The band milled around in the track area, between the Dad's Club stand and the end zone, waiting for the signal from Sarge to get into formation for the halftime show. They had gotten used to the clear plastic ponchos that covered them. It was a struggle at first, but once they were fully on down to your knees, and you got your instrument organized under it, they were not so bad.
The band was trying to relax. But the mobile camera truck loomed over them like it was a tank. They knew they'd be on the local TV news tonight, watched at home by their families, their parents, and most embarrassingly, by their younger siblings. Embarrassing, that is, if something went wrong.
So the air of casualness and joking around was forced. He played with his trombone slide and shot the breeze with Jamal and Jaysee, who was on a crutch, his calf bandaged up, out of the game and a lot more relaxed than his friends. Others paced, chatted, blew through their instruments. The color guard, which would lead the formation, hovered near the edge of the field, straightening their jackets, making sure the flag holders were secure. To have the flag drop would be a disaster. As for the cheerleaders, not involved in the halftime show, they were sipping diet sodas at the Dad's Club.
One of the more relaxed band members was Brigid, near the fence, talking idly with one of the police, Office McElroy, who he remembered was her uncle. He was a big beefy Irish cop kind of guy, with a jolly face, in his heavy coat, gloves, with ear muffs and a ski mask under his cap. On a cold day a guy like him, whose job was just to stand around, had to bundle up. He had pulled the ski mask down to his chin so he could talk. Usually he was three times Brigid's size, but with him all bundled up next to her in her tiny uniform, it was more like ten times.
The two were laughing at something, Brigid's circlets jiggling, flexing her purple toes, idly scratching her butt with her baton. In the chilly, damp wind, her body was a raw red from head to toes, though a little whitish blotch could be seen where the hot tea had splashed her, on the inner slope of her left breast. If Officer McElroy was thinking about what his niece must be feeling like, he gave no sign.
They were joking around about the Star Wars present her brother had gotten at his recent birthday party, from what he could hear. As she scratched her left butt cheek he smiled. I know what Brigid's butthole looks like...
Could anyone else see it? When she was sitting in front of him a few minutes ago, raising her butt to put that black blanket under her, her butt briefly was almost in his face. The string of her bottom, no wider than a shoelace, bisected her butthole; he could see the sides of her secret brown eye on each side. Well, it would never show in performance. Sticking her butt out at the crowd was not part of the majorette's routine.
Now Brigid, talking to her uncle, lazily tapped the baton against her shoulder, then dropped it and tapped it against her bare heel. Now she casually twirled it, joking with her uncle all the while.
The rest of the band, of course, had the benefit of the clear plastic ponchos, which it turned out also afforded some warmth and shielded them from the wind. After the last of the ponchos had been handed out in the stands, Brigid had looked down at the empty box. Whether this was a surprise to her or not, he couldn't tell. But it kind of went without saying that the majorette couldn't perform in a poncho. It turned out, like Sarge said, that he could slide his trombone under it, and the drummers could wield their drumsticks under theirs. But there was no way to twirl in one.
Actually quite warm now in his full-coverage uniform and plastic poncho, he looked at his band's majorette chatting nearly naked in the cold and felt in love again.
He sat across from her in one class, English. He was hoping she hadn't noticed how much he looked over at her. In her turtleneck shirt, jeans jacket, black jeans, Doc Marten boots -- he could picture her naked body under it, knowing how she really looked underneath, the breasts that were hidden in the turtleneck, the butt cheeks in her jeans, the feet and toes in her Doc Martens. With no other girl could one do that. He felt like he had x-ray vision and was looking through her clothes. Then turned away before she caught him staring.
He imagined taking her to the prom, him in his tuxedo, and her going in her majorette uniform. It was certainly dressy enough for a nice party like that, though not allowed by the dress code. Where would she put the corsage he gave her? Maybe it could hang from a circlet. Or pin it one of the strings of her bottom, below the graceful ridge of her pelvic bone. Well, no, the string looked too thin and fragile for that. Better yet, clip it to her red hair, hair that would be braided up like it now was under her cap, so that he could see her lovely neck and bare freckled shoulders.
Sigh... He would never have the courage to ask her to the prom, of course. It was all he could do not to choke up in her presence even without planning on saying anything. As to what she would actually wear to a prom, he could guess. An elegant but modest dress, floor length, maybe sleeveless at the most. No bare shoulders, definitely no bare midriff or bare legs. Sandals, maybe. But covered up.
He shook his head, trying to stop fantasizing, but he couldn't. What if she went through the school day every day in her uniform? With everyone else normally dressed? He pictured her sauntering down the hall, talking with her friends, the clip-clop of her heeled flip-flops along with the thumps of their boots, her breasts jiggling and agitated as she laughed, the circlets dancing their crazy little ellipses in the air, her concave tummy moving with her breathing and laughing. Or playing in a concern in her uniform, with everyone else in their nice clothes, the boys in their ties, the girls in their black floor-length dresses. And in the clarinet section, among the black formal fabric, the bare beautiful white body gleaming in the stage lights as she played along with the other clarinetists...
