Bravest: Brigid O’Dierna
“H - hold s - still,” the Tunemasters majorette says, trying not to sound condescending. Her shaking fingers straighten the top of little Ricky Fuentes’s thermals, which is sticking out unevenly over the high collar of his many-buttoned uniform jacket. Brigid is bending over him, her baton clutched between her bare, goose-pimpled thighs. Her orange-sized breasts, clad only in silver-dollar-sized “circlets” attached to her nipples, wobble in Ricky's face. Not that he notices; everyone is used to seeing them on display, even on snowy days like today.
It is one of Brigid’s many duties to make sure everyone’s uniform is on straight. The rest of her band is so heavily clothed they sometimes don’t notice when something is askew. Ninth graders like Ricky need special attention. Thermals are an ongoing problem; the majorette, of course, cannot wear them, but they are the source of many complaints and she has become an expert on fixing folds and kinks on a moment’s notice.
“S - stay still!” Brigid repeats, like a mother. Ricky’s jacket is tight and various parts of Brigid bounce as she tugs the collar to one side.
Ricky is a little spoiled and always feels he is being put upon by circumstance. He reaches up to brush a fallen snowflake from his cheek, accidentally flicking Brigid about an inch below her left circlet. “I don’t like these thermals! They’re scratchy -- and hot!”
“T - talk to your m - mother about that.” The collar finally fixed, Ricky scampers back to his place in line and gets his alto sax back from his classmate Jim Joyner. Brigid grabs her baton and shakes herself all over. Her body is almost purple by now. She brushes the white flakes off her red, pinned-up hair.
They’ve been waiting here behind the fence for fifteen minutes. Thirty seconds left on the clock is when they assemble for the halftime show. Roxbury is leading Brookline 25 to 7, thanks to Jermaine’s on-target passes to LaShawn. They were watching the clock count down when with 18 seconds left a Brookline player got injured and paramedics took over. It didn’t look that serious -- maybe a broken finger -- but it’s been taking forever to resume play. Once the band gets on the field, Brigid can do her moves and get her blood moving again. People often wonder how majorettes can go out in the cold while being so scantily dressed. “It’s okay because we move around so much,” is the standard answer. “We’re getting quite a workout out there!” But being forced to stand around is . . . not easy.
Finally the referee’s whistle! Play resumes. Jermaine runs a couple of plays into the line to kill the clock. Now the halftime show.
It is early December and despite the snow it’s a big crowd, parents and friends and neighbors. The team has won every game except one and is surely headed for the regionals. It might be a broken-down old school but their football team is exceptional. So are the Tunemasters, who perform with a sense of triumph. The tunes are buoyant. The crowd claps along with gusto, people taking off their gloves so as to clap louder. Brigid, leading the band, knows exactly how many steps to get to the 50-yard line, how many times to step in place so that the trombones behind her can turn, how many beats to count down so that everybody is in formation before she starts twirling. She does her impossibly high throws, after exactly three turns catching the baton with a smile as it falls from the stratosphere. Her breasts, tight with the cold, swing tightly around the axis of her body. Her steps are high too, reddened toes clutching the sparkly backless flip flops. It is actually good that it is so cold today, with frosty ground. Any warmer would mean mud, a lot harder to perform on. One time back in October it was so gluey that she discarded her flops and performed barefoot.
Mr. Watson (“Sarge”, who used to lead an Army band) watches with pride from behind the fence, in his business suit, overcoat, gloves and furry hat. He is the best at what he does. Not only does his band march well in formation, they sound good. He trains them and then gets out of the way. Brigid is his second-in-command and out on the field she is the one in charge. “Best majorette I ever had,” he told Principal McPherson recently. They were in the band room, contemplating the uniforms, hung up along the wall, all but one in big, full-length bags. Brigid’s hanger looked almost empty, with little paper clips holding just the circlets, the flip flops, and the stringy thong bottom that looks no more substantial than a shoelace.
The school song -- “March, Jefferson High!” -- pretty catchy as school songs go -- is the last tune. On a signal from their majorette the band bows, then files from the field, trombones first, then trumpets, flutes, clarinets, saxes, tubas, percussion. Brigid is the last to leave, right after Morty with his bass drum. She gets her own burst of applause as she passes in front of the crowd. Her body is flushed with her exertions but even so one can detect a bashful blush. White girls are transparent that way.
She waits with her friends Debra and Virginia to get back up into the stands, the band bottlenecked as they file up through the narrow gangway, a solitary bareness in the midst of everyone else’s florid uniforms. Now Mr. Stamberg the biology teacher, juggling four cups of soda to bring up to his kids, lurches forward. Somebody behind him has tripped and the result is Brigid and Debra getting splashed.
