I’m working on a series of short (you might say even micro) fiction pieces, 1,000 words or less, which is a challenge for me. This is one of the little pieces with fictional narrators, each in a different voice. This story arrived during a writing group after considering a postcard of the Rangerettes doing their famous super-high kicks.
Now that you ask, I couldn’t kick that high when I started. Like everything else about being a Rangerette, it takes practice—lots of practice. When I first came to college, I never imagined I’d come all the way to Kilgore, Texas, from my little podunk town in Oklahoma, I’d watch the girls perform at the games. I admired their white cowboy hat and boots, their cute short skirts. I couldn’t fathom how a girl could kick like that and keep her hat on—even with a chinstrap.
But I started practicing in my dorm room, doing splits up against the wall—only when I was alone. I was a cheerleader at my high school (go, Broncos!), but the Rangerettes are another class of cat, as my daddy likes to say.
I couldn’t believe it when, at the third tryout in two weeks, they picked me to be one of three rookie Rangerettes. Within five days I had my own uniform—cute blue skirt, short cowgirl boots (“not cowboy,” I was told), tight red undies and yes, the famous hat. “That’s what makes a Rangerette a Rangerette,” says Carol Ann Greenway, our team leader.
She gives all us girls HE-double-toothpicks if our hats slide back on our heads. They have to stay on straight and flat (bobby pins!)—or as Carol Ann says, “Stee-ray-aht and flay-aht.” She has the funniest south Texas drawl, that girl.
But honestly, she runs us around like a drill sergeant—especially us RITs (Rangerettes in Training). “Stee-ray-aht-en that back, Shelley Marie,” she hollers at me, “or I’ll put a yardstick down your speye-in. I don’t want to see slouching when you’re on the fee-yuld at halftahm under those big ol’ lie-ahts with thousands of cheering fay-ans.”
My roommate, Jolie Lee Cutter from Lubbock, a studious girl with a face—my father would say—like a board fence behind her round glasses, snorts when I tell her about Carol Ann and the high kicks.
“That girl just wants people to get a good look at your coochies,” she says. “It’s demeaning to women.”
Well, that set me up on my high horse, let me tell you. I straightened my spine without the aid of a yardstick and told Jolie Lee, “For your information, our coochies are not on display. We wear red swimsuit bottoms, and we make sure we are always,” I have to pause and take a deep breath, “spic and span down there. All people see is a leg—well, 12 of them—up in the air for a flash of a second and then another flash of leg.”
“Upper thigh, actually,” Jolie Lee puts in. “Leading to your coochie.”
I plow on. “Would you call what the Rockettes do at Car-nee-gie Hall demeaning?”
Jolie Lee pushes her glasses up higher on the bridge of her nose and looks goggly-eyed at me. “Yes, I would,” she says. “There’s more to you and the Rangerettes and the Rockettes, for that matter, than your nice legs and fancy dance moves, Shelley Marie. I don’t expect you to see that, but I do hope you’re not like so many of the girls who come here to college to earn their MRS degrees.”
She narrows her eyes as mine widen. “You have a perfectly good brain, and I think you should put some important information in it.” She taps the book she’s reading and holds it up. “Tudor/Stuart England,” it says on the cover the color of ripe cherries. “Something you can use someday when you can no longer kick your lovely legs with your white boots over your head.”
I want to throw words back at her like, “And Tudor/Stuart England—whatever that is—is important information? How’re you gonna use that someday, Jolie Lee?”
But as I sit on my bed, legs crossed in front of me, elbows on my knees, stretching, I feel my lower lip hanging open. No one has ever told me that I have a perfectly good brain. Not that I can remember anyway. I’m more used to comments about my pretty little head from my daddy, like, “Don’t worry your pretty little head over that, darlin’. Let us men deal with that.” “Us men” being him and my three brothers, who are always thought of as the smart ones in my family.
Jolie Lee shakes her head at me—the frizzy one containing her perfectly good brain—and goes back to Tudor/Stuart England, and I am left… I don’t know, but I bet there’s a good big word for it… with my own perfectly good brain wondering what I should do with it.
One thing I’m gonna do—I’m going to the library tomorrow and find out about Tudor/Stuart England. Is that a place or a person, do you suppose?