He cleared his throat and blew through his trombone, watching Brigid and her uncle through the corner of his eye. I'm getting all sappy. I hardly even know her. Yet it was hard not to be in love. Probably a lot of other guys were too. Now Brigid turned with her back to him, flexing her arms, changing the baton from hand to hand over her head, as she spoke. From her cap to her backless sandals she presented a rear view of total nudity interrupted only by the tiny T-string of her bottom that disappeared between her butt cheeks. Then she turned slightly. He loved her from that angle. The side of her breast came into view, but not so much that he could see the circlet perched at its tip. From this angle, she looked like she was topless.
Uh-oh -- her uncle was looking at him, seeing that he had been looking at Brigid. "How're ya doin', young fella?" he said.
He smiled and nodded weakly, thinking he was going to get some sharp warning from this big cop about ogling his niece. But the cop's smile didn't seem to hide anything stern.
Then Brigid turned and said, "Oh hi, that's the guy who was on TV with me. Come heah," she said in her Providence accent, waving him over.
Still not at ease with the cop, and nervous as he always was about approaching Brigid, he walked over, making a show of conscientiously blowing through his trombone under the poncho and checking the slide.
"Yes, I remembah," the cop said, with the same accent. "You and Brigid put on a good show."
"Th - thanks."
"Even though Sahge had us mahching for almost five hundred yeahs," Brigid said. A reference to Sarge's slipup saying that the band was founded in 1527 instead of 1927. She laughed and he did too. He tried not to look at her circlets wobbling. The fine mist had given a sheen to her reddened skin. The scald mark was barely visible, a slightly less reddened area shaped like a flame, along the side of her breast, almost touching the circlet.
He smiled and looked down at his trombone, watching his high boots next to the red bare toes in the sandals. The mist had formed little beads of condensation on the toenail paint.
Now a gust of wind. "Geez, it's cold," her uncle said, shaking his arms under his coat.
"Yeah," Brigid said, shaking her bare shoulders. A rare acknowledgement from her. As she shook the circlets danced. And she smiled, enchantingly.
Now Sarge called her away and spoke to her, his gloved hand on her bare shoulder. He heard him say the word "muddy" but couldn't make out the rest. Probably giving her a pep talk to avoid the disaster of the pregame show.
Sarge shouted, "Get ready!" As they assembled he said, "Change of plan. There's a dedication to Roddington McNeil, I told you about that. He has a request. We're going to do 'Catch That Tiger' instead. Then Mr. Simonetti goes on the field with him and he gives a" -- he spoke in a stage whisper now -- "hopefully short" -- back to loud -- "dedication speech. Then it's "Stars and Stripes", the full version."
Groans from the flute players. He said, "Now this is the last halftime show of the year, so let's end in a big way. Remember --" he looked up and saw that it was beginning a light rain now -- "it's more important to look good and stay in formation than to get every note right. The ponchos are going to muffle the sound a bit anyway. But they're clear plastic and the formation is going to be very visible."
Sarge looked at the general drift of people from the snack area to the stands. Then, again holding his gloved hand on the majorette's bare shoulder, he seemed to count off five seconds and said --
The six snare drummers lined up behind Brigid and on her signal they began the rat-tat-tat of the opening salvo. This got the crowd's attention and there was an accelerated movement from the Dad's Club area up to the stands. Brigid's signal was to thrust her baton over her head, her breasts wobbling tightly before coming to rest. He loved the way those circlets moved in little, well, circles. Were they being propelled by those hard pink nipples they were screwed onto? Or did the circlets cause her breasts to sway more?
Once again he felt the possessor of secret knowledge, having seen her total nakedness and how the circlets were fastened onto her. He looked at them and wondered how far her nipples, stretched by the hidden grommets, extruded. The circlets themselves didn't seem to protrude very far. They made her breasts look slightly more puffed-out but that was all. Certainly nothing like that pointy bra Madonna wore in the 80's. He wondered how Brigid's nipples felt in this cold. Did the cold make supporting the circlets more bearable? At least it couldn't be as uncomfortable as those "bulldog" clips.
He took in the rest of her posture -- her "call to attention" pose. Her baton up in the air, her other arm extended behind her, fingers outstretched, one leg in front of the other, the rear leg bent slightly at the knee. Kind of theatrical, but that was the name of the game with a marching band. He saw something he'd noticed before. In this posture, the toes of her rearward foot were spread. Her pinky toe, the school colors meticulously painted on the tiny nail, was almost off the sole of her heeled silvery flip-flop and nearly touching the cold muddy ground. It looked so precarious.