“Oh -- I’m so sorry!” he says, though it is hardly his fault. An orange-soda-colored blotch mars Debra’s jacket. She looks down and decides to shrug it off. The stain will come out in the wash. The wetness is superficial and does not permeate the layers underneath. The jacket is over her blouse which is over her thermals which is over her 32B bra.
For Brigid, who enjoys none of these four layers of protection, it is a different experience. It is cold soda of course but it actually seems warm to her, given the temperature of the air she’s been exposed to. Instead she feels the prickly sting of carbonation. It has splashed across her breasts and down onto her concave tummy. Mr. Stamberg offers his scarf and, as everyone watches, Brigid extends her arms up, baton in the air, as Virginia does what wiping she can. The soda must have seeped in behind the circlets, and down into her crotch under the thong. Little trickles run down both legs. Virginia tries not to think of what her friend must be feeling, sticky stuff in intimate places. But the majorette does not betray any discomfort. Instead, she is focused on getting up to where her warm poncho is waiting.
It’s a nice warm “Thinsulate” poncho, given to her by the band after a collection was taken up, to replace those ad hoc blankets. As the band settles in to their designated rows on the side of the grandstand, Brigid slips off her flip flops and folds her legs inside, warming her toes in the crooks of her knees. She used to have old fluffy boots available but they finally fell apart and she’s saving up her waitressing money to get new ones. She wraps the poncho around her shoulders so that only her head is showing. Her baton lies to the side.
The team takes the field and they cheer. Now Sarajane, sitting behind her, chats with Debra and Virginia who are sitting on either side of the snuggled up majorette.
“Wild sex ed this week,”Sarajane says.
“Here we go again,” Debra says, rolling her eyes.
“I don’t want to hear this one more time,” Virginia says.
Sarajane makes a show of fondling her piccolo, discreetly enough so that no one else can see it except the four of them.
“Don’t be gross. You’re a pervert,” Debra says.
“Not as much as Belinda,” Sarajane says. “Asking Crawford if having two orgasms makes you ovulate early.” Ms. Crawford is the girls’ sex ed teacher, unafraid of any explicitness. “You know what that means!”
“I bet you never had even one,” Debra says, in a small, cutting voice, though not without a little good natured smirk.
“Oh yes I have. I use a candle. With ridges on it.”
“Oh Jesus!” Virginia says, holding her ears.
“Well girl,” Debra says, still quietly, “I had three in a row once.”
“If it’s not on video I won’t believe it,” Sarajane says. “What about you Brigid?”
Brigid, who has been trying to concentrate on the game, says only, “I’m a good Catholic girl.”
Indeed she is. In school she always wears a crucifix. She wore one her first time out as a majorette but it got in the way, always bouncing side to side against her breasts and popping up against her chin. And then there’s that cross-shaped smudge of ash on her forehead every February. Some of the Hispanic kids had it too, but not as visible on their darker skin.
Fortunately the conversation about sex goes no further. After a few minutes Virginia moves closer to Brigid and all but whispers, “That soda must feel icky under your uniform. What if I wet some napkins and you can clean yourself under that poncho.”
Brigid looks alarmed, an unusual expression for her. “What, right here?”
“No one will see. I’ll hold the poncho closed for you.”
Brigid thinks for a moment and says, “No, I can deal with it.” Still, she shifts her bottom, squirming, though she tries to hide it.
Now to everyone’s surprise Rodney Mitchell, who never gets to play, recovers a fumble and breaks free of the scrum. Yelps from the crowd spur him on and he strides across the goal line, hugging the ball tightly in his surprised arms; he can’t see that he is well clear of any Brookline pursuers. 36 to 7!
“Fanfare!” Sarge’s voice comes at them from his perch on the top row. Everyone stands up and toots the few bars of “Roll Call”. Brigid stands up too. She has no instrument to play but it would look disrespectful for her to stay seated. As she rises she shucks off the poncho, bare feet extending down to endure the icy cold of the metal below. She claps and cheers, breasts bouncing in support of her team.
After they sit down Fr. Haglin, from Brigid’s church, unexpectedly appears, climbing up to their row. Brigid, who has been sitting on her poncho, expecting another fanfare, reflexively begins to get up but the priest, overcoat over his collar and black outfit, bids her stay seated.
“Father, what brings you here?” She sits primly and modestly in her circlets and thong, looking up at this man of the cloth.
“There’s a big teacher conference at the school today.” They all knew that. For a Saturday, parking was hard to find. Brigid got a ride with Debra’s father. Sometimes Brigid’s little brothers and sisters stop by but Brigid’s father, a police officer, is on duty today. As for her mother, she can’t go out much these days because of her surgery. “I was giving a presentation at it.
