Jennifer Hill-Kaucher
Miss Blue Devil

She was looking for something heart-shaped with a handful of gravel in her mouth.  The ocean provided these things for her in earnest - little round eyes slapped up on the sand.  The ones in her mouth were a washing and she swallowed them one at a time, imagining them as glass islands inside of her.  Most of the transparent stones were sluiced up at the jetties.  Gulls with heads that looked like pen caps sliced up crabs and left little to please but tiny jointed legs and gristle.

Sometimes you have to declare them heart-shaped, she said to herself, lifting an orange pebble - all charm without form.  All charm without form, poise, grace.  This was her monstrous slap.  With a sigh she gulped another, letting it rattle against her molars - the suggestion of power.  With her tongue she lined the remaining up against the pocket of her jaw.  Three small stones.  It would be a disgrace to spit them out among the rest of the flotsam.  In front of her - a cigarette butt, sticks, fingers of kelp, crab rot.

She was once Miss Blue Devil.  Almost.  First runner up.  Her skirt had been hemmed too short and she sensed the judges machining stares during the swimsuit competition.  Her mother had forgotten the spray.  Toupee spray kept the suit from creeping up.  Now she imagined everything sliding up behind her - age and silence.

And the next runner-up is...

This stone slid down like absinthe at the back of her throat.

They had all clasped hands while the announcer opened the envelope.  She had wept to hear Louisa's name.  Louisa had forgotten the Vaseline for her teeth.  Pitiful the way the red coagulated on her smile.  There had been a tension, and she squeezed Louisa's hand when really she had wanted to tear all the lace from her bodice.

The second runner-up was Andrea.

Slender dear with a hard-edged New York look that would never play to the papers.

This stone was Andrea - the next in the queue at her jaw because it was sharpened, hard.  It cut and bore down like a blade.

A woman doing Tai Chi on the beach interrupted her musing.  Her motions were smooth, fluid - like a waltz without a partner.  She was more like the suggestion of movement - a mark at the edge of the eye.

Now where were we, girls? Yes - first runner up, the final stone.

Today she would imagine it was Eleanor - the real Miss Blue Devil herself.  Letting Eleanor go would be melodious - swallowing her blondness and bleached teeth.  The final stone, a charm, the last laugh.  She rose from her place on the rocks, feeling the sash of kelp stuck to her foot.  One last glance for the heart-shaped.  Nothing.  She started off, with the weight of something in her - not glass islands but women - loose buttons.