Trevor’s Ride At The Rodeo (Chapter 13)


Standing near the curb at the edge of a downtown sidewalk in front of their parked cars on a mid-September Wednesday afternoon, mid-teen friends Lauren Nelson, Haylee McPherson, and Carly Hansen enthusiastically traded stories of the new school year with one another as they puffed away on their half-smoked cigarettes.

“I’m so bad at math!” Lauren exclaimed before taking a quick but intense drag from her Marlboro Light 100 and then continued through a talking exhale, “I barely got through Algebra I and I’m already in way over my head only two weeks into Algebra II!”

“You’re lucky that you have Miss Thorstad.  She’s actually good,” Carly responded in reference to a teacher from their mutual high school that she knew Lauren would be aware of.  “I have Mr. Glynn and he can’t teach math worth shit.”

“Geometry for me,” replied the sophomore Haylee who attended a different high school than the two cousins who were both juniors, her Camel Pink No. 9 dangling lazily from her lips as it usually did.  She puckered up for a dangling drag and then added, “I’m not bad at math but geometry still seems really hard so far.”

Carly took a drag from her cigarette and then looked Haylee’s direction to respond, “I wasn’t great at geometry but I can definitely try to help any time you’re stuck.”

Haylee nodded appreciatively taking another dangling drag and responding “I will probably take you up on that,” with a mess of smoke spraying out of her mouth, noticing that her cigarette was nearing its end.

Lauren looked at Carly with bewilderment as she took an intense double-pump final drag from her cigarette and then teased Carly by saying, “You never helped me a damn bit with geometry and I could have used it!”

The girls laughed at Lauren’s bluntness as Lauren flicked her spent cigarette butt to the curb and Haylee removed hers from her mouth and littered it on the sidewalk beneath her feet before both girls instinctively reached into their purses to grab another from their respective packs.  Carly looked down to her cigarette to see there was still a third left, not surprised she was lagging behind the much harder-core smokers Lauren and Haylee, but approached her cigarette to her mouth for an intense closing drag in a desperate attempt to seem as though she was capable of keeping up with them.

As Lauren and Haylee both lit up their new cigarettes and began to put their respective packs back in their purses, Carly called out, “Mind if I bum one more?”

“Sure,” Lauren responded through a talking dangle of the fresh cigarette she had just lit, preparing to pluck out another cigarette for Carly.

“I was actually talking to Haylee,” Carly responded with a sarcastic flair, eliciting more giggles from the trio before she added,  “I have to smoke your awful Marlboro Lights at school, but if I have literally any other option I’m going with that!”

Haylee beamed with a smile as she plucked out another Camel Pink No. 9 from her pack, smoke spewing from her face off of her latest endless dangle as she handed it to Carly.

“If my cigarettes are that bad, you don’t have to bum them from me at school anymore!” Lauren responded with her playful, teasing vocal flourish, smoke spewing from her mouth and nose after every syllable.

Carly aggressively nodded in the negative as she placed Haylee’s Camel Pink in her mouth and prepared her lighter, “Yours are still better than no nicotine at all!”

Carly flicked her lighter in attempt to fire up her cigarette, but repeated attempts all failed to ignite as the lighter was dysfunctionally low on butane.  Lauren began to fish her lighter out of her purse and teasingly asked Carly, “My lighter is still good enough for you I hope?” extending her hand for Carly to take hold.

A light went off in Carly’s head as she looked at Haylee and Lauren, excitedly requesting, “No….let’s monkey fuck!”

“Oh good idea!” Lauren responded, placing her cigarette in her mouth and squeezing forward along with Haylee and Carly.  Lauren couldn’t resist giggling as the three of them pressed the ends of their cigarettes together, with Lauren and Haylee’s lit cherries slowly bringing to life Carly’s unlit cigarette over the course of about 15 seconds.  A geyser of smoke erupted in the center of this circle with all three girls’ cigarettes being consumed at a faster-than-normal clip during the light-up effort. The girls then broke apart, a chemical fog between them so thick they could barely see each other for a few seconds.

“That was fun!” Lauren exclaimed, removing the dangling cigarette from her mouth.

Haylee kept her cigarette parked between her lips as she resumed the conversation where it left off based on Carly’s comment that intrigued her.  “So you give her cigarettes at school?” Haylee asked through a talking dangle.

“During lunch,” Lauren corrected.  “We go out to my car and smoke together during lunch.  When you get your license, you’ll get to do that too.”

Haylee smirked through her cigarette and quipped,  “Who says I have to wait till I get my license to smoke during lunch?”

Carly’s eyes got big as she pressed, “You smoke on school grounds?”

Haylee responded with a smug affirmative nod, smoke billowing from her face as she exhaled with pride and then responded, “I got a secret place in the ventilation ducts where I sneak some cigarettes during lunch,” pausing to belch out a residual exhale and adding, “Never got caught last year and still pulling it off this year.”

Lauren laughed.  “Oh that’s right….you told me about that last spring.  You’re really lucky to have a spot like that.  I’m usually dying for a cigarette all morning and afternoon.  Got used to smoking all the time over the summer and it’s not a fun adjustment!”  She placed her half-smoked cigarette in her lips and dangled as she lifted the arm of her T-shirt to show the tan line from where a nicotine patch was fastened to her upper arm for much of the daytime hours of school days, then following up through a talking dangle, “I use a patch during school.  It helps some but not the same as a cig.”

Carly dragged from her cigarette while listening, struck once again that it was her who corrupted Lauren into trying smoking two years earlier, but Lauren’s habit had now become a full-blown addiction that totally eclipsed Carly’s.

The jangle of a bell in the direction of the nearby tack and western storefront drew Lauren’s attention as its front door opened, particularly since she’d be going in there as soon as she finished her cigarette.  Two late teen or early 20s guys stepped outside, duded up in cowboy attire with hats, shirts, and tight Wranglers that looked like they came straight off of the ranch…or at least the line dance floor.  Lauren could feel her female hormones instinctively rage as she looked at the two guys walking in her direction.  Even with the risk of being busted, she gave two abrupt nudges in the direction of her friends, nudging Carly first with her left elbow and then Haylee with her right elbow, alerting them to look up for the emerging matinee of rugged masculinity coming their way and flashing a smile to the guys on her friends’ behalf.

Haylee and Carly both made a flash of eye contact with the young cowboys as they approached, the guys struck by the unusual vision of three mid-teen girls publicly smoking cigarettes.  The cowboys’ eyes darted from one girl to the next admiringly, taking in the group’s apparent alpha female Lauren decked out in her white T-shirt and pale blue denim miniskirt, then drifting to the younger-looking Haylee wearing a pink blouse and pale blue jeans with the out-of-place cigarette dangling from her lips, and finally moving to Carly, dressed in her more utilitarian sweatshirt and dark jeans.

Lauren could feel her heartbeat accelerate as the cowboys approached, their eyes mostly focused on her since she was the only one looking at them.  She flashed a friendly smile, but didn’t want to give them the wrong idea since she was taken, quickly realizing the guys were losing interest based on the apathetic responses of Lauren’s friends.

“Hey girls,” the two guys said, one of them tipping his hat with a friendly but harmless greeting as they proceeded on past.

“Hi guys,” Lauren replied sweetly, still hoping Carly and Haylee would follow her lead and start flirting.

Instead, the shy Carly looked to the ground, unwilling to make additional eye contact and feeling inferior next to her much prettier friends who she knew the cowboys would have gravitated to instead of her if they did stop for conversation.  And Haylee removed the cigarette from her mouth and cut loose a fierce smoker’s cough, following it up with a loud lugie she hocked up from deep in her lungs and then spit out onto the sidewalk oblivious to the response from the cowboys as they passed.  Lauren put her hand over her face in embarrassment of Haylee’s crude and tone-deaf gesture.

Once the cowboys were out of hearing range, an apoplectic Lauren looked at her friend and cousin and emphatically inquired, “Are you two out of your minds??!?!  They were sooo into us!” followed by an ironic smoker’s cough of her own.

Haylee and Carly looked up to Lauren, both searching for a response but not immediately finding one, instead tending to their cigarettes for respective drags while considering their alibis.

“You know flirting with guys is not my thing,” Carly finally retorted.

With the stub of her Camel Pink puckered between her lips for a final dangling drag, Haylee responded, “I probably did them a favor.  They’re both probably over 18 so my parents would have had them thrown in jail if they smiled at me!”

Lauren didn’t immediately know how to respond to that, taking a final drag from her Marlboro Light 100 and flicking the butt to the curb, before shaking her head in frustration and finally saying, “You two soooo need to get yourself some boyfriends,” knowing that for their own distinct reasons, neither was probably ready for one any time soon.

After another couple of moments of awkward silence, Lauren pressed ahead, “There will probably be all kinds of cowboys like them at the rodeo on Saturday.  You two should come with.  It’ll be so much fun!” referencing her weekend plans to go to a rodeo in southern Minnesota in Wade Rosenquist’s hometown, with Wade, Courtney, and Trevor all going for the drive to see his cousin Shane compete in the regional rodeo.

“Don’t look at me.  I gotta babysit,” Haylee responded, taking advantage of the convenient excuse to remain socially checked out and in her comfort zone, distanced from any pressure to mingle with boys who weren’t named Jacob Roth.

Carly took a drag from her nearly expired cigarette and said, “Sorry Lauren.  Just doesn’t sound like my thing.  I think I’ll just have a quiet weekend at home.”

