Author’s Note: Here is a short excerpt of something I’ve been working on lately.
The dressing room smells like hairspray and fear sweat. Halogen lights buzz over a crowd of would-be stars and Internet sensations. All have that need to go viral. Fifteen minutes of fame is now fifteen seconds unless they have the right slogan, the right catchphrase.
There’s a mom smearing makeup over her kid’s face. Large fingers rub over the small child’s forehead, cheeks, chin. “Hold still,” says mom. “You won’t look right if you don’t hold still.” The kid surrenders, shoulders slumped, eyes closed.
“Think they’ll let us on this time?” asks the kid between swipes of mascara and glitter lipstick.
“They’ll let you on,” says mom. “They have to.” Mom’s hands tremble, and the lipstick draws a line on the kid’s cheek. “Shit.” Mom wipes away the mistake.
The kid says, “You said that the last few times.”
“I know what I said,” says mom. Mom stops and grabs her kid by the shoulders. The kid’s feet stop swinging over the edge of the particle board table she’s sitting on. Mom’s staring into her kid’s eyes. “We are going to get you out there in front of those cameras.”
“Then I hold up the sign,” says the kid. She’s got it right next to her under mom’s purse.
It reads, “#SaveClara.”
A couple walks by, man and woman, dragging their kid behind them by the arms. The woman sneers at Clara and her mom. “You’d do better without any makeup,” she says. Without missing a beat, the couple scurries off out of earshot.
Clara’s mom sighs. Her eyes tear up. “It’s okay, mom,” says Clara. “Those people are assholes.”
Mom chuckle snorts, her hand moving to her mouth to stifle the noise. “Where’d you learn to say that?” she asks.
“Grandma said it the other day about Mrs. Tilley,” says Clara. “Mrs. Tilley was sweeping her stoop like she always does. She was watching the house again. Grandma doesn’t like Mrs. Tilley.”
“No, I don’t think she does,” says mom. Mom gets out the brush and finishes Clara’s hair. “And you’re right about the others. But I don’t want you talking like that.”
Clara frowns. If she’s right, why can’t she say it out loud? Grown-ups are weird.