From Taking Cover

During one such air-raid drill in third grade, the boys who were crouched down opposite to us seemed to be collapsing. Their heads slid down from their knees and came perilously close to touching the floor. Mikey made no attempt to be subtle and basically curled up on his side on the floor, staring intently ahead at the white cotton panties that could almost be seen behind Sharon's rigidly straight legs. I nudged Sharon. She instantly sacrificed the safety of her neck in order to place a protective hand over her crotch. When the teacher walked by, Sharon's hands returned to their place behind her neck. Sharon and I both saw other boys half sliding, half lounging on the concrete floor. We directed nudges up and down the row of crouching girls. Silently, adjustments in hand placement were made. A year or so earlier, my grandmother, who wore the prospect of calamity like a favorite shawl, cautioned me furtively and without explanation to 'never let a boy touch you down there.' At the time, I wondered why any boy would want to, but Gram closed the subject as suddenly as she had opened it and I didn't ask her any questions. I assumed that looking 'down there' was as unacceptable as touching, so I spread my hands out defensively like fans. An ant on the concrete couldn't have seen my panties.


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