Chapter 7 and 8 of "Tami Beethoven". Tami Smithers, honest, brave, good-hearted, and a math nerd. Has to be naked all the time and by now, oblivious to it. Chapter 7 was good; Chapter 8, with Tami just a bit player, was even better.
Tami looked so beautiful, her eyes half-closed in that combination of love and ecstasy, the look she always had when she was atop him. Rod gently rubbed her forearms up and down as her breath shortened and she began another ascent -- “going up” to that mountaintop of euphoria that she visited so often.
She knew he was a little tired tonight. So preoccupied with work. He was grateful to get home, and they did the usual thing, him tonguing her while she lay back on the kitchen table. It didn’t take much tongue work, fortunately. He brought her to four orgasms in fifteen minutes, about the usual to hold her through supper. He declined her offer to suck him, fearing that after he came he would fall asleep when he had so much work to do. Then they cooked up a quick macaroni and cheese. Tami further fortified herself with a tuna sandwich. And a bowl of soup.
They spent the next two hours working, he in bed going over the plans for the next phase of the project that he was supposed to supervise, she on the computer finishing an English Literature paper. English was not her favorite subject; she was sometimes afraid of the unthinkable, getting a B, but of course that possibility was remote. Looking up at her at the computer table, he couldn’t help but fall in love all over again despite his weariness. Such a lovely, intelligent face, such a beautiful, golden body... He did not mind that so many others admired it, it made him proud. He especially liked her response to the many well-intentioned suggestions that she get a tattoo. “Absolutely not. A tattoo would be on display all the time. It would be a message to everyone who saw me.” Why ruin such perfection?
She still had the basic modesty that she always had, but had gotten comfortable with her nudity. Of course -- she had no choice, did she? She expressed it once to him during one of their post-sex chats. They were lying on their backs, looking up at the ceiling, holding hands. “I had a dream once where I was a serving maid for a king in a palace and I was naked all the time. All the other maids were fully clothed. For some reason I had to earn my clothes back. The king and his rich friends kept visiting me in the kitchen, or walking by when I was mopping the palace floor or something, saying, ‘All you have to do is this floor, or be a good server at the next feast, and you’ll get your clothes and shoes back.’ And I was ever so industrious, saying to the other maids, ‘All I got to do is this job,’ and when it got done the king would say, ‘Just one more thing and you’ll get clothes’, and give me another task, while the other maids just rolled their eyes at my stupidity. All those men really wanted to do was look at my body, stringing me along. Well, f**k that. I’m not going to be that stupid.”
That was only the second time he ever heard her use the “f” word. “So how did the dream end?”
“I’m not sure. I think I just escaped. Hopped out the window and into the meadow. Naked and free and smart. I wasn’t going to bargain with God any more. That was what that dream was about.”
Still basically modest, but not above flaunting her body when he was around. He remembered the graduation party for his class. It was at a swanky estate the college owned not far away -- formerly lived in by that creep Henry Ross. Rod was out there on the lakefront patio with the full bar and the buffet table, sipping a soda and trying to stay interested in what his Architectural Design professor was saying. He glanced around the crowd of students and professors and administrators, wondering where the hell was Tami?
He looked out to the pond and saw, far away near the marine dock on the other side, a fish or goose or something splashing in the water. Looking at it more he saw it was not a fish. It was someone swimming toward them. As he sipped and looked a smile started across his face and grew and grew. By the time Tami was a hundred feet away everyone’s attention was drawn.
Like it was nothing, she got to where her feet could touch bottom, then walked up to the transfixed and silent crowd, water coursing off her hair and chin and now her nipples and now her knees, her copper sleek wetness the most beautiful sight of his life. Casually she hopped her naked dripping self up onto the patio, greeted a couple of people she knew, accepted the offer of a big cloth napkin to quickly dab herself dry, then went up to Rod and gave him a full-body hug and a kiss on the lips. And then ordered a martini and took her place among the suits and dresses, blending in with the party as the general buzz of conversation gradually returned. What an entrance!
Water was definitely her element. Another vivid memory was last May when he came to meet her when she got off work. She was on that grounds crew job, the replacement for her gymnastics scholarship. She probably could have sloughed it off, but being Tami, felt obligated to continue. So she had always put in her twenty hours a week. The day had been brutally hot. Sweating buckets in his suit, he found her hefting uprooted shrubs into a chopper while the chopper driver, union labor no doubt, sat up in his cab. She grunted with every heave of the heavy shrubs, her body stained with dirt and sweat and leaves. As always, she had an audience, people stopping for a moment before going on with their business. When Tami saw Rod and knew her time was up, she said, “Hit me Jose!” Another worker, walking by past a water pipe, picked up the hose and trained it on her. She danced and spun around as the water pelted her all over, with her trademark “Woo - hoo!” as Jose laughed. One could feel, with some envy, her delicious sense of relief at being clean and cool. As she put it later, “Only I get to experience that!”