“Good news,” the man of the cloth continues. "You’re it! Our first altar girl!”
Brigid crosses herself and bows her head, her breasts jiggling reverently, and says a short prayer. When she looks up she says, “I hope I don’t mess up!”
“How can someone like you possibly mess up?” It’s Fr. Haglin’s triumph too. He has been pestering the bishop about this for some time and finally got approval. “You start tomorrow, 8:45 Mass. You’ll be paired with Patrick, so he’ll give you any cues you need.”
“Thank you, Father!” Brigid says.
“I wanted to tell you face to face. We won’t announce it, you know,” he says in his faintly noticeable Irish accent.
“Yes, I know.” They had already discussed it. Instead of making a big announcement, which might provoke the “trads”, Father decided just to go ahead with it. Tomorrow a girl will be helping at the altar without anyone saying anything.
As they watch the priest navigate his way down the stands, Debra watches Brigid climb back into her poncho and says, “You’re such an overachiever I want to throw up.”
“She’s not the only one who ‘achieves’, you know!” Sarajane says.
In unison Debra and Virginia say, “Quiet!!”
The game moves into the fourth quarter. The snow stops and the sun comes out. Things are now so lopsided that Coach Herring puts in his third string. It is considered unsportsmanlike to run up the score but one can hardly blame these rarely-used boys for putting in 200% effort. They totally dominate the dispirited Brookliners. The final score is 66 to 14.
Most bands leave after halftime but under Sarge the Tunemasters stay with their team until the end. As he puts it, “We don’t bug out!” The crowd files out and the team jogs back to the gym, as the band stands up where they are and plays the usual exit music, “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” and “American Patrol”. Brigid stands up too. Her toes crawl into her flip flops and she picks up her baton and twirls in place. To do this she has to pull up the poncho with the other hand. It rides up to expose one butt cheek.
Now when it’s all over, that long walk. It’s a bother, walking to the far entrance at the other side of the school, but that’s where the band room is and they’re not supposed to go the short way through the school, what with the teacher conference going on. (“Thank God the game means I don’t have to go,” Sarge confided to Brigid the other day. “I hate sitting through those things.”) This is especially a trial for Morty with his bass drum and Juan and Dashawn with their sousaphones. Except for Brigid, who of course cannot wear them, the thermals are a sore trial for the band. Ricky was unfortunately correct: the thermals are too hot, especially when carrying instruments a long distance. Itchy too. They get no relief from the wind blowing across the vacant grounds of the old junior high school as they slowly trudge past it. All it does is give them glimpses of the goose pimples on Brigid’s butt as her poncho flies up.
The sweating, overly layered band and their shivering majorette finally get to the passage on the side of the school. Now, another pain in the butt, that “security gate” the district just put in. Supposedly to prevent drug dealing in the rear parking lot but won’t people just climb over that short fence on Fifth Street? Sarge punches in the five digit code and they wait as the gate unlatches and s-l-o-w-l-y slides open. (“Bad news for really slow dealers!” That quip was from Jaycee, the trombone player.)
Sarge and Brigid lead the band around the side of the school.
“Oh good God!” is Sarge’s reaction. The Tunemasters slump as if stunned into zombiehood by the incessantly ringing bell. Now they will have to wait, for who knows how long, before they can get into the school, dispose of their instruments, and get their rides home. On top of that it’s getting dark, and colder. A frigid breeze whips past them, felt most acutely by the majorette, who draws her poncho closer in. This does nothing for her bare legs, or her feet in the minimal flip flops. A couple of kids think, Frigid Brigid, but no one dares say it.
Behind them, the gate closes. “What the hell?” Sarge says. Then he says, “Must be a fire precaution. It’s all run by computer now.”
They stand around for a few minutes, with snatches of dispirited chatting. Sarge is in the middle. Brigid observes, “They wouldn’t have a fire drill on a Saturday. Something must have really happened.” Sarge says, “Good point. . . I don’t see any smoke do you?” Then he pulls out his cell phone and goes apart from the rest. After a few minutes he loudly announces, “False alarm.” As if on cue, the bell stops.
“Okay, folks, I don’t care what they say, we’re going in the front entrance.” Which is a much shorter trip. They go to the gate. Sarge punches the code in. Nothing happens. He visibly suppresses a curse. He tries again, no luck. Another call on the cell phone and this time he doesn’t care who overhears him. “Hank!” Hank is the head custodian. After listening, he takes Brigid aside and says, “He says to try the other gate. They all have the same code. Why don’t you run over there and see what happens. The code is”-- he says this so only she can hear -- “58279.”
