"I have an idea."
"Well, we got wind here of your group's planned demonstration, and I was wondering if you had a moment to share your thoughts with us."
"What do you want to know?"
"I would think the obvious question is about the nature of your demonstration," the woman said. "Our understanding is that you and your group plan to be, eh, how shall I say it--"
She laughed through the phone. "Thank you for not making me come right out and say it. So, it's true?"
"Absolutely," I said. "We have all the permits and everything."
"Ah, okay . . . um, Mr. Landry, I have to ask, what brought you and your group to decide to conduct this event in this way?"
"Why not?" I asked in return. I found myself speaking very fluidly, more comfortably than normal. "Environmental awareness is something we think everyone should get into. But not many people, it seems, are willing to show their support. So why not put ourselves out there, expose ourselves, if you will, and garner some support? When it all comes down to it, I think this is a classic case of the ends justifying the means."
There was a pause on the other end. "That's . . . a very interesting way to put it, Mr. Landry. May I ask you a question?"
"I'd like to cover the event with my camera crew, if that would be alright. Of course, we would, um, edit our footage accordingly."
A laughed spilled from my lips. "I think you would have to."
"Right. Of course. But, um, I'd like an exclusive interview with you as well," she said. "Would that be alright?"
I thought about it for a moment. "Well, this wasn't originally my idea, so I think it would be best to interview my partner in this as well."
"Oh, sure! What's his name?"
"Her name," I corrected.
* * * *
It was a surreal moment, to be certain. The six of us stood at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the courtyard. For the following four hours, we would all be naked in a public environment. The imminence of the situation had me almost visibly trembling with both excitement and apprehension.
I turned about and addressed the others. Apart from Kit, there was her friend Deanna, a pale-skinned redhead with impressive breasts; Tanya, a slender girl with mixed Black/Hispanic/Asian heritage who wore her kinky jet hair in tightly-rolled dreadlocks; and Letty, Hispanic and petite, with long dark hair that reached past her waist.
On the male side of the coin was myself and my lifelong friend Bill, who was so round and stout that he looked like a hairy, life-sized teddy bear. I had to hand it to the guy for being so willing and exuberant about the experience that was about to unfold; he had to know that most women did not exactly find him attractive, yet he was willing to let it all hang out -- literally -- for this event.
"Last chance to back out," I offered, looking the others over.
They all exchanged glances. A few nervous giggles floated through the air. Kit was ruddy-faced with anticipation. But no one backed off.
"Okay. Let's go."
We headed up the steps, which seemed to me to have doubled in length over the previous few weeks. I lugged the folding table, Kit carried a box filled with Earth Day awareness fliers, Letty hefted a large sign on an easel, and Bill toted a large plastic tub in which we would all place our clothing and valuables. Lastly, Tanya had a case of bottled water and some snacks. We had everything we needed.
I had feared that there would have been some sort of advanced warning to the locals, and that a crowd would have gathered in anticipation of seeing a group of college kids naked. But aside from a few dozen people milling about before the opening of the theater, there were only two people awaiting us, standing out from the crowd thanks to a very prominent uniform on one's behalf.
Charles Jimenez approached with a wary smile. "Kevin," he said, offering his hand when he was a few paces away. He indicated the tall man beside him. "I was just going over the basics with Officer Paden."
I shook hands with Mr. Jimenez and smiled at Paden. I had known him for years, when he was just the older brother of one of my friends. He had been hesitant about being our security for the event, but I knew he had long had the hots for Deanna and the temptation of seeing her in the nude was too powerful for him to resist.
"You really want to do this, Kevin?" he asked me.
I laughed and set down the table. "Do you?"
He just rolled his eyes, but helped us get set up. I could feel the nervous tension in the air. The girls kept looking around at the meandering crowd, who had no idea as to what was about to unfold, and shared crooked smiles.
"All right," I said at last, looking upon the table with its fliers spread out. The large sign was already garnering attention, with the words "EARTH DAY 2013" in large, neon green letters, surrounded by flower stickers.
Kit's face was glowing with excitement. "Ready?"
The others all watched me, waiting for a cue. No one wanted to be the first to get naked.
