Rod turned in his bed, then untwisted the pajamas that had tangled around his arms. Tami used to encourage him to sleep naked but he just couldn't get to sleep like that. Wasn't she back yet? His bleary eyes looked at the clock radio. It was only 11 o'clock. She said she'd be midnight or later.
He was still upset by that Chalfont DVD. Then he thought of Tami, the Tami of today, the self-assured, proudly naked 21-year-old. He smiled. Ross might be free and off the hook, but in many ways Tami ended up with the better part of the deal. Ross lost his job and his reputation. Where could he find work now? And Tami, happily naked, sexually satisfied, popular...
He waited anxiously, nervously fidgeting with the slide of his trombone. Mr. Watson, whom everyone called "Sarge" from his years as a bandleader in the Army, waited impatiently as Jamal fiddled with the A-V equipment. It was first period practice in the crowded rehearsal room. They had just gone through their usual warm-up tune, "Captains and Kings". Now they were snorting with anticipation. Except for him. And Brigid in the clarinet section, sitting between Debra and Virginia, in her usual jean jacket, white turtleneck, black jeans and Doc Martens. She was easy to pick out because she was one of only five white kids in the whole band. She bit her lip and was as nervous as he was.
Finally -- the big screen lit up blue. The screen was ripped here and there. T--- High School might be known locally for its marching band but this was not a school district with a lot of money.
Some out-of-synch blurry images and now the genial, grandmotherly face of Melba McCann, the anchor of the local news show. "And now, we have with us guests from the famous T--- High School marching band, who will be performing at this Saturday's regional title football game between their school and Brookline High School." Her first words sounded like she was talking underwater but then Jamal's hand slammed down on something in the control room and the sound cleared up. "Here we have -- "
The camera panned over to the three guests, Sarge in his business suit with the black tie, Brigid in her majorette uniform, her baton laid primly across her bare thighs, and he himself in his braided wool uniform, holding his trombone in "rest" position in front of him.
Watching the screen, he cringed as he saw the beads of sweat on his forehead. It wasn't just nervousness -- it had been hot in that studio. Sarge had insisted on getting there half an hour early. Already burdened with his trombone case, he had needed Brigid's help in hefting his big uniform bag out of the car and through the many hallways before finally getting to the dressing rooms. Brigid went in front of him, holding up the boots end of the bag, her baton slung over her shoulder. At the end of the baton dangled her own uniform bag, a tiny pouch like a beanbag.
Then it had taken him forever to struggle into his uniform in that tiny cubicle, what with the cummerbund, the epaulettes, the big boots. Finally he emerged into what they called the green room, where guests were made up before walking onto the set.
Brigid was there sitting up on a high stool, already dressed, while the gay-looking guy powdered her with makeup. He supposed that a white person would look like a ghost on TV without some cosmetic help. Especially Brigid, whose Irish skin was very white, with a smattering of freckles across her bare shoulders.
She smiled at him as she said, "I'm getting the royal treatment." The makeup man had a lot of skin to cover, what with her entire uniform consisting of two little circlets covering her nipples, and that tiny triangle over her pubic area held on with silvery strings that went low around her hips and the other string that disappeared between her butt cheeks. Below, her bare feet rested on the bottom rung, the flip-flop style majorette sandals on the floor.
He got the trombone out of his case and sat and watched, having nothing else to do. Brigid's circlets seemed to have gotten smaller. The uniforms had just come back from their twice-yearly cleaning. Maybe the majorette uniform was subtly altered before it came back. He thought about the photos in the glass case, and wondered about the shrinkage in the majorette uniform over the years, how it was done, how past majorettes dealt with it. Around about 1970, for example, how did the majorette for that year find out that her short skirt and blouse had morphed into a leotard? How did the 1990 majorette deal with a short short that had become a bikini-style bottom? Or the 1999 majorette who found that the strings on her top had disappeared and she now had to wear circlets?
Those first circlets were huge compared to the ones Brigid had to wear. Her breasts were round and firm, maybe a bit bigger than average; and around her circlets all her breast slopes, top, bottom, and sides, were in full view. He wasn't about to do math calculations but the circlets covered maybe 15% of Brigid's total breast area. He thought of the big plastic eyeball model in the science room, the area formed by the iris and pupil. About that much.
He saw the makeup man do his work, puffing the powder between Brigid's breasts. He had seen boobs bounce before, of course, but always in tank tops or bikini tops. Brigid's breasts, not strapped to her body or to each other, moved independently, one wobbling a bit while the other was still, sometimes bobbing the same way, sometimes toward each other, one moving in a tight little circle while the other lurched left to right...
The makeup guy bent down and Brigid parted her knees as he got that area around her uniform where she had shaved her pubic hair. The triangle bottom seemed to have gotten smaller too, more like a narrow "V" now. She looked down with a neutral expression as the guy powdered industriously. "Spread a little more, please..."
Sarge came in. "We're on in five minutes. How's it going?"
The two band members smiled and nodded. Now Brigid spread her toes as the guy powdered them. Pretty toes. She had carefully painted the nails in the black-and-white school colors. Cummerbund and epaulettes and braided jacket and high boots were part of his uniform; toenail paint was part of hers.
He put on his white gloves and looked at them. Even one of his gloves provided more coverage than Brigid's entire uniform.
Then he remembered getting suddenly nervous as Melba McCann came in to get them, and Brigid picked up her baton and followed Sarge into the big room with all the cameras surrounding the set, and he followed Brigid...
Sarge sat down in one of Melba's guest chairs and chatted with her quietly while a commercial was being shown. Rod and Brigid, waiting by the big camera setup, looked at each other. Rod was so enchanted with this shy Irish white girl that he choked up whenever he wanted to speak. Finally he croaked out, "How do I look?"
He stood up straight as Brigid, holding her baton in her armpit, adjusted his jacket and tugged at his epaulettes. "Great. How about me?" She held up her arms and her breasts stuck out. "Are my 'T''s straight?"