It’s quite a distance to the other entrance, around the corner of the school, past the new gym annex. Sensing the poncho to be a hindrance, Brigid shucks it into Virginia’s hands and heads off, sprinting like a runner, breasts bouncing, bare buttocks rippling in the failing light as they watch her go. She can’t do this barefoot, what with all the broken glass around, but running in stringy flip flops is not at all tricky for her. The band watches as she disappears behind the corner of the building. A couple of minutes later she reappears, barely winded, “It doesn’t work there either. I tried three times.”
Sarge stamps his foot. “I feel like using Army language now!” Again into the cell phone, and this time he yells. “I’ve got thirty-seven kids out here, trapped in the cold. What are you going to do about it? . . . What? . . . Are you serious?”
He gets off the phone and looks down, shaking his head, his shiny black boots next to the marching boots of Jaycee, Rod, Debra, Ricky, and the bare, reddened toes of Brigid. Now Sarge’s phone rings. “Where? What?” Holding his phone, he walks past a corner where there is a little alcove. Brigid follows.
There’s a little metal ladder fixed to the side of the building, going up to the roof. “It has a panel guard on it!” A sheet of metal extending up to eight feet or so, intended to keep unauthorized people from crawling up. “What!” Sarge laughs. “You’ve got to be kidding me!”
Hank has told him that the guard lock is broken; all one has to do is knock out the lever behind it. Brigid does this with her baton. Jaycee and Rod help lift off the guard, which is pretty heavy.
They look up at the roof. It’s a long way. “Hank actually expects us to go up there, then come in through the ladder in the old gym,” Sarge says. “He says there’s a hatch up there, you can’t miss it.”
“What about our instruments?” Jaycee says. “We can’t carry them up the ladder.”
Brigid points and says, “The pen!” Referring to the old covered storage pen, used for football equipment in the old days. It has no lock, and a rusty half-open door. It was supposed to be demolished, but in this case the school’s chronic lack of funding proves to be a stroke of luck.
Jaycee and Rod point out that they can use the ladder guard to jam the door shut. And so the band stows their instruments. When Hank comes in on Monday he can use his tools to open it up.
Sarge takes Brigid aside. They look up at the roof. “Brigid, I can’t climb up there because of my heart.” Brigid tries not to act surprised at this disclosure of personal information. “Hank tells me the hatch is easy to open. Just be careful.”
“But what about you?”
“I’m fine. I’ll just wait here. They’re trying to find a technician who can open the gate by remote.”
“We can wait for that.”
“It could be a while. I’m responsible for getting you kids back home on time. Go ahead -- make believe it’s a gym class exercise.”
To climb the ladder Brigid has to once again shuck off her poncho into Virginia’s hands. Then, judging the flip flops to be also a burden, slips them off and gives them to Debra. With bare feet the nearly naked majorette begins scaling the ladder. It is an arresting sight, especially for the guys, her total rear nudity interrupted only by the shoelace-size thong strings. The uniform was recently modified from a “T-back” to a “V-back”, the two strings descending into her butt crack before meeting. As she told Debra recently, she likes the new style because it’s more secure -- less danger of slippage. Brigid, being a modest girl, doesn’t want anything to “show”.
From the rear they can’t see her circlets, but with her arms reaching upward to the next rungs they can see the bouncing slopes of her breasts as they peek out from behind her thin but strong back, left then right, left then right, in rhythm with her steps. She ascends quickly, her toes grabbing the freezing cold metal bars, rung by rung.
She feels the vibrations of Jaycee’s boots on the lowest rung and stops. Holding tight, she turns around and looks down. “Only one person at a time! This ladder’s not very strong.” Which may or may not be the case, but the band has learned to obey Brigid’s orders. Everyone waits until the previous person has gotten to the roof before they start up, even though it takes longer. They go up slower than Brigid did. It’s hard to climb a ladder in a bulky uniform.
Once up on the roof they follow her to the big hatch which must contain the passage down to the old gym. There’s six inches of snow on the roof, most of it from yesterday, but that does not faze Brigid as her feet shuffle through it. She’s a tough girl and bare feet on snow is no trial for her, if it’s only for a couple of minutes. In fact the snow is a welcome cushion, offering protection from the sharp debris that’s always up there.
Now Brigid opens the hatch which indeed is easy to do. She is adamant about being the last one down, and as she watches the rest of her band one by one climb into the hatch, she envelops herself in the poncho and sits in the snow, just her head showing, like she was in the stands. The last person, Morty, tells her that Sarge yelled up to him that the gate finally got opened, allowing him to leave. Ha! Well, they’re already here.
The old gym is a wreck, old and gutted with exposed pipes, supposedly to be remodeled into a new auditorium if the funding ever gets through. When Rod, the first person down the ladder, emerges from above he is surprised to hear laughter and applause, sarcastic but still good-natured.
