Months of constant disappointment had made her nightly job board fly-by a desultory, joyless experience. The only attraction to it was to see some of the other jobs on the card, jobs that were on campus or in town. There were jobs to type term papers, shovel snow (no more of that for her!), read to blind people. But some of the jobs were pretty amusing and it was hard to imagine who would take them. Last week, for example, somebody (probably an old person) wanted someone to clean up dog poop when she walked her dog because she couldn’t do it herself with her bad back.
Tami looked up at the job board and saw nothing weird up this time.
But there was a new red card on the side.
“Need mathematically inclined person to do accounting this summer. Ferrisburg (30 minutes from campus by bus). 30 hours/week. Small accounting office, long established. Call 555-3636. Fax transcript and references to 555-3637.”
Tami’s eyes widened and she realized that, by the time she was finished reading the card, her face had broken into a big, wide smile. Shaking with excitement, she got her pencil out and copied the number and started to leave. Then, knowing it was against the rules but not being able to resist, she reached back and grabbed the card and took it off the board. She ran out of the Student Union toward her dorm, then went out of her way to stomp up and down in a puddle of muddy, icy water, saying, “Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!!”
She ran to the dorm and up the stairs and into her room. Only to find Jen and Mandy, who as always looked their naked roommate up and down when she walked in. Jen with a smile, Mandy with a more sphinxlike expression.
“Where’s the fire?” Jen said. “You look happy.”
Tami thought quickly. “Just a nice run, that’s all.”
“A nice muddy run,” Mandy said, as everyone looked down at Tami’s feet.
It was hard for Tami to sleep that night, she was so excited.
. . .
Tami looked at the clock. It was just after nine in the morning. She looked up over her math text to Jen, who was studying in her upper bunk. Damn. The accounting place would be open by now, but she couldn’t very well call them in front of Jen. She had to keep this a secret.
She finally decided to buy a calling card at the Student Union and call from a pay phone. Sitting in the phone booth, feeling the cold metal seat against her bare butt, she made herself take a few deep breaths. Even so, it was hard to keep her voice from quivering as she spoke. “Hello, I’m calling about the ad you placed for an acountant’s assistant.”
A scratchy old man’s voice was on the other line. The man’s name was Ned. A real “Old New England” accent. Ay - uh, ay - uh. He seemed a million miles away from the culture of the campus and even the town. That was good. Tami was hoping that nobody in Ferrisburg would know her, that no one from the college or town would see her in Ferrisburg.
After some awkwardness the conversation got more chummy and Tami knew she was doing well. Yes, she had taken accounting in high school. She was a math major and her grades so far were all A’s, though she managed to bring this out without seeming conceited. Finally Ned said, “Sounds good. Fax me your transcript. I’ll call you back. What number are you at?”
“Uh . . . my dorm phone is out of order. I’ll call you. Is this afternoon O.K.?” Tami was glad she thought fast. Having Ned call her dorm room while Jen or Mandy was around could be fatal.
The next challenge was getting a copy of her transcript. She had one, but Ned wanted an official one. She would have to go to the registrar. Tami waited until lunch time when the maximum number of people would be on break. Her nakedness stood out like a beacon, especially in the Administration Building, where people tended to be better dressed. Fortunately there was nobody there but a work-study student, someone Tami knew from one of her classes. He looked steadily at Tami’s nipples and said, “You getting a job?”
“I don’t have one yet, but I want a transcript for when somebody asks for it,” Tami said.
“Well I’m glad you won’t be working at Teaser’s,” he said, referring to the local topless bar. A weak attempt to joke about her nudity. Tami stood there with a stone face while she paid her five dollars and he printed out the transcript and stamped it. Amid the line of straight A’s for the fall semester and straight A midterm marks in spring semester, there were glowing comments from professors that had been inputted and showed up on the transcript. Perfect!
Finally, faxing the transcript. There was a packaging place in the Student Union that had a fax machine. No, too public. People were always walking by and everyone would see Naked Tami, who of course was always noticed, and ask where she was faxing her transcript to. Campus was like a small town. Everyone knew your business. Tami thought and thought. There was a fax machine in the Math Department office. Maybe if she snuck in there when nobody was around . . .
Luck! Finally! Tami frantically fed the two-page fax into the machine. The department secretary was having lunch. No professors were around. She got the confirmation sheet and stuffed everything into her backpack and quickly escaped the department office on tiptoe, so that her bare feet would not be heard slapping against the tile floor.
Three hours later, after nervously watching the clock ticking away at the Student Union snack bar, trying to ignore the daily stares of the guys, she went back to the phone booths. She asked for Ned but got his wife, Ethel. This was really a “Mom and Pop” operation. She had a warm voice that reminded her of Mrs. George’s, that nice old professor lady who had found her crying in the bathroom after that disastrous confrontation with the Dean and Henry Ross in December. She could almost picture Ethel saying in her grandmotherly voice what Mrs. George had said: “Dear, you’re naked. I don’t see anything about clothes around you. You must be Tami Smithers.”
Thank God Ethel knew nothing of that. Instead she said, “This transcript is outstanding. It looks like we’re lucky to get someone like you,” in a New England lilt much like her husband’s. “We usually ask for references, but the notes from the professors are enough. They must really like you. You’re hired.”
Tami’s heart jumped as she felt some kind of light from Heaven shining down on her. “When do I start?”
“Well, we will still need your transcript for the end of the spring semester. When does that come out?”
Tami thought. Last semester the college had sent out her grades the day after finals ended. This college was pretty snappy when it came to things like that. “Probably within a few days. Finals end May 22.”
“Well, you can start on June 1. Where will you be living, dear? Do you have family up around here?”
“Some,” Tami said, lying through her teeth, “but I’m looking forward to living on my own.”
“Well, there shouldn’t be any problem with that. Our brother-in-law has a big house he’s renovated and you can get a room in there. Why don’t you come by to look at it.”
“Uh, I’m not sure I can get a away during the semester. I’m awfully busy here.”
“I can tell, you must study all the time.”
During this time Tami had her head down in thankfulness and could feel tears starting in her eyes. She struggled to keep her voice even. The conversation wound down as they made various small talk.
Finally, Tami asked a question that brought such emotions to the surface that her voice almost broke. “I’m new up here. Do the summers get cold at night?” The naked teenager sniffed back the tears as she said, “What -- what kind of clothes should I bring?”
“Well, around the end of July the nights start getting pretty cold. You’d better bring your heavy coat and lots of sweaters. Gloves too, and heavy socks. People get surprised their first summer up here.”
Tami said good-bye and hung up. She looked down past her weather-toughened, permanently erect nipples, to her bushy, windblown pubic hair, down to her gritty, hard bare feet. Then she felt the tears rolling down her cheeks and looked up. She didn’t have to get expelled, she didn’t have to lose her friends. For months she had been saying the same daily prayer: Please God, give me clothes. She didn’t think it would ever happen. There were thirty-one days ahead before the end of finals. Many ordeals lay ahead in those thirty-one days. But now she knew she could get through them because she finally had something to look forward to. She had a summer job in another town where she could wear clothes and no one would know.
God had answered her prayer.