That summer God spoke to my little sister: He told her to win the Teen Miss Florida pageant. Are you sure that’s what He said? I asked. I was drinking a lot back then and often misinterpreted the Lord’s instructions. She was more or less certain.
Kids from our neighborhood were not in the business of winning beauty pageants. That’s why she needed to break her legs. Or just one leg. One leg would do. The pageant circuit took pity onthe injured—little girls on crutches who’d fallen from their horses. It pulled at their heart strings. Get back in that saddle, etc.
So we took a sledge hammer from dad’s tool shed. I expressed my reservations. About pageants in general. She said what’s so wrong with commending great beauty? I said what’s in it for me? She considered. You could write a story about it.
We went out to the backyard and sat on the rusted swing set. Looking at her posture as she sat—an imaginary encyclopedia balanced on her head—I thought she really could win. Perhaps even without being maimed. Why endure the suffering? That’s what’s most beautiful of all she said. Mustn’t one know great suffering to understand great beauty? She was fourteen. There were wisps of fine hair on her knees.
As we stepped out into the wet grass I told her we could still call the whole thing off. She said please sissy and the child looking back at me was Miss Florida. I could see it; sashes and sausage curls and world peace but moreover I could see that God was speaking through her. I was drinking a lot back then. She sat down in the grass and spread her legs apart making one point of a star. She closed her eyes and clasped her hands together in prayer. I raised the sledge hammer above my head.
Jeffrey DeShell Interview
by Grant Maierhofer
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reviewed by Sean Sam
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