I was like a bad luck voodoo doll for La Donna Stagler, my girlhood nemesis and big rival in beauty contests. If I wasn’t around, she could rule her little roost of Southern chickadees, top of the pecking order and you don’t want her pecking on you. But if I was in town, she was second best, or at least had to fight for the honors. She was the hereditary rich bitch with the Barbie Doll looks and all the accessories, but I was a sports hero, better looking, and people could actually stand me. And the guys that La Donna tried to arrange around herself like some French queen’s court would rather hang out with me than her, even if I was just out shooting possums and blackjacking mailboxes with them, instead of giving them chaste handjobs like her.
Trouble was, she lived in the same township as my Aunt Beulah and Aunt Jacksie. Which meant that I kept showing up in her life and making her more crazy. It wasn’t like girls in other schools, where we’d be a year or less, then move on and never see those poor faithful saps again. Every time Daddy lost another pulpit we’d be right back at the filling station, getting Auntie maimed, and there I’d be, traipsing right into La Donna’s habitat. And kicking her ass in the pageants and school crowns she adored. Why she didn’t have me gutshot and field dressed, I’ll never know.
Worse, she had to get along with me. Be my bosom buddy, even while wishing my bosoms would fall off and roll in a ditch. I was pretty popular and people generally liked seeing me blow back into town, along with Selah, who was even more beloved since she was pretty too, but was also sweet and gathered friends because of her kindly nature, not a combination of kiss-up, fear, and starfucking like myself. Worse for LaDonna, her daddy just loved me to pieces. I was kind of careful to not get in a position to find out just how platonic that love would prove out, but the main thing was, he was a letterman and President of Everything In Sight at the consolidated school there, and he would have loved Vulpina the Emasculator if she’d been bringing more trophies to the grubby glass case in the main entryway of the high school.
So she was stuck with me, poor thing. She was always standing around being my best friend. AKA, hating my innards from close range while hiding behind a shooting blind made of bleached hair and capped choppers. And, later on, surgically entranced titties Wheeling me around to parties and drive-ins with her sweet, neat elite. Half the time I’d ride shotgun in the Cadillac convertible her Daddy let her drive from the time she was fourteen and nobody stopped her. Creamiest puff in that part of the state, and the main party arrival float. Tony Ricowhatsis always called it the E Mobile, his daddy the baker being a bit of an opera buff. So there I’d be with the letter sweater crust, the hot cheerleaders, and the social wasps, blasting around the scented Southern night in La Donna’s E Mobile, listening to haircut band tunes out of Oklahoma mega-stations: grabbing the sticky-sweet elusive. And driving her apeshit.
It wasn’t really fair competition for a couple of reasons. For one thing, we were Churchmouse Manor and she was Lil Miz Gotbux, all the way. Her father invented cowtipping or something and was richer than buttercream icing and would have probably been living in Manhattan or Beverly Hills or the Taxward Islands except that her mother couldn’t abide being parted from her kin, who included half the county. So there they were, just laughing the time away and spending fortunes on gowns and makeups and elocution tutors and coaches trying to figure out how to make it look like she had any talents other than simpering and acting snooty.
But also, I didn’t really care about the contests all that much. I was never in them for myself, anyway. And what did they prove? You were born with a face that looks better under a fake tiara than some other girl? But La Donna cared. Intensely. With a white-hot, smoldering passion that curdled up and smelled bad when it didn’t get its way. So like I said, not really a fair match. I guess the question would be which of us had the advantage. I wouldn’t have traded with her for a billion dollars and home field through the playoffs.