Lauren seemed disappointed at her friends’ lack of interest as she watched Carly take a final drag from the cigarette and then drop it to the curb.

“But I want you to have fun!” Carly added in hopes of redirecting the conversation back to Lauren.  “Should we go inside and pick out your outfit?” she asked pointing in the direction of the tack and western wear store that the cowboys exited only moments earlier.

Lauren’s frown quickly morphed back into a smile as she took Carly’s advice and led the way to the store entrance with Carly and Haylee following her inside.  The girls took in the pleasing smell of the leather and oils that filled the western store, as everybody inside the store took in the smell of fresh tobacco clinging to the unlikely teenage girls who just walked in.

A half hour passed with Haylee and Carly standing outside the dressing room awaiting Lauren’s repeated exits trying on the multiple country girl outfits that caught her eye, and the girls were starting to lose interest.  But it was worth the wait for all when Lauren emerged from the dressing room decked out in the outfit they all knew was right.  Lauren beamed as she posed and twirled around for her friends decked out in a low-cut, button-down plaid blouse tucked into a pair of tight medium-blue jeans with a button fly, both of which fit Lauren’s shapely body to perfection.

“Oh Lauren, it looks so good on you!” Haylee complimented.

“Thanks!” Lauren responded, pleased that her best friend concurred that this was the best outfit she’d tried on.

“Trevor’s gonna love seeing you in that!” Carly added.

“That’s what I’m hoping!” Lauren said with a sweet flourish, before drifting toward the cowboy hats, curious if she should try to add to her ensemble.  She lifted a hat off the display and placed it on top of her head, turning to Carly and Haylee and asking “Think I can pull this off?”

Haylee and Carly both looked skeptical as they looked Lauren over, the hat not fully winning them over as being compatible with Lauren’s milieu.  Carly shook her head and gave her a so-so hand gesture accompanied by a verbal “Meh!”

Lauren hung her head and began to try on other hats, hoping she’d find one that her friends would think looked right for her, but Haylee’s attention was soon directed at another display featuring hair products.  Haylee smiled as she walked over to the display and took one down, announcing to Lauren, “I’ve got a better idea.”

Lauren walked over to see what Haylee was holding as Haylee read the logo aloud.  “Drybar Texas Tea Volumizing Hair Spray,” Haylee announced, fluttering her eyebrows and continuing to read the logo before adding, “Fuck the cowgirl hat.  This will give you that big Texas hair look!  It would be perfect for a Saturday at the rodeo!”

Lauren once again beamed as she looked it over and was quickly won over.  “You’re right!  I’m picking this up!”

The girls were giddy as Lauren went back to the dressing room to change into her regular clothes before coming back out to buy the plaid blouse, tight jeans, and hair spray.  Lauren took out her credit card and had some brief friendly banter with the middle-aged male clerk as he bagged her purchase.  He thought he smelled cigarette smoke on the girls when they walked in and was surprised by it, and was surprised again as Lauren and Haylee reached into their purses and plucked out their respective cigarette packs as they drifted toward the exit.  Lauren placed an unlit cigarette between her lips as she began to open the door while Haylee fished out a cigarette for herself and one for Carly.  They stepped outside and seconds later flicked their lighters to satisfy the mid-level cravings that had built during their half hour in this store.

Lauren looked at her phone to see it was 4:35 as she pulled hard off of her freshly lit cigarette, and then announced to her friends, “I gotta get going and meet Wade by 5,” looking to Carly and asking, “Can you take Haylee home in your car?”

Confused looks emerged on Haylee and Carly’s faces as Carly nodded affirmatively in response to Lauren’s request, with Haylee then asking through a talking dangle off of her own freshly lit cigarette the obvious question on both of their minds.  “Why do you have to meet Wade?”

A mischievous smirk emerged on Lauren’s face as she took another deep drag from the cigarette and eventually answered, “He’s got something to teach me for Saturday.”

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Trevor McPherson sat on the front steps of his parents’ house Saturday morning awaiting the arrival of Lauren as well as Wade and Courtney to make the one and a half hour drive southeast to Wade’s hometown for the rodeo, looking at his phone to see it was 8:03 a.m. and knowing they’d be arriving any time now. Trevor wasn’t particularly thrilled about the idea of spending his Saturday at this rodeo, but Lauren wanted to go when Wade and Courtney asked and Trevor knew they’d make the most of whatever time they spent together.  He looked up to see Wade’s long-in-the-tooth extended-cab truck driving down the block toward his house and waved as Wade pulled into the driveway.

Trevor’s older sister Courtney was sitting in the passenger side and opened the door to briefly step outside.  Courtney had a shit-eating smirk on her face that raised Trevor’s suspicion until he was distracted checking out her outfit, a cowgirl hat atop her head along with a white button-down blouse paired with a pair of black leather pants with fringes that managed to be consistent with her preferred wardrobe mainstays yet suitable for an early fall day at the rodeo.

“We better get going,” Courtney called out to Trevor, motioning him toward the truck with that suspicious grin still smeared all over her face.  “The rodeo starts at 11 and we want a good seat.”

A confused look formed on Trevor’s face as he responded, “Well I have to wait for Lauren.  We’re all riding together, right?”

Wade then chimed in from behind the wheel of the driver’s seat, a shit-eating smirk of his own as he stuck his hand out the rolled-down window to motion Trevor their direction.  “C’mon, Trevor.  You can squeeze on in to my tight little backseat here and wait for Lauren to get here.  Then we gotta split.”

Wade and Courtney’s tones were incredibly odd and their request didn’t make sense, but Trevor nonetheless started walking toward the truck, realizing he was about to get pranked and trying to figure out what it was all about as he slowly progressed forward.  A burst of cigarette smoke going airborne from the truck bed tipped Trevor off seconds before the moment of revelation as his girlfriend began standing up from her crouched position where she’d been hiding out of sight for the last couple of blocks.

Lauren flashed a mischievous smirk as she emerged in full view of Trevor decked out like he’d never seen her before in sexy cowgirl duds.   The top button of her plaid blouse was left unbuttoned, showing off an appetizer of cleavage, while her tight Wrangler jeans hugged her hourglass figure like an extra layer of skin, the button fly snugly showing off the curvature of her lower waist and crotch.  And most strikingly, her dark blond hair was puffed up like a vintage Dallas debutante.  Her masterpiece was official and complete as she placed her cigarette to her lips and let it dangle, then surprising Trevor yet again when she unveiled her hand that she’d been holding behind her back since she stood up and revealed a lasso rope.

Lauren couldn’t refrain from giggling through the extended dangle of her cigarette as she began twirling around the lasso rope just as Wade had showed her a few nights earlier.  Trevor smiled as he figured out the prank, listening to Wade and Courtney laugh in the background but unwilling to take his eyes off of his impossibly sexy girlfriend for even a second as she concentrated on the lasso rope while twirling it and then released it Trevor’s direction.  Wade and Courtney cheered as the airborne lasso landed perfectly over Trevor’s shoulders.  He held his breath anticipating discomfort as Lauren yanked the rope at just the right moment to corral Trevor’s upper body.  She pulled it tight and Trevor played along, moving forward with his arms and chest fully contained within the rope until he was pulled to the edge of the truck bed.

Trevor was turned on beyond words at the sight of his girlfriend reeling him in, a steady haze of cigarette smoke hovering around her beautiful face as she dangle-dragged the half-smoked cigarette, ultimately kneeling back down to the truck bed so that she was face to face with the ensnared Trevor.  She finally removed the cigarette from her mouth and listened to the cheers from Courtney and Wade as she leaned in to plant a passionate kiss on Trevor’s lips, still pulling on the lasso rope with her free hand knowing that Trevor was getting off on being her captive as she forced her ashtray mouth upon him in this vulnerable position.  The extreme aroma of the cigarette smoke on her breath blended nicely with the fresh aroma of the hair spray that added to the intoxicating presence she was imposing upon him.

After several seconds of intense kissing, Lauren pulled away and softly muttered, “Really got the power over you this morning,” winking at him to make sure he knew she had remembered and continued to internalize his confession to her on the Sky Glider at the Minnesota State Fair regarding the sexiness of her smoking and the power it had on him.  She stared at him with intense affection as she placed the cigarette back to her lips for another deep drag, and Trevor kept his eyes locked on her for every nanosecond of it until she broke the silence by adding, “Now let’s get going to a real rodeo.”

Lauren climbed over the edge of the truck bed, revealing to Trevor the sexy black boots that had been the hidden portion of her ensemble up until this point, dangling her cigarette as she pushed off the edge of the truck bed and landed on her feet on Trevor’s driveway.  In the moments after his lust for Lauren’s sexy outfit started to scale down a tick, he looked up to Courtney’s leather cowgirl outfit and Wade’s more traditional country boy look, complete with cowboy hat and boots, and became self-conscious about being insufficiently duded up himself.  As he looked down to his conventional T-shirt, jeans, and tennis shoes, he was about to request to go back into the house to see if he could find something else in his wardrobe that might be more appropriate for the occasion, until Wade verbally reminded the group about the timeline.

“Well….we better take off,” Wade announced, briefly pulling up the seat in his extended cab truck allowing access to the diminutive backseat.  He looked into the relatively small space in the truck and then looked at Trevor and Lauren to reaffirm the stated plans.  “It’s gonna be kinda tight back there.  I’ll be happy to take you with if you want to ride with us but I can’t promise your legs won’t get cramped.”

