The door of the backyard trailer had been tied open with a fishnet scarf, but that didn’t mean anything more than the girls from church were just hot, and the dad hadn’t yet installed the swamp cooler. The girls were inside with their Young Women’s advisor, who at the moment, had her head on a stack of Erma Bombeck’s paperbacks, and was beginning to doze off.
What kind of example was that?
A good example, the advisor thought. Look at me, taking care of myself.
The cookies they were baking, the girls decided right then, would be for her--their beloved advisor, and not for the needy family whose name they had drawn out of a sock last Sunday at church.
That was nice of them, the advisor thought, adjusting the books under her, but why had not one of them thought to go into the house for a pillow?
“If she’s asleep, do we have to open with prayer?”
“Yes,” the advisor said, scaring the girls.
Did the girls really think she would fall asleep, lose all consciousness while they were in her care? How comfortable did they think these Bombeck books were? Still, the advisor did not move except to pull down her shirt that was riding up. The skirt, too. Only halfway on the trailer’s built-in davenport, the weight from her dangling Famolares made her ankles hurt.
There was that song on the radio again, the one that scared the girls. “Turn it down,” the advisor thought she heard herself say, but wasn’t sure, and then one of them turned the radio all the way off.
See? These girls would be fine. Already, they could pull cookies out of a hot oven, assemble condiment canisters for future college kitchens. They knew when to run away, to not look down into the driver’s seat of a car that might pull up next to them, to layer something under all the stringed shirts and wraparound dresses that she’d been seeing at the mall and in the mail order catalogs.
Someone asked where the bathroom was and the girl whose family owned the trailer held a batch of cookies with one hand and pointed out the little ceramic sign dangling from the bathroom door with the other. “Duh,” she said.
If the advisor had had more energy right then, she would have said something. The girl latched the bathroom door from the inside. She also would have said this: “It is not safe to be walking around shoeless in a junky trailer like this.”
Those pantyhose would not protect you, the advisor thought from the davenport, but she let both things slide.
The girls called them “Nylons.”
“I have a snag in my nylons,” they said.
“My finger went right through a brand new pair.”
“If you have a run in your nylons,” they advised each other, “use a little nail polish.”
“My dad should bring out that thing that will keep us cool,” the girl with the cookies announced to everyone else. She set the hot pan down on the trailer’s little counter.
And now the girls would have to restrain themselves. They could have one cookie, but no more. As usual, the cookies were for others, for service, for people who really suffered in life, while they all these girls had to do right now was kick off their shoes and bake.
The advisor opened her eyes for a moment. The girls faces were sweaty, but smooth—
no lines, except when they cried during the bearing of their testimonies, or paused with concentration before making a move in the difficult part of a French braid.
Soon, there would be a closing prayer, and for this the advisor would sit up, pull herself together, put the book pillow away. “Those cookies can’t be for me,” she’d have to say, and sternly if needed. And then she’d have to make sure they got delivered to the chosen family, maybe even driving them over herself, her broken front door held closed with one leg slashed off a pair of hose, one of the girls beside her—cookies on a disposable plate moved from her lap to the needy family’s trailer stoop, their door fist-pounded just before the girl dashes back breathless to the advisor’s little car. “They’re coming!” the girl would say, putting her hand over her own pounding heart. “I heard something move inside.”