It is awfully hot for late September. They can see her through the steamy mist, out on the baseball field, which is being re-sodded. The tanned nude, shiny with sweat, scampers up the pile of sod with flexible bare feet to pull another grassy slab off the top and fling it down to where the rest of the crew, sweating just as much in their cover-all uniforms and heavy work boots, drag it into place and tamp it down with their rakes.
They were hoping she’d be on shift now, her old high school buddies. They caught her attention and waved at her while eating their lunch, sitting in the shady portico outside the cafeteria, between their classes at the Rhode Island Institute of Technology.
The foreman, barely seen at the far end, whistles. Break time -- and now their old friend, breasts bouncing, trots toward them. Sam has a bottle of water ready and throws it to her as she gets near.
“Thanks,” she says, and takes a sip. There is hardly any breeze, and the odor of her sweat takes over and in this heat is almost suffocating. Her body is now deeply tanned and is even darker with the accumulated dirt of four hours flinging sod. It makes her bright green eyes all the more striking. Her encrusted hair is as wild as a witch’s. She stands before them, taking gulp after gulp, and they can see her concave tummy rippling. Her pubic hair is caked with topsoil dust. Below, her dirty bare feet contrast with their neat shoes, the rough soiled toenails contrasting with the meticulously painted, recently-pedicured toes of Sandy in her strappy sandals.
“Wow,” Patty Kowalski says, “look at all of you here. What are the odds?” She looks around, wary of putting her sweaty bare butt into one of the clean plastic chairs.
“Go ahead,” Tom says, pushing one in her direction. She slides her slimy self into it and pulls up next to them.
“How’s it going?” Georgina says, wiping the salad dressing from her mouth, leaning an elbow on her Criminal Justice textbook. It being so hot, she is dressed very sparely, a white tank top and knee-length shorts and sneakers. Under her tank top, her white bra can be seen.
Patty’s breasts wiggle as she pulls the chair up closer to the table. “Okay. The guys are nice. I’m making one and a half minimum.” She clears her throat and refuses Jill’s offer of a buttered roll. “If I eat, it slows me down. . . If I stay six months here, I get to be in the union. Benefits for the kids, better than that crummy Medicaid.”
Some sweat falls into her eye and Georgina quickly offers her a napkin. “Thanks.” The napkin is now full of grime and, not wanting to put it on anyone’s tray, Patty hops up over to the wastebasket.
Sam is dressed in a denim shirt with jeans and loafers. He has a laptop sitting on top of his Architectural Design book. “Think you’ll do that? Stay that long?” He’s a perpetual sloucher and now sits up in his chair.
“Whoops.” Patty’s slimy butt slips in the chair again and she sits up too, bracing her gritty soles against the concrete deck below. Some of them unconsciously draw back as her body odor hits them more directly. “Maybe.”
“What about when winter comes, those videos with the Japanese folks?” This is Terrence, a well-coiffed black student who has been waiting to be introduced.
“Sorry, Patty, this is Terrence, he’s a fan of yours.”
Patty extends a hand to him but, seeing how dirty it is, pulls it back and waves instead.
“Another of an audience of thousands.” Patty’s teeth look very white as they smile through her darkened face. There’s a gap where she cracked a bicuspid, catching Robbie when he fell off that swing set.
“I’ve seen your -- productions,” Terrence says. “All four of them.”
“You should buy them, you shouldn’t pull them up online,” Maurice says.
“That’s o.k.,” Patty says. “All those businessmen in Tokyo, or wherever, they paid the bills.” Another gulp of water. “And then some.” She looks over at Kenny. “How’s Jerry?”
Kenny, in a T-shirt and sweatpants and Chuck Taylors, sips from his apple juice before answering. “Still looking.”
“That’s such a shame about Teaser’s,” Delores says.
“Yes,” Patty says. Heads nod. Kenny’s uncle had been the bartender there. Though they all know shutting the place down was a bigger blow to Patty, financially. Who knew that Candi was only 17? Patty said she looked mid-20’s, probably because she had been a junkie -- “she’s had a hard life”. Candi got caught by her juvenile probation officer, and it was in all the press, with Gamal in handcuffs. Every club in the state, aware that they might be the next victim of false ID’s, promptly raised the minimum age of dancers to 21. Which left Patty without a place to dance for the next two and a half years. Massachusetts was already at 21, and as for Connecticut, the nearest club was in Hartford, 80 miles away.
“I hear when winter comes,” Terrence says, “they’ll do things with you in the snow. The weird things the Japanese think up!”
Patty shrugs, as she decides to accept a cherry tomato from Georgina. “I don’t know if that’s going to happen. I haven’t heard from them in a month.” She looks through the sliding glass doors at the indoor part of the cafeteria. The students there are glancing in her direction, in a way they probably think is discreet. “Sometimes a producer makes his fortune and then gets out of the business,” she says quietly.
Terrence says, “How can you stay out in the snow?”
“Patty can do it!” Tom says, to the nodding of heads. They remember last winter, half the town passing by Patty on Saturday afternoons, waving at her as she did her job shoveling snow in front of St. Anselm’s while Jimmy and Kathleen and Robbie were inside at catechism class.