I gave my friend a nod, then casually pulled my shirt over my head. I could already feel eyes upon me before I even reached for the waistband of my shorts. As soon as those dropped to the ground, leaving me in nothing but tennis shoes, there were some gasps and muffled comments.
Those were drowned out by a noticeable hubbub of interested comments as the girls disrobed. Like me, they had chosen to wear clothing that was quick to come off and on. And off it all came, with the girls' faces becoming more and more red as they stripped down. Dozens of pairs of eyes drank in the sight of four naked girls and two naked men. Most of the attention, of course, was on the girls.
"Earth Day two thousand thirteen!" yelled Kit, bouncing up and down on her white Skechers. Her small but firm breasts jiggled nicely. As was her norm, she had shaved off her dark pubic hair, leaving her mound smooth and bare. Kit was one of those women with rather prominent labia, which were noticeable even when she stood.
"Whoo!" echoed Deanna, large, milky round breasts wobbling like moons in orbit. I had always wondered if she was a natural redhead, and my suspicions were now confirmed by the rather abundant orange-hued tuft of hair between her thighs. "Increase Earth Day awareness! Sign our petition to make Earth Day a national holiday!"
A look toward Paden had me chuckling. His eyes followed Deanna's movements with interest and longing. Judging from the way she winked and grinned at him, she was well aware of his attraction for her.
"Earth Day! Earth Day! Earth Day!" chanted Bill, gloriously nude in all his impressive roundness. He grinned as he clapped along with his words. Tanya and Letty joined him, also clapping and calling attention to themselves.
I was mildly surprised to see that Tanya had both of her dark, chocolate-colored nipples pierced with glittering silver hoops, and a matching ring dangled from the hood of her clitoris. Like Kit, she was smooth-shaved. In contrast, Letty's skin was lighter in tone but still had that natural bronzed tint to it. Her pubic hair was trimmed to the shape of a 'V.' Tattoos covered her right arm from shoulder to elbow in a sleeve, and another -- a classic sacred heart surrounded by barbed wire -- decorated the flesh above her petite breasts.
The milling crowd cautiously gathered closer, broad grins upon many a face. The presence of a uniformed officer gave as an obvious measure of legality, telling the crowd that what we were doing was okay.
"What's going on?" one man asked as he stepped forward from the crowd.
"We're raising awareness for Earth Day," Kit responded, as casual as could be in her nudity. I was impressed with how natural she acted. "Do you know what it is?"
"Uh . . ." His eyes wandered down Kit's lovely form. "I've heard of it . . . ."
She handed him one of the leaflets from the table. "Here," she said. "Some light reading for you. Basically, Earth Day is about our environment, our resources, and the impact we, as individual human beings, have on the planet. Would you like to sign our petition to make Earth Day an official US holiday?"
The man chuckled, glancing around at the buffet of nude flesh. "Honey, I'll do just about anything a hot naked woman asks me to do," he said, taking Kit's offered pen.
She grinned as the man signed. "Thank you! Happy Earth Day!" She moved on to the next, clipboard in hand. The rest of us followed suit.
A middle-aged woman approached me with another, younger woman whom I assumed was her daughter in tow. "Is this some kind of naturist campaign?" she asked me.
I smiled. "Not so much naturist as environmentalist," I told her. Over the woman's shoulder, her daughter, who was about my age, was rather timidly trying to sneak glances of my crotch. "We're raising awareness for Earth Day."
Her eyes drifted down my torso for a moment before popping back up to my face with a wry smile. "Oh, you're raising something, all right," she commented, then took the pen I held out for her.
Off to one side, Bill was laughing along with a small group of people as they signed his clipboard. Tanya and Letty seemed to be working in tandem, not minding the ogles and comments their naked bodies earned from the men and women around them.
And, of course, there were the pictures. Some people just stood back, snapping shots of us without coming forward, others wanted pictures with a hot naked girl . . . or guy. I posed for a few myself, including one with a couple of gay men who made some almost embarrassing comments. They, of course, signed my clipboard.
Within half an hour, we had over thirty signatures, accounting for around half of the people we saw in the courtyard. Not a bad percentage at all.
"Looks like we're a hit," I said to Kit during a lull in the activity.
She grinned. "You're loving this, I know," she said, looking me over briefly. "Not that I'm complaining about the view. You always did look good naked."