Rod was open-mouthed, unsure of what she meant, looking down finally at her ribs and the hollow tummy below. "Your -- "
He swallowed and felt flushed as he realized she meant the "T" school logo on each of her circlets. He bent down a bit so that Brigid's breasts were at his eye level. "Fine. Both straight."
"Good. Oh no!" Brigid opened her mouth and out came a retainer. "This'll show! I forgot entirely!"
She frantically looked around for a place to put it. He heroically took it and held it in his gloved hand. "It's safe with me."
"Oh thanks, you're a dear," she said. He felt his heart skip a beat.
Then Sarge motioned for them to sit down next to him, and the camera guy counted down...
Now, in the band room, watching with everyone else, he sat through Melba McCann's introduction and then smiled as Sarge fell over his words in describing the marching band, at first saying it was founded in 1527 instead of 1927. Sarge, sitting on his conductor's stool, covered his face in good-natured embarrassment.
Melba then said, "We have here also Brigid O'Dierna, the band's majorette, and Rod Sykes, first trombonist. You're part of a proud tradition. How do you like marching with the band?"
Looking at the big screen, the band saw Brigid and Rod smile at each other shyly. Brigid giggled nervously, her breasts bouncing with her laugh, then jiggling for a second after her body had stilled. He said something to the effect of, "It's a great band and it's great marching with your friends." Brigid said, "We all work together." Not memorable words, exactly, but what the heck, they were petrified.
"The forecast for Saturday is cold and drizzly," Melba said. "In your majorette outfit," she said, looking up and down at Brigid, "how do you stay warm on days like Saturday?"
"You keep moving," Brigid said. Her stock response.
And now in the band room there was a general shifting of chairs with anticipation as Melba McIntyre announced Rod and Brigid were going to do a tune. His friends in the trombone section smiled at him but he was not nervous because he knew what was coming.
The two band members on TV stood up, him with the trombone up to his lips, her with the baton tucked under her arm. Then she nodded and he launched into a verse of "American Patrol" which was flawless. Watching in the band room, he smiled. He had been so afraid he was going to botch it but he hadn't. Good tone throughout, not one note flubbed -- while successfully hiding Brigid's retainer carefully in his slide hand. Meanwhile Brigid twirled. She couldn't do any throws in Melba's little studio but she did everything else, spinning, fanning, switching arms, down through the legs, even that special trick she did where the baton seemed to crawl back over her shoulders on its way from one hand to the other. She spun around, leading with one breast and timing it so that the other breast followed. A performance as flawless as his.
At the last note he and Brigid froze, as planned. He was sweating in his wool uniform. She was not immune to the studio heat, either. As she posed, her breasts coming to rest, a trickle of sweat was visible that had started below her neck, rivered between her breasts and down her flat tummy, and delta-ed at her navel.
Melba and Sarge clapped, then it went to a commercial and the clip ended. Jamal turned off the screen light. Everyone in the band room applauded.
"Stand up and take a bow, well done," Sarge said. He stood up in his sweatshirt and long jams. Brigid stood up in her jean jacket and turtleneck and black jeans. Local stars!
"One fine performance deserves another," Sarge said. "Time for a big tune. Let's do 'March Grandioso'!"
Rod turned and was again awakened by the twisting of his pajamas. Again he untwisted them. A soft rain raised up and started pelting the roof, feeding the night grass outside, hypnotic, lulling him to sleep...
"The long walk", they called it, from the locker rooms to the football field, everyone trudging through the wet grass before game time, the team and the band and the cheerleaders in front. It was a chilly day, no doubt about it, and it was almost noon and hadn't warmed up a bit. It had rained yesterday and there were sloppy mud patches to be avoided. Of course, the football players were resigned to getting all muddy, but for a variety of reasons that did not bother them so much. The odd conversation between them mixed with the more subdued chatting of the band members and the much quicker talking of the cheerleaders.
He finagled it so that he was walking near the front, next to Brigid, who was mindful of the cold. Parades were one thing, but games, where the band had to sit for long periods in the stands, were another. She wore her green wool poncho over her uniform, her sandals in her hand as she trod the wet grass with red Converse All-Stars on her sockless feet. The poncho barely came down past her butt and she looked like she was naked underneath. Some of the football players said hi to her as they passed.
He looked up. The clouds were gray but it looked like the sun might break through. With luck...
They got to the field and waited for Sarge, as the players, led by their captain, charged onto the field to go through their warmup plays while the visiting team from Brookline went through theirs. Brookline was a wealthy town and their football uniforms were a dazzling gold and green. The almost all-white team looked like a bunch of future executives. T--- should make short work of them today.
He noted, with irritation, the ten or twelve cops hanging out around the stands. Just because we're a mostly black school they send riot control. Well, at least the cops they usually sent were nice.
Brigid chatted with a couple of the cheerleaders, who wore coverall sweats over their short skirts. They had long sleeves too. Brigid's bare legs and arms really stood out. He listened to their conversation. They were going bowling later. Cheerleaders traditionally were pretty snobby, and didn't like the band majorette -- maybe they thought she upstaged them during the halftime shows -- but they had made an exception for Brigid.
The cheerleaders went off to get their stuff at the storage shed as Sarge showed up, with his little briefcase, wearing thermal gloves, and an open overcoat over his business suit. "Band, this is a big day," he said, in his "announcement" voice. "Also a cold day. It's thirty-eight degrees and it might rain. But you know what I say, if our team has the courage to play out there, WE can play too.
"We have one tune before the game, then we sit and then at halftime we'll do the roll-off with Brigid and the drummers and then 'Washington Post'. Local TV will be here. But before that happens they're presenting a dedication to Roddington McNeil. You know who he is? No? Well he was principal here for 25 years. He retired ten years ago. They're dedicating the new scoreboard to him.
"Now this is the big game for our team. They go to the regionals if they win. While we're sitting up there waiting, I want you to cheer them on. Remember, we're their biggest fans."
He looked up at the sky. "Looks like we might get lucky. Maybe the sun will even come out. Well, let's go."
He led them as they walked, not in formation, to the admissions area where the ticket takers were setting up their tables. Past it, the Dad's Club was setting up their refreshment stand. They had a big metal tub on a dolly with Jamal's uncle using tongs to put big ice chunks into the tub and then filling it with water to keep the cans of soda cold. Sarge had a brief call to make on his cell phone. The band stood around and watched the tub fill up until he was done.