But Brigid was strong and, as she began marching and everyone fell into formation behind her as she strutted, she exuded strength and confidence. It had not been a good day for her, one misfortune after another. Being doused by cold water from above. Falling face down into the cold mud which squirmed into her circlets and into her bottom, and squished up between her toes. Having hot tea spilling on the bare slope of her breast and down her tummy, icy water splashing over her bare feet and legs, having a freezing cold cloth poking into her pussy and into her asshole, her whole naked body plunged into ice water with her back against a big block of ice, finally having her nipples bit and stretched by pliers.
But that was then. She had put it all behind her. And now, as he and the other trombones marched out behind the drum majors, the cheering as the band came out in formation, the Tunemasters were supreme. Yes, being in a marching band was considered geeky. The uniforms certainly were, at least in any other setting. But out here on the football field during halftime, no other outfit would do. As they began marching in a circle around the field, each being careful to stay six feet behind the one in front, two feet from the one to the side, the crowd cheered more loudly, a cheering heard even after they started into "Catch That Tiger", and his heart swelled with pride.
This is where all that practice paid off -- all those before-school practices on this same field, at the ungodly hour of 6:30 a.m., in all kinds of weather, enduring Sarge's benevolent but strict discipline, in the rising sun and often in drizzle and biting cold. Everyone in their regular clothes, with coats on when it was cold, though Brigid had taken her shoes and socks off to get used to marching in the majorette sandals. And now, here at the big game, in uniform, all the drudgery was forgotten.
The TV trucks seemed to be everywhere. He couldn't tell from his angle but he guessed there were cameras at every corner of the field. They knew this would be on local TV and probably the Boston local news too. This was their moment! All those guys who teased the band members for being geeky, they couldn't help but envy them at a time like this. The formation was excellent, the band sounded great, not a single flubbed note in spite of the chill. Looked great too. Even though all the band members except one were covered from neck to knees in plastic ponchos, the magnificent uniforms could still be seen clearly, moving in perfect synchronicity around the field as Brigid and the drum majors turned into the center and he hooked up with Jamal in front of him now, and the other percussionists in the rear rank, as the band formed a huge donut circling on the field. In the middle, it was out of his view, but he knew the drum majors were turning around in sync as they did their rolls, and Brigid was prancing and doing some throws.
The cheering continued, audible to him even through the music. The ponchos muffled the sound but only a little. It was beginning to drizzle, as he could tell from looking down on his poncho and feeling it against his face, but he couldn't hear the pitter-pat against the plastic, everything was so loud and alive! The cheerleaders, in the Dad's Club area, put down their sodas and just had to clap. Even the tiny bunch of Brookline fans in their little grandstand stood up, getting some circulation going, and seemed impressed.
Now was his big moment. It was his cue, as the first trombonist, the one on the left. Glancing down carefully while still playing, he stopped exactly at the 47-yard line and marched in place. The other trombonists, watching him, stopped with him. He looked forward as Jamal and his line pulled away. Now, he watched Sarge, in his unobtrusive position on the sidelines. Sarge was waiting for the band to bunch up into "tight" formation, just three feet between each rank. Now Sarge signaled. Still marching in place, Rod turned toward the crowd, as the band went into the "B" part of the tune on the last go-round. The trombonists followed him and now they were in a line, working their slides in the direction of the stands.
In a moment, Brigid and the drum majors came down in front. The band played especially loud the last few bars. A few rim-shots from the drums, then some terrifically high throws from Brigid. He could see the wisdom of not having a poncho on the majorette. The baton would get all tangled up in it. One final throw, and then silence. And now cheers!
He couldn't help but smile. Smiling in formation was O.K. The cheers continued as Mr. Simonetti, with his wireless microphone and a folded-up umbrella, walked tentatively onto the field, at the sideline, about twenty feet in front of Brigid and the drum majors. The cheering had barely died down when he said, "Let's hear it again for the Tunemasters!"
More cheering, and some whistling. The drum majors stepped off to the right, and stopped in line. He looked to the left, at Brigid, whom he could see in profile, about ten feet in front of him, a little to the side, so as to complement, and not obscure, the presentation of the band in formation. She was in "presentation" position, hands on her hips, baton in her left hand (she was left-handed), again with one foot in front of the other, rear leg bent so that her rear foot was on its toes, the sole of the backless sandal separating from her heel. She was smiling too.
Mr. Simonetti introduced Roddington McNeil, and an incredibly old man hobbled onto the field with a cane. He had on a business suit, a fedora on his head, and rubbers over his shoes. He gave a labored wave to the crowd as Mr. Simonetti introduced him. The cheers seemed to be from the older parents. Nobody in the band had seen this guy before, though they'd seen his name on a plaque in the lobby, near the glass case that had the old band pictures and trophies. Mr. Simonetti motioned to the new scoreboard and asked Mr. McNeil to say a few words.
The old guy grabbed onto the microphone, his hand over Mr. Simonetti's, and began to speak in a quavering, old-man voice. He began speaking about when he first came to this school, in 1962...
