The Ugly Duckling - Jay Winter Collins
19” x 23” x 1.75”
It only took a few minutes to know this was my calling. I had no experience, little reason to take a chance, and some courage I couldn’t determine the source of. I ran home, well, lumbered, to tell my parents of my decision. I arrived out of breath, “misty,” as my mother called feminine sweatiness, and exuberant. I was unfortunately met with the usual disregard for my excitement and only concern with how I looked to the neighbors.
“Oh, Lordy,” my mother chided, “You clomped through the neighborhood like this? How will I explain it?”
I looked as I usually did at the end of the school day. My uniform blouse was mostly untucked from my plaid skirt. My saddle oxfords had eaten parts of my socks. And I had at least a little bit of lunch on my face. I was never a girly-girl, but I was also not athletic enough to be a Tomboy. All I was, it seemed, was a disappointment.
“I just want to tell you—”
“Wash your face and hands and comb your hair first,” my mother said as she looked me over.
My father hadn’t moved his head from staring down at the newspaper, but he flicked his eyes upward as if trying to console me.
I lingered in the bathroom after splashing my face. My hair color, according to my mother, was waitress blonde. “It’s not a pretty shade, but you have a lot of it. It’s just too curly.” As I stared into the mirror, I pulled the rubber band off and swept my hair over one eye, pretending to be glamourous. I cocked my shoulder forward the way I’d seen on movie posters. I pursed my lips and—
“What the heck are you doing?” My mother had caught me “acting the fool, again.”
I squeezed past her and darted into my room, my face burning with embarrassment. “Don’t you dare slam that door!” my mother hollered, even as the loud bang echoed in the hall.
Just wait, I promised them silently. You’ll see.
For two months I stayed after school for tutoring. That’s what I told my parents. At home I spent hours memorizing. Finally, I told them there was a PTA meeting that was a requirement for entire families to attend.
My mother complained. “What about ‘Dallas’?” I shrugged.
At 10 pm that night, the curtain came down on “The Ugly Duckling, an Adaptation.” The spotlight was on my face, on my oversized body, and on my beaming smile.
Now, what will you say to the neighbors?