Now they walked behind the stands, under the announcer's booth where Mr. Simonelli was opening up, trying to pry open the top compartment which was submerged in three inches' worth of yesterday's rainfall. The band, with its majorette right behind Sarge, turned under it.
It was then that the first of Brigid's many misfortunes that day occurred.
Walking behind Brigid, watching her bare legs flushed with the cold under her poncho, he followed her as they turned into the narrow passage between the two grandstands.
At first they thought it was a sudden downpour. But then they saw that the only person getting poured on was Brigid. She shrieked as a narrow but persistent torrent of water came from way above and doused her on her poncho-covered shoulder. Everyone stopped in alarm, trying to help but afraid of being doused themselves. Sarge looked back. Brigid tried to dodge the gush of water but it seemed to follow her as she zigzagged left and right in the narrow passage. Finally a few dribbles and it ended.
Brigid stood there miserably, arms out, her poncho totally soaked and lying heavy and flat against her body, probably weighing about twenty pounds, dripping onto her equally soaked sneakers.
Sarge looked up and yelled. Mr. Simonelli looked down and, mortified, apologized frantically. There was no time for recriminations, though. Brigid breathed heavily, on the verge of tears, and starting to shiver.
"You've got to take that thing off, you'll get hypothermia," Sarge said. Wearing a sopping wet cold poncho on a day like this was not healthy.
Rod was glad to help. He put his trombone down on the pavement and helped Sarge as they carefully lifted the poncho off her. Sarge folded it up and put it on one of the grandstand benches.
As the band members came up from the rear and encircled Brigid, everyone looked at her, her arms still out to the sides, her white goose-pimpled skin interrupted only by her majorette uniform, the little circlets covering her nipples and the little "V" down below with the strings. Everyone looked around for a towel or something to dry her off or cover her with, but under a grandstand such things are not to be found.
"Maybe we should get you inside," Sarge said.
"No," Brigid said, realizing that she would be needed momentarily to lead the band's pre-game performance. "My uniform's not wet," she said, holding up her breasts to get a close look at the circlets. She seemed to be speaking to them as she said, "The rest of me will dry off in the air in a little bit."
Which was true. The band members had noticed it during that first wet game, the first game of the year back in September. There was a downpour early in the game. At the halftime show everyone else was still soaked except for Brigid, whose bare skin and minimal uniform dried swiftly.
"I'd best get rid of these, though," Brigid said, noting her sneakers. She got the poncho from Sarge and put it on the ground, then untied the sneakers, wiped her bare feet on the poncho, then slipped on the low heeled silvery flip-flops that were part of her uniform. The rest of the band, fully covered and in their big boots, looked on silently as she wiggled her toes in the sandals as she stood up.
"OK then," Sarge said, as they resumed their journey through the grandstands.
The stands were filling up quickly and they didn't have long to wait. The sky looked like it might be clearing up. The wind subsided. This might not be a bad day after all.
Sarge ambled over to Coach Gunderson, who was corralling his players to the sidelines. They chatted a bit and when Sarge came back he said, "Five minutes".
They stood around and waited. Rod worked the slide of his trombone. On a cold day he was sure to prep with a lot of valve oil, but it looked like it wouldn't be that cold. So now he was worried he might have used too much, and it might drop onto his gloves. Or worse, his jacket. He kept the trombone away from it, the expanse of white with black borders, with the big "T" on the right side next to the row of black buttons. Behind him, the rest of the band was playing with their instruments too.
He looked over across the field where a van was parked, near the visitor's grandstand, which of course was a lot smaller, and half-filled with dedicated Brookline fans. They looked almost like a country club crowd, except maybe for some beefy guys with "B" sweatshirts standing up on the top bench.
The van looked like a TV van, and sure enough a crew was getting out. They didn't look like they would be ready to catch the pre-game set. At least they'd catch the halftime show.
He worked his slide again. Sarge examined the sky. Brigid checked her fingernails with the alternate black and white polish, looked down at her circlets, and then clutched the baton between her bare thighs as she examined her spreading toes on one foot and then the other. He looked down. It must be hard to get the polish on those pinky toes. He pictured her in the locker room, sitting on a bench, carefully painting them while the other girls were pulling on their long trousers, their braided jackets, attaching the epaulettes and cummerbunds, and pulling on the tall boots.
He thought of the time he had seen her in the girls' gym class, as he was walking through it with the other boys on the way to the b-ball court outside. The girls were doing jumping jacks. In their white T-shirts, black shorts and sneakers with socks, even though Brigid was wearing the same exact outfit as the other girls, the rest of them looked as bare as he'd ever seen them -- except for Brigid, who looked unusually covered up.
He looked at the smattering of freckles across Brigid's shoulders. She had a great body, possibly the best in the school -- it was impossible to say, of course, only hers was ever on display like this -- but just her skin was so interesting to look at.
Did she really have 83 freckles? Jamal and he had joked about it in the locker room before coming out.
"You mean you really counted the freckles on her shoulders?" he had asked incredulously.
"Of course. During that long roll-off at practice yesterday. She has one on her butt too. On the right cheek, halfway down to her butthole, under that little 'Y' over her crack."
He laughed as they put their shakos on and headed toward the door. "I can't believe you count the freckles on a white girl's butt!"
"Hell, no sisters will go out with me, I'll take what I can get!"
He thought: Jamal won't admit it but he's probably as in love with Brigid as I am.
As they emerged, he had said, "Man, another cold day. Brigid will be freezing her circlets off."
"So what? She's used to it!" Jamal said.
As they trotted out he had laughed. "Lord, you're awful!"
Now Mr. Simonelli, evidently having gotten over his guilt at spilling all that rainwater, cranked on the P.A. system and said, "Welcome to our last game of the season! To our guests from Brookline, welcome to T--- High School! Today -- "
It was his usual long-winded introduction. He talked about the season record, the presence of the TV crew, rules as to trash and conduct, the snacks and soda and coffee available, the thanks to the Dads' Club, etc., etc. Sarge waited impatiently. He joked quietly to his band, at least the ones in front who could hear, "The whole game won't last this long!" Meanwhile Brigid shook out her body, arms and legs, trying to get circulation going. As she did her breasts jiggled tightly.