Rod realized this might be awhile so he glanced over to Brigid. What a fine view he had. In profile she displayed to him the slopes of her breasts, her flat tummy, one knee in front of the other... He was in love again.
He looked at her tummy. It was more like a hollow. She was on the soccer team, she was in good shape. He remembered again that time he had walked through her gym class, her doing exercises with the other girls in her T-shirt and gym shorts, sneakers and socks. So covered up compared to now. What a fine-looking tummy, flat and just slightly muscular. Flushed red with the cold like the rest of her, though her toes and fingers were a little purplish by now too. White girls' skin was so interesting.
He noted the smoothness of the tummy, down to her navel, then the long expanse down, down, down past her delicate hip bones, down, down, down some more, finally to the top of the tiny V-shaped uniform bottom. He knew what her pussy looked like now, and where her clitoris was, and estimated that they began just millimeters below the top of the little triangle of fabric. The skin above was flawless. How did she shave her pubic hair there? What did she use? A razor? Or some kind of cream like girls use to get the hair on their legs?
He thought of last year's majorette, Grenicia. During one of the halftimes last year, during a moment like this, he noticed she had bumps down there, some kind of irritation. Fortunately for Grenicia her skin was real dark and you couldn't notice unless you were up close. Maybe she shaved too close, or had some kind of allergic reaction to the cream she used. Brigid, with her white skin, could afford no such mishap. To have a red rash visible above her uniform bottom would look pretty bad.
Of course, Grenicia had been lucky. That whole last year, the band was blessed with beautiful weather. Every Saturday was warm and sunny, even into December. St. Patrick's Day was a nice day too. Brigid, at the time marching with the clarinets in a full-cover band uniform, must have looked at the majorette and decided to try out for the job when Grenicia graduated. There were about ten candidates, the way he understood it. And she got picked, the first white majorette in years.
And look at how it turned out! To begin with, the uniform got more skimpy. Grenicia's circlets were four inches across and, her breasts being a little small, covered almost the entire slopes. The uniform bottom had been bigger, the straps going around the waist, and around Grenicia's quite bigger butt, had been thicker too. The sandals had had a strap around the heel which was now gone. But the worst of it was the weather. Grenicia had strutted in the warm sunshine. But except for those first two Saturdays in September, poor Brigid had had to endure the coldest and wettest autumn on record. It was always raining, or windy, or just plain COLD, and sometimes all at the same time. Yet she strutted and marched and twirled as if it was sunny and 70 degrees out and as if being the majorette was a great honor that she was thankful for. Which it was, of course. Yet no one who saw this girl, this unassuming, really quite ordinary though pretty girl, walking through the halls in her jean jacket, talking with her friends -- no one could suspect the steely strength within.
The old guy kept rambling. And now drizzle turned into real rain. Umbrellas went up in the stands, and Mr. Simonetti opened up his big golf-style umbrella so that it covered him and the elderly honoree. Still the old guy kept talking, Mr. Simonetti nodding with just the slightest indication of impatience.
Rod was glad for his poncho. In his full uniform with the thermal underwear underneath, he was not at all cold. In fact the poncho acted like a greenhouse and made him a bit warm. Not a feeling being experienced by the poncho-less majorette. Brigid stood there, in "presentation" pose, smiling, as the rain began to coat her flushed body. Her toes flexed every now and then but otherwise she stayed motionless to the extent she could. He watched as a thin sheet of water developed which ran down her bare back, turned at her sacral dimples, then dripped off the string surrounding her waist. Courses of water ran down further, around the Y-shaped dimple over the beginning of her crack, then washed over the two cheeks of her butt. Jamal was right. Brigid DID have a freckle on her butt, on the right cheek right near her butthole, about halfway down. Then the water ran down the backs of her legs. On the rear leg, it went down to her flexed reddened heel, then dripped off her heel down to the sole of her sandal, from which it ran down and collected under her toes. Through the corner of his eye he could see the TV camera guy, fifty feet away, the camera maybe trained on the speech but could he be actually trained on Brigid?
Rod looked at her frozen smile, as the rain dripped off her nose, off her chin. What was she thinking? Warm thoughts? He saw her start to shiver. That was not unusual. A scantily-clad majorette on a cold day was expected to shiver. It was part of the majorette's life. But still he felt pity as the freezing rain washed over her in its icy caress. He wished he could throw his poncho over her, no more than that, wrap her near-nakedness in his jacket, give her his long pants, his nice warm boots over her frozen feet... He had a fantasy of the end of the halftime show, Brigid jumping into a hot tub set up on the 50-yard line, splashing around in it gratefully, a special chemical in it making her circlets and bottom dissolve, her warm wet body finally jumping up in triumph in her warm wet nakedness to the cheers of the crowd...
