“But Mother, what if nobody likes me?” asked ash-blonde Alexandra from the breakfast bar. Her mother looked up from the colorful pageant brochure.
“’Likes’ you, dear?” replied Dorothea. “It’s not quite about being liked so much as being admired - or at least being seen and recognized. Americans set great store by appearances and fame and if we are to be Americans now we must learn to live by their customs. We must learn to show respect to the country that took us in when no other would. We have a home now and property rights and persecution of us is illegal here. We even have green cards and the chance to earn citizenship. We will make our way in this new land as so many others have done before, but it will mostly be thanks to our beauty and the fame that it brings. And you are fair, my dear: so fair of skin and blue of eye when you take the care to sleep enough. We are doing the proper thing, my love, and this will stand us in good stead when seeking preferment and a home in a better part of town.”
Dorothea gazed out of the window at the quiet avenue and the cars that passed and at neat, orderly gardens bordered by smooth, rain-silvered sidewalks that were mostly used by children on chrome-framed bikes and zombie-bile acid skateboards and by retirees thriftily conserving their Social Security by saving on gasoline. The quiet here was oppressive; broken only by commuters driving home for dinner or by black-clad, purple-haired teenagers daring long-suffering parents to tell them to turn that goddamn noise off. Dorothea longed for the exciting atmosphere of the downtown areas with their quilt of races and the so-stimulating commercial life with its scarlet, pulsing rock and roll feeling of the great city at night. But the eggplant lady from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services had been firm. When the Marine Corps handed Dorothea’s people over to the civilian authorities the immigrants were instructed to settle far from areas of racial and religious tension which their presence might enrage further. Black and white and red and yellow folk were all learning now to despise one another despite a flag that once upon a time had sheltered all the world’s races in the liberating shade of equality of its red and white and blue.
In return for sanctuary under Temporary Protected Status the newcomers must dwell far from the inner cities for some years. The newly arrived tribe’s reservation would be in the suburbs. The Elders were informed that the USCIS has acquired (at a bargain price) a half-finished development that had gone bankrupt just a few weeks before Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac dragged the rest of the economy down with them. Mrs. Collins had joked that the suburb’s developer was ‘still running after four years, the lily-livered son of a bitch’.
“We need seed capital for businesses of our own, such as market stalls or to buy more taxis now that the yellow car companies have rejected us and we may not go in where we are unwelcome. And we are unwelcome in so many places; even in
Some of our men have positions at the Pentagon but most honest employment for
women (other than agricultural labor under a blazing sun) is closed to us. Food
service is uncomfortable and even the oil companies of San Francisco - where we would surely flourish – are
now returning our resumes unread after The Incident. Domestic service and
nursing are unthinkable for all concerned. But beauty pageants offer cash
prizes; cash for stock or rents for retail premises. Silver grows into gold, as we say. If there is one thing our people
have in abundance, it is beauty. Alaska
Alexandra dear, you must dress now. Wear the sapphire dress and the ruby necklace. With your snow-hued skin you will resemble the stars and stripes and the judges will love that. And remember to lower your voice right down if you are required to sing. Uncle Emil will be here soon to drive us to the pageant in his fine new automobile. Pink Slip Cabs will furnish our tribe with our second step up the ladder after your first prize in
set Emil on his way. Orange County
Please remind Sophia to apply a great thickness of foundation and you make sure to wear the tinted lenses. The pansy purple tonight, I think. To advance to the next round you will need clear and attractive photographs. Skimping on powder and forgetting the contacts will make your pictures blurry and red-eyed. Tsha! But you are growing too thin to be pretty to American eyes. You are not auditioning to be a supermodel, Alexa. For goodness’ sake girl, hurry up - finish your breakfast before it clots.”