Finally Mr. Simonelli introduced the band and the crowd woke up and cheered. The band was this school's pride and joy. Sarge marched out smartly and they followed in double file. They followed him as he detoured around a nasty-looking patch of mud at the sideline, then got into formation astride the 50-yard line.
Sarge, as was his tradition, yelled out, "My name is Herbert Quincy Watson and this is our band -- the T--- High School Tunemasters!!"
Loud cheering from the stands as Sarge walked off the field. It was his style not to hog the spotlight. The band was a product of his hard work, on both the music and the marching, but he didn't wear a uniform himself, and didn't lead. He just got out of the way and let the band shine.
Which it certainly did. They stood there in "attention" position -- Brigid in front, feet together, arms down, her baton upright with one end in her left hand (she was left-handed) with the other end pressed against the front of her bare shoulder -- and behind her, he and the rest of the line of trombones, then the flutes, clarinets, trumpets, the tubas in back, and on the side, the drum guard. The uniforms were splendid, even Brigid's, scanty though it was. The black and white colors were the same, the T's on her circlets and on her little cap matched the T's on the chests and on the big shako hats of the rest of her band. Her uniform might be different than everyone else's but it fit in as one of the band.
The cheerleaders, having reluctantly gotten out of their sweat pants, assembled to the side, shivering in their shortish skirts, and posed with their pom poms at their hips. Their uniforms were fine-looking too. All in black and white, the school colors, yarn bows in their hair, long-sleeved sweaters (which they wore in the cold weather -- in hot weather they wore tank tops) with an embroidered black "T" over a megaphone. Then pleated skirts that came to just above the knee, long white socks and black sneakers. They would stand there still during the band's performance and then, at the final flourish, jump and cheer and wave their pom-poms and begin their cheerleader thing that they would do throughout the game.
With a swing of the baton, Brigid started marching in place. That was the drummers' cue and they started vamping. Now she did her first throw which was the cue for the roll-off.
Rod blasted away as they launched into "Stars and Stripes Forever", the cut-down version. They didn't have to march in place or anything but he could feel his boots give a little. He glanced down and saw that the field was still pretty muddy.
As they played, Brigid pranced and twirled and threw. That was how majorettes stayed warm, he mused. Only they were allowed to move around so much. He could see the wisdom of a majorette's scanty uniform, having free movement in the arms and legs. To go through those moves in a full uniform like his would be uncomfortable, and hot, even on a day like this. Now -- a really high throw.
Brigid was serious about her twirling. She did it a lot during recess and after school in that little out of the way courtyard past the gym, pretty much out of view so that people wouldn't think she was showing off. But he watched her once and noted her diligence. (She was in her regular clothes of course; the majorette uniform would have violated the dress code.) She was totally concentrated on it, trying more and more difficult throws, doing the same throw maybe fifty times or more until she was satisfied she got it right. She would vary what she was wearing, sometimes even throwing while she was wearing a coat. She would use different size batons, and even tied little weights to them. The idea was to be able to throw accurately under any type of condition.
Still, today one could tell that the mud was gumming up her style a bit, the heels of her sandals sinking in and taking an extra split-second to pull up. Being flip-flops, they separated from her feet at the heel and slapped back up against her sole on the upstep more smartly than usual, though with the band playing he couldn't hear it.
And now a big spin and one real high throw, maybe thirty feet in the air. Brigid spun around and looked up.
It came down a hundredth of a second sooner than she expected and hit her pinky.
Brigid dropped the baton.
It fell on the wet ground and she missed only an eighth of a beat, picking it up and starting the next twirl, but the sense of shock was palpable. The whole season and this was her first drop. Her face was deadpan as she continued her paces and the band finished up, and it was not the end of the world of course, but everyone who knew Brigid knew she had to be mortified. One of the baton knobs was smeared with mud, a reminder of her shame at letting down the band which would not go away.
One final throw, perhaps not as high and risky as she would have done otherwise, and the band finished with a cymbal crash. The crowd cheered, but it was a muted cheer. Not because the crowd appreciated the performance less but because they were stunned.
The cheerleaders did their woo-hoo pom-poming and the players got ready to take the field. The drums started the walk-off vamping and Brigid began to lead them off, baton tucked under her armpit, the mud-smeared knob hidden. She must have still been distracted by thinking about her drop, and eager to get out of view as quick as possible. At least that was the theory everyone had afterward. It explained why she marched straight for the grandstand gate and did not see the patch of mud.
Brigid's foot slipped back out from under her and she fell forward, face first. As she tried to pry herself up from the cold mud her hands slipped and her face and upper body hit the mud again. Mud slopped to the sides. On her third try, quaking by now, just one hand slipped and she flipped over onto her back.
Across the field, some of the big beefy guys in the visitor's grandstand hooted.
The band was in disarray. The cheerleaders looked over from their places with concern. Sarge rushed out and shooed the rest of the band to leave the field. Everyone carefully stepped around the patch. Sarge helped his majorette up.
She was crying. One flip-flop fell off and her bare foot squished into the mud. She slipped her muddy foot back into it and almost twisted her ankle before she finally righted herself. Her white face was all muddy. Mud was all over her front, covering her circlets, and actually appearing to be shoved in under them. Mud was over half her tummy. Down below it gummed up and covered the lower half of her uniform such that it looked like she didn't have a bottom at all and had simply stuffed mud into her crotch. As for her back, brown goo dripped from her butt down her thighs, making it look like she had had a bad "accident".
In the stands, people stood up to see what was going on. As the band walked up to their reserved area halfway up, trying not to look back, Debra and Virginia stayed behind to help Sarge take the crying majorette under the stands.
Rod felt miserable, about to cry himself. He hated the jeers coming from the visitors’ stands. This was horrible. Aside from the humiliation he just could not imagine how Brigid must feel with gritty cold mud over her body.
