Fashion designer Amanda Pershing stepped out of a limousine and walked to the door of an exclusive New York City restaurant. A doorman ushered her inside. The maitre‘d bowed her to a table for two. A tall thirty-something man wearing a $7,000 Seville Row suit and $1,200 Croc Italian oxfords stood as they approached.
“Good evening Ms. Pershing. I’m Laurence Carpenter. Monsieur Mershonbom sends his deepest apologies. His jet was diverted to Boston on a flight from Paris. I’m vice president for marketing. Please sit down.”
A rough hand shook Mandi’s shoulder. It was cold and dark outside.
“Wake up, girl. Git dressed. Then git out there an’ slop the hogs. Throw some hay down for the cows and milk ‘em After thet ya kin gather the eggs and make breakfast.”
Mandi sat up shivering. “Them are Jimmie’s chores, Pa. Ain’t he gonna ‘hep me?”
“Jimmies gonna rest in awhile. He gotta ball game t’night.”
“I’ll miss the school bus.”
“Jimmie’ll tell ‘em yer sick. Ain’t nobody gonna miss yew no how.”
“Please, Pa, Miz Flowers said a pr’fessor from the U is comin’ to talk to our art class. She’s gonna intra’duce me.”
“Don’ back sass me girl! Now git out there and slop them hogs.” Pa whacked Mandi hard with his open hand.
The school bus and Jimmie were long gone by the time Mandi finished cleaning up after breakfast. Ma was over in Hopeville helping Ginger Anne with her new baby. Pa was out in the barn working on the tractor.
“I think there’s a chance you could get a scholarship after Professor Ackermann sees your work,” Miss Flowers had told Mandi the week before. “So whatever you do, don’t miss class next Wednesday.”
It was Wednesday and Mandi sat at the kitchen table, with her face in her arms, weeping. Her art class came right after lunch and the Pershing place was seven muddy miles from Letongaloosa. Then she raised her head.
“I’ll walk,” she said and stood up.
Pa came in from the barn.
“Where ya think yer goin”?
“I’m gonna walk ta’ school, Pa.”
“An’ whose gonna fix my lunch, Missy?”
“You wanna walk ta school? Well git, then.”
Mandi smiled and started up the stairs.
“No ‘mam,” said Pa. “If yer goin ta go,’ yer gonna go jist like ya look.”
“I gotta change, Pa. The Pr’fessor’s comin.”
“P’fessor be damned. Ya’ll go as ya are or stay home,” said Pa, and stomped out.
“Look! Here comes the Prom Queen,” said Marilee Tompkins.
Students in the art class turned toward the door. Mandi was ten minutes late. She had stopped to wash the mud from her knee high rubber boots in the girls’ bathroom. Then she had pulled the legs of her pin striped bib overalls down over the boots. Her plaid men’s long sleeved shirt was open at the neck. Mandi blushed and took her seat.
Professor Ackerman resumed talking about “Art in the Market Place.”
“Ms. Pershing, I took the liberty of ordering a bottle of Romanee Conti,” said Laurence Carpenter. “I hope you approve. The filet d’Rusindorf they serve here is superb. I thought we’d have that.”
“Please call me Mandi,” she said. “The filet d’Rusindorf will be fine. What Romanee Conti did you order?”
“Wonderful. That will be a treat. Thank you.”
Over dinner they discussed the weather, the Knicks, French cooking, the cost of chalets on the Costa del Sol, and skiing in Bariloche. After they had had dessert and the table was cleared Carpenter got out a mini laptop. He opened the lid and turned the screen so they could both see it.
“Monsieur Mershonbom loves everything you’ve designed for him. He’s sure that your work will be the talk of the fashion world this season.” Carpenter touched a key on the computer and the screen lit up.
“He’s absolutely ecstatic about this line of high fashion bib overalls. He says the haut couture boutiques will go wild for them. Then he’ll sell millions of down market knock offs in malls and department stores. The rubber boot accessories are pure gold. Where did you ever come up with such a marvelous fashion concept?”
“It’s a long story,” said Mandi.
Dr. Larry Day is a retired J-School Professor from KU and author of Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia available on Amazon.