Her father took her to work in the big white Chevrolet. Danner had a job that summer as a banquet waitress at the local Methodist college, carrying eight heaped plates to conference tables of ministers. The girls piled the plates on oval trays in the kitchen, squatted, balanced the weight on one shoulder, and held it with both hands as they stood. The manager kept the swinging door open as the waitresses, all fifteen and sixteen years old, walked to their assigned places and squatted again, straight-backed, sliding the trays on to stands. Amazed at their own feats of strength, they smoothed their dark skirts and delivered roast beef. Danner hated their uniforms: white blouses, black straight skirts, nylons, and dark shoes. August was so hot that if Jean took her to work, the black ’59 Ford having baked in the sun until the seats smelled of hot rubber, Danner’s legs were clammy with sweat by the time they arrived. Mitch’s car had an air conditioner and if he was in a good mood he’d turn the engine on and cool the car before Danner got in. She sat in the encapsulated coolness and watched the landscape while they drove to town; fields by the Brush Fork road seemed to steam with heat and the edge of the sign that marked the city limits shone sharp and brilliant.
Mitch smoked a cigarette, leaving his window open a sliver to take the smoke. ‘What time do you want me to pick you up?’
‘You don’t have to pick me up, it’s Friday.’ Riley always picked her up on Fridays after he got off work at the A & P. Without looking at Mitch, Danner knew her father was shaking his head and frowning. ‘I won’t be late tonight. Eleven was just too early – the drive-in doesn’t even start until eight or nine. Mom said I could come in at midnight until school starts.’