The game started and he couldn't get focused on it. He sat on the near side of the band section, looking down at his trombone and weakly moving the slide. A few moments later he looked over and saw Debra and Virginia with their muddied friend at the Dads' Club stand, evidently waiting for Sarge who was on his cell phone. They had tried to wipe off the mud with the little paper napkins available but it was pitifully inadequate. Poor Brigid was still smeared from her face down to her bare toes. The wind had kicked up and lifted the used napkins out of the trash. They scattered around the feet of the brown-smeared majorette, looking like used toilet paper.
Someone offered Brigid a coat to put on but she declined, not wanting to get it dirty. She had stopped crying, the dried tracks of her tears visible where they had washed away the mud on her face. She sipped a hot tea as Debra and Virginia, in their full uniforms, their clarinets on the refreshment table, huddled around her.
Rod watched with pity. He had always been too shy and tongue-tied to express his affection for her but he was more in love with her than ever now. He did not know that Brigid's misfortunes today were only beginning.
‘Come on, Brigid, eat something. Have a hot dog. It'll warm you up.’ That's what he thought as he played with his trombone slide, looking over at the majorette with her two friends next to the Dads' Club area. Jamal's uncle was pushing food on her, free of charge. Of course the cold soda cans bobbing in the ice-filled metal tub wouldn't be a good idea. But there were hot dogs, chips, bags of popcorn. Brigid refused all this, preferring to stand between Debra and Virginia and sipping her tea, watching the game with them. They were behind the little table that held the napkins and the serving board with the partly covered tins of ketchup, mustard, relish and sauerkraut.
She had composed herself by now. Ms. Farkas, the gym teacher who ran the cheerleading squad, walked over to her and talked. So did one of the policemen. Sarge got off his cell phone and said something to Brigid and Ms. Farkas. Standing still like that, Brigid looked like she was finally beginning to feel the cold, hugging herself with her bare, mud-streaked arms, her legs together, wiggling her gritty toes, tapping the heels of her muddy flip-flops against the gravel, as she sipped the tea and held the cup close, feeling the steam on her smeared face. How was she going to get cleaned up in time for halftime?
Rod got distracted by action on the field. His friend Scotus had intercepted a pass and was running for a touchdown. He got into cheering like everyone else. Scotus went all the way to the 10-yard line before getting tackled, having run 40 yards. Yay team!
The air on this raw, gray day filled with excitement now. This would be the first score of the year. The cheerleaders, spinning around in their shortish skirts, pumped up the crowd, which really didn't need much pumping up. This town had plenty of school spirit.
Rod looked over. Debra, Virginia and Brigid were cheering too, each jabbing the air with one fist. Brigid's breasts jiggled in time, the mud-streaked circlets tracing independent epicycles in the air. To be honest, the bouncing of the fringes of Debra's and Virginia's epaulettes on their jackets was quite fetching too. There was something about a girl in a uniform, the regular band uniform as well as the majorette uniform, which was sexy.
Jamal's cousin Jared, helping out at the stand, engrossed in the game, rested a foot on the dolly holding the ice tub. The dolly gave way, one wheel collapsing, and the tub lurched and nearly slid off it. The tub had been full almost to the brim and now a little tidal wave of ice-cold water washed over the legs and feet of the three girls.
It was a surprise but not an ordeal for Debra and Virginia in their tall rain-proof boots. Quite a different experience, though, for the majorette. Brigid shrieked and hopped back, then yelped with pain as hot tea leapt from her jolted cup and splashed over the slope of one breast, down her bare tummy and onto a thigh. She felt unsteady on the gravel and leaned back on the table to catch herself, unfortunately causing the serving board to slide and flipping the tins, the lids of the tins flying off.
She fell backward and sauerkraut flew onto her face. Before her bare buns hit the gravel, relish had sprayed over her tummy. As her feet went up, one flip-flop flying off, the mustard tin overturned onto her supine body, coating her left circlet.
No one in the stands saw this except Rod, but everyone in the refreshment area was in shock. Debra and Virginia quickly took off their white gloves and helped their friend up. Once again Brigid broke down crying. ‘What a day she's having,’ Rod thought. As she tried to stand, her bare foot, hunting around for its sandal, lurched forward and stepped into the ketchup tin, the red tomatoey goo oozing up between her toes.
Her face, with sauerkraut around her nose and over her forehead, was pretty disgusting. It looked like she had sneezed with a nose full of boogers. She turned and he could see the bits of gravel stuck to her mud-smeared back, the nakedness interrupted only by the encrusted string across the tops of her butt cheeks. Gravel also coated the backs of her thighs and calves. As she cried, holding the mustard-smeared flip-flop, she staggered forward, collecting gravel between her ketchupy toes. She was led by Ms. Farkas under the stands and out of Rod's sight. Meanwhile Jamal's uncle and Jared were scurrying around to prop up the dolly to prevent further spillage. The uncle got a toolbox from his van and set it up on the dolly as he frantically began screwing the wheel back on.
Now Sarge was bounding up onto the stands and stood on the lower aisle, looking up at his band. He spoke loudly. "Brigid is getting cleaned up. She'll be ready for halftime. If not, I'll get out there and conduct. Let's go!" He held up his arms. "Fanfare!"
This was the short tune they played as a cheer. Instruments rose to lips. Nobody in the band liked sitting in the stands on cold days like this, everyone's butts getting numb on the metal benches. But at least playing warmed you up a bit.
The tune evidently had talismanic powers. Right on the last note, Scotus pushed over the goal line. Six nothing, T----!
As his team launched into the next kickoff Rod wondered how Brigid was going to get cleaned up. Probably they had some towels in Ms. Farkas' car or something like that. Taking her to the locker room showers was probably not possible. Between the time it took to walk all the way there, and showering, and the time back, they would already be into halftime. And after that, it didn't matter. The halftime show was the last thing the band did; for the rest of the game, properly he supposed, all eyes belonged to the team.
