shanti shrieked.

“Well, now we’re both stuck.”

The girls screamed as loudly as they could, but no one heard or no one came. Shanti gave a rueful laugh. “Don’t you know the other trope?”

“What’s that?”

“The brown people die first.”

The girls struggled in the mud, fighting the pull as it sucked them farther down no matter what they did.

Despite being unable to move, both Shanti and Nicole managed to free their hands for one last, sisters-in-non-white-dominant-culture-solidarity hand clasp. It was a very cool hand clasp, the kind white kids across America will try to emulate in about six months, just before an avant-garde white pop starlet turns it into a hit single and makes lots of money.

“You can’t … trust … the man,” Nicole said with her last breath, as she and Shanti sank beneath the quicksand.

Ekwe, a traditional Nigerian drum, impressive to throw into your party chatter: “I was going to play the ekwe, but my hair was still damp.”

Sweet Sixteen Gone Wrong (Wednesdays, 10 P.M. EST): Will Special let her manicurist inject her with yak’s urine? Heidi flips out when Heather schedules her dress-fitting party on the same day as Heidi’s pre-party modeling lessons. Z’anay has a tanning mishap. Dazzle chooses a small dog to match her dress.

Vampire Prom: The Corporation’s Monday night supernatural drama about a pack of high school vampires and their dating dilemmas. Based on the novels, which were based on the graphic novels based on the comics, which in turn were based on the Swedish art-house movie. “Some vampires are born to kill. Some, to dance.” (Catch the Vampire Prom dance tour coming to an arena near you!)

Princess Priya, an Academy Award-winning movie about an orphan girl from India’s slums who is rescued from a life of poverty and exploitation by a well-meaning white woman (Best Actress Oscar for Victoria Bollocks).

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

The surface of the quicksand bubbled. Nicole’s face pushed through. She spit out the oatmeal-like sludge and took a deep breath. “Shanti!” she gasped. “Shanti, I’ve got hold of a root! We’re saved.”

Two seconds later, Shanti’s head emerged. “Nicole! Nicole, I found a root! I can pull us out!”

“Shanti? Where are you?”

“Over here! Sorry, I can’t see yet. Can’t wipe my eyes.”

“Me either. Can you pull yourself out?” Nicole asked.

“Totally.”

“Go!”

With a grunt, they heaved their way up the vine and onto solid land. They were covered in muck, but they were alive. This narrow escape made them giddy. They hugged and held on tightly to each other.

“Ohmigosh, that is going to be, like, the best story ever for the judges!” Shanti shook the clingy mud from her hands.

Nicole did the same. “Just so you know, I wouldn’t have let you drown before.”

“I know,” Shanti said, and they hugged again.

They found a steaming hot spring, and once they had tested it to be sure it wasn’t more quicksand, they eased themselves in. The banks of the hot spring were made of thick, red clay. Shanti scooped up a handful and put it on her face. “This stuff is, like, genius for your complexion. Want some?”

Nicole smeared the mud on her face. “Too bad there’s nothing for my hair.”

“What do you mean?” Shanti could feel the clay hardening, closing her pores.

“I am a black woman without her products. All this new growth? I will never get a brush through this again,” Nicole said with a sigh.

“It looks so awesome! Like a kinky waterfall.”

“Did you just say kinky waterfall like it was a compliment?”

“You should keep it natural.”

“Yeah?” Nicole patted her hair. It was coarse but full. “Need some kind of grease, though.”