Today I have an excerpt from PRETTY UGLY by Kirker Butler. According to Katie at St. Martin’s- it’s “super sharp satire about the pageant world and one of the kooky families that inhabits it.” After Katie sent me the excerpt, I began reading it (and I do not advise reading this excerpt while drinking anything! Disaster!)
After you read the excerpt, scroll on further down for the giveaway!
Excerpt from PRETTY UGLY:
“Of course your children are beautiful. But are they sexy enough?” Miranda Ford Miller repeated the words out loud to make sure she’d read the ad correctly. What an appalling question, she thought. “As if I don’t already have enough to think about.”
After eight and a half years and three hundred sixty-three pageants, Miranda was pretty sure she’d thought of everything, but this had never even occurred to her. What kind of pageant mother was she, anyway?
“Dammit,” she whispered, drumming her fingers on the faded yellow Formica of her kitchen table. If she’d overlooked something as fundamental as her nine-year-old daughter’s sex appeal, what else had she missed?
To be sure, Miranda had done a lot right. Her daughter, Bailey, was a legend on the Southern United States pageant circuit, having racked up one hundred twenty-eight wins and ninety-six runner-up titles in her career, placing her fifth on the all-time winners’ list according to the Southern Pageant Association’s Web site. A born competitor and naturally (for the most part) beautiful, Bailey had a commanding stage presence and carried herself with the grace and elegance of a high-heeled gazelle. Her talent, a grueling tribute to Cirque du Soleil’s KÀ set to Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain,” was provocative and perfectly executed, and no child flirted with the judges as intuitively as Bailey Miranda Miller. She was the total package. But according to Glamour Time Photography Studio, that wasn’t enough. Apparently, she also had to be sexy.
Are your children sexy enough?
The words stuck in her head like a bad song.
Miranda was not proud of how she judged her daughter’s appearance, but the harsh reality was that the average nine-year-old girl weighed sixty-three point eight pounds. Bailey was in the eighty-fourth percentile for weight, and that made her vulnerable. No doubt the other mothers had noticed Bailey’s extra bulk just like Miranda noticed the numerous flaws in their girls. Melody Norton’s hair extensions looked (and smelled) like the horse hair they were; Karliegh Sandefur’s flipper (the dental prosthetic that filled in the gaps of her missing baby teeth) only highlighted the fact that her new adult teeth were stained and crooked; and all the makeup in the world couldn’t hide the fact that JoBeth Kanton was just plain ugly. But all of that was better than fat. Fat was unforgivable. Fat was fatal.
Miranda had started to suspect Bailey was eating an extra lunch at school. At the very least she was consuming more than the four-hundred-calorie meals Miranda had paid a nutritionist to prepare and deliver every morning. And she was very close to proving it before being asked to leave the school grounds for loitering. Miranda had tried everything to help her daughter lose weight: a gym membership that came with ten private pole-dancing lessons; a consultation with an overly puritanical plastic surgeon who refused to even discuss performing liposuction on a child, even when Miranda offered to pay double; and the “health clinic” in Puerto Rico where Tina Murray had taken her seven-year-old daughter Sephora to get excess fat removed from her love handles and injected into her lips. Miranda decided to put a pin in Puerto Rico when Sephora contracted a still unidentified infection that left her seventy percent deaf in one ear and half of her bottom lip permanently blue.
Despite her best efforts, the sad fact remained that Bailey was getting fat, and Miranda would just have to add that to the growing list of disappointments in her life.
Pulling Bailey’s socks and underwear from the dryer, Miranda shoved them unfolded into the bag, then stopped. She couldn’t stop thinking about that ludicrous photography ad.
“Are your children sexy enough?” she practically spat. “How dare they?”
Storming to the freezer, Miranda reached past the tube of frozen tapeworm eggs (a gift from a pageant mom whose own daughter had experienced an unfortunate weight gain), and pulled out a three-pound block of ice that encased the family’s last usable credit card. A financial adviser had suggested she and Ray freeze their cards to help reduce impulse spending and rein in their mounting debt.
“When you want to use your card, just set the ice on the counter and let it thaw,” the man advised from behind his four-thousand-dollar oak desk. “It should take about ninety minutes. If after that time you still want to make your purchase, then go ahead. If not, it probably wasn’t that important.”
Miranda put the chunk of ice in the microwave and set it on High for three minutes.
Fishing her phone from her purse, Miranda called the number at the bottom of the ad and sighed, disappointed in herself and humanity.
“Glamour Time Photography Studio. How can I help you?”
“Yes, my name is Miranda Miller and I saw your ad in the pageant newsletter? I’d like to schedule a sitting for my daughter.”
Bailey may have been getting fat, but there was still a chance she could be sexy.
From Pretty Ugly by Kirker Butler, on sale March 31, 2015, from Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press, LLC. Copyright © 2015 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Press, LLC.
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Happy Reading and Bookishly Yours,
T @ Traveling With T