He saw the camera guys coming around the field from the visitors' stand. Too bad they missed Scotus' interception. Well at least they missed Brigid's misfortunes too. Though he really didn't think they would put that on the local news. Local news wasn't as mean-spirited and tasteless as the networks.
It was a long kick. Brookline was forced to make a fair catch. On the next three plays they gained only three yards. The early signs were that T---- was going to win this game.
He flexed his butt muscles to get some circulation back. Man, even through his wool uniform trousers and his thermal underwear his butt was cold. On a day like today the metal benches were like sitting on blocks of ice. He looked around and could tell that everyone else in the band felt the same way.
He thought back to his first-ever conversation with Brigid, last week before their appearance on Melba McCann's show. His eye was attracted to her whenever he saw her in the hall. It was between periods and she had been walking with Shonday and Luisa. Then she stopped at her locker.
Brigid had a distinct if understated fashion sense. One could call it "the Brigid look": jean jacket over a white or black turtleneck, black jeans, Doc Martens with the thick soles, pink socks. It was cute, the way her red hair, shoulder length, draped over her jacket. He supposed white girls had plenty of hair options, but Brigid always wore her hair the same, straight and unstyled. She was on the quiet side, though if teased she could give as well as she got. And modest. Even in hot weather she didn't show much of that white, freckled skin. He had seen her come to school in shorts only once.
That day at the locker, he had come up and, careful to clear his throat and speak slowly, said, "We're going to be TV stars."
She smiled; a shy but gorgeous smile. Then she waved her hair back from her face in a way that was adorable. She could be a model if she wanted to. "Yeah. I just know I'll make a fool of myself." A little wave to one of her friends passing by.
Another throat clearing. "Probably say the wrong thing. I will, I mean." Not you, Brigid. I meant ME!
"Yeah, well. I'm sure Sarge will do all the talking. Just so we look nice and our uniforms are straight."
"Mine will be."
"Mine too." She glanced briefly down at herself. He knew they were both picturing themselves wearing their band uniforms, the majorette and the first trombonist, here in the hall.
"Well, gotta go. Later." He wished he could stay with her but he couldn't think of what else to say.
As a first-ever conversation, it wasn't too bad.
Now Rod sat on his cold butt and rubbed his white gloves over the crook of the trombone and idly watched the game.
Then he glanced down and noticed something strange. Between the floor board and his bench, he had a constricted but clear view of what was under the stands and saw what looked like a blanket tied to one of the understruts. Leaning to one side revealed a makeshift triangle of privacy enclosed by tarps and a blanket. In the center was the long metal tub on the dolley, having been quickly repaired and rolled there, Jamal's uncle's tool box still lying on the end. To one side was a little tin like the ones that held the condiments. Inside the enclosure were Debra, Virginia, and Ms. Farkas. And Brigid.
A totally naked Brigid.
Rod's mouth opened and his eyes widened. Brigid was spread out in an "X", her legs wide apart, her toes gripping along the wide brim of one side of the tub, while her hands grasped struts overhead three feet apart. Scanty as her uniform was, she looked totally different in the altogether. What a magnificent, beautiful, perfect body. The first live naked girl he had ever seen. Thank you, thank you, thank you God, thank you --
Rod's head bobbed up and he looked at the band members around him. No, nobody was looking down, nobody suspected anything was going on down there, nobody was blessed with the view that he had. Again: Thank you, thank you, thank you God --
He glanced down again, as casually as possible, and made it look like he was adjusting his spit valve. The next thing he noticed was that Brigid had not shaved all her pubic hair like he had theorized: she had cut it down to a "pubic Mohawk". And it was reddish, kind of like the hair on her head, though partly caked with mud. Miraculously, her head hair and her little "T" cap had not been affected by her misfortunes, the cap still immaculate white and black. It was pinned to her hair which was braided up, no doubt to stay out of her way during her twirling but perhaps not coincidentally giving a clear view of her neck and shoulders.
The next thing he noticed was that the soda cans had been taken out of the tub, leaving only the cold water and that huge long chunk of ice, and that Debra and Ms. Farkas were busily wetting washcloths and applying them, fore and aft, to the many streaks and smears on Brigid's body. Brigid seemed to be wanting to help, at one point bringing a hand down to grab a cloth, but this made her posture too precarious. She needed to grip with both hands on those understruts.
Now, he noticed Virginia bent over the little tin, her bare hands freezing as they scrubbed in the cold soapy water. It took a moment to figure out what she was doing -- cleaning Brigid's uniform. The little tin was all that was needed.
Brigid was trying not to flinch from the application of the freezing cold cloths, and Ms. Farkas and Debra were trying not to press too hard, but they were not making much progress in de-mudding, de-mustarding, de-sauerkrauting, de-relishing and de-ketchuping their majorette. Brigid closed her eyes, taking measured breaths, shivering but trying to control it. Good thing the blanket and the tarps shielded her from the wind. Ms. Farkas and Debra, their gloves off, frequently shook the fingers of their bare hands, probably going numb from the freezing water.
Now the toes of Brigid's left foot slipped and the leg gave way and -- she flipped sideways into the tub! It was a deep tub, maybe two feet deep, and poor Brigid's nude body totally went under, her backside making almost a body-long contact with the ice, bubbles exhaling from her nose. She splashed helplessly for a moment, then spun around on her knees and stood up, one foot and then the other pushing down against the bottom of the tub. As she emerged the icy water dripped off her chin, her fingers, and coursed off the stiff red pebbles of her nipples.
"OHH -- OHH!!" He could hear her shudder. Then after a few breaths she shook her head free of water and seemed to realize something. Maybe it was the shock of the cold immersion, but she was no longer shivering. Also, due to her little dip her skin was now mostly clean.
She grabbed the cloth from Debra and went to work completing the process, sitting on the edge of the tub, vigorously and of course quickly passing the cloth over her tummy, astringently rubbing it over her nipples, scrubbing her toes.
"Fanfare!" Sarge's call brought Rod's gaze back up to what seemed like the outside, daytime world, as opposed to the secret ablutions going on out of sight below. He quickly checked around and saw again that he was the only one privy to Brigid's trials.
The first quarter ended with T---- ahead, 13 - 6. The teams changed sides.