“That’s okay!” Lauren answered for both of them perkily, smoke spraying from her mouth and nose as she gave a brief flirty side-eye to Trevor and then added, “We won’t mind being cozy together for a couple of hours.”

“Oooooh!” Courtney said, high-fiving Lauren for the aggressive gesture while expelling a long stream of mentholated smoke that drifted toward Trevor and Lauren’s faces.

Trevor still wanted to change clothes but didn’t want to hold up the show as Lauren waved him inside, saying “After you, sir!” and then adding, “I should take the window seat behind Courtney so I can ash out of it,” before looking to Wade to make sure he didn’t mind, “…if you don’t mind me smoking in your truck.”

Wade nodded reassuringly, adding “With the way this girl smokes, I better be okay with smoking in my truck,” in reference to Courtney.

Lauren giggled and then climbed into the cramped backseat of the extended cab truck next to Trevor, heeding Wade’s warning as he warned them to watch their knees as he pushed the seat back.  Lauren smiled sweetly as Trevor and said, “Not too bad back here,” even though both of them slid their legs to the right to squeeze into the tight seat.

“Good to hear but we’ll see if you still feel that way an hour and a half down the road,” Wade mused, climbing into the driver’s seat as Courtney climbed into the passenger seat.  Courtney took a final drag from her cigarette just as Lauren took a final drag from hers, dual streams of exhaled smoke flowing out the opened passenger side window as Courtney tossed her butt into her parents’ driveway a split second before Lauren flicked hers in the same general direction.

Lauren looked at Courtney’s reflection in the rearview mirror and began to socialize.  “How do you like college, Courtney?”

Lauren picked up on Courtney’s mixed feelings from the look on her face in the rearview mirror before she started talking.  “Ugh….” Courtney began with mild frustration, “…I’m trying not think about it until tomorrow night when I get back to my mountain of homework.”

“That bad?” Lauren probed.

“Well…” Courtney began to qualify, “…it’s certainly an adjustment.  I’m sure I’ll settle in as I get used to my classes and the campus culture more.  But for now, I’m really glad I get to come home to my comfort zone at night,” she closed, darting her eyes briefly in Wade’s direction in acknowledgment of how much easier Wade was making this transition for her.

Wade began to pull out of the McPherson’s driveway as Courtney looked over her shoulder into the backseat, bantering with Lauren for a couple more minutes about the start of their respective school years.  As the conversation began to wind down, Courtney noticed Lauren taking her Marlboro Lights 100s pack out of her purse and plucking one out, inserting it in her lips and handing her lighter to Trevor.  Watching Lauren dangle the unlit cigarette from her lips while conversing with her and casually beckoning a light from a smitten Trevor, Courtney was mentally processing the dynamic and reaching some obvious conclusions.  As the smoke blasted from Lauren’s mouth and nose after Trevor lit her up, Courtney’s mind flashed back to that first time Lauren came over to have dinner with the McPherson family almost a year earlier.  She remembered being shocked that the unlikely girl-next-door Lauren was a smoker, and recalled the moment Becky insisted Trevor light up his girlfriend’s cigarette.  Yet here they all were again embarking on a road trip to southern Minnesota and quite a few things that didn’t make sense to Courtney then did now….

It wasn’t until her sex therapy sessions and fledgling interest in psychology that Courtney began to connect the dots on the complicated connection of smoking in her father’s relationship with her mother, and in her response to her own inappropriate feelings toward her father.  Looking at Trevor so dutifully attend to Lauren’s nicotine needs right here in front of her, it was painfully obvious to Courtney now that Steve wasn’t the only male member of the McPherson family who had a sexualized association with female smoking.  In one respect, she found it cute that Lauren’s smoking was such an obvious primal cue for Trevor, but she was a little more unsettled as she reminded herself how complicated the smoking fetish had made her own situation with her family, and she couldn’t help but feel Trevor might find himself with complications of his own one day because of it as well.

As Lauren and Courtney’s conversation reached its natural end, Courtney looked to Wade as she plucked out another Marlboro Light Menthol 100 of her own.  She tried to test his body language as she worked her eye contact suggestively while lighting the cigarette.  Wade’s measured response to her mild theatrics reinforced what she already expected to be the case.  Wade didn’t have any problem with her smoking, but he didn’t have the smoking fetish.  She’d seen from her father and her brother what a male with a smoking fetish acted like in the presence of a female smoker, and Wade was in the clear.  She grabbed hold of his hand, correctly reading a bit of confusion from him in regards to her calculatedly flirtatious behavior, but as she exhaled the first stream of smoke from her freshly lit cigarette, it also served as a sigh of relief that this relationship was unlikely to face the inevitable complication that would come if Wade had a smoking fetish.

As the brief moment between Wade and Courtney passed, Wade decided to engage with his passengers again, asking “Anybody up for some music?”

“Yeah, sure!” Lauren responded through a talking exhale.

“All I got is a radio in my old truck so what station would you like me to turn it to?” Wade asked.

Lauren looked at Trevor mischievously and answered, “Oh I think we gotta listen to country on the way to a rodeo!”

Trevor’s audible groan could be heard by everybody in the truck, eliciting a giggle from Lauren and more measured laughter from Wade and Courtney.  Wade turned to Courtney and said, “Looks like you get to break the tie, Courtney.”

Courtney took a deep drag from her cigarette, cutting loose a modest smoker’s cough while deliberating for a moment before responding through a talking exhale, “Sorry Trevor, but I think I’m with the crowd on this one.”

“Yaayyyy!” Lauren exclaimed, mostly to needle Trevor who cringed once again about being overruled.

Wade turned on his radio, the twangy sounds of the oldies country station he’d left the radio dial turned to when last in his truck booming out of the speakers.  While this kind of “country” was his preference, he figured when Lauren requested country music, she meant modern country-pop, so he turned the dial until he came upon a station broadcasting the familiar modern country beats.  He quickly became a little annoyed with himself for suggesting music in the first place knowing he’d have to listen to this racket for the next hour and a half, and Courtney leaned over to gently tease him about it.

Lauren was swaying back and forth as much as possible in the limited backseat space she had to work with, exaggeratedly moving to the music with cigarette in hand to taunt Trevor.  Looking up to see Courtney and Wade were distracted in their own conversation, Lauren bit her lower lip and then softly asked Trevor, “So how do you like being lassoed, baby?”

Before Trevor figured out the context of her double entendre, Lauren took an intense drag from her cigarette and then leaned forward toward him, forming a circle with her lips and blowing perfect smoke rings straight into his face that lassoed his nose and quickly broke apart upon touching his face.  With the intoxicating aroma of Lauren’s smoke hovering near his nose and eyes coupled with the aroma of the high-end hair spray she had liberally applied, Trevor’s sexual energy was beginning to crescendo and he instinctively placed his hand on her thigh to feel for himself how the tight denim of those Wranglers fit her.  Looking at the sweet but mischievous look on the face of his girlfriend with her big hair and cowgirl profile, residual cigarette smoke still trickling from her mouth and nose on subsequent breaths, he decided the musical backdrop to this moment coming out of Wade’s radio was kind of fitting after all.

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An hour and a half later, Wade drove past the highway sign reading “Cannon City…Population 4,276” and progressed slowly into town, becoming unusually animated as he waved to familiar faces and pointed out local landmarks and businesses that held memories from his upbringing.  Trevor and Lauren were listening fondly to Wade’s descriptions of everything from the meat market and bakery downtown to his old high school as they made their way through the town, finding Wade’s energy contagious and thinking this seemed like a pretty nice place to have grown up.

Courtney’s reaction was a bit more complicated, as she smiled through Wade’s running narration and took intermittent drags from her latest cigarette as he enthusiastically ad-libbed his background in Cannon City.  But the prospect of someday living in this town was more real for Courtney than it was for Trevor and Lauren, and she found herself trying to picture herself here.  She’d never seen Wade this animated in the city, which was her world.  Would he be okay staying in the city if they decided to make a life together?  Or would he insist on coming back to Cannon City?  She figured there was a good chance it would become clear after spending the day here with him today, and she tried to keep from overthinking things and refocused on listening to Wade’s stories as they kept heading east through town.  She took another intense drag from her cigarette and smiled as she exhaled a long stream of smoke in Wade’s general direction as he was pointing out his boyhood best friend’s home to his left on a residential street.

Wade drove east on the highway out of city limits, heading to the track where the rodeo was held a couple miles out of town.  Courtney, Lauren, and Trevor were all struck at the packed parking lot when Wade got there as Wade had to parallel park his truck on the edge of the road a good quarter mile from the track.  Courtney and Wade climbed out of the truck cab, pulling up the seat to allow Trevor and Lauren to climb out.  Both were ready to get out of that compressed back seat, stretching out their legs and upper body in the moments after exiting.  Lauren quickly reached for her purse to pull out another cigarette, handing Trevor her lighter to let him fire her up.  This time, Wade took note of Trevor’s chivalrous gesture and decided to run with it seconds later as Courtney was fishing out a Marlboro Light Menthol 100 from her own pack and placing it between her lips.

Wade took hold of her lighter and said with a smile, “Don’t want your brother to make me look bad,” as he flicked the lighter and approached the flame to the end of Courtney’s cigarette.

Lauren giggled in the background and added through a talking exhale, “Keep that cowboy in line, Courtney!  Make sure he lights you EVERY time!”