He shook himself away from this bizarre fantasy and thought of Brigid in happier times. Those first two Saturdays in September were hot and sunny. The rest of the band was actually sweating in their wool uniforms and Brigid was having a great time. Maybe too great! There was the Bubble Gum Game, the second Saturday. Debra and Virginia had made the ill-advised decision to chew gum on the way to the field. What to do with it? Up in the stands, having to play "Fanfare", they had to put it somewhere fast. There not being any place to put it on their own uniforms, Brigid, who had no playing to do, offered her circlets. And so for the rest of the time up there one could see little pink nubs on her circlets. It looked for all the world like her actual nipples were sticking out through holes. It sure gave him a rise. Neither Brigid nor her girlfriends seemed to be aware of this, as they chatted during fanfare breaks and cheered the team on during runs and touchdowns. But to see Brigid jump up when Jaysee caught that long one in the end zone, the pink nubs bouncing up and down -- he considered himself lucky to have taken in that sight once in his lifetime.
The old guy rambled on... Mr. Simonette was trying, gently, to wrest the microphone away but McNeil had it in a death grip in his gnarled hand. Maybe he was trying to show how hardy he was despite his age, standing up and talking for a long time in this cold rain.
The rain got more torrential now, and now a gust of wind that almost knocked him over. Maybe others in the band too. Their ponchos flapped ferociously around them. Mr. McNeil, perhaps aware of this, spoke louder and closer to the mic.
Brigid adjusted her toes very slightly to the wind but kept in place, smiling, hands obediently on hips, baton wrapped in the fingers of her left hand. Currents of cold rain ran down the slopes of her breasts into the circlets, no doubt chilling her nipples before re-emerging below. Now there were drips coming from the undersides of her breasts, water accumulating, then dripping, accumulating, then dripping... Cold rain likewise ran down her tummy into her uniform bottom, no doubt running in between her pussy lips, maybe going inside... Cold rain washed down her butt, down her crack, no doubt running against her hidden butthole...
Now with the increased flow the rain began going on top of her circlets and spouting off them. Like skiing, or one of those fountains in Italy you saw pictures of, where water squirts out of a statue's nipples. Two little streams, coming off Brigid's breasts. Now her shivering increased and the streams scattered.
How long was this old guy going to go on? Mr. Simonetti leaned forward to the mic, trying to say something, but the guy just kept talking.
He pictured Brigid shivering so much, that her breasts scattered the water like a lawn sprinkler. A comical sight. On sale now -- the Majorette Lawn Sprinkler. Then he scolded himself for being so cruel. Still, he was beginning to get concerned about her. Sarge, under his umbrella in front of the stands, seemed to look concerned too. Hopefully the old guy was almost done. Unfortunately he had only gotten up to 1985 or so...
He had been getting concerned and the fact that Sarge was concerned made him more so. Sarge had led a band in the Army for years. And this was his tenth year leading the Tunemasters. Marching bands were his life. He could handle any type of situation -- like that time last year when Chelsea, one of the flute players, vomited during the Fourth of July parade. Sarge quickly snatched her to the side and got her some medical help, and moved the marchers around so that the march continued with hardly a blip. Fortunately Chelsea was O.K. But it was the kind of eventuality that he knew how to deal with from his years and years of experience.
But now Sarge looked uncomfortable and uncertain. This was a situation he had never had to deal with before. Majorettes had to get used to marching in the cold in skimpy uniforms, it came with the territory. But the marching kept them warm. Standing still in freezing rain was different.
Rod stood there miserably in his sweaty warmth, feeling the rain pelt his poncho, and underneath the poncho was his jacket, then his shirt, then his thermal underwear. The rain was a remote feeling, like being inside a house and hearing it hit the roof. But Brigid had none of these protections. The rain entombed her bare skin, the cold no doubt piercing her to the bone.
She shivered and the rain cascaded over her, into her circlets and her uniform bottom and deep into her most private crevices, then down finally over her bare purple toes. It was not just her toes. Her entire nearly naked body now had a purplish tinge to it. She had no place to hide from the cold.
And now it got worse.
The rain started feeling hard, like little stones. He looked down at the muddy field and saw to his horror that the rain had changed to sleet!
Yet Roddington McNeil, the old fool, kept babbling on. Mr. Simonetti was getting more insistent in trying to interrupt but Mr. McNeil kept on hogging the microphone. The people in the crowd, huddled under their umbrellas or under raincoats, were losing interest, rolling their eyes, no doubt joking to each other as to when this geezer was going to finish.
This was ridiculous. Everyone in the crowd is all bundled up, wearing gloves, under umbrellas, and Brigid was standing out in front of them wearing practically nothing. She stood as still as she could. Her smile was as frozen as the rest of her. And then, finally, a sign of weakness -- one knee buckled and she had to switch feet. Now it was the right set of toes that was planted firmly downward, spread a little bit, purple from the cold, millimeters from the muddy ground, and the left heel that was arched up, the last few drops of rain dripping from it onto the sole of her miserably inadequate flip-flop. His feet were warm in their socks and boots. How he wished he could give her his socks!