The dusty old cavern, in the harsh utility lights, is filled with nearly every teacher in the school, and judging from the hubbub of conversation they are upset and exasperated but yet amused. For some unexplained reason they were all herded here during the drill and for another unexplained reason they are still waiting for the “all clear”. It’s a joke, how disorganized and screwed up the fire drill procedure is -- the jammed gate outside was unseen proof of that, and even the false alarm was due to faulty wiring -- but, relieved at escaping that boring conference, for the moment they are rather enjoying the joke.
Hence when Rod and then Mary Thomasson and Shirley Dalrymple appear from above in their uniforms, they see it as a whimsical highlight, and cheer. The Tunemasters are being parachuted in as part of the festivities!
Thirty-six Tunemasters come down, ending with Virginia carrying Brigid’s poncho and flip flops, and by the time it’s finally Brigid’s turn the mix of Tunemasters and their teachers is having a great time.
With Virginia still on the bottom rungs, Brigid appears. The bright lights are almost a spotlight on her all but bare white body and this luminous sight provokes the biggest cheer of all. “Yay, Brigid!” The majorette is surprised and delighted, and maybe it is because of the weirdness of the situation, but she feels an unaccustomed giddiness. Holding on with one hand, she stretches out her arm away from the ladder to give a big wave. The way she sees it, she is not showing off her body but her uniform, her pride in being the Tunemasters majorette. The tiny sliver of her thong bottom gleams in the bright light. The circlets are like shimmering little stars, dancing on her breasts. Her fingernails and toenails, painted in the school colors, are twenty little sparkling beads. Only the flip-flops are missing, still in Virginia’s hands.
The ladder is already flimsy, and as her arm waves out expansively, the top anchors rip free of the wall. Suddenly the big room is silent as the ladder falls sideways and along with Brigid, thirty feet up, pitches toward the tangle of old water pipes.
Brigid gives out a little yelp. The falling ladder’s increasing velocity leaves no time to think. By instinct she jumps off it and grabs an overhead pipe. Unfortunately the pipe is sweating and it slowly slips from her grasp. Falling, she swings her legs forward and grabs another in front of her. There is a metal retaining strap in her way. She can grab the pipe but the strap catches the circlets. For a terrifying second her breasts are stretched upward but then the circlets pop off, her breasts bouncing to rest on her chest. The circlets screw on to her nipples and she always makes sure to fasten them tightly so that there is no danger of a “mishap”. The pain of having them yanked off must have been horrible.
Brigid’s legs swing wildly, trying to find a (bare) foothold somewhere. There is another sharp-edged strap behind her which catches the V-back of her thong and rips it off. It floats down to join the circlets on the dirty floor. Finally her feet find two vertical pipes and she is more or less stable. The pipes are six feet apart; her legs are almost a ballet dancer’s split. This is not a strain for her, with her flexibility. In gymnastics class she is one of the few girls who can actually do oversplits. Now she takes advantage of this ability so that her hands can reach out and grab the pipes too.
Not a strain, but the sight she presents is another matter. Brigid’s uniform might be scanty, but everyone can see that in actual nudity she looks so different as to be unrecognizable: undressed, unready, unpresentable, almost obscene. Brigid is exposed as if on display in an anatomy class on mammals. For such a modest girl this is unimaginable shame. Everything possible is “showing”. And it is worse than that. As if to emphasize the function of mammalian nipples, her formerly modest buds, having been so cruelly stretched, are bright red in the harsh light, swollen and inflamed. As if to display the process of insemination and reproduction, her lower lips have been yanked apart by the wide split of her legs. In a final disgrace, her carefully done-up red hair has become unpinned, wild around her face and shoulders.
She shuts her eyes and everyone wants to look away, but they can’t. Their eyes are glued to the sight. The inside of her girl-cave is brightly lit from the string of construction lights below. They can see right up inside her. She is high enough up that they can see further back, the little puckered anus, the ring of brown skin in its valley of whiteness. The anus twitches with strain and with fear. The light allows them to see every nuance of its motions.
In the front row of standing watchers are her math teacher Mr. Conway, Fr. Haglin, Principal McPherson, Debra and Virginia, Rod the trombone player, her Spanish teacher Ms. Goncalves, her history teacher from last year Mr. Murchison, and Jim Joyner the alto sax player.
Hands and feet grabbing the widely spread pipes, she can do nothing to hide any part of herself. Nor can anyone do a thing to help her. The pipes seem flimsy and too treacherous to climb up on. There is no place on the floor to put a ladder; it is all covered with pipes and flanges and broken pieces of the old boiler.