Courtney smiled as she pumped out the first eruptions of smoke off of the light-up, appreciating Wade’s gesture but still hoping Wade didn’t take Lauren’s words to heart permanently because of Courtney’s complicated past with the smoking fetish she had just recently mused about early in the drive.

The two young couples made the long walk to the gate surrounding the rodeo track with Lauren and Courtney intermittently dragging from their cigarettes as they held hands with their respective boyfriends.  Trevor felt increasingly out of place as he scanned the dozens of other attendees in his line of vision, all of whom dressed for the occasion in some degree of western attire.  He kicked himself for not anticipating this and could feel his anticipation build as he progressed closer to the gate.  Wade paid the admission for the four of them and they proceeded into the crowd, with Wade keeping his eye open for his cousin Shane who was competing in today’s event.

The group spent the next few moments weaving through the mass of humanity in the general proximity of the track until Wade finally spotted his cousin amongst a huddle of cowboys all chatting it up.  Wade smiled upon seeing Shane’s face and began to approach the huddle, but the smile was quickly wiped from his face as he laid eyes upon another cowboy in the crowd.  Wade froze for a moment and stared disdainfully at the cowboy in the group doing most of the talking, charming the crowd with his latest tale of woe.

Courtney immediately sensed Wade’s sudden reluctance and decided to broach the topic as she asked, “Who’s he?”

“Dusty Beaudry,” Wade responded, not even attempting to disguise his contempt.  “I graduated high school with him.  Not one of my favorite people in the world.”

But before Courtney could get Wade to elaborate, Shane looked up and spotted Wade, smiling as he approached with his hand extended out.  “Hey cousin!” Shane greeted, shaking Wade’s hand affectionately before adding, “Glad you could make it.”

“I’d never miss a chance to see my older cousin win regionals,” Wade responded with a broad smile.  A few brief exchanges ensued before a familiar voice decided to interject.

“Well what do you know,” Dusty Beaudry greeted with a sarcastic tone and a theatrically exaggerated cowboy accent that seemed entirely put-on for someone born and raised in Minnesota.  “Look who decided to come down from the big city to hang out with us bumpkins for the day.”

Wade nodded through gritted teeth.  “Dusty…always nice to see you.  Running off at the mouth like always, I see.”

“Always, city boy….always!” Dusty responded with an aggravating smirk, gazing past Wade to see Courtney and Lauren sizing him up, taking the final drags from their respective cigarettes and crushing them to the dirt, immediately redirecting Dusty’s attention before adding, “But I gotta say, if they got more ladies like this up in the city, I might just come back with ya!”

Dusty tipped his hat to Lauren and Courtney and greeted “Howdy ladies.  This your first rodeo….so to speak?”

Lauren giggled, fully taken by Dusty’s country charm as she thanked him and introduced herself to him and Shane.  Wade grudgingly pointed to Courtney and flippantly said, “Dusty, this is my girlfriend Courtney,” before looking to Shane and giving him a more formal introduction.  Wade and Shane continued to catch up, with unwelcome interjections from Dusty punctuating their exchange for the next few moments.

Dusty’s eyes drifted again to Courtney, sizing her up and finding it hard to avoid a lustful facial expression admiring her shapely form in that white blouse and leather pants.  Dusty’s eyes drifted next to Lauren standing beside her, and he began undressing her with his eyes even more shamelessly, stunned by how sexy this teenage temptress looked in her drugstore cowgirl get-up.  Lauren smiled awkwardly as she knew he was aggressively checking her out, appreciating the attention just as she did from the cowboys coming out of the western store earlier in the week, but also wanting him to know she was accounted for.  She grabbed hold of Trevor’s hand and then fished in her purse for her pack of Marlboro Lights 100s, pulling one out and placing it in her mouth.  She handed Trevor her lighter and smiled sweetly at him as he dutifully lit her up, making brief eye contact with Dusty once again to notice he seemed to be admiring her more than ever now.

But Lauren’s doting on her boyfriend finally led Dusty to look over Trevor, the smile vanishing from his face faster than Lauren’s cigarette smoke vanished into the early autumn sunshine.  He did a brief visual scan of Trevor and made sure the sour expression on his face was perfectly obvious to both of them before he turned back to Wade and Shane to continue interjecting in their chat.

And while Dusty may not have liked what he saw in Trevor, the feeling was mutual by orders of magnitude as Trevor looked on at Dusty with maximal disgust, feeling his blood pressure rise as he eyeballed this obnoxious oaf.  Trevor had picked up right away on Wade’s unsavory opinion of this showboating big-mouth, but if his first impression was any indication, Trevor was thinking he might already detest Dusty more than Wade.  Trevor’s attention was finally redirected back to Lauren as she sneaked in a French inhale, exhaling it into his face as slyly as possible.  A smile returned to Trevor’s face, but with Dusty’s voice in the background, he couldn’t quite devote his usual attention to Lauren as she smoked.

“This guy right here….” Dusty carried on to Wade in reference to Shane, “….he’s gonna be the real deal rodeo champ around these parts.  He’s gonna be what you could have been if you hadn’t chased those big city lights.  Think you might throw your hat in the ring one last time or have you gone too soft after just one year in the city?”

Wade’s annoyance level was visibly rising as he responded, “I think my riding days are in the past.  Are you gonna show me how it’s done today?”

“Nah,” Dusty replied, his eyes distracted by Courtney lighting up a cigarette next to Wade.  “I’m just a spectator today.”

“That’s what I figured,” Wade responded, rather effortlessly exposing Dusty for failing to live up to his big talk.

Dusty stood there making continued awkward eye contact, attempting to intimidate him with a smarmy smirk before Wade had finally had enough.

“So Dusty, do you suppose you could let me have a few minutes to catch up with my cousin before he has to ride?” Wade asked, pointedly requesting him to go away.

“Yeah, yeah, sure.  Sorry to get in the way of your family reunion,” Dusty responded.  “Maybe I’ll see y’all again later.”  As he began to walk off, Dusty tipped his hat once again at the cigarette-wielding Courtney and Lauren, sustaining eye contact with Lauren for a couple of seconds to make sure she knew he was into her before walking away.

A reflexive smirk remained on Lauren’s face from the male attention, but she tried to hide it when she realized Trevor was looking.  She took a deep drag from her cigarette before reassuring him by putting her arm around his waist and saying, “Isn’t this exciting??! Can’t wait to see how Shane does today!”

The group continued to chatter for the next few minutes, with Wade formally introducing Shane to everybody else he rode up with.  Trevor definitely found Shane more humble and approachable than the cowboy he was unofficially introduced to moments earlier, and the group mingled until Courtney and Lauren finished their cigarettes and Shane needed to prepare for the competition, which was now only 15 minutes away.

Wade, Courtney, Trevor, and Lauren picked up concessions from the various food vendors surrounding the track and then settled onto the rows of aluminum bleachers surrounding the track.  They weaved through the crowds until they found a row of bleachers that supported multiple people, taking a seat on a nearly empty row, and settling in to eat and watch the rodeo.

A couple of minutes passed before an unpleasantly familiar face approached from the right.  Trevor could feel his heart sink as Dusty Beaudry sat right next to him on the empty bleacher space, immediately laying on his pseudo-charm as he announced, “Well it looks like I was spot-on about seeing you later.  Mind if I take a seat there, shooter?” Dusty asked of Trevor, sitting down next to him before Trevor had any chance to respond.

Even with Courtney, Lauren, and Trevor as a buffer sitting between him and Dusty, Wade grunted and rolled his eyes at the thought of Dusty annoying them for the entire duration of the rodeo.

As the group put the finishing touches on the respective burgers, hot dogs, and pulled pork sandwiches they’d purchased moments earlier, Dusty held out his platter for all to sample.  “You guys gotta try these cheese fries.  They’re the best I’ve found in five years of rodeo riding.”

Courtney and Lauren didn’t hesitate to take hold of a couple on his platter to taste them, while Wade and Trevor more reluctantly took a couple, treating Dusty’s offering like a bite from the serpent’s apple.

“Wow, these are delicious!” Lauren exclaimed with her usual exuberance.

“You like huh?” Dusty quickly responded, looking right over Trevor to make eyes with his girlfriend.  “Well you just go right ahead and have another if you want to little lady.”

Lauren smiled at him and accepted the offer, thanking him and taking a couple more cheese fries off the platter and then eating them, nodding again about how tasty they were.  Her lunchtime meal complete, Lauren instinctively opened her purse and plucked out a Marlboro Light 100 from the pack, placing it between her lips and handing Trevor her lighter.

Courtney spotted Lauren beckoning a light from Trevor before he had the chance to light her up and then gave Lauren the bad news.  “Oh no…you can’t smoke here,” Courtney warned.

“Really?!??!” Lauren responded with legitimate surprise that the open-air venue full of country boys and girls didn’t allow smoking.

“If you want to smoke you gotta stand over there,” Courtney corrected her, pointing to a designated smoking area about 50 yards away that didn’t have a good vantage point of the track.

“Damn!” Lauren responded in annoyance, removing the cigarette from her mouth and putting it back in the pack, her enthusiasm for this two-hour rodeo suddenly plummeting.

Trevor had spotted the designated smoking area signs when they got there, but he’d hoped Courtney and Lauren would ignore it or be oblivious to it, so his already diminished enthusiasm for this day at the rodeo had really taken a nosedive.

