My life goal since kindergarten has been to win my town's Halloween costume contest. Every year on the night before Halloween the majority of my very lightly populated town gather in the elementary school and help judge the costumes of every willing contestant of ages four to 13. I only have two years left until I can no longer participate and I plan to win at least once no matter what it takes.
Agatha Plessy wins every single year for a reason that is far beyond my comprehension. Last year she dressed up as a rock and won first place. I stood by in my ever-so-creative solar system costume that I had spent the last three weeks perfecting with accurate colors and all and got pity congrats from everyone as they made their way over to congratulate the dimwit dressed as a boring, gray rock. Every year, boring costume, first place win.
Years of losing have not been enough for me to lose heart. My aspirations to be standing up on that stage in front of all of my fellow townspeople receiving a pumpkin bucket full of tootsie rolls and other tasty treats is still as strong as ever. I was blessed with motivation that I was told could make me president one day. I skipped third grade and by the age of 9 I was writing my first nonfiction novel (The Life and Death of President Félix Faure). Even after skipping a grade level to be more challenged in my studies, I could basically teach myself all the material we were learning in less than a few hours, so I used most of the school day to make my plans for total domination of costume greatness.
This year, I had gone so far as to get an award winning designer to create my costume. Okay, maybe award winning is a little much. It's only my sister who is taking Apparel and Design at school, but she did get an A in the class, which some would consider an award.
It took two weeks for me to choose a costume. There were so many that caught my eye, but I knew that in order to win this thing I was going to have to pick a likeable costume. I had determined that the problem with my costumes in previous years--such as the princess costume or the gross looking bug one that I wore last year--was that they didn't have a very wide range of likeability to them.
So I finally settled on being Pizza. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but count how many people you have met in your lifetime that do not like pizza. Probably none. That's why I could envision this working out so well. Everyone likes pizza, so why wouldn't the judges?
My sister put the finishing touches on my costume the night before Halloween. My slice of pizza was complete with mushrooms, olives, pepperoni pieces, and green pepper. On the night that I was sure would serve as my first victory, I slid the triangular costume on and secured it and then made my way to the elementary school auditorium. This was all going to play out the way I wanted it to. I just knew it.
Since I had arrived twenty minutes early, I decided to go backstage and observe my competitors. I saw some costumes that made me a bit nervous about my place in the competition, such as the chocolate chip cookie, and some costumes that displayed a absolute lack of inventiveness or effort. Edwin Brady was the same thing he had been every year since we were seven--a ghost. He wore a white sheet with holes over the eyes so that he could see. That was it. There were never changes, even subtle ones.
I sometimes wondered if the poor kid really thought that his costume would win one day. I mean, if it were going to take more than one try for the costume to eventually win, wouldn't it have won the third year he entered? Third time is the charm, right? My mother tells me that my bluntness is not one of my more becoming personality traits, but it has to be said: the only way Edwin would ever take first for his costume would be if everyone in the competition suddenly dropped out and he was the only one left to take first place. Even then, he might still only come in second.
Once I had sized up the competition, I decided to use the little girls room before the fun commenced back in the auditorium. I was a little nervous. As I turned the corner and started down the hall toward the bathroom, I spotted Agatha. She was a zombie this year. Her face was painted a pale color and she had dark make-up under her eyes. Her black jeans and white dress shirt were torn in various places and had fake blood splattered all over them. I took a few steps and then came to a halt as I processed what I was seeing.
Agatha pulled a dollar bill out of her pocket and handed it to a man I recognized as one of the judges. I couldn't see how much the bill was worth due to my distance, but I did know that what I was seeing was the exact reason why Agatha had beat me in the past years; she had bribed the judge. I stepped back around the corner where I had come from and leaned against the wall. My head felt heavy and I was beginning to feel dizzy.
Suddenly Agatha rounded the corner. She looked me over with a smirk, chuckled a little bit and continued walking toward the auditorium. It felt like my head was going to explode from the pressure.
"You're a cheater!" I yelled angrily. She stopped in her tracks but didn't turn around. It seemed as if she wasn't sure she'd heard me correctly. Finally she spun around to face me.
"And what are you going to do about it?" she asked smugly. I felt a burning desire to slap that smug look off of her face. My hands involuntarily balled into fists as I stood fuming, "Beat me up? Yeah right!"
"It wouldn't be so hard, Aggie," I said, internally laughing at the use of her most hated nickname.
She threw her head back and cackled, "Are you calling me weak?"
"No, no. I'm just saying that if you were to get into a fight with a turkey sandwich, the sandwich might win."
"Well, guess what?" she said, inching uncomfortably close to my face. She narrowed her dark eyes at me and when she spoke her voice was so low that I had to strain to hear her, "I may not be surely able to beat a turkey sandwich, but I always beat you."
Intent on not losing control before I could tell someone about my findings, I stomped past her and made my way back to the auditorium. I had decided that I wasn't going to just let Agatha get off easy. I was going to humiliate her in front of everyone. I was going to out her in front of everyone. I just needed to wait for the right moment.
As the years passed, the number of kids entering the competition had dwindled down to a mere seven kids. They were all getting lined up backstage. I was number four in the line-up so I took my place and waited for the curtain to open. When it finally opened, the announcer introduced this as the twentieth annual . . . .I stopped listening at the point and watched Agatha take her place at the front of the line. The previous years winner always led the line-up. Next year that would be me.
And so it began. Agatha smiled her best pageant smile and began walking down to the front of the stage.
"Cheater!" I couldn't control myself anymore. I leapt at her and took her down. I only got one good pull at her hair before I was peeled off of her by one of the adults.
Long story short: I was disqualified. Agatha's teary denial of my accusations didn't keep the judge from admitting that he had accepted a fifty dollar bill from her before the competition, so she was also disqualified.
During our short-lived brawl, we'd managed to knock over four of the other contenders. One of them had been knocked down by Agatha after I‘d leapt at her and knocked her down. Then chaos ensued. One of the boys tripped over a speaker chord while running to safety and broke the fall with his face. One boy stepped on a girl's fingers while trying to go help the clumsy kid, starting a mini screaming match, and the other was just so shocked and horrified that she quietly excused herself and went home.
Edwin Brady ended up taking first place because . . . well, like I said, the only way he could ever win is if everyone dropped out and that was basically what had happened. Next year it will be me standing up there with that shiny, gold trophy.