She was now proud of being naked, though the fact her condition had been forced on her was never mentioned when she was around. By now it was an open secret around campus that as a freshman she had declared nudity her religion and been cajoled into various research that left her with an allergy to clothes and a greatly increased sex drive. And that she had spent her first summer making it back from California without clothes or money or outdoor gear, just her bare body. But not all the details were known, certainly not the more unpleasant ones. The original reason for her nudity -- that she had been caught streaking on a sorority dare her first week, then to avoid expulsion frantically gave the excuse that nudity was her religion, which turned out to make the college afraid to expel her on First Amendment grounds, causing Dean Jorgon and Henry Ross, the campus attorney, to coerce her into an escalating series of humiliations to get her to admit that the religion claim was a hoax -- had never gotten out.
As to her family back in Providence, information was tightly controlled. She was absolutely clear that they should know nothing except for her decision to go naked and her allergy which was being cured. It would greatly concern her if they found out she had been so mistreated and been through so much shame and abuse. Even as to that horrible summer, the cover story she had fed her parents during her calls, that she was doing a project for one of her math professors -- they had never learned anything to the contrary. Fortunately there was little danger her parents would find out anything. Except for Tami and Rod, they didn’t know anyone up here, and on the rare occasions that they spoke to one of her teachers, she would take the teacher aside first to make sure no hints of anything but a happy life leaked out.
Her current life really was happy though. One time a half-drunk guy at a party told her, “Too bad you can’t wear clothes.” Rod felt about to slug him when Tami, draining her beer, said, “Too bad you can’t be naked.”
Professor Congi, always well-meaning if a bit dense, once asked her, on a hot sunny day outside the Student Union, “There are probably some advantages to being naked.” Tami, basking in the sun, said, “Too many to list. Es gemutlich.” Which he then explained, trying to translate as Tami looked on in amusement, meant “Naked is warm and fuzzy.” They laughed at that. Another awkward Congi comment that they performed a judo move on to make it turn out well.
Tonight Rod’s mind had been filled with these thoughts as he watched Tami zip through her assignment. There was nobody faster on a computer; her high school had been little more than a vo-tech school, with everyone taking typing and data entry. As with any fast typist, using a mouse slowed her down, but she inventively solved that problem by placing the mouse on the floor. Blazing away at the keyboard while working the click buttons with her toes, she flew through anything she was doing.
By and by Rod had gotten tired with his work and at a certain point he had lain back in his pajamas and closed his eyes, the blueprint falling to the floor. A few minutes later he felt gentle hands pulling down his bottoms, the warm engulfing mouth, and he smiled...
Now, with Tami on top of him, he watched as she crested and jerked through a series of spasms. What’s that now -- number ten? Rod chided himself. Tami hated being kept score of. She came down slightly from the last orgasm, but only slightly. He knew what she wanted to feel and kept his hips thrust up. He held her hands down on the bed. In this way she could rub her clit against his pubic bone and stay on the brink. She liked doing this usually around the middle of their lovemaking. Eyes half-closed, breathing in short gasps, he could swear he felt her heartbeat on his dick as she lay suspended on the brink of orgasm, now and then giving into it, then coming down a bit, only to go up again when she chose. All during which he felt the end of his dick flicking back and forth against her cervix.
She could stay suspended like this for half an hour or more. It was difficult sometimes for him to hold his ejaculation, the pulsing of her inner muscles felt so good massaging his dick, the cervix relentlessly flicking his sensitive penis head, but being so tired tonight, he did not feel himself approaching the danger zone. Not that it was always “danger” -- “Rod, you can go again!” Tami often said after he came, milking his softening dick with the supple internal muscles of her pussy, or her mouth, until he had another erection. Tonight, though, he felt like after one load he would be soon fast asleep.
His mind wandered to his work difficulties as he looked up at her surfing along the edge from crest to crest. He liked working with building materials but as a newly minted engineer he was learning that dealing with people was just as important...
She knew his mind was elsewhere. She gave a little glance down and said, “it’s -- uhh -- going to be all right -- lover -- ohhh... Fill me up, Baby.”
