Stormy’s Port and Polish

by Annie Lampman Read author interview September 16, 2019

The smell of hot straw and wood chips makes her think of elementary school days: parallel bars, monkey bars, swing sets she high-jumped from, landing wrist and ankle deep in pale shavings. Slivers of pine and fir.

Her booth is sandwiched between the poultry barn and the swine shed. Nothing like a little pig slop to make you want to clean your cellular device. But it’s okay with her—roosters crowing all day, cute little 4-H kids in big belt buckles and barn boots leading their sows, ewes, and billies by, keeping their eyes carefully canted away.

A mawkish teen nursing a sparse mustache saunters over, leaving a group of his opening-day friends clustered behind, staring and tittering. A herd of young, unwethered rams. The brave one, the boy leans on her counter trying to look nonchalant as he reviews the details of her hand-lettered sign: Saline, not silicone—just the right firmness and give.

“Five bucks?” he asks, his voice cracking.

“Side offer or full frontal, big man?” She tilts her head, smiles at the beads of sweat rimming his peach-fuzzed lips, his Adam’s apple jumping and bobbing as he swallows her words. The newest county-fair thrill ride.

He pulls out a sweaty, crumpled five. “It’s all I have left,” he says, a note of desperation in his voice. Spun sugar and elephant ears. Carmel apples and Red-Hots. He glances back at his friends, the Zipper behind them whirring and flashing in its final spin cycle, occupants tumbling in lit-up cages, faces flashing up and down in flip-book action as the music blares.

She winks at him as she takes his smudged phone. She tilts her neck to the side, breathing in as she closes her eyes and rolls her shoulders back and chest out, each movement extended to its max before finally, she holds the phone to her mouth and releases her strawberry-gum-scented breath onto the glass, fogging the screen. She rubs the moist casing along the side of her cotton-stretched breast, caressing the device as gently as a lover’s face, catching her breath as she eases the edges alongside her nipple, covering all the surface area.

“A little freebie on me,” she says, keeping her voice low and husky as she hands it back to him, glass polished to a high gleam.

He holds it pinched between a finger and thumb like a freshly-printed Polaroid, careful not to touch the screen as he walks back to his friends, and she knows she’s got them all now—the men walking by, their bodies turning toward her against their will; the belt-buckled boys spitting chew juice into the dust outside the animal barns; the grad-student girls with studded eyebrows looking to test their own limits. She leans over and blows them a kiss—the boy and his friends. Remembers standing, feet planted in wood chips, swinging a lasso over her head in wide, sagging loops until the moment of release, rope catching the air and singing out for capture.

About the Author:

Annie Lampman’s works of short fiction, narrative essays, and poetry have recently been published or are forthcoming in journals and anthologies such as The Normal School, Orion Magazine, The Massachusetts Review, and Women Writing the West, among numerous others. Her work has been awarded the 2020 Literature Fellowship special mention by the Idaho Commission on the Arts, the 2019 Dogwood Literary Award in Fiction, a Best American Essays “Notable,” a Pushcart Prize Special Mention, first place in the Everybody Writes poetry contest, an Idaho Arts writing grant, and a national wilderness artist’s residency through the Bureau of Land Management. She lives with her family in Moscow, Idaho where she received her MFA in fiction from the University of Idaho. She is a professor of honors creative writing at the Washington State University Honors College.

About the Artist:

Fanny Cammaert is a digital artist living in Belgium. She adopted the stage name Lizzie Stardust as a member of the electro group Velvet Underwear. Since recording and touring with that group, she began working in visual media. Drawing on the kilim weaving that is part of her Ukrainian heritage, her art explores the interplay of digital patterns and electronic glitches. Thematically, her work brings digital infinity into connection with human emotions.