“Nobody gonna bust your chops for some redneck caviar though,” Dusty commented, pulling open a can of Grizzly Wintergreen dip from his pocket and putting a plug under his lip.  He then made eye contact with Lauren and said, “If you need some nicotine sitting at the rodeo, girl, this is the way to do it.”

Lauren giggled, not taking the offer seriously until Dusty extended the can of dip over Trevor’s lap to within reach of Lauren, “Take a plug if you like.”

Lauren wrinkled her nose, skeptical at first but then realizing it couldn’t possibly be worse than two hours of fidgeting through a rodeo on aluminum bleachers with no nicotine.  She flashed a sweet smile, breaking the suspense of everybody awaiting her decision and saying, “What the hell!  I’ll try anything once!”

“Wait a second!” Courtney requested gleefully.  “I gotta record this!” readying her phone to capture Lauren’s reaction to tasting her first plug of chew.

Trevor’s tobacco fetish did not extend to dip, but he was nonetheless just as elated as everyone else at the novelty of seeing his sweet girlfriend dabble in this foreign product, and he watched as she reached into the can of Grizzly Wintergreen that Dusty continued holding in front of her, plucking out a pinch between her thumb and forefinger, and then slowly and apprehensively approached it to her mouth.

“Stick it under your lower lip like this,” Dusty instructed, pointing to the plug under his own lower lip.

Lauren did as instructed, stuffing the plug of moist, minty tobacco awkwardly between her lower lip and teeth, trying hard to suppress her giggle with everyone watching her and Courtney’s recording phone trained on her.  A few quiet seconds passed as Lauren decided what she thought of the smokeless tobacco sample in her mouth.

“Like it?” Trevor finally asked anticipating it would be a no.

Lauren’s eyes lit up as the juices began to fully filter through her mouth and she responded, “Kind of!”

“Ughhhh!” Courtney responded, keeping her camera on her and continuing, “Well sorry Lauren, but I’m afraid I’ll just have to fight through my cigarette cravings for the next couple hours rather than join you on this one.”

Lauren giggled and responded, “No I totally get it.”

Trevor was experiencing an odd mix of arousal and repulsion at Lauren’s inaugural dipping experiment, and Lauren was all too familiar with Trevor’s body language when he was getting a little turned on.  She decided to run with it, puckering up her lips and approaching her mouth to his, saying “How ’bout a kiss, baby?” making smooching noises as her face got within a few inches of his, enough for him to smell her minty tobacco breath.

The group collectively laughed at Trevor’s awkward response to Lauren’s kissing tease, with Wade responding, “You’re okay with her smoking, but do you think you’ll be good with this too, Trevor?”

An embarrassed Trevor could feel his face turn red, hating being on the spot as he responded, “Definitely hoping the habit doesn’t stick.”

Dusty sensed weakness and decided to pounce, looking past Trevor and directly at Lauren again as he said, “Actually, you know, I think if you want to find out if you have a real man, you need to see if he can handle a little tobacco juice in his kisses,” aggressively nodding and successfully whipping up the momentum in the group.

Sensing consent in his eyes, partly with the hope of making the moment end, Lauren gave in to the peer pressure and leaned over to Trevor, who cupped his hand over his crotch to hide his erection as Lauren planted a big, juicy kiss on his lips.  He was repulsed by her breath and the taste of chew passing from her saliva to his, but just as he found it sexy when she overpowered him with her smoking, he couldn’t help but feeling some sexual stimulation from this dynamic as well.  Lauren pulled away, her swollen lower lip full of tobacco looking oddly out of place amidst her sweet smile and body language that read “sorry” and “you’re welcome” at the same time.

The crowd cheered at the kiss and took one final look at Trevor’s response before letting the moment pass.  Dusty picked up an empty bottle of Mountain Dew and spit into it, passing it over Trevor’s lap yet again to beckon Lauren.

“When you need to spit, just reach over and you can use this,” Dusty advised, watching Lauren’s nose wrinkle again at the sight of a disgusting spittoon, and then adding  “I suppose you can spit on the ground in front of you but you might mess up these pretty little shoes here,” in emasculating reference to the tennis shoes Trevor wore to the rodeo.

Lauren giggled and took hold of the empty bottle.  Trevor couldn’t help but watch in fascination as she let loose a juicy black dribble into the bottle, eliciting another complex bodily response of disgust and attraction for him.   His eyes then followed as Lauren handed the Mountain Dew bottle back to Dusty, flashing him a quick but harmless smile that was met with a much more intense and lustful smile on Dusty’s part.  As the announcer took the mic to draw the crowd’s attention for the rodeo’s opening bell beginning momentarily, Trevor was now fully aware that this was going to be a long and excruciatingly awkward sit.

———————————————-

Haylee McPherson sat with her legs folded up on her family’s living room couch looking at her phone.  She was decked out in a casual pink tanktop and white shorts with a matching half-smoked pink and white Camel Pink No. 9 dangling from her lips, a long granny ash barely hanging on with jets of smoke blasting from her nose.  The excited chant from six-year-old Jarrod Wagner sitting on the floor with a video game controller in his hand briefly directed Haylee’s attention toward Jarrod and his three-year-old brother Joshua sitting next to him.

“I conquered Level 6, Haylee!” Jarrod breathlessly exclaimed in reference to the Super Mario Galaxy game he regularly played in the past few weeks while staying at Haylee’s place.

“Good job,” Haylee half-heartedly congratulated through her talking dangle, continuing to direct her attention to her phone, unaware that Jarrod was staring up at her in admiration at another round of nasal jets streaming out of her nostrils following her latest dangling drag.

Jarrod was so distracted that he allowed Mario from his video game to get hit by one of the Goombas, followed by a familiar note of music alerting him the game was over.  “Noooo!” Jarrod loudly groaned with the agony of defeat brought upon by his own lack of concentration.

“My turn!” his patient younger brother Joshua cried in immediate response to Jarrod’s game ending.

“Not yet.  I want to play one more time!” Jarrod insisted, restarting the game.

“No!!!” Joshua whined, immediately triggering an intervention from their 15-year-old babysitter.

“Jarrod!” Haylee scolded through a talking dangle.  “Let Joshua play.  It’s his turn.”

Jarrod looked up at her again, knowing that if he only misbehaved a little longer it would bring about a more forceful punishment, which he welcomed.  With a smug smirk, Jarrod insisted, “Just let me play one more time, okay?”

The loud sound of Joshua’s cries began to fill the living room, springing Haylee off the couch to discipline Jarrod just as Jarrod hoped she would.  With the stub of her cigarette still dangling from her mouth, Haylee hovered right over Jarrod and began to aggressively scold him.

“Your brother has been waiting for you to finish!” Haylee asserted, the cigarette doing a dance in front of Jarrod’s captivated eyes as smoke spilled from her face and drifted into his with every syllable.  “He gets to play just like you do!”

Pushing his luck to coax Haylee even further, Jarrod whined, “But he’s terrible at this game!”

On cue, Haylee fired back through a continued scolding dangle, “I don’t care!  It’s his turn!  If he’s that bad, you won’t have to wait long and it’ll be your turn to play again!” Haylee concluded, the long granny ash finally detaching from the rest of the cigarette as Jarrod hoped it would, going airborne briefly from the movement of Haylee’s speaking.  Jarrod’s eyes followed as gravity brought the ash to the floor in front of him, a final blast of Haylee’s exhaled smoke invading his airspace a second before Haylee pulled away and sat back on the couch.

“Here you go, Joshua!  It’s your turn,” Jarrod responded, feigning sadness as he handed his younger brother the Nintendo controller to have his turn with the game.  A split second later, a smile reflexively spread across Jarrod’s face as he got the response he wanted from his teenage babysitter, and now he was enjoying the fruits of his labors as his nose still burned from the smoke Haylee had inadvertently blown into his face.  Seconds later, he got a nice little dessert as Haylee leaned forward and crushed out her Camel Pink No. 9 into a butt can overflowing with a pack’s worth of pink and white butts she’d already smoked.

A ding on her phone redirected Haylee’s attention and she smiled as she saw the text was from Carly, reading “Whatcha doing?”

Haylee texted back, “Babysitting.”

Haylee awaited Carly’s response and got one a moment later reading, “That sucks.  Want some company?  I’m in your neighborhood.”

A bored Haylee smiled at the thought of Carly visiting and immediately texted back, “Sounds great.  Hope you like Mario Galaxy because that’s been my world for the last three hours!”

Carly texted back, “LOL love it!  See you in a few minutes.”

An excited Haylee stood up off the couch and looked down to Jarrod.  “My friend Carly’s coming over and I gotta pee before she gets here.  You better not mess with your brother’s game while I’m away, okay?” she said in a scolding tone.

“I won’t Haylee.  I promise,” Jarrod said reassuringly, eliciting a disarming smile from her as she hustled to the bathroom that filled his heart with joy.  With Haylee briefly out of the room and Joshua distracted playing the game, Jarrod eyeballed Haylee’s ash can.  As he’d done many times in the past year, he took the opportunity to seize some souvenirs, standing up and keeping his back to his brother so Joshua wouldn’t notice Jarrod plucking a half dozen of Haylee’s Camel Pink butts from the ashtray.  He briefly held them to his nose, struck by the offensive smell but nonetheless full of respect for Haylee for smoking them so routinely.  He then opened his jeans pocket and put the cigarette butts inside, confident that the stench of cigarettes that filled the house already would keep the odor of what was in his pocket from standing out until he got to his own bedroom at home and stored them with the dozens of other Haylee’s butts he’d collected in the past year.  Jarrod sat down next to his brother with a guilty look on his face and resumed watching Joshua play the game.

