Or, Tami Smithers, Administration headache. Or, She Decides Not to Sue, Put Everything Behind Her (ha).
Acting Dean Anthony Noyes, tall and a little grayer and a little heavier, no longer able to fit into the three-piece suits that had been his trademark, stood behind his desk and looked out the big bay window on this rainy March day, having hung up the phone. His people had told him just what he had expected. No filings yesterday in state court, and in federal court (the more likely forum) no filings either. The statute of limitations on any suit Tami Smithers could bring against the college had expired. The college was finally in the clear. At least as to lawsuits.
A relief, but not really unexpected. From all signs, she had made her peace with the college a long time ago, blaming her freshman year misfortunes on the machinations of Dean Percy Jorgon and the college attorney Henry Ross, and to some extent Nevada McMasters. Which so far as he knew was pretty close to the truth. Others who were probably culpable too had left before they found themselves in the cross-hairs. Professor Brignon. McMasters’s aides, Brendo and Mr. Zipkin. Not Homer Winant, of course, that wily S.O.B.
So now -- what to do about her?
As he looked down on the campus Tami appeared as if on cue, hefting a big bag of dead leaves over her shoulder, squishing through the grass toward the front lawn, oblivious to the cold rain that plastered her hair to her shoulders and had everyone else scurrying around in raincoats. Now she came to one tree with a branch which the brown leaves had somehow clung to throughout the winter. As if she was born to do it, she scurried up on prehensile toes and reached over, her breasts crushed against the rough bark, shaking the leaves free. Then hopped to the ground and stuffed them into the bag with her bare hands. Remarkable.
He turned and sat down at the big oak desk and pondered. The presence of a naked student had never stopped being a trial for the college and its conservative benefactors. There was just no getting around it. It had paralyzed the Dean Hiring Committee; there was no way to say to candidates, “We are a religiously based, conservative institution,” and then say, “By the way, we have a girl who walks around naked all the time.” As a result the Acting Deanship had been a hot potato passed around between him and Vanessa Congi and even Mildred George, who was 75 years old.
Tami Smithers was only two months from graduation -- but sure to get a graduate assistantship if that was what she desired. That would mean two more years of enduring her public nudity. And then what if she became an adjunct, or even a professor? She could be here for 20 years! Noyes held his forehead just at the thought of it, it was so agonizing.
The commencement ceremony itself was all too much to contemplate. She would be the valedictorian and giving her speech. It was a near miracle that the college had avoided national press thus far, but commencement exercises were always publicity magnets. “The Naked Valedictorian.” A Newsweek cover for sure. Some of the trustees had suggested canceling the commencement on some pretense. But he just could not do that. Tami had earned the right to give her speech in public just like any the college’s 212 other valedictorians throughout its history.
It would be easy if she was a troublemaker, but she was anything but. Her behavior during her long ordeal, and ever since, had been exemplary. Tami Smithers enjoyed an immense amount of respect, from faculty, the other students, recovering fundamentalists like Rev. Stipend... Even the more stuck-up benefactors grudgingly admitted she was a credit to the college, at the same time as they were waiting on pins and needles for her to leave.
As far as finding out what she might do, he had run into a brick wall. He certainly couldn’t ask her directly. What would be the point? There was no way he could say, “We like you Tami but we want you to leave. Here are some possibilities . . .” Or even hint it. He had called Abu Jamal about their attempts to cure her allergy but the Chalfont people absolutely would not talk to him. He could understand their position. They had been traumatized by the fallout from the McMasters experiments and were forever in debt to Ms. Smithers for voluntarily re-doing them when their accreditation was threatened. If anything, it would be better for him not to know her plans. That way, if he suddenly hit upon an idea that would get her out of here, he could spring it on her more innocently.
He had similar bad luck with the Fashion people. It would be strange, but great, if she won that International competition and got sent back to Rhode Island. But Girardo would not tell him what her chances were. And he had no pull with the people running the competition, of course.
A knock on the door.
It was Tami Smithers herself, wet and muddy, though she had been careful to wipe her feet. She stood in his doorway, naked and strong, her bookbag slung over her shoulder, carrying a four-foot long narrow thing that looked like a folded-up easel. “Hello, Mr. Noyes,” she said, respectfully but with an air of familiarity.