When the band rested again, Rod looked down. And he was in for another surprise, one that made him almost ashamed to look, as if he as a male should be not invading such a private, female scene. But of course he looked.
He turned back up to the game, watching Scotus do another short run. He knew that what was going on below was not meant for his eyes. But he couldn't help it. He looked down again.
Brigid, face up, was doing a kind of suspended animation crab-walk on the tub, arms and legs spread, her hands grasping each side, her toes grasping each side at the other end, careful to keep her bare butt well clear of the ice floe below. Straining in her awkward posture, she looked down at her upthrust crotch with concern, as Ms. Farkas carefully swabbed it with the dripping wet cloth that she had dunked into the icy water.
Rod's gaze was as furtive as possible given his degree of amazement. He made it look like he was glancing down at his spit value. He played with it a little to keep the pretense convincing. A quick look around -- no, nobody else was privy to what he was seeing.
He was fascinated by the white girl's pussy. He had never seen an actual pussy before. The closely-cropped tuft of reddish hair, now almost free of mud, framing two lips, with a little pink thing -- was it called a clitoris? -- at the top. The lips were spread wide by Ms. Farkas as she burrowed the freezing cloth in between two inner, redder lips as part of a sweeping motion. Those inner lips opened and closed with Brigid's gasps, revealing a narrow open slit where it was too dark to see. Man, I feel like a gynecologist looking at that...
It was hard to believe Ms. Farkas was making Brigid go through this, but as he thought about it it made perfect sense. If it rained or even drizzled during the halftime show, the smallest bit of mud would cause a streak of brown to go down her thigh, painfully visible on this white girl and sure to be detected by the TV cameras. A streak of brown coming from her uniform bottom sure wouldn't look too good. Possibly the band could do the show without Brigid, with Sarge conducting as he said he would, but they had never done that before and it wasn't reassuring. They needed Brigid and, though modest and unassuming as she was, she probably knew it.
Brigid winced and jerked as she felt the icy rag deep within her private area. To her side, Debra and Virginia were furiously scrubbing the tiny bits of the majorette's uniform in the little tin. Without their band gloves, which they had laid carefully on top of Jamal's uncle's tool box, their hands were red and probably numb. So were Ms. Farkas'. He felt sorry for them, their hands all exposed and dunked over and over again into freezing water. Yet it was all school spirit. This school was as dedicated to its marching band as it was to its football team.
He looked up, distracted by cheering. Brookline had intercepted a pass but his friend Jaysee had forced a fumble and recovered it. Go, go go!
He brought the trombone up to his lips and as he moved he realized once again how cold his butt was. Man, he hated playing in the cold, especially sitting on these freezing metal benches. Everyone in the band felt the same way. They were counting down the minutes until halftime. Then the halftime show, where at least they got to move around a bit, and that was it for them. The rest of the game belonged to the cheerleaders, who were rushing in and out of their coverall cloaks as they did quick cheers and then covered up again. And of course, to the team.
And halftime would be it. This was the last game of the season. After that, there would be just concerts up until the St. Patrick's Day parade. Though there were rumors of an invitation to go up to Vermont, the big ski resort at Killington, to play in some kind of winter festival they had up there in January. Please let it be an indoor event...
They finished the fanfare, with a few less flubs than before. As he put his trombone down he looked down and -- oh Jesus --
He shut his eyes but of course opened them again. Brigid had turned over, her butt high in the air, fingers and toes grasping the edges of the tub. And now Ms. Farkas was swabbing her butthole! Ewww! He had never looked at a butthole before and averted his gaze. Brigid must be intensely ashamed and he didn't want to see her in her shame. But he couldn't resist looking again. How disgusting.
Well, maybe not disgusting. Brigid's butthole was neat and clean, the cold water coursing over it, spasming now and then as Ms. Farkas poked and probed. The ring of brown skin there winked at him like a little brown eye as the majorette was shocked by the cold water on her most sensitive spot. It was strange to think such a thought but Brigid's butthole seemed beautiful, just like the rest of her. He thought: Brigid has three eyes, two green ones and one brown one, and they are all pretty!
Not that Brigid was enjoying this. Her face turned upward, eyes squeezed shut, and she clenched her teeth and grimaced, maybe from shame or just discomfort, as Ms. Farkas poked, making sure to get every speck of mud out. Poke, wince, poke, wince, now a deep poke, and Brigid's eyes squeezed even more, as her toes squirmed against the cold metal rim of the tub. He couldn't see the muscles of her hollow tummy from up where he was but he was sure they were quaking...
Suddenly he realized that if she opened her eyes she would be looking right at him. He turned up to look at the game. Not much exciting happening, a slow march down the field by T---- as they gradually gained first down after first down.
Whoa -- now Scotus had the ball again and was rushing for a touchdown. Twelve-zip T----. Now a two-point coversion. Sonny, their quarterback, threw a perfect shot to Scotus deep in the end zone.
He thought of Brigid's anus. Wow, I've seen every part of her, even her most secret part. He felt like he possessed some secret knowledge of the majorette, that maybe just Ms. Farkas and Debra and Virginia shared. He looked down and was relieved to see the grueling ablutions were ended. Brigid was once again standing on the rim of the tub, hands stretched up to hold the understruts. And she was smiling, because Debra and Virginia were presenting her with the prize of their frantic labors -- Brigid's uniform, sparkly clean! Debra balanced the circlets on the tips of her index fingers. Virginia had stretched out the tiny V-shaped bottom over her thumb, the strings dangling down. On her other hand dangled the stringy silvery uppers of the majorette sandals.
He smiled, happy for Brigid. She was a modest girl and no doubt wanted to be back in her uniform. Not that it gave her much protection from the cold. Then again, the pinned-up blankets shielded her from the wind. And that involuntary ice bath a few minutes ago had stopped her shivering, probably by shocking her metabolism into higher gear. Like in swim class when you dive into cold water but it doesn't feel cold after you get used to it.