Behind the first row are Sarajane, and eight other Tunemasters, Brigid’s academic advisor Mrs. Hunt, and two neighbors of Brigid’s, Mr. Cardwell and Ms. Gadolino, who were at the conference as PTA reps. Behind them, Mr. Landers the art teacher, and Ms. Johannes the tutoring coordinator. Brigid is her best tutor, helping out ninth graders in English.
Behind the second row, in a semi-circle now, are the rest of the Tunemasters, about thirty in all. Most are in Brigid’s classes. Four of them sit right next to her. Also there is Stavros, her boss at the diner she waitresses at, who was catering the conference, and his helper LaTonda, the waitress she does a shift with on Mondays.
Brightly lit and spread out above them, the naked girl is as if on stage. Often they have admired watching Brigid perform, doing those tricky throws and twirls in her uniform. But now -- now -- !
Debra and Virginia, in spite of themselves, take note of the finely shaved contours of Brigid’s darkish pubic hair. In the bright light they can actually discern individual hairs. During those “Brigid parties” with the other girls they make sure Brigid is shaved to a “landing strip” so that nothing shows around the inch-wide thong bottom. They feel ashamed of the feeling but they find themselves taking pride in their handiwork being on display for all to appreciate.
A large black and yellow insect buzzing around Brigid’s head causes her eyes to open in fear. It is followed by another. And another, circling around her like speedy little planets. One lands on her nipple. Of course she has no hand free to brush it away. She flinches, then, not wanting to provoke it, determines not to move. It is soon joined by another. Then another, landing on her other nipple and exploring it.
They are wasps, and with alarm everyone except Brigid looks up to see a big nest up in a corner of the ceiling. Why were exterminators not called in? This room has been neglected for quite some time. Indoors, given enough time, wasps can construct nests out of season. The first instinct of the terrified watchers is to run but that would aggravate the wasps. They don’t want Brigid to get stung!
In fact the wasps don’t care about them. Their only interest is Brigid, more particularly the sticky sweetness from Mr. Stamberg’s sodas. Soon dozens are upon her; the message has gone out to the nest and now there seems to be a battalion of them on their journey to the pinioned girl. They crawl around on the sweet smelling nipples, and then they discover her crotch.
How can she not lose her mind? Yet Brigid endures. Little mandibles munch on her breasts, on her pubic hair, her lower lips, and crawl around the sensitive skin of her anus, biting and sticking in their sharp little legs, their feelers poking around for sucrose. Worst of all, some enter her womanly cave, crawling in and out. Who knows how far they are going in? Are they crawling over her cervix?
The only sound is of pervasive buzzing like those horns at a World Cup match. It echoes off the walls as Brigid is clothed with a new uniform -- of crawling insects. Perhaps an art connoisseur could describe the volatile, undulating mixture of black and yellow. Her new “circlets” are constantly in motion within themselves. Her new “thong” consists of big clumps of wasps on her vulva and anus, crawling not only over her but over each other. She is not stung, but that is hardly a consolation. In her agony her eyes plead to Fr. Haglin, Debra, Ms. Johannes, Rod, Ms. McPherson, Jim, Ms. Gadolino, begging them for help they are unable to give. She closes her eyes upward and says a fevered, desperate prayer to the Virgin Mary.
The strain of not being able to move is taking its toll. Finally she emits a strangled scream. “Nnnnnhhh!!” Her body shivers, her fingers and toes squirming against the pipes they are desperately clutching, her eyes wide with panic.
Her “living uniform” undulates and pulses, as the layers of wasps exchange layers. Her thong strings and stringy flip flops must have picked up some of the soda too, because soon marching files of wasps are tracing their former paths. The helpless watchers can’t see her butt; however, it is easy to imagine lines of the insects following the echoes of the two ends of the V-back as they crawl to meet inside her butt crack. The urge to shake off the lines of wasps from her feet, where the strings of her flip flops were, and from her soles, must be intense. But she dare not move to dislodge them, and risk being stung. Or losing her grip on the pipes and falling.
Some of the people watching cannot help but imagine Brigid performing at halftime in this uniform made of hundreds of tiny wiggling arthropods. Can she still throw straight, and catch the baton, while so distracted, as her limbs twitch, as her eyes widen whenever she is bitten in a place deep inside her?
Now Brigid’s eyes open in amazement and puzzlement as another, unwanted sensation makes itself felt. The whiff of sticky sugary soda now is mixed with . . . could it really be? The human female responds to certain stimulations no matter how unwillingly. Most of the adults recognize that primal womanly scent. For some of the teenaged Tunemasters it is a mystery, but an oddly attractive one. Brigid’s body, unconsciously, begins to undulate, very subtly.
