A little girl with angel wings and golden hair to curl; a little doll who never sassed and wore black shiny shoes. Mavis smiled and checked her watch, and called her daughter's name: “Tawny Lynn, are you practicing your piece—missy girl, where are you ?”

It was Saturday afternoon, but Tawny Lynn was still in bed, her face was white and thin; she shivered, though it was mid-July, and pulled the covers to her chin.

“In here, Momma. Momma, I feel awful.”

“Well, that’s good baby, that’s real good, but the pageant is next week…you’re running out of time.”

“No, Momma, I mean, really. I really feel awful…something’s wrong.”

“You sound just like your Aunt Carol, God rest her soul, that year she took first place—she was just like you, too, all lit up about the pageant when she thought all there was to it was candy and treats and people sayin’, oh my, what a brave little girl you are…'course, back then, your Granny was still with us...you remember what I told you about your Granny ?”

“When, Momma, you mean at first, or later on…”

“Tawny Lynn Jackson, you know perfectly good and well I mean at first…they used to say, ‘What a fi-ne woman, what a fine, strong woman you are, Miz Jackson, with your little girl sufferin’ like she is, and you just somehow manage to keep on going.’ And they said…”

“I know, Momma, but Momma, I”—

“You just hush, Miss Smarty, it won’t kill you to hear it one more time...where was I—oh, now I don’t know where I was. Tawny Lynn, you need to start remembering about children being seen and not heard.”

The little girl’s eyes were fevered, and black as the sky at night; her insides turned like an ice cream churn, her arms and legs felt tight.

“Maybe you need some more of that medicine”, her mother said, and checked her watch once more; “Where is that bottle…Tawny Lynn, did you hide Mr. Bones again?”

“Noooooo, Momma, pleeeeee-eaase …please Momma no no no…"

Her mother patted down the sheets, felt every fold and seam; the bottle was in the pillowcase, she shushed her daughter’s screams.

“What’s a matter, baby—is it Mr. Bones, is that what’s scaring you ? I’ve told you about him; remember I told you, how if it wasn’t for Mr. Bones, your Aunt Carol, God rest her soul, might not have won that year ? You’ve seen that picture of Aunt Carol, with those pretty little flowers they've got her holding...she looked real natural, I thought...”

“Now Sugar, I know Mr. Bones tastes a little yucky”—Mavis made a yucky face that made her daughter smile—“that’s better ! I know Mr. Bones tastes a little yucky...but I want you to act like a big girl now and do this for your Momma…besides, Mr. Bones will make you sleep, and after you’re in sleepyland—that’s a good girl, make it all gone—after you’re in sleepyland, you’ll have the sweetest dreams.”

Pink ponies with white roses in their teeth ran through a lake of caramel; flowers burst into spidercrabs and everywhere the little girl looked, rainbow diamonds fell.

A little girl with angel wings in a cotton candy sky. A little doll with black glass eyes and skin as cold as snow. Takes a little sacrifice, her mother always said; Mavis smiled and checked her watch and waited for Mr. Bones.

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