Moments later, Haylee emerged from the bathroom and immediately reached for her pack of Camel Pinks and her lighter as she returned to the couch, placing a fresh cigarette in her lips and firing up.  After taking a deep drag off of the light-up, her respiratory system was overloaded and a fierce smoker’s cough was forthcoming.  In the aftermath of the cough, she lifted the butt can from the coffee table and let a lugie drip from her mouth into the ashtray.  Jarrod was watching from the corner of his eye and he could tell Haylee sensed there were fewer cigarette butts in it than before she left.

Haylee only had a split second to speculate on the missing butts in her ashtray, however, before her attention was redirected to the ringing doorbell.  “Come in!” Haylee shouted through her freshly lit dangling cigarette.

As expected, Carly walked in and headed toward her and the boys, a bit struck upon first sight seeing Haylee smoking in front of the young boys but quickly rolling with, her acceptance threshold for smoking having grown since her cousin Lauren’s habit had escalated and especially since she became friends with Haylee.   Decked out in a sweatshirt and a frumpy pair of jeans with her dark blond hair disheveled, Carly crashed on the couch next to Haylee and made small talk with her for a moment while eyeballing the pack of Camel Pinks on the table.

“Mind if I have one?” Carly asked.

“Sure…knock yourself out,” Haylee responded.

Jarrod looked up in Carly’s direction to size her up as she removed a cigarette from the pack and used Haylee’s lighter to spark herself up.  Jarrod always welcomed the opportunity to see a girl smoking a cigarette, but Carly’s lack of glamour wasn’t doing much for him and her pedestrian smoking style paled in comparison to the theatrics he was used to with Haylee, so he quickly lost interest.

But having already noticed the boy looking up at her, Carly asked Haylee why she’s babysitting on a Saturday morning when she usually does evenings when the boys’ parents work, to which Haylee responded that one Saturday a month this time of year she babysits while the Wagners run a stand at the farmer’s market. Carly nodded, and then nudged Haylee to introduce her to the boys.

Haylee formally introduced Carly to the bashful Jarrod and the even more bashful Joshua just in time for Joshua’s game to end.  Carly seized the moment to bond with the boys as she said, “That looks like Super Mario Galaxy.  I have that at home and I’ve conquered all the levels,” she said to the boys, smoke spewing from her face as she spoke.

“Really??!?!” Jarrod exclaimed, his inhibitions quickly vanishing thanks to the mutual interest and Carly’s inviting tone.  “That’s awesome!  How did you do it?!”

Carly smiled as Jarrod seized control of the controller from Joshua and leaned forward.  “I bet I can show you a few tricks,” she responded reassuringly as Jarrod excitedly started the game.

Carly looked to Haylee and smiled, pleased she was able to hang with her friend and help pass the time with the boys for a while.  Carly took a modest drag from the Camel Pink as Haylee upstaged her with a much more intense dangling drag, the disparity of their tobacco consumption obvious based on the considerably larger volume of smoke spilling out of Haylee’s face compared to Carly’s set to the musical backdrop of Super Mario Galaxy resetting.

————————————-

The crowd was beginning to disperse at the completion of the rodeo just after 2 p.m.  Wade was heading to the edge of the track to congratulate his cousin Shane who had finished second place, but Courtney and Lauren were walking toward the smoking area with even more determination.  Trevor was just happy to be getting off of the highly uncomfortable bleachers and away from Dusty Beaudry, but also had plenty of motivation to follow his sister and girlfriend to the smoking area.

Wade spotted Shane near the track and waved to Courtney, assuring her that he’d catch up to them in a bit after talking rodeo with Shane.  Courtney and Lauren determinedly proceeded to their smoking-permitted destination to fight their fierce cravings, plucking their respective packs of cigarettes out of their purses.

Lauren placed her cigarette between her lips and passionately announced to both Trevor and Courtney through an unlit talking dangle, “I’m DYING for a cigarette!”

Courtney smiled in agreement placing her own cigarette between her lips with only a few yards to go till they reached the smoking area.  Courtney readied her lighter and Lauren handed Trevor her lighter.  Trevor braced himself for a visual reward he expected to be just as gratifying as Courtney and Lauren’s physical reward, and got it as Courtney lit herself up a split second before Trevor applied the flame to the end of Lauren’s cigarette, watching as both girls’ cheeks went concave ingesting as much tobacco as they could into their nicotine-deprived bloodstreams.  The relief on Lauren’s face was especially irresistible to behold as she smiled and exhaled the first giant stream of smoke from her lungs, even though her exhale still managed to be overshadowed distance and volume-wise by Courtney’s typically monstrous smoke deposit.

Trevor stood back and enjoyed the show as the girls bantered about the rodeo for the next few moments, consuming their cigarettes at a faster pace than usual trying to make up for two hours of nicotine deprivation.  The ringing of Lauren’s cell phone broke up the casual conversation and Lauren smiled upon hearing the ring, adding “This has to be my dad.  He always calls rather than texts,” as she picked up the phone and responded to it.

With Lauren conversing with her dad in the background, Courtney chatted with Trevor a bit until Wade and Shane started approaching, and it was clear by the look on his face that Wade had news of his own, looking at Courtney as if preparing her to brace herself.

“Well I didn’t figure this was gonna happen today but apparently my folks are over at the horse barn over there…” Wade said pointing to the adjacent shed on the other side of the fence from the rodeo, “…and they’d like to meet you.”

A look of trepidation filled Courtney’s face in mid-drag, her eyes lighting up for reasons that didn’t include the nicotine hit.  “Like right now?!??!” Courtney responded, a split second before the smoke streamed from her mouth and nose.

Wade nodded with a smile with which he attempted to project calm despite his intimidating words, “And knowing my folks I’m guessing they’ll want us all over for dinner afterwards.”

“Oh wow!” Courtney responded with residual smoke still flowing from her face, unprepared for this finally being the day she was introduced to Wade’s dairy farmer parents, a meeting she figured she had a couple more weeks to mentally prepare herself for based on what Wade had told her up until now.  “This shit’s about to get real I guess!”

Wade and Shane seemed to be steering the crowd in the direction of Wade’s family, and Courtney was triple-pumping smoke into her lungs knowing her cigarette would have to be expired early as she began to exit the smoking area to follow the cowboys.  She cut loose an intense smoker’s cough after expelling the contents of the heavy dragging from her lungs and was feeling particularly insecure about meeting Wade’s parents reeking of fresh cigarette smoke and hacking up a lung from the heavy smoking, dropping the two-thirds-smoked cigarette to the grass.

Trevor looked up with annoyance at the three of them walking away given that Lauren was still on the phone with her father, and spoke on both his and Lauren’s behalf.  “You guys go on ahead.  We’ll catch up with you after Lauren gets off the phone.”

Wade nodded that that sounded fine, pointing in the direction of the horse barn to assure Trevor knew where they’d be as he, Shane, and Courtney walked away.  Trevor happily turned back to his girlfriend, admiring how cute she looked chatting with her father about her day while intermittently dragging from her cigarette.  He stood there admiring her for a few moments and Lauren eventually picked up on it, a bit bashful about Trevor overhearing the conversation and playfully blowing a stream of smoke into his face as her father was speaking.

The conversation quickly ended as Lauren sweetly said, “Love you too, daddy,” before putting away the phone and dragging from her mostly smoked cigarette and smiled back at Trevor, knowing that Trevor enjoyed Lauren’s banter with her father as much as Lauren enjoyed Trevor’s banter with his mother Becky.

Trevor explained where the rest of their group went and Lauren nodded distractedly while placing the stub of her cigarette in her mouth and dangling it, rummaging through her purse with a look of escalating concern emerging on her face.  The concerned look quickly morphed into panic which Lauren verbalized with a loud and emphatic, “Shit!” that drew the looks of several in the general area who were already a little unsettled to see a girl Lauren’s age smoking.

“What’s wrong?” Trevor replied, having a feeling he knew what the issue was.

“I thought I brought another pack of cigarettes but I must have forgotten them!” she asserted, taking a peek in her open pack and then adding in a panic,  “And I only have one left!”

“Well I’m sure Wade can give you a ride to the nearest store and pick up a pack for you,” Trevor responded, trying to cool Lauren’s fire as she took the final drag from the cigarette stub in her mouth, and then removed it and flicked the butt several feet into the dirt.

“I don’t want to take him away from his family on the day they’re meeting Courtney!” Lauren replied through a final talking exhale, her level of concern remaining elevated.

Trevor was thinking of what he could say next but the words came to an abrupt stop as he looked up to see the worst possible person he could think of had heard their conversation and was approaching.

A smirking Dusty Beaudry briefly lifted his cowboy hat to wipe away the sweat on his forehead just as Lauren looked up, the sun shining on his shortly cropped light brown hair and rugged face that cut an image of a hero descending upon this damsel in distress at the exact moment she needed one.  His words echoed the visual as he smiled at Lauren and asked in his synthetic cowboy accent, “Did I hear you say you’re out of cigarettes?”

“Yes!  You heard right!” Lauren responded vigorously, hoping an offer was forthcoming.

Dusty gave her a no-big-deal shrug and then followed through on his offer.  “I can give you a ride to the store only a few minutes up the road and buy you a pack,” he offered, pointing first in the direction of the store and then to his nearby truck, adding.  “That’s my truck right there.”