Unfortunately this results in Brigid’s legs being about to give way. Suddenly it begins to rain. Or rather, the overhead sprinkler has gone off. It is surprising that it still works. But one of the wasps, flying near the ceiling, has triggered it.
All the sprinklers are supposed to activate at once. But in another sign of engineering neglect, only one does, the one above Brigid. No one else gets wet. The freezing water, originating in a snow-covered tank on the roof, is like a shower, except due to the distance from the ceiling it pelts her with jolts of icy force. Despite the shock of cold the water must be a relief because it drives away the wasps, first from her breasts, and then slowly from below. Amazingly, she is still not stung. The last holdouts are inside her, or hanging on to her sphincter. Their determined little claws yank on her most sensitive skin. But one by one they give up and return to the nest. Finally one flies out from her opened vagina right toward the crowd, causing those in the first row of onlookers to flinch, before it veers upwards to its home.
As the infernal buzzing ceases and the only sound is water from the dripping nude, the crowd silently says prayers of thanks. Just watching the scene was a horrible experience. Frank Helfers, the assistant custodian, recovers his wits enough to leave the room and call 911.
However their relief at Brigid’s (slightly) improved condition is short lived. Her wet hair drooping around her shoulders, she looks down and is finally able to breathe deeply. Her concave tummy heaves in and out. But the water has made the pipes slippery and despite the grabbing of her fingers and her dexterous toes she cannot prevent sliding down, inch by inch.
Her eyes dart down with horror as she sees where she is destined. It is a cross-pipe with a valve directly below her. The valve handle, six inches of stainless steel, shiny with water, sticks upward. Up, up her feet go so as to allow her stretching hands to grab the pipes more securely. They are now even with her shoulders as her oversplit increases to 210 degrees. The crowd is as horrified as she is as her widely spread butt slides down and down, closer and closer . . .
She winces as, for the first time in her life, her anus is penetrated. Her eyes stare with horror into those of Fr. Haglin and Rod and Mr. Landers and Debra as the handle stretches open her sphincter and enters her rectum, two inches, three inches, four . . . her agonized cry is not really of pain but of fear and discomfort and a sense of being forced into some kind of sin. The ninety-three people watching wince in sympathy, some clutching their buttocks under their clothes.
A low, guttural grunt marks the penetration of the sixth inch. The handle is now fully seated within Brigid, blessing her with a cruel kind of stability as her downward slide is halted by the cross-pipe. But the flange at the base of the valve pushes up against her vagina and presses against her thus far unused bud of pleasure. Somehow her internal muscles have shifted the handle and now the cross-pipe vibrates, about to give water but not quite.
Like any girl her age, Brigid has had “urgings”. Of course she has been attentive in sex education class, and been subjected to loudmouths like Sarajane. But she has never touched herself. She can’t, not while sharing a bedroom with two much younger sisters. Also, though not even Catholic children hear about this any more, it seemed like something it was wrong to do.
The vibrating flange against her sex organ can have only one effect. At first it is subtle, a flushed face, redness over her breasts, a slight tremor of the legs. White girls are so transparent. As her body gets redder she is gripped with fear as she begins to sense some kind of portal she will be forced through for the first time. Yet a new pleasure center is awakened deep inside her which cannot be denied.
Not like this! Not like this! She wanted her first to be in the arms of her future husband, or at least in a private place under the covers. Her heavy-lidded eyes dart to Ms. Johannes, then to Ricky, then to LaTonda, as her vocalizations get louder and rhythmic. “Ohh . . . ohh . . . ohh -- ” A strange kind of red flush gathers on granules all over her body until she is as red as a ripe tomato.
Fate has decreed that Brigid would be a “screamer”, and scream she does.
“Oh -- Oh -- NOOOOO! NOOOO! AIEEE! AIEEEE!”
The shrieks reluctantly wrenched from her throat rip through the air of the old decrepit space, and pierce with a strange kind of emotional pain the eardrums of ninety-three people who don’t want to hear them. The naked majorette’s body jerks crazily on the flange, her hands and feet twitching on the pipes. If it were not for the steel handle deep in her gut she would fall forward head first to the dirty, broken concrete ten feet below.
The last spasms jerk her body limply as if she were a tired marionette. But the flange still vibrates, in fact more so since Brigid’s twisting body moved the handle further. She winces at the unwelcome hypersensitivity. Then feels her body ascend again. Fate has also decreed that Brigid be multi-orgasmic.
Some white females undergo a sex flush as orgasm approaches, a vasocongestion that starts under the breasts and quickly spreads, to the feet last, about a second later. Brigid is one such female. As she ascends to her second crest, and then a minute later to her third, everyone is fascinated, especially the students. Especially the majority of them who are nonwhite. It is a kind of rhythm as she turns red and explodes, then her skin pales, then turns red again . . . After her fourth orgasm she seems spent but her body pops upright again as the handle within her turns and a squirt of water shoots up continuously at her clitoris.