She shifted her feet and pivoted on his dick so that she was facing away from him. He moved up and started on her doggy style. He could penetrate very deeply in this position, and had to be careful not to go sideways and poke an ovary, something which he’d heard was as painful as getting a poke in the balls. Now he began to get a rhythm and emit the low groans that always turned her on. With a short, sharp breath, she launched into what she often saved as her last orgasm, the longest and most powerful one. “Ohh! Ohh! Ohh!” He counted six spasms and then he let himself go, filling her up with his semen that seemed like the last of his energy and power draining from him, leaving him spent.
They lay there, waiting for sleep. As always she lay on top of the covers while he went underneath. For a long time now, being under a blanket had been too suffocating for her.
But he was actually too tired to get to sleep. Wordlessly they both got up, he getting into his pajamas again, and padded to the kitchen for some decaf tea.
As she often did, she sat cross-legged on top of the kitchen table. She had become quite the table sitter over the past couple of years. He sipped, and played idly with the pubic hair in front of him. Finally she spoke.
“You’re worried about work, aren’t you? What’s going on, Baby?” She stroked his smooth shaved scalp.
He looked up and put it the best way he could manage. “My boss is hard to get along with. Very, well, bossy.”
“Why is he like that?”
“Well Babe, he’s what you might call an ‘alpha male’. Head of the herd.”
She sipped. “Or as we women call it, an insecure jerk.”
Rod laughed and kept laughing. He had never heard that female viewpoint and it was refreshing and liberating. “Yes. That’s exactly what he must be.”
“Rough to deal with that kind of person, I bet.”
Rod recognized this as a counseling move Tami probably picked up from Marisol, who had been with the campus crisis intervention service. Still, it was effective in getting him to open up. “Yes. Sometimes I think he already knows he will answer ‘no’ before I even talk to him.”
“Is he like this with everyone?”
“In a way. But with me, the impression I get is, he thinks I’m unqualified.”
“How can that be? You have a degree and one year of Corps of Engineers service.”
Rod exhaled. “He thinks I got the job just because I’m African-American. I just know it.”
“Did I what?”
“Did you get the job because you’re black?”
One could never lie to Tami. Rod searched his mind.
“Yes, I think I did,” he said finally. “They have an affirmative action obligation, and the other guys who applied, I saw them during the interviews, they seemed older and more experienced. And white. And they hire me, a black kid almost right out of school.”
Tami scratched a nipple and stirred her tea.
“So what do I do now?” Rod said, looking up at her. Then he looked a little lower and couldn’t help himself. He stetched up and kissed one sun-darkened nipple and then the other.
She cleared her throat and said, “What you do is be the best damn engineer that insecure alpha jerk ever had.”
Rod nodded to himself. “Yes.”
“It’s a gift that history has given you. Think of your ancestors. ‘I am the dream of the slave’...”
Rod smiled to this reference to the famous Maya Angelou poem. “Indeed.”
Continuing the quotation, Tami said, “‘I rise; I rise!’“
The smile on him was now ear-to-ear and he was almost in tears. “I rise!”
They looked at each other and sipped one last sip. A moment passed.
“Speaking of which,” she said, lying back and wrapping her nimble feet behind his ears, “can you take me up again Baby?”
“Of course, Babe,” he said, putting his tea down and gently moving in with his tongue...
Up on the fourth, top floor of Thayer Hall, in the office of Department of Fashion Technology Chair Albert Girardo, that person sat with Professor Shel Wanamaker as they absently gazed out the big bay window that overlooked the bright snow-covered campus.
Then Girardo, an old guy in a turtleneck sweater, black pants and moccasins, looked down again to leaf through the portfolio, as if he were looking at photos of persons with two heads. “There’s only one word for these: weird.”
“Also inventive, ingenious, possibly groundbreaking if you ask me,” Wanamaker said. “Come on, admit it. If you didn’t know it was Tami Smithers --”
“I just can’t get my mind past it. Clothes designed by someone who can never wear any. There’s no denying there’s some kind of genius here, but it’s a genius from another dimension. How long has she been ‘au natural’?”
“Three and a half years. Not one stitch, not so much as a pair of flip-flops on her feet either.”
“Is this a pant or a very long boot?” Girardo said, turning the portfolio sideways and then upside down. “I hate to say it, but she’s probably forgotten what clothes feel like. Maybe she doesn’t really know what she’s doing any more.”
A moment went by. “We’ve got to send someone to the International. We haven’t sent anyone in five years.”
“That’s because we haven’t had anyone good enough in five years,” Girardo countered. “And even that last time, it was a close call.”
“You know the problem as well as I do. If we keep on not sending anyone, they’ll drop us from their panel.”
