Summer Stories: The Fair
A collection of short stories from local authors
We asked some of Spokane’s most acclaimed writers to create new works of short fiction based on the theme of “The Fair.” Some writers tripped back to 1974 and visited Expo. Others have kicked up dust on the midways and in the barns of the county fair. Either way, they delivered. Ten writers. Ten stories. Ten weeks. In the coming weeks, you’ll be invited to read new works by Shawn Vestal, Bruce Holbert, Sharma Shields, Gregory Spatz, Kris Dinnison, Sam Ligon, Polly Buckingham, Shann Ray and Nance Van Winckel. We wrap things up on Sept. 7 with a new story from Jess Walter, the National Book Award finalist and New York Times best-selling author of “Beautiful Ruins.”
So sit back, relax, and enjoy.
Carolyn Lamberson, Spokesman-Review features editor
By Jess Walter
Guy’s name was Argyle Borfus. I hired him fall of ’74 to track down my wife after she ran off with our hippie pool boy to this turd-burg, Spokane, Washington.
I flew up there, searched the campgrounds by the river. Nothing. Podunk cops were no help. Desk sergeant didn’t even look up. “We look like marriage counselors?”
By Nance Van Winckel
For the third April morning in a row, Doctor Swift has turned off his pager, put his finger to his lips, and nodded conspiratorially to Delia, who closes the closet door on him, gently. He’s perched in her lawn chair in there amid the industrial-strength everythings: cleaners for glass, for chrome, and for the marble hospital foyer it’s her job and hers alone to make shimmer.
By Jill Malone
My mother first visited Spokane to see Expo ‘74 and to meet my father’s extended family. I hitched a ride as a fetus, and only know these stories secondhand: the Soviet Pavilion, President Nixon at the opening ceremony, my legendary aunt, Lucy, nearly undone by cancer, struggling to navigate the crowds at the first environmentally themed world’s fair. We were the little city that could. Although not mine yet, Spokane would come later, after 20 years of military life, traveling to other cities with other fairs.
By Shann Ray
Presumably we had driven 12 hours to see Expo ’74, but as we crossed plains and topped mountains my father’s face seemed to grow heavy and on the final span of road near St. Regis not more than a few hours out from Spokane, it seemed his head was an anvil that rested above his chest. His eyes stared lazily at the road as if to announce a new pattern of sleep.
By Polly Buckingham
Chester’s sister Cat and her best boyfriend David left Chester alone at the fair. He begged and begged to play the game where he could win a giant stuffed dog. The dogs were almost as big as him and had glass plates on their heads. He wanted the St. Bernard dog most of all because he had the saddest eyes.
By Jessica Halliday
Tracy Tasker was everything everyone wanted to be. She was a sixth-grader. She had a boyfriend. She wore a bra.
Before we saw her, I was everything everyone wanted to be, at the fair with no parents, my only order to keep Nathan off the scary rides. I told Nathan he could hang out with me as long as he didn’t act stupid, to which he told me “You have to watch me, Mom said,” to which I said “Who’s Mom going to believe when I tell her you ran off,” to which he said something stupid but I couldn’t hear it because: that’s when I saw her, Tracy, Rickey’s arm draped over her neck.
By Samuel Ligon
I didn’t know a woman could have such glowing skin, such carriage. Her beard wasn’t heavy or long like Stonewall Jackson’s, but delicate, wispy, crow purple black. On her sideshow board, she was a hairy demon, eyes popping from her head, but in the flesh she was powerful and fragile, her hair cut in a perfect Prince Valiant. Every time I saw her I felt born again.
By Kris Dinnison
I had used my Expo ’74 season pass at least a dozen times before Uncle Fudd and Aunt June came for their annual visit. My sister and I didn’t really understand exactly how they were related to us, but they were a fixture in our summertime landscape, as seasonal as the ice cream truck or the August meteor showers.
By Gregory Spatz
We don’t mean to make you sick. We mean only to remind you of the essential rule of chaos to which all things in the universe are, or should be, subservient. Relax! You’re safe in us – safe as if you were in the bottom of a spinning teacup, but better and more comfortably accommodated, semicircular padded shell to contain you, safety bar across your lap!
By Beth Cooley
“Would the owner of a little boy in blue jeans and a black Myrtle Beach T-shirt please come to Northwest Aqua Comfort to pick him up.” The loudspeaker crackled and shut off.
Marissa dropped the DeLux EZ Bun back on the display table and quickly scanned the crowd until she spotted Rob. He was checking out knives at Silver Valley Hunt Supply. Asa wasn’t with him. Rob caught her eye, smiled and waved. Idiot! Hadn’t he heard the loud speaker? How many little boys in black Myrtle Beach T-shirts could there be at the Spokane County Interstate Fair?
By Sharma Shields
“This is all about the environment, kids,” Mom tells Ernie and me. She opens an arm up toward the river, which is slow-moving, wide and clean. “It’s all about how man and nature can live in harmony.”
She’s been repeating some version of this since we arrived, and Ernie’s stopped listening. He’s peering at the map, trying to find the A&W.
“No more international food,” he mutters. “A hamburger. A root beer float. No more rice.”
By Leah Sottile
Benji’s pock-marked green Geo Metro — the one with glittering rims on the front wheels and donuts on the back — announced their arrival, rocketing a storm cloud of brown into the air above the dirt fairground parking lot. Dust mixed with the aroma of deep fried Twinkies and cotton candy. Tiny, already queasy from the bumpy ride, turned her face toward her open window and breathed in the familiar fair smell.
This bonus short story is offered exclusively on Spokesman.com
Breakfast: a half dozen scrambled eggs, fried salami, a glass of chocolate milk; and one trip to the toilet until his hand steadies. The half-open window bleeds light onto the floor, but the breeze today comes from the mountain, not the city; it smells clean which provides relief. Today is Labor Day and Clarence Darrow Culnane has a job on a register at The Dollar Store, part-time, but with a promise that if he worked out it would turn more.
By Shawn Vestal
His favorite combinations were the contradictions, the strange ones. Brassieres and pistols. Windmills and bustles. He would scissor the images with an exactitude he found calming, seeking the perfect separation from the page. A quarter-sawed rocking chair. A bottle of coca wine. A jar of bust cream.