Chapter 19

After two years of college on the poverty program, I was starting to have my doubts.  As soon as I stepped into the locker room, walked out on the field, everything fell into place like slapping a ball into a mitt, snap-lock,  sweet spot.  I had a kind of fever I remembered from high school.  This team could be as good as any in the country, we were heading for the top and anybody who ran into us on the schedule, that was too damned bad for them.

I was also, for the first time starting to realize something that was making me all shiny, but also kind of nervous.  I was starting to see myself as a national caliber athlete.  Maybe even world class if I could keep growing into it.  In softball that would mean something like a Gold Medal.  But the years weren’t right for it.  If I’d been two years sooner or later, it could have happened.  But the other, I just knew, I could feel it.  I saw the other catchers, knew who was there.  The other pitchers I had to take downtown.  I got to see some of the international teams play.  Impressive, but not impossible.  It was a wild heady ride those three years.  And at the end of it, I was twenty one.  Old enough. But for what?

But with no uniform on, no practice sweats and cap, I was not getting off on the set-up.  I was fairly well liked, and had plenty of guys flocking around.  But that didn’t mean all that much, really.  After the thing with RJ, it kind of meant even less.  Mostly, I was getting sick of  being poor.  I wanted to drive around a little.  Go out of town,  go down to the shore, buy some Jack Daniels, buy some new shoes, pig out on caramel sundaes.  Hell, just be able to drop by Starbucks to study because I had the price of a couple of lattés.  I’d had nothing all my life and hadn’t cared.  I was starting to care and couldn’t cough up.  Fortunately, I got a little drunk one night and did something not typical: I whined about it.  And fortunately, I whined to just exactly the right girl.

Her name was Doreen, but every called her Mitsy.  I thought of her as “patrician” for some reason.  She just had that thin nose and erect carriage and hair with no more pigment in than a handful of corn silk, and just an air about her.   Not much ass on her, but a decent set of titties that looked very sweet indeed if she trotted them out for air.  I figured she was rich because she looked rich.  She looked like The Ruling Class to me.  If she’d been down South, she’d have had a pillared white home in her family background.  Up inMassachusetts, where she came from, I figured she had a life ring from the Mayflower and clipped coupons while her folks ran the State House or something.  And also because she had a really cool Mini-Cooper and plenty of money.  She didn’t flash it, or doll up much, but she always had good things and was always willing to treat.  She liked me right off the bat, and got to like her, too.  She wasn’t a jock, but had been a high school cheerleader and kept in great shape. Hell of a dancer.  Way more than I knew, it turned out.

And it turned out all her blue chips and blue blood was just my imagination.  She came from the working class and wouldn’t have been there except for some corporate-sponsored academic scholarship that picked off most of her tuition. And sitting there with her in her dorm room in our underwear, drinking Canadian Club and 7-Up, she told me how she did it.  And how I could do it, too.  Easy money, part time, and good exercise.  The place was called Déjà Vu, and she had it wired.

I was getting sick of classes anyway, and never had to study all that much. I’d even gotten to the point where I was picking up French without bending the books.  But I still had to work to pass, and keep up my eligibility.  Which would be hard to do going to class all morning, practicing or playing all afternoon, and bouncing around all night in my alltogethers.  Which I mentioned.  When I finally get to bitching and whining, I don’t go halfway.  She just laughed and said there were people who’d write my papers for me, geek guys who’d take notes, even maybe tests.  I knew that, vaguely, and thought it over.  I asked her what they’d want for that and she looked me up and down and said, “What do you think?”

I gave her a little stink-eye and said, “I think not.”

She started laughing at me, poured me another two fingers of Club, and said, “Yo, Dixie, you’ll be making more money in an hour than they’d charge for the whole quarter.”
Well.  Oh.  That kind of came into my head all at once.  Just the idea that I would have the money, that I could just flail around about me with buying power.  I was sold.  Old Devil grabbed the wheel and adjusted the seat.

She knew the clubs, but only mentioned the Deja Vu because she had an in there, a major one.  We were both eighteen, but didn’t have any work papers and couldn’t show tax income because of our rides.  Not a problem, it turned out.  I went down there with her one fine evening, walked into the club and talked to her guy–who looked like a complete, unreconstructed douche to me, but was all business–and got hired on in about five minutes, with a slight deduction for under the table receipt.

I was kind of fretting what to wear.   Mitsy had some stripperwear I saw as costumes, kept them in her car and at the club.  But I’d never owned anything like that and wouldn’t have known where to buy them even if I’d had the money.  She laughed at me again, told me that was the least of my problems.

When I took my first steps out on that stage prior to stripping off and inviting the lustful eyes of men upon the most sacred shrines of my body I was wearing my softball uniform.  Nothing on under it, complete with cap, two smudges under my eyes like outfielders, and my white court shoes.  They ate it right up.

I ended up just wearing the jersey, tearing around and hanging on the pole peeking out at both ends.  I got fancy WantonWear later, but sports jerseys were always my hot ticket.  I almost always had a cap, with my pony tail sprouting out the hole at the back of it.  Now and then I’d wear my shin guards and catcher’s mask.

Mitsy was impressed by how quick I took to it, and she said her management chum was, too.  Not a big thing, actually.  I was never shy, pageants had me used to stalking around on runways with a jillion guys out there staring at you and wanting to dribble all over you, or at least see your wardrobe malfunction, and I was completely comfortable with prancing around naked.  I had a great body and didn’t care who knew it and didn’t see it as a sexual display or anything sinful or shameful.  Well, sinful, perhaps.  The Bible is unclear on that, much as many hard-core churchies would want to say otherwise, but sinning hadn’t shamed me in a pretty long time.

It was about a week before it all hit me. All I was doing was hanging around a pretty classy club dancing all night.  Like many another carefree college chickadee. Except I was making as much as two thousand dollars a week doing it. It wasn’t something as simple as “Wow, I got money.”  For me, it was like being cured of a disease I’d suffered from since childhood.  It was like the Sins of the Flesh waved a hand over my golden head and said, “Throw down them crutches and walk, Sister.  Come out of that cave and roll back that stone, thou are healed.” I was a new person, pretty literally.

They say money is the root of evil, but I think mainly it’s the need for it.  Having oodles of ill-gotten cash had an immediate effect on me.  I got nicer.  My studies got easier.  My game got way better and I was doing much better at carrying myself with authority on the field.  I figured out some ways to get money to my sisters and mama without putting them any wiser. I did not buy a car.  What I did was shift my course load to include classes about handling money. Which I did pretty well, all told. What I didn’t know at the time, though maybe I had a premonition, was that I would never be poor again, ever in my life.  If I’d have known that, or thought of  it, at the time, Lord knows how I’d have reacted.  Thrown a standing backflip, toast my way through a six pack of Moet champagne, give joyous head to anybody who held up his hand, flopped over on the floor in a dead, smiling faint.

Looking back on it a couple of times in my life where there was suddenly a line drawn between everything that had been and everything that was to come, that was the biggest and most monumental of them. I’d always deeply felt that I was special and not subject to the same conditions as others, and that moment was like shedding off the last fragment of skin that had held me down and clipped my wings.  I was totally free and headed into a sky with no visible limits whatsoever.