“Where is it this year?”
“Oh Christ! I forgot. Right in our goddamn back yard.”
“So this is something we might have to do.”
“She’s not a major,” Girardo said lamely.
“And... We’ve sent submissions from students minoring in fashion before.”
Girardo put the portfolio down. “What if she makes the cut? We can’t send a goddamn naked girl to a goddamn fashion award show. And what if she wins!! What if she wins!! The most prestigious fashion industry fellowship in North America, and it goes to a naked woman! They’ll get publicity like never before, but not the kind they want -- a naked woman who will be bopping around the campus of --”
“They would never give the fellowship to a naked woman.”
“Then aren’t we setting her up to fail? And besides, there’s no way she’s going to win. Even if she was clothed. They’ll give it to one of those inbred French kids like they always do. The odds are a thousand to one.”
“We could make that clear to her when we tell her. She could handle that. Fashion isn’t the center of her life. Her being a minor is actually an advantage as to that.” Wanamaker continued, “Time is short. You know how I feel. We should tell her we want to submit her as our candidate. The deadline is in three weeks, and we have to give her a chance to put together her submission portfolio before that. She won’t win, but at least we’ll stay on their panel.”
“Here she comes,” Girardo said, looking out the bay window.
“Where? Oh.” On the main concourse, in the middle of dozens of students going here and there for the next class, the naked girl, easy to pick out of course, was happily chatting on her cell phone, bookbag flung over one shoulder, hanging down to where it bounced against her bare buns as she walked with the swiftness of someone who was used to a tight schedule.
“Seems like she’s in a good mood,” Girardo said.
“She usually is. Everyone loves her too. And she’s got a statue named after her.”
“Ever see that girl sticking her arms out like she’s about to fly? Near the Union?”
“I hardly ever go there.”
“It’s called ‘Tami Takes Flight’. Latimer did it.”
“When was that?”
“The year you were on sabbatical.”
“Oh... Well that’s certainly interesting, though not relevant... Look at her,” Girardo said as Tami broke into a little skip, going off the path to take a short cut toward them, kicking up snow with her toes. “She’s traipsing through that snow like it’s summer and it’s sand on a beach.”
“A nude beach, it would have to be.”
“Right. My point is, how is a person like that supposed to know what anyone wants as far as clothes go? The International is not a bunch of dilettantes who design monstrosities for the Oscars red carpet. They affect real mass-production decisions, like what the chain stores will carry. The first thing a person wants clothes for is warmth. And there she is,” he said, motioning toward the approaching Tami, “skipping barefoot and naked through the snow... What’s her needs status? They take that into account these days, or least they’re supposed to.”
“She’s married, to a recent engineering graduate, who’s working for base pay on his first real job. She’s from Providence -- that’s another thing in her favor. Her family is working class, she has a younger brother in Iraq, no other source of income aside from her father’s Navy pension and his hardware store, which according to our search is not doing too well.”
“Think she knows that?”
“Probably not. I hear the father is proud of her but is a real stubborn, Irish beer drinking kind of guy.”
“Not your typical designer background.”
“I’ll say. She also had a couple of close friends who died in 9/11.”
“What, that plaque in the admin building? What’s their names again --?”
“Mandy Rabinowitz and Jeffrey Dillon.”
“Oh right. The kid who had the show on the 68th floor. Man. What a horrible loss.”
They both sat in silence. Before they were ready for it, they heard the door to the stairwell close shut and the approaching slap of bare feet.
Though their door was open, they saw a bare arm reach around and knock. “Come on in, Tami,” Wanamaker said.
She moved into the doorway slowly and politely. “Hi Professor, hi Mr. Girardo,” she said with a little nod. “How did you know it was me?”
Wanamaker said with a smile, “We heard the stairwell door close. Everyone else takes the elevator... I told Mr. Girardo about your presentation on bra measurement. It was excellent as always.”
A blushing “Thanks.”
Putting on sociability, Girardo looked up and said, “That’s a wonderful new hair color you’ve selected, Ms. Smithers.”
To his surprise Tami looked down at her crotch and opened her legs slightly. “Thanks. It’s called ‘plum’.”
Girardo gave a quick and pointed look to his colleague.
Sitting right next to where Tami was standing, Wanamaker tried very hard not to notice the dark red curls right near his face. Or the interesting fact that her pubic lips, jutting out slightly, were the same color as the surrounding curls. He cleared his throat, looked up at her face, and said, “We’ve been enjoying your... portfolio.”
“Oh that,” Tami said. Then perhaps thinking she shouldn’t have been so dismissive, she said, “I hope it’s O.K.”