“Omigod, thanks!” Lauren exclaimed.  “I hope it’s not too much trouble.”

“No trouble at all,” Dusty responded, motioning Lauren to follow him.

Trevor’s annoyance at not being able to get rid of this guy was causing his blood pressure to soar as he began following Dusty and Lauren to Dusty’s truck, but his annoyance turned to genuine terror as Lauren held him off.

“Oh Trevor, you don’t have to come with,” Lauren offered.  “Wade and Courtney will be waiting for us.  You should head up there and let ’em know I went for cigarettes and will be back in a bit.”

Trevor froze in terror, realizing this made sense generally but was tremendously uneasy about seeing his girlfriend get in this truck with this unsavory cowboy.

“I’ll have her back in 10 minutes tops, friend,” Dusty insisted with a smirking flourish that fell far short of convincing Trevor.  “You just head up there and let the others know and I’ll get your girl back as fast as you can walk up to that barn.”

Trevor made eye contact with Lauren, who didn’t seem to fully pick up on the depth of Trevor’s apprehension, but nodded affirmatively so as not to make a scene.  Lauren waved sweetly as she followed Dusty to his truck near the front of the parking lot.  He could feel the pit of his stomach drop as he watched Lauren walk away and eventually climb into the passenger seat of Dusty’s truck.  He tried to shake it off and began slow-walking his way to the barn where Wade and Courtney went.  As he watched Dusty begin to drive off en route to the gas station, the unsettled feeling only grew deeper and he just knew this couldn’t possibly end well.

———————————–

Dusty turned onto the highway en route to the convenience store as Lauren beamed from the passenger seat, saying “Thank you so much for this.  You saved my life!”

Dusty smirked at the irony of her characterization of buying her cigarettes being a “lifesaving” gesture as he watched her open up her purse and extract the last cigarette from the pack of Marlboro Lights 100s.

Lauren looked his direction, sweetly asking, “Mind if I smoke?” while placing her unlit cigarette into her mouth, presuming consent before it was officially granted.

“I better not mind if you smoke if I’m going to buy you cigarettes,” Dusty responded charmingly as Lauren giggled, flicking her lighter and igniting her cigarette.  She drug hard off of the light-up, still deeply craving nicotine after going two hours without a cigarette during the rodeo.

Dusty watched with escalating lust upon seeing how much pleasure Lauren was getting from the cigarette and as she exhaled the first blast of smoke he spoke up about it in his cowboy drawl.  “I have NEVER seen a girl your age smoke like you do!  What are you, like, 16?”

Lauren giggled and nodded affirmatively in response.  “Yeah my habit’s gotten a little out of control in the past few months…” giggling again and trying to keep Dusty’s flirtation in check, adding, “….but I think my boyfriend likes it when I smoke.”

Dusty maintained his aggressive charm but began shaking his head with exasperation.  “You sure must not have much to pick from up in the Cities if a girl like you is willing to settle for that fella.”

Lauren gave him an unamused side-eye as she took another intense drag from her cigarette.

Dusty resumed, “I mean don’t get me wrong….I’m sure he’s a good chap and all, but I have never seen a guy come to a rodeo in an Under Armour T-shirt and tennis shoes before today!”

Lauren couldn’t help but giggle, expelling extra bursts of smoke from her mouth and nose as she did, and responded, “Fashion is definitely not his strong suit!!” pausing and then adding, “But we’re good for each other in other ways.”

Dusty shook his head again and said, “I think the problem is you’ve never been with a real cowboy so you don’t know how much better you can have it.”

Lauren wasn’t liking the direction this conversation was going and was beginning to understand the apprehension she saw in Trevor’s eyes just before she climbed into Dusty’s truck.  She sat silent and began dragging from her cigarette.

Dusty pressed on but realized he might have overshot the runway.  “Don’t mean to disrespect your boyfriend though.  It takes all kinds to make a world,” he said reaching in to his jeans pocket and pulling out the can of Grizzly Wintergreen and extending it Lauren’s way, “…but if you ever want to try some redneck caviar again, it’s probably now or never.”

Lauren feigned a halfhearted smile, with cigarette smoke flowing from her mouth and nose, responding.  “Nah, I’m good.  I did like it though.”

“Aw c’mon,” Dusty pressed.  “Surprise that loverboy of yours with a mouthful of dip again the next time you kiss him!”

Maintaining her strained smile, Lauren decided to give in, taking a small pinch and placing it under her lip as Dusty watched in continued lustful fascination.  As the aggressive compliments and flirting continued, she was becoming very eager for this ride to the store for cigarettes to be over.

———————–

After a couple of minutes of walking to get there, Trevor entered the large horse shed and stopped at a gate blocking off the small riding area in the middle of the barn.  He may have missed the formal introductions of Courtney and Wade’s parents, but it clearly didn’t take them long to connect as Wade and his parents were already guiding Courtney onto the top of a horse.  With one foot in a stirrup, Wade guided her onto the saddle, getting his hands on her thighs in those tight leather pants that Trevor was pretty sure Wade was enjoying.  Courtney looked like a fish out of water but was clearly having a good time as Wade’s father climbed onto the horse next to Courtney’s, grabbing the reins of Courtney’s horse and clearly preparing to give Courtney her first lesson in horseback riding.

Trevor smiled as he watched this playing out a few yards in front of him, but was unable to enjoy the moment as much as he otherwise would have as he couldn’t get Lauren out of his mind.  He looked at his phone to see it had been nine minutes, and all he could do was say a silent prayer that Dusty would bring Lauren back to him any moment now as promised.

—————————————

Dusty exited the store after purchasing Lauren’s cigarettes, returning to the truck and holding up the gold and white pack of Marlboro Lights 100s she requested.  He opened the truck door and verbally confirmed.  “So I got Marlboro….in the gold pack…..100s,” he charmed, tossing Lauren the pack and continuing, “Will that suit ya?”

“Perfect!” Lauren said with a giggle, grabbing her cigarettes and immediately starting to pack the fresh pack against her wrist.  “Again, thank you soooo much!”

“My pleasure, young lady!” Dusty replied.

Before Lauren ripped the cellophane off the unopened back, she began to dig into her purse, asking, “Will ten cover it?”

Dusty shook his head in the negative.  “Not necessary.  This pack’s on me!”

“Awww…you’re so sweet.  Thanks again,” Lauren responded, opening the box top and beginning to fish out her first cigarette from the pack.

“Oh you are absolutely right about that, miss.  I am very, very sweet,” Dusty responded, pulling out of the gas station lot.

Lauren giggled, still not liking Dusty’s tone but starting to figure he was harmless as she placed the cigarette in her mouth and lit it, but she became unsettled again as Dusty turned right instead of left out of the parking lot.  She looked at him with concern in her eyes as she asked, “Aren’t you going the wrong way?” with smoke spilling out of her mouth and nose.

“Nah, I know a shortcut back,” Dusty responded unconvincingly.  “Plus I wanna show ya a nice little spot I like to come and visit sometimes.”

Lauren was officially becoming terrified as Dusty sped down the highway in the wrong direction for a minute or so and then turned down an obscure dirt trail leading to a small park along the banks of the Cannon River.   “Where are we going?” Lauren asked, with fear in her voice.

“I already told ya, darlin,” Dusty responded, looking over and admiring her adorable face, big hair, and sexy cowgirl outfit, licking his lips and adding, “You sure are a sexy little thing, you know that?”

“I think I want to go back to my boyfriend now,” Lauren asserted with genuine alarm in her voice for the first time.

Dusty slammed on the brakes in response, stopping the truck in complete isolation out of view from the highway, an insatiable lust in his eyes as he rhetorically asked Lauren in a sinister voice, “Now why would you want to go back to that little pussy when you’re in the company of a real deal cowboy who wants down those Wranglers of yours so bad that he’s about to burst?”

Lauren’s alarm shifted to terror as it became clear what she feared could happen was about to.  “Nooooo!” she whined with an innocence that briefly gave Dusty pause, reminding her she was indeed a 16-year-old girl.   But as Lauren swung around to open the passenger side door, Dusty’s primal instincts again won him over, sliding across his seat and chasing Lauren out the truck door in the way he would typically chase a steer with a lasso rope.

Lauren fumbled out the truck door and fell backward on the ground, her cigarette going airborne and her purse slung off of her shoulder just out of her reach as an out-of-control Dusty bore down on her.  “Please stop!” she screamed, watching the unbridled sexual lust on his face completely getting the better of him as he hunkered down over her.

“I think you know you want it!” he exclaimed before Lauren launched a lugie full of tobacco juice into his face.  But as he felt the remnants of the Grizzly Wintergreen he gave her touch his skin coupled with the aroma of tobacco on her breath both from the dip and the cigarettes, it only served to escalate his passion level higher.

Lauren’s desperate and repeated screams for him to stop fell on deaf ears and he used his right arm to hold her down by her shoulders while pinning her lower body to the ground with his own body, using his free hand to unbutton the second button of her plaid blouse, exposing another couple inches of cleavage as well as the top of her bra.  Dusty lowered his face onto her left breast and began aggressively devouring it with his lips and pressing his teeth into it.

Lauren briefly took a mental note that her attacker was the only guy besides Trevor to ever touch her breast, and she decided then and there she wasn’t gonna take any more of it.  With Dusty’s face buried in her cleavage, she stretched her free arm out in desperate attempt to grab hold of her purse.  It was a real stretch but she managed to get a couple of fingers on the purse strap, enough to pull it slightly toward her and reach inside.