At least with the ending of the rain she was no longer covered with the coursing of freezing water. The temperature might be even lower now but, with the cruel caress of the wintry wind like the world's roughest towel, her skin was drying quickly. Brigid's Rule.
He and the other trombonists decided to check out her goose bumps. A favorite pastime of theirs, on cold days, that is, almost every day of this football season -- taking note of the many varieties of Brigid's goose bumps, where they appeared, how high and how many. Today was a record breaker. She had goose bumps all over -- those on her her shoulders, her arms, and her legs were always visible , but the inner recesses of her butt cheeks were always where they were highest. Today they were monumental, sharp little mountains, going right into her crack, someone inside where the tiny hidden black string bifurcated her cheeks and pressed snugly and intimately against her butthole.
As the old man went on, Rod saw Sarge waving from under the little awning in front of the stands. He had gotten an extra coat from somewhere and was motioning as if to open it up. In other words, he was waving for Brigid to come off the field and put some damn covering on.
A drastic measure, perhaps unprecedented in Sarge's experience, but this was a drastic situation. Rod looked over at Brigid. The freezing majorette evidently saw Sarge -- in fact, from where she was, it was impossible to miss him -- and did not react. C'mon, Brigid! He sighed. She was stubborn.
His thoughts were distracted by the novel sight of the tiny grains of sleet bouncing off her bare shoulders. And the top slopes of her breasts. And her knees. With so many aspects to this new spectacle, each trombonist decided to pay attention to one. Rod looked at the shoulders. The sleet came down in one direction but bounced off at angles depending upon which angle of her beautiful curves they hit. The ones that hit the tops of her shoulders bounced straight up, then came down again, bouncing either in front or behind on the second bounce. The ones hitting the sides of the shoulders bounced off to each side. Some bounced up and fastened onto the lovely wisps of red hair under her cap.
Sidney, the trombonist next to him, watched the grains bounce off her cute little cap and the braided up hair below. George, the next one, was mesmerized by the scattering of the little grains by her breasts and circlets. The ones that hit the circlets shot out especially far out in front of her. Well, he figured, that made sense. The vinyl of the circlets was harder than the skin on the bare slopes of her breasts. Herman watched the sleet bouncing off her hips and butt. Deion liked the sight of her bare knee and how the white stones shot out in front as if she were kicking them. At the other end of the trombone line, Lorenzo watched Brigid's right foot and the specks of ice bouncing off her spread toes.
The sleet got a little bigger and fell harder, and made a real racket against the ponchos. It made it hard to hear McNeil and increased the sense of unreality, that this was some kind of dream. Though of course for Brigid it was all too real.
Sarge's waving became more insistent and he could detect Brigid shaking her head, as slightly as possible so as not to be noticed by the crowd, an incongruous gesture to her frozen smile. Then he realized that following Sarge's instruction was not a simple matter. The TV cameras were trained on the band as well as McNeil, in fact now that the speech turned out to be so boring they were probably more into the band. And it was certain now that the guy at this corner of the field was focused on the majorette. For Brigid to leave the field would be distracting and disruptive to the show, and possibly would be the one item to make the news. "Frozen majorette can't take it any more!" The screaming headline on the Boston Globe. The show, the show -- with a marching band, it was always about the show.
Still, hardy as she had become from all those days marching in the cold, Brigid must think of her health. And so the words came out of his barely moving lips, words that he couldn't really believe he had said until they entered his mind through his ears.
His first thought was that he was in big trouble, talking out loud in formation like that, but no one could hear him through the white noise of the sleet hitting the ponchos, except Brigid and maybe Sidney and George. He waited for a response. Then he cleared his throat and said again, moving his lips as little as possible so no one in the stands could see, "Brigid, go and put that coat on! We'll be fine!"
Shivering, she replied, "I c - can't!" He screwed up his courage and said, "Don't be foolish! You're freezing!"
"Ya think I don't knnnnow that!" In her Providence accent.
He had confronted her and, in his nervousness, thought he had lost her friendship. So he had nothing to lose. "I care about you, Brigid! PLEASE go get that coat on!"
"N - no." She closed her eyes -- maybe trying to transport herself into a place of warmth, a hot beach maybe. Or under a hot shower. Or maybe thinking of herself as being one of the rest of her band, all covered up under a poncho, as if she was once again marching with the clarinets.
The sleet began to accumulate on her cap. Little crescents of white crust began to form on top of the circlets. Down below, the white grains were filling up the spaces between her toes.
"Thank you, thank you, Roddington McNeil!" Mr. Simonetti said. The old man had had to catch his breath, finally allowing a space to jump in. McNeil looked around, as if awakened, then looked back at the band and at the majorette who was turning into a kind of frost-encrusted sculpture. "Oh sorry -- what a fine band -- thanks for your time!" And with that he hobbled with his cane off the field, followed by Mr. Simonetti.