“It’s more than O.K, Tami, it’s very... inventive,” Girardo said, paging through the computer graphics and freehand drawings, accompanied by more explanatory text than usual and, very unusual indeed, mathematical equations of some sort.
“This uh, tank top or whatever it is,” Girardo said, resisting the urge to turn the damn album upside down, “design 17A. How did you get the neckline so high with so little material?”
“Well it’s in the equations there,” Tami said. She dropped her backpack and turned toward it, apparently not aware that her butt was sticking in their direction. She fished a kind of ruler out. “Let me show you.”
Girardo had some kind of vague memory from his 1950’s high school days of this sticklike thing Tami now waved in front of him. “The neckline is a catenary, which you get by calculating the hyperbolic sine -- “
“The hyperbolic -- what? What is this thing?”
“It’s a slide rule. I got it off the internet. These are really great, in fact they’re beautiful. This one’s a Hemmi. You see the SH scale here, you read it along with the C scale for radians -- “
As Tami went on and on in what seemed to Girardo like a foreign language, his mouth slowly opened in utter incomprehension. Halfway through he realized Tami’s left breast was almost slapping him on the side of the face as she leaned alongside him so they could both see these sticks she was sliding back and forth. Wanamaker looked on in amusement.
When she was done, Girardo said, “I’m afraid it’s been a while since --” Actually, he had never, ever been able to --
Tami stood up and started over. “The slide rule is based on logarithms rather than linear relations.” Her fingers danced along the scales as she explained. “See how the distance from 1 to 2 is the same as from 2 to 4? It’s because that distance is a factor of 2. From 4 to 8 is also the same. Now let me set it to show 6 divided by 3 is 2. See? Without moving the scales you see at the same time that 12 divided by 3 is 4, 38.4 divided by 3 is, 12.8, and so on. The whole operation of division unfolds before you in one panoramic sweep!”
Tami was trying to light a bulb over Girardo’s head with this picturesque phrase but there wasn’t even a bulb there to turn on. “Oh,” he said weakly.
By way of nudging Girardo in the right direction, Wanamaker said, “Tami, I wonder if you have any ambitions for your designing talent.”
Tami thought for a second, then said, “I’ve designed dresses and clothes for my friends. It seems whenever there’s a wedding or a formal dance I get called. It’s just my minor, though. My major is math, and my project is math with biochemistry. My friend Gretchen and I are working on a biodegradable, toxin-proof fabric that holds heat in the cold and breathes in the heat.”
“That would be quite an accomplishment.”
“I heard about that project from Professor Ling,” Wanamaker said. “That’s Gretchen Spaulding, right?”
“Yes, Gretchen and me. What we want is to develop something that can be used by our troops in Iraq. My brother tells me it gets both very hot and very cold there, at least where he is. Gretchen’s fiance is there too.”
“I hear they need equipment there,” Wanamaker said. Then, perhaps tactlessly, “I hope they’re safe.”
“Joe is in a part of the country where not much happens, and Roger, that’s Gretchen’s fiance, he’s training helicopter pilots.”
“I see,” Girardo said. “Well, good for you. And good for Gretchen too.”
There was an uneasy silence, at least uneasy for the two professors.
“Well, Ms. Smithers,” Girardo said, “we just wanted to say that we’re very impressed with your work, not only on your biochem project, but also in our classes. I hope you stay interested in this field of endeavor. See you around.”
“Thanks again.” She picked up her backpack and started to leave. From out in the hall she said, “What happened to that cartoon thing?”
“You know, that old magazine thing?”
She was referring to an old National Lampoon item entitled, “What high fashion would look like if designers were heterosexual.” It had a picture of a so-called designer in a sweatshirt and jeans, pointing to his new “design”, an invisible dress on a naked woman. “And if she gets cold, she can always wear a car,” he was saying. Girardo, who was gay, had put the item up some years ago as a joke on himself. But he took it down recently out of sensitivity to Tami’s plight.
“Um, it was time to change the board a bit,” Girardo said.
“Oh. Too bad, it was pretty funny. Well, bye.”
They heard the bare footsteps receding and then the stairwell door close. Soft descending footfalls faded into silence.
Wanamaker said, “I knew you’d chicken out. You won’t get many more chances.”
Girardo sighed and said, “Shel, you know I’m always swayed by you. I have to admit, strange as it is, this girl’s work is exceptional. She probably really does deserve to be our candidate. But a naked fashion designer... This is the weirdest situation I’ve ever been in.”
“I think you’re being hyperbolic.”
“Oh shut up.”