SmokeLong Quarterly

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Three-Second Angels

Story by Judd Hampton (Read author interview) December 15, 2004

The canyon jumpers reject your currency. They speak a progressive language, a language you mistrust and fear. The boys come dressed in deep baggy jeans, pre-soiled and studded for your displeasure. The girls reveal too much stomach, various degrees of chub, bellybutton ornaments, and jeans too low-cut for safety. The boys experiment with toothpicks wedged between their teeth. The girls snap ultra-cool-mint gum.

The canyon jumpers already know your ways to fall. They have their own ways. You suspect their ways are suspect.

They come after class, feet clapping the pavement with exaggerated goose steps they learned from twentieth century history films. Cars pass them leaving wide berths. The canyon jumpers have nothing to say so they speak the words they hear at home.

They come with unexpected names. Keshtin, Bradleshaw and Wristen. Cholena, Marisitomia and Pirthenilly. No Jacks and Jills go up these hills anymore. It is as if their parents named them expecting their angels to take flight. Before reality was realized. Before expectations expired. Their mothers scrub toilets. Their fathers smell of gasoline.

“Why bother?”

“Why try?”

“Who cares?”

These are just words they speak at home.

“You’re selfish.”

“You’re a disappointment.”

“You’re a goddamn waste.”

These are just words they hear at home.

The canyon jumpers elbow through tour groups whose pullovers and heavy backpacks smack of gift-shop ambush. The tourists speak a language of mediocrity the canyon jumpers abhor.

The canyon is their religion, a spiritual thing. The tourists are infidels. The canyon jumpers worship in endless pews of spruce and Douglas fir, a steeple of blue sky and sunlight, the rising spray from the canyon like a moist halo. They follow a footpath to emerald-green holy water and they anoint themselves. And then they climb.

When they reach the overhanging ledge, they bow their heads in reverence. “Remember Avery,” one of them says. “Remember Charlene.” In turn they step to the edge and spit. Fifty feet. One hundred feet. What does the drop matter?

They are quiet. Anxious. Fear is involved. The girls embrace the boys.

“Tighter, I can’t feel you,” one says.

“Well, you know—” says another.

“I wish. I wish. I wish.”

These are just words they speak.

The canyon jumpers have learned to hold no faith in expectation. “See you at the bottom,” they say, for luck. And then they soar. They fly like angels. Three seconds.

Three seconds to undo.

About the Author

Judd Hampton lives in rural Alberta, Canada among the pump jacks and canola fields of the north. His writing has appeared in Night Train, Vestal Review, Flashquake, Paumanok Review, Danforth Review and NFG magazine, among others.

About the Artist

A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison’s work here.

This story appeared in Issue Seven of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Seven

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