Brigid’s female musk is now overpowering, somehow potent enough to fill the whole cavernous room. Penises inside tight pants involuntarily stiffen at this natural signal. Teachers who know this scent are afraid to exchange knowing glances with their colleagues. As for her friends, they are perplexed and horrified at what is happening to their beloved majorette.
She grunts out loud from her diaphragm, in a bestial way that seems so un-Brigid. “Unnh! Unnh!” This is her sixth orgasm, though no one is counting. It is as if she is rutting, having crude anal sex with the valve handle, rubbing herself on the flange, an amoral, shameless creature who gets pleasure wherever she finds it. She might as well be a dog in heat, humping a pile of laundry. After two more climaxes this good Catholic girl starts howling like a baby, with tears running, unable to endure more, but forced to. Her nude body is slick with sweat, her fingers and toes with a death grip on the pipes far to each side.
Finally her eyes, overcome with pleasure yet utterly defeated, dart around to almost everyone in the gym. They dread her making eye contact with them but even now, none are able to look away.
It is twenty minutes before the EMT’s arrive and another ten before they figure out how to get the nude girl, who by this time can only be called suffering, off her perch. Some ropes from Helfers are thrown across pipes and, after several misses, a lariat around her waist lifts the girl up, with some resistance until an emphatic yank disengages the nerveless fingers and toes from the pipes. By then Brigid’s eyes are rolled up into her head. Her body is twitching uncontrollably, having suffered through multiple orgasms well beyond the experience of any of the adult women watching.
She is placed on the stretcher laid on the floor. Everyone watches the playing out of her convulsions. Virginia offers the poncho to cover her but EMT Jackson says he has to monitor her whole body. Take her to the hospital? No; they would have to notify her parents. Give her a tranquilizer? No -- she seems to be stabilizing.
Or maybe not? These are obviously orgasmic twitches. Jackson turns her over on her bent knees and spreads her buttocks. Her anus is still gaping after being impaled by the valve handle. This is the surest way to detect the contractions of orgasm. Everyone watches as slowly the little spasms cease. Jackson puts Brigid down on her side. The exhausted girl quickly goes to sleep. Virginia can now drape the poncho on and the Tunemasters majorette, who has been exposed in so many ways, is finally covered.
Think of all the time that has passed. It seems so long ago, yet memory of something like that can never fade. It was never spoken about though everyone knew. Her family never found out; everyone made dead sure of that.
The “Senior Superlatives” in her class’s yearbook had the usual categories. Most likely to succeed. Cutest couple. Brainiest. Most artistic. Weirdest. Jock & Jockette.
The new category might have been suggested by the late Father Haglin. No one can remember now. Certainly for a long time no one could look into those pretty green eyes. But the eyes seemed just as before in their good-hearted gaze, the ready laugh, the earnest seriousness when doing important things.
Serving as altar girl that first Sunday without a misstep, chatting with Fr. Haglin afterward, and it was he who was uncomfortable.
Gladly taking over tables from LaTonda when she had to pee, then helping clean up at the end of their shift, though LaTonda uncharacteristically found herself speechless in front of her.
Tutoring the ninth graders, reporting on their progress in her usual optimistic way to Ms. Johannes, who had difficulty concentrating on their conversation.
Hosing the grass on her family’s tiny front lawn, watching her little brothers and sisters playing, asking Ms. Gadolino how her mother’s back surgery turned out, Ms. Gadolino with her uneasy eye-flicks toward the front door after Brigid’s mother came to the front screen to wave, Brigid pretending not to notice.
And then in her micro-uniform, directing the band at the next game, putting everyone through their paces, another bone-chilling day but a 40 - 3 blowout which sent the team to the regionals, looking each Tunemaster in the eye as she straightened their thermals with shivering fingers, bouncing and prancing and twirling and throwing her baton at halftime, all the time with her majorette smile directed at Ms. McPherson and Mr. Landers and Ms. Hunt and everyone else just like she had done the week before.
In time we got to be comfortable around her again. But still . . .
Look at this. The final page of the Superlatives. “Bravest: Brigid O’Dierna”. There she is, the full page color photo taken from behind, on her last day as a majorette. Turning to the camera, big smile, proudly holding her baton up across her bare shoulders. Who can imagine the remarkable courage behind those sparkling green eyes? Because of the rear view only the slope of one breast is visible below her raised arm, and the photo is cropped at the middle of her butt crack. So it doesn’t show her circlets or the sparkly V-back of her thong. But everyone knew they were there.