“Hello, Tami.” He was aware, of course, of yesterday’s ruling refusing to extend the statute of limitations in the criminal matter. Tami seemed to have bounced back from what must have been a bitter disappointment. Of course, the college itself being in effect an accomplice, there was no way he could express his condolences or anything like that.
“Can I ask you something?”
“Sure, Tami.” He glanced at her up and down, from her wild, wind-strewn hair, the tanned wet breasts, then down to the fragments of leaves in her pubic bush, finally to the widely-spread toes covered with bits of grass, as if she herself were a wet tree and her toes were the roots. “Is Omar working you too hard? Have a seat.”
“Well no, I shouldn’t, I’d mess up your chair... I’d like to ask your permission... Could I please wear something?”
“Uh -- ” He had never been so astonished at a simple question. He almost gasped. Had her allergy been cured? If so, why was she asking permission?
Tami, realized how absurd her request sounded, smiled and set down her bookbag and held out the easel, which it turned out was a narrow, four-foot-long case. “This was a present that was given to me.”
As soon as he saw her bend down to open the case, her breasts wobbling in front of her, he realized with dread what it was. He had been told about it by Sarah Wickland, that West Coast lawyer with the kinky clients. The immense dildo with a two-foot long tail of horsehair.
“It’s called a tail. Ms. Wickland gave it to me. You know, from the pony farm.”
A reminder of Tami’s further horrible tribulations. Which again she had made peace with.
Obviously unaware that he knew about it, Tami stood up with the object in her hand and explained it. “This part goes into my rectum and up into my sigmoid colon. There’s a remote control that makes it into a sexual stimulator. But without the remote, just as a fashion accessory, I think the tail is pretty neat looking. I think I look good in it. See?” She approached him with a photo of herself, half-turned to the camera, with the tail waving behind her, coming out from between her bare butt cheeks, the smile on her face as innocent as if she were seven years old and showing off her First Communion dress. It was jarring to see. As she evidently knew: “I’m asking you because I can see why some people might, um, freak out.
“I won’t wear it anywhere on campus,” she said quickly. “But I was thinking of wearing it to the reception after the Spring Zing. There will be faculty there, so I wanted to know what you thought.”
He looked at the tail and at the picture. He just could not imagine where there was space in that slim body for that gigantic thing. But then, Tami Smithers was remarkable.
He also knew that the Spring Zing reception was traditionally a time when the fashion majors would show off with their most outlandish creations, kind of like a costume party. “I trust you to exercise your good judgment. You have always shown good judgment as a student here, Tami. I think... I think it will be OK. But let Mr. Girardo know about it ahead of time.”
“Thank you, Mr. Noyes.” He was relieved to see Tami put that thing away, into the long case.
As she was about to leave he thought of something. “Tami, I have some things for you.”
With the results of those phone calls he was going to send for her to get them anyway. It might as well be now. He couldn’t wait to get them off his hands, and with the statute of limitations having run, the college had no duty to preserve them. He led Tami into the large storage closet down the hall and took a box off the shelf.
“These are some things that were found at Henry Ross’s place after he escaped. Mostly videos and discs that show some of the, uh, things that happened that year. From what I understand the criminal matter against him is now closed. So there is no need to keep them. If you ask me they should be destroyed. But a sense of justice compels me to give them to you. You should be the one who destroys them.
“There are also some DVD’s of the Chalfont experiments. As you remember you deleted the computer files in Dr. Schnitzler’s office. But it turns out Nevada McMasters took his own videos from a hidden camera in Lab 6. Possibly to use as evidence against Ross, I don’t know. I really have no idea what was going on between those two. But he left them in a cabinet in Lab 5. So these are yours too, Tami. I know I’ve said it a hundred times, but we are very sorry what you endured, Tami.”
He got a kind of rolling briefcase off another shelf, like people use to pull packages in at airports. “This is called a trial bag, lawyers like Mr. Halifax use it.” George Halifax being the person who replaced Ross as the college attorney. “This one’s extra. Here, let me put the things in here.”
Soon, Tami Smithers, with her bookbag and her horse-tail-dildo and all that odious crap from Chalfont and Ross, was gone. Anthony Noyes looked outside the bay window and saw her leave the building, strolling casually and nakedly through the rain. He exhaled as he saw her wheel away the DVD’s and videos, and though it was Tami who was getting wet, he felt like it was he, and Campbell - Frank College in general, who had been showered clean.