"Now, don't start giving me ideas," I warned her.
For a response, Kit simply arched an eyebrow and made a noncommittal noise before brushing her smooth hip against my leg and stepping away.
* * * *
After the theater and comedy club opened for business, the crowd grew exponentially. Some had already learned of our presence, and had come to see what the fuss was about, but others were shocked -- some pleasantly, others with genuine affront -- when they saw us. A couple of people approached Officer Paden to demand to know why we weren't being arrested.
"They have the right to be here," he said to them. "I'm here to make sure everything remains orderly."
"It's disgusting!" one woman cried before she dragged her husband back to the steps. "God made us ashamed of our bodies for a reason!"
Such reactions were in the extreme minority, though. While not everyone approached us, they at least looked, and our clipboards became filled with signatures. The six of us became more comfortable in our nudity, to the point where I sometimes forgot that I didn't have pockets or some other place to put my pen.
A few somewhat rowdy men exited the bar at one point and jeered at the girls, begging them to "Flash that gash! Flash that gash!" But a couple of menacing steps from Officer Paden put an end to that.
And then, of course, Theresa Cortes and her cameraman showed up, about two hours into it. The large shoulder-mounted camera was difficult to miss as it appeared above the top of the stairs, especially once the light snapped on. Theresa Cortes herself was very professionally dressed in a white skirt suit, with her hair elegantly coiffed and makeup touched up. She saw me right away and all but plowed her way through the crowd to get to me.
"I didn't think it would be hard to find you," she commented, not bothering to conceal her interest in my dangling penis. She smiled up at me and offered her hand. "I'm--"
"Theresa Cortes," I said. "WMAC Channel Twelve Action News. I know."
Her teeth glowed perfectly. "My reputation precedes me!" she exclaimed with a short laugh I was sure she had practiced many times before. "Quite the turnout," she commented with a quick look around. "You picked a choice location."
"That was all my co-organizer's doing," I said, beckoning to my partner in crime. She bounded over with a grin, sliding up beside me.
"This is Theresa Cortes, the reporter I told you about. Miss Cortes, Katherine Arlington."
"Call me Kit." My friend gave me a dubious look. "They're gonna show this on the news?"
"Oh, it'll be blurred out," interjected the cameraman quickly. The broad grin on his face was obvious. He could not seem to take his eyes of Kit. "I mean, they'll be blurred out. Your, um, your, uh . . . parts. I mean, they'll pixelate everything. Well, not everything, just the good parts. I-I mean--"
"Just get them from the shoulders up, John," Theresa said in an annoyed voice over her shoulder.
"Uh, this isn't going to be live, is it?" I asked.
The reporter's eyes bulged. "Oh, hell no!" she blurted, then laughed. "Last thing my producers want is your big dick swinging back and forth on everyone's TV. Even if it is blurred out."
Beside me, Kit snorted in mirth. "Might get your ratings up," she commented.
Theresa arched a brow as she once more ogled my penis. "In a more liberal time, maybe," she said, then shot me a smile. I forced a smile back, feeling some heat in my cheeks. The way this woman spoke about me was the way I had heard most guys speak about women. It felt strange to be a physical object.
"Okay, so, you ready to do it?"
Her question snapped me back to the moment. "I'm sorry?" I asked, but then her question filtered through and I blushed with self-admonishment. "Oh, sure. Let's get this show on the road."
* * * *
After the token preening to make sure her hair looked just right, Theresa faced her cameraman as the four of us stood off to the side of the courtyard. Our Earth Day table was still swarmed, yet there was enough attention given to Kit and I as we awaited the reporter's interview. A small group kept their distance, watching through either eyes or camera lenses, as Theresa began.
"Good evening. Earth Day has been around for more than forty years," the reporter informed, holding her microphone in that 'on-the-scene' way as she spoke to the camera. "But it's passage every year rarely involves much fanfare for our city. In this age of green technology and supposed awareness, it seems ironic that little attention is paid to the one day out of the year in which the planet we live on is given due credit. Well, today, we have a group of people who are trying to change that, and bring the literal naked truth to the rest of the world."
Not bad, I thought, feeling impressed by Theresa's words. Not bad at all.