Also, her body was now dry. "Brigid's rule": bare skin dries quickly. Unfortunately there was another problem. As Ms. Farkas handled the circlets he saw that the way of keeping them on had changed. No more bulldog clips. That was good -- those must have hurt. Maybe they were too big for the smaller circlet design. He had been right, when he had seen her sitting for that makeup guy in Melba McCann's studio. The circlets were indeed smaller, maybe two and a half inches across now. And now they had a detachable short threaded cylinders, perhaps half an inch long, which --
He almost laughed but suppressed it because it would have attracted attention. But the little grommets (he thought that's what they're called) were designed to slip over the nipples, then the "T"'s were screwed onto them with a racheting motion. More comfortable than the clips, for sure. The grommets were a little narrower than Brigid's nipples -- he wondered if they had had to be specially fitted? Of course, if they weren't narrower, they wouldn't stay on her nipples and the circlets would fall off.
But the cold presented a problem not present in a nice warm locker room. The cold made Brigid's nipples pucker, made them tight and hard, and Ms. Farkas's fumbling frozen fingers could not draw them out far enough to slip the grommets on. She pinched the pink nubs and pulled them out, causing Brigid to wince, but just as she was about to slip the grommet on, the little pink pebble slipped from her grasp, making the breast jiggle tightly. He sighed. For poor Brigid this day has been once trial after another, staring with getting her green wool poncho soaked...
A howl from the crowd brought his head back up. Jaysee had gotten tackled and didn't get up. Mr. Bailey, the trainer, ran over with his first aid bag. Before he got there Jaysee showed signs of life. He struggled to his feet and put his arms up for the crowd. What a relief -- football was a dangerous game. One of many reasons he had never tried out for it (another reason being that he was terrible at it).
Jaysee, helped by Mr. Bailey, hobbled from the field. He was replaced by Rodrigo. Four minutes left in the half . . .
He looked down and -- good grief -- will this ever end!
It was the most shocking sight yet. Brigid was still standing up in an "X". As Ms. Farkas held the grommets in each hand, waiting for the right moment, Debra and Virginia had taken two pairs of pliers from the tool box and had applied them to Brigid's nipples!
At first it seemed like torture, like those things that middle-aged people do to each other when they can't get turned on any other way, like those kinky sites he had seen on the internet. But it wasn't torture. It was simply the sensible thing to do, with Brigid's nipples being so tight because of the cold. And her friends were going about it as gently as possible. They were squeezing the pliers, and pulling with them, very carefully.
Still it looked grotesque. Brigid shared her friends' determination but her face betrayed what she was feeling, once again a grimace, eyes shut, teeth clenched. Her pink nipples, pinched in the jagged jaws of cold metal, stretched out obscenely from the rest of her breasts.
Again he realized that if she opened her eyes she would be looking right at him. So again he turned back up.
After that was done he looked down again. The grommets were on. Brigid looked down at them, and at the ends of her nipples emerging from them just the slightest bit. Ms. Farkas carefully screwed the circlets on. One of them ended up a little crooked, at 11 o'clock instead of 12, and she had to twist the whole circlet together with the now-hidden grommet. Bridget bit her lip and endured...
He decided he would not look down there again. Then during a long time-out he felt the urge. No, no, must... not... look... Brigid... naked...
He exhaled and cheered with everyone else as Brigid, all suited up, bounded up onto the lower aisle. She held her hands up, one with the baton, as if in triumph, the circlets bouncing with the rest of her. Quite a change from the crying, mud-streaked wretch as the band had last seen her.
She hopped up the steps, her low heels clanging echoes against the metal, Debra and Virginia close behind her. In a moment they were seated right in front of him.
He felt like he should avoid eye contact, ashamed at having been a Peeping Tom, though of course they didn't know it. But they were busy in their own world, chatting about ordinary things as the quarter wound down. Not much was happening on the field. T---- was on the Brookline 30 yard line and was running plays into the line to run out the clock.
"Zhhhh!" Brigid shivered, then got up a bit and massaged her bare butt cheeks. That cold metal bench must be super-cold to her! On top of that the sky was getting gray and the wind was picking up. He felt a tiny raindrop on his nose, then another.
Debra and Virginia offered half a lap each, and Brigid was now spared the cold bench by sitting up on their uniformed thighs. She dropped her sandals off and wrapped her feet around the jacket of Luisa sitting down in front of them. Brigid put her arms around Debra and Virginia as Luisa, putting down her flute, rubbed the majorette's toes with her gloved hands.
From what he could tell they were talking about bowling again. Mostly about the goofiness of the shoes they gave you. Jeremy, one of the trumpet players, sitting a few rows up, said, "Hey Frigid!" Brigid gave him a killer look and aimed her baton like she was about to throw a spear at him. Then got back to talking.
Sarge passed up a black blanket, donated by a parent probably. Brigid put it underneath her, then curled up cross-legged in what had to be welcome warmth. She looked like an ancient Druid, wrapped up in a black robe, except for the jaunty little Tunemasters cap. And the lovely white neck, with a few strands of her braided-up red hair hanging down, tossed with the cold damp breeze.
One minute left. And now a fine mist filled the air.
Sarge walked over on the lower aisle with a big box and set it down. "Attention folks. It's almost halftime, then we wait on the track for ten minutes while the crowd gets their snacks, then our big show. The cameras are set up. I don't have to tell you what a big deal this is. I know you'll come through like you always do. Brigid, come down and help me OK?"
Brigid unwrapped herself and, toting her baton, bounded down to Sarge. She gave him the folded-up black blanket. He opened the box and showed her the contents, saying something.
Now back to his announcement voice. "Now, it looks like rain. We haven't had to do this so far, but it's time to put on the plastic ponchos. You heard me talk about this in September. Walking around in a wet uniform on a cold day is a sure route to hypothermia. Not in my band! These..." Helped by Brigid, he slipped one on. "Fit over the head and will cover your shoulders and down to about your knees. I know they look strange but the point is the crowd can still see your uniforms and believe it or not, you can still play your instruments, even the trombones and drums. They're that loose. Remember -- the formation is just as strict with these things on as otherwise." He put his gloved hand on the majorette's bare shoulder. "Brigid, help me hand these out O.K.?"