The sleet, as if on cue, ended. Now it was just a gray sky and a chill breeze.
The second the two men were off the field Brigid lurched into action. A bit more stiffly than usual, but it was oh so good to see her come to life. She spun on the sleet-covered muddy field, shaking the white crust from her cap, her circlets, her toes, and thrust her baton into the air. A loud roll-off woke the band up, as instruments went up to lips. And now the intro to "Stars and Stripes Forever". A bit flubby, but by the time they were two bars into the first section they were back on their game. Their final tune of the year, a big finish, the grandest and most famous of all marching band tunes.
And one of the hardest, especially for the flutes. Fortunately the trombone part was not that hard. As he pumped away on his slide he smiled, watching Brigid twirl, at first slowly, but then her body went from purple to red, and her smile once again became the smile of a living person.
Now she stumbled! The heels of one of her flip-flops sank into the mud.
Brigid stumbled, but only for a second. She didn't seem upset about it. In fact she seemed to expect it. Then, to his astonishment, hardly missing a beat she kicked the heeled flip-flop off to the side, where it landed on the 40-yard line, and on the next beat kicked off the other. And she continued her routine like nothing had happened.
Rod's eyes widened as he pumped his trombone. So did the other trombone guys. Brigid was strutting and twirling barefoot! Yuck! The sleety mud was up almost to her ankles, oozing up between her toes, as she spun and kicked. On her kicks to the side and front, little bits of mud flew out from her toes. Within seconds the school colors on her toenails were totally obscured by brown muck.
Yuck! What a violation of the rule about what Sarge always called "neat and proper presentation"! Yet Sarge, on the sidelines, was actually smiling. And talking to people to his side, as if answering their comments. Rod realized this was what Sarge had been mentioning to Brigid before halftime, when he had pulled her away from chatting with her uncle the cop. "If it gets too muddy, dispense with the footwear."
Now the showy part, and the trombones swung to the left and then to the right, in perfect sync. This was the beginning of the "trio" section, the main tune, and as they broke into it the crowd cheered. Nothing like your folks and your family cheering you on. It was a great feeling. The TV cameras were eating it up, scanning the field, each line of the band kicking and high-stepping, all the way back to the percussion line at the rear. But most of all the cameras trained on the barefoot majorette slopping around in the cold mud.
Brigid was having a great time. As she spun and twirled and threw the baton up, it looked like a different type of dancing. Looser-limbed, more relaxed. More African. She was so stiff and formal sometimes, it seemed like she had a second baton up her butt. But not now! It stood to reason that without having to totter on those heels, having to grip her toes to keep those backless sandals on, she could move around more freely. It also just was the sensible thing to kick off the sandals when twirling on a muddy surface. He wondered when she had practiced majoretting barefoot. Certainly each time he had seen her, doing twirls on that grassy patch during recess, she had worn shoes.
Her face was flushed, not with cold now but with exertion. Imagine! Not two minutes ago she was shivering and miserable and battling hypothermia. Now she was alive and hot. He realized for the first time what twirling meant to her, what a thrill it was for her. Nobody would suspect it, seeing her around school in her regular clothes, mostly a quiet normal girl, talking with her friends in the hall... Now, dancing around barefoot and nearly naked in the mud in front of the crowd and the cameras.
And now as she swung around, her jiggling breasts leading the way as she threw them just so, she looked back at him and smiled. Just for him. His heart leapt. Yes!! She wasn't mad at him for confronting her about running off the field to put on that nice warm coat. He could see now that she had made the right decision to tough it out. How much would have been lost if at this moment the band's majorette was huddled on the sidelines.
But she was smiling at him -- remembering that he had said "I care about you Brigid"! He didn't know what the future would bring, but right now it looked promising.
With the sleet no longer hitting their ponchos, the band really rang out. Now on the final few bars they hit fortissimo. The drum guard's beats sounded like cannons. The big climax to the tune, the show, the season! Now Brigid threw an incredibly high throw, the baton going up what looked like a hundred feet, and she spun around and spun around like five times as it took seemingly half an hour to come down.
Holy ----! She was really going to do it! A split! Brigid turned to the side and her left leg went forward and her right leg back -- and as her bare butt hit the mud, her muddy toes spread and extended in front, kicking out mud, she caught the baton on the final cymbal crash. The trombone players thrust their instruments up to the sky in unison.
A pregnant second, and then the crowd let loose with a big roar. He thought he could detect a chanting undercurrent in there, some guys in the back rows maybe, "Frigid Brigid Frigid Brigid Frigid Brigid Frigid Brigid -- "
Sarge ran out and helped Brigid up. The insides of her legs were coated with mud but she didn't care. On his prompting everyone took a bow. Then Sarge playfully waved to the camera guy who was now within ten feet of them. Brigid waved too, with a big smile and a wink, her other hand tucking the baton next to her bare hip.