John the cameraman followed Theresa as she moved so that Kit and I -- from the shoulders up, of course -- came into view. "Kevin Landry and Katherine Arlington, local sociology students, have put it all on the line to raise awareness -- and more than a few eyebrows -- for what they consider to be a day worthy of making into a national holiday. Tonight, they have shed both clothing and convention to get their point across."
She turned to me, eyes piercing in a way that was both businesslike and flirtatious. "Mr. Landry," she said. "What compelled you to come up with an idea like this? Appearing in the nude in a public environment is a little extreme, don't you think?"
I surprised myself with how ready I was to answer the question. "Well, I have to give credit where credit is due. The idea wasn't mine; it belongs to my friend Kit, here."
Kit stared at the camera like a doe before the headlights of an onrushing truck. "Hi," was all she said.
"But, an idea takes a lot of work to make it happen," Theresa said.
I nodded. "Yes, it does," I agreed. "And we have put a lot of work into it. For us, Earth Day isn't just a fad or convenient catch-phrase. We really feel that, to go forward as conscientious Americans, we need to take into account the needs of our environment, not just ourselves."
"It certainly seems you're making an impact here," Theresa said, and at her prompting, the cameraman panned back and forth across the courtyard as she continued. "In fact, as far as I can see, a very big impact."
That she glanced briefly to my crotch as she spoke that last line did not escape me. Suddenly, I felt an undeniable urge to best the reporter at her own game.
"Well, we definitely wanted to jack up interest concerning Earth Day," I said.
The corners of her mouth curled as Theresa realized what I was up to. "Doing so in public without clothes? That's certainly a different stroke."
I shrugged. "It's bringing attention to the issue, isn't it?" I asked rhetorically. I gestured around at the crowd behind me. "I doubt we'd have as much of a turnout if we didn't, you know, sweeten the pot. A bird in the hand being worth two in the bush and all that."
Kit suddenly pinched me, almost making me wince, and I did my best to suppress a smile.
"So how many signatures have you gathered for your petition?" Theresa asked, her dark eyes beginning to smolder. I suddenly wondered if my rhetoric had been misconstrued as verbal foreplay. Or maybe she was aroused by a challenge.
"Last I checked --" I glanced to Kit. "-- we had about four-fifty or so."
Kit nodded. "Sounds right. I know I've gone through three sheets on my clipboard, with forty signatures per sheet."
"That's very impressive," the reporter commented, eyes once again dipping to my crotch. I didn't know if she was doing that in the hope of getting a rise out of me, or if she was trying to make me falter by calling attention to my nudity.
"As I said, it was all Kit's idea," I said, slipping an arm around my friend's narrow shoulders. She melded into the hug much more willingly than I had expected, settling a hand to my chest. "She's always trying to get me in trouble."
"But he loves it," Kit remarked.
Theresa's confidence suddenly seemed to waiver, her eyes darting between Kit and I. But then she mustered herself and effected that professional smirk of hers. "So, do you see this is the beginning of a yearly event? National Naked Earth Day?"
"I don't think we want to be those kinds of pioneers," I said with a chuckle. "Maybe someone else will be inspired for next year, and Earth Day will be more than a three-hour carnival on a Sunday afternoon. All we wanted to do was give today the prominence it deserves."
"Absolutely," I said without hesitation, and winked at the reporter. "Got you down here, didn't it?"
She glared back for a moment, but the smile stretching her mouth was genuine. "It did indeed," she said, then turned to face the camera. "And is that what it takes to draw attention to a yearly event that, around the world, is celebrated by more than a billion people? Why are we, in this city, content to give Earth Day little more than a nod to those few environmental lobbyists who bother to petition for recognition?
"Standing with these students, before these businesses whose owners have so bravely offered their space, I can honestly say that I am proud to have been at least some small part of an event which I am certain will grow significantly in the near future.
"This is Theresa Cortes, for Channel Twelve Action News."
The light switched off, for which I was glad, and a sudden chorus of applause rose from the crowd nearest us, which grew and multiplied rapidly throughout the entire courtyard. More than simply being naked in a public place, the gesture made both Kit and I blush deeply.
"That was some pretty good writing," I said to Theresa. "I mean, the opening and conclusion. Pretty poetic stuff."