Rod smiled, looking at her flushed butt, her total nakedness from behind, interrupted only by the splatters of mud on her back, her buns, her legs, and the tiny horizontal string just above her crack, and he thought of her lovely hidden brown eye. Maybe it was winking at him now. It was corny but he decided to wink back.
Halftime show over, the band broke formation and trotted off the field as the football players, now assembled at the sidelines, waited to charge onto it. Brigid ran to retrieve her sandals; then zigzagged back to the fence, her toes kicking up bits of mud behind her. He watched her go.
She ran to the gate where her three little sisters and two little brothers were waiting along with her parents too, all cheering and laughing, and ready with warm washable boots, a big fluffy blanket to wrap herself in while they watched the second half, and a huge thermos full of hot chocolate!
Rod stumbled around groggily and realized he had thrust himself upright out of bed too quickly. He still had his shoes on, and his pants and shirt and jacket. For a moment he wondered what was dream and what was reality.
Knowing fresh air would clear that question up he ambled through the kitchen and out the door. Ahhhh, life is good. The sun was shining, the birds were singing. The smell of fresh earth, from the ground wet with the melted snow. A little chilly but spring was here.
And as he noticed the yellow VW half-out of the garage, he could make out the best thing about his life, evidenced by the bare legs and feet sticking out underneath, the soles gritty with grease, the fluff of plum-colored pubic hair under the bumper.
"Hi, Baby," Tami said as he approached, her hidden face still engrossed in her task. He bent down and kissed her on her lower hair. Then tickled one of her soles.
She giggled and with a good nature said, "S---! You made me miss the eight-thousandths!" She was adjusting the valves, a task she did regularly, taking her sweet time, in her own happy world, her and the valves and the screwdriver and wrench and blade gauge. Tami the Motorhead. She had described the ritual to her friends several times. Rod as an engineer was proud he could understand her because most of her friends sure couldn't. "The manual says to set the intake at .004 and exhaust at .006, but I set both at .008. It makes it a little noisy and there's a little less power, but what the hell, it's only 40 horses anyway, and it saves the valves from burning."
She had been almost finished when he saw her, and now she was done. She replaced the creaking valve cover with a little grunt and scooted out from under the car, her bare back scraping against the concrete. She wiped her hands on a rag and looked up at him, face speckled with bits of crud, grease marks on her bare shoulders, a black smudge covering her left nipple and areola like a circlet. He helped her up and they embraced in a full-body hug, she with the wrench still in her hand, he not minding any stains that might result on his clothes.
"How was Providence, Babe?"
They separated and she looked down. "Sobering."
"What, did they get along with Gretchen?"
"Oh of course they did. It's impossible not to get along with Gretchen. It's just that Dad works so hard at his store, with his heart condition he really shouldn't, but... he was hoping Joe would be back by now to help him. And I found out they are really, really proud of me." Her eyes got wet. "They are such great parents I would do anything for them."
He saw her wipe her tears and then she put her head back under his shoulder. "Oh Rod... I am so lucky."
He let a few moments go by and then he said, "I saw that DVD you left. Babe, you went through hell. I just can't imagine it." Indeed. It was worse than being raped, he thought. A girl being raped could at least turn her head and try to think of something else. But poor Tami had to face that creep Ross right in the eye as she came and came and came...
Tami hugged Rod more tightly, her toes squirming against the cold, gritty concrete. "It was horrible. I tried to escape in my mind, tried to tell myself to get used to these... orgasms... But each one exposed my every nerve... rubbing each nerve raw... and I had to keep my eyes open! Oh Jesus... I thought I was going to go out of my mind. The only thing that kept me from going crazy was thinking of the love of my family, and of you waiting for me... that after the... session was over I could go back into your arms."
He almost cried himself. As it was he sniffled, looked at the top of her head, and ran his hand through her plum-colored hair.
They stood there, embracing, listening to the birds sing. Tami's toes caressed his shoe and the leg of his trousers.
Then he said, "Your parents should know how much you suffered for them. You should -- "
"NO!" Tami stood apart. "Not ever!"
"At least tell them about being forced to -- "
"NO!! And you don't tell them either!"
"I wouldn't do that," Rod assured her. It seemed so wrong, that her parents should not know about all her tribulations, or at least some of them, that she had suffered for their sake, so that she would not lose her scholarship and disappoint them. But of course she was right. Any disclosure would make her parents, and especially her excitable father, very upset. Maybe they couldn't do any more about it than Tami could now, but it would at least keep them awake at night. Nothing is more unsettling than a grievous wrong that can no longer be redressed.
He didn't like to see Tami like this, so worried, remembering her past travails. He hefted her into his arms, in a way glad to be the strong one for once, and carried her into the house. Neither one of them had to be anywhere for the next couple of hours.