Dusty mistook her sudden silence and discontinued attempts to fight him off as consent and pulled himself off of her to say, “If you liked that, baby, let me assure you…we’re just getting started!”  He slid his body down to expose her waist at which point he began to unbutton the half dozen buttons on the fly of her Wranglers.  The time it took for him to unlatch each button gave Lauren a few extra seconds to get her hands on what she needed from her purse.

She could feel Dusty yanking down on her jeans and exposing her lower body, and as she felt his fingertips begin to tuck under her panty line, a split second before pulling them down and fully violating her, Lauren knew it was now or never to make her move.  She held up her cigarette lighter about halfway between her own face and Dusty’s.

“What the hell are you doing?” Dusty asked with sudden concern as Lauren flicked the flint on the lighter and ignited a flame.  He looked down to see the Drybar logo on the bottle of hair spray held in her other hand and had a split second to experience terror similar to what he had subjected Lauren to before she squeezed the trigger on the hair spray bottle and send a squirt of it right into the flame from her lighter, emitting a fireball straight up into Dusty’s face.  She continued to depress the button on the hair spray bottle and feed the flame until Dusty climbed entirely off of her.

“You bitch!” he screamed as the fireball was mostly absorbed by his cowboy hat, but some of it sticking to his forehead.  “You fucking bitch!” he shouted again, rolling around on the ground to put the fire out that was singing his hair, the front of his cowboy hat still burning.

Lauren stood up and picked up her purse, knowing her phone was in it and that she’d need it to call 9-1-1.  She slung it over her shoulder and attempted to pull up her jeans and run toward the highway.  But the button fly on her jeans that served her well in delaying Dusty’s access was now working to her disadvantage as she couldn’t run away with them pulled down and would have to stop to button them.  As she worked her way toward a park pavilion about 100 yards from Dusty’s truck, she decided she had to stop and button up the jeans.  With terror visible all over her face, she hid behind the pavilion wall and began buttoning her pants, reaching into her purse and pulling out her phone to call 9-1-1.

But before Lauren could punch the digits in, Dusty emerged from around the corner, a horrifically sinister intensity about him even more terrifying to Lauren than when he pinned her to the ground.  “No…..no….no!” Lauren pleaded as her approached her with ferocity in his eyes, the tips of his hair scalded and his forehead burned raw from the fireball Lauren sprayed at him.

“Drop the phone!” Dusty demanded with maximal intimidation.

Lauren obeyed but continued to plead for herself as Dusty backed her into the pavilion wall, preparing to grab her by the throat but realizing that would make an obvious mark on her neck, instead using his arm to pin her by the chest into the pavilion.

“Let me tell ya how this is gonna go….” Dusty asserted authoritatively, “….you’re gonna get in that truck and ride back to the rodeo with me.  You’re gonna go back to your little boyfriend and the rest of the group with a smile on your face and enjoy the rest of this beautiful day…..never to mention anything that happened with me ever again.”  He paused to let that sink in before inquiring.  “That sound okay to you?”

A terrified Lauren nodded affirmatively, desperate for this moment to end.

“That’s really good to hear, little girl,” Dusty responded, following it up with a threat.  “Now should you decide that as soon as I drive off into the sunset you’re gonna make that phone call you were just about to make, I think you should remember this here is MY TOWN!”  He paused again for dramatic effect before adding, “Who do you think they’ll believe if you cry rape?  Some little slut from the city who comes down here shaking her ass and climbing into a cowboy’s truck?  Or the good ol’ boy they all grew up with?”  He paused again and then pointed to his forehead and added, “The good ol’ boy who the city girl so viciously assaulted?”

Dusty continued to pin her to the wall as Lauren stood there hoping her silence would effectively convey that she wasn’t gonna say anything.

“So how ’bout it?  Are we good here?” Dusty inquired.

Lauren nodded yes, trying her best not to break down.

A smug smirk re-emerged on Dusty’s face as he removed his arm from Lauren’s chest.  She sighed in relief until she saw his hands approaching her blouse again and she bristled in terror.

“No worries, darlin’….” Dusty said as he buttoned the second button on her blouse which he had unbuttoned earlier, and then moving up to the top button which hadn’t been fastened yet today, making sure to cover up whatever bruises and hickeys he had left behind on her chest.  “Just making sure you’re all covered up in that slutty little blouse of yours.  I mean, we wouldn’t any guys getting the wrong idea, would we?”

Lauren looked to the ground with equal parts relief that the worst of it was over, and continued terror as she only began to wrap her mind around the implications of this violent encounter.

“Let’s go then…” Dusty beckoned her, waving her back to his truck as she bent down to pick her phone off the ground.  “I’m sure you got some people missin’ the devil out of you back at the track.”  They walked back to the truck and Dusty opened his driver’s side door, stuffing his half-burned cowboy hat under the seat out of sight, then looked up to Lauren as she climbed into the passenger seat, holding her head down and avoiding eye contact before he got one last dig in at her.  “Oh, and to answer your question from before, I actually do mind if you smoke in my truck.”

Dusty slammed the door and started his truck.  It would be a five-minute drive back to the rodeo track and horse barn, but for Lauren it was poised to be the most uncomfortable five minutes of her life directly following the most menacing five minutes of her life.

—————————————–

Trevor stood at the gate inside the horse barn continuing to watch his older sister joyously encircle the track riding horseback, Courtney’s positive energy dramatically contrasting with his own growing fears.  He looked down to his phone to see it had now been more than 20 minutes since Lauren left with Dusty.  He put his game face on as he saw Wade waving at him, smiling widely as he approached him.

“You been seeing this?  I think your sister’s a natural,” Wade mused, electric about Courtney’s successful immersion into the world he grew up in.

“Yeah she looks like she’s having fun,” Trevor said, trying to hide that he was definitely not having fun.

“Where’s Lauren?” Wade inquired.

Trevor gulped before responding, “She ran out of cigarettes so she went with that Dusty guy to the store to pick up more.”

The smile was quickly wiped off of Wade’s face, replaced by imminent concern as he clarified, “Lauren went with Dusty Beaudry?”

Trevor didn’t like Wade’s tone at all but kept his cool as he responded, “Yeah, they should be back by now.  I’m gonna text her to see what the hold-up is.”

Wade nodded in agreement, “Good idea.”

Trevor could feel his hand shaking as he lifted his phone, texting “Everything okay?” and patiently waiting for Lauren’s response.

Trevor stood waiting for about a minute, and could tell Wade was waiting with baited breath for Trevor’s phone to ding as well, before it finally did.   Trevor opened the message delivered from Lauren’s phone reading, “Of course.  Why wouldn’t it be?  We’re on the way back and should be there in like two minutes.  Missed ya, baby!”

Trevor exhaled with relief upon reading the message, looking up to Wade to pass the good news along.  Wade nodded with relief in his own eyes after hearing they were almost back.  Wade’s body language nonetheless sent a chill through Trevor as it was blatantly obvious that Wade’s misgivings for Dusty Beaudry went far beyond his being an obnoxious blowhard.

Trevor and Wade both watched as Dusty’s truck approached and came to a stop at a parking spot about 10 yards away.  Trevor still waited with anticipation to see Lauren hoping she was no worse for wear, but as she climbed out of the passenger seat of the truck, it was painfully obvious to Trevor that something was off.  Lauren reached into purse and pulled out a cigarette, her hands trembling as she approached the flame of her lighter to the cigarette’s tip, a pleasureless blast of smoke erupting from her mouth and nose off of the first exhale.

From there, Lauren approached and the anguished look on her face quickly morphed into a compelling put-on smile.  Dusty began following her, as if to intimidate her into keeping their deal, wearing a baseball cap that covered up his burned forehead.  Lauren hustled on up to Trevor and took hold of her boyfriend’s hand, taking safety being in the company of the boy she loved even though she didn’t want to convey the full story behind it.

Trevor looked up to Dusty with anger in his eyes as he walked closer.  “What took you so long??!?” Trevor snapped.

Dusty was caught a little off-guard by Trevor’s aggressiveness and paused a moment before he responded, “Cool off there, tough guy!  The rodeo just got out so there was a long line at the gas station.  Your old lady wasn’t the only one picking up cigarettes after the rodeo.”

Trevor stared at him with skepticism even though the story was believable on the surface.

Dusty looked at Lauren to back him up, asking “With as many gas stations as you have up in the city I’m sure you’re not used to a crowd like we have at our little station after a rodeo, huh?”

Lauren paused to take a deep drag from her cigarette before nodding, validating Dusty’s story and trying to stay in her normal character as she verbalized, “Yeah it was definitely a lot of people,” with her hand inadvertently tightening with tension which Trevor could feel as he held it.

Wade stared at Dusty with just as much hostility as Trevor was, thinking the story was a bit too perfect before asking, “What happened to your hat, Dusty?  You don’t ever take that damn thing off.”

Once again, Dusty had a prepared response he thought up on the drive back, shaking his head and replying, “Craziest thing…..I sat on the damn thing in my truck.  I’ll have to work on punching the dents out of him at home tonight,” wrapping up his response with another put-on laugh.

Dusty could tell he had pushed his luck but felt secure in his alibi and that he had intimidated Lauren enough to keep her quiet to bid the crowd adieu amidst the frosty reception he was getting from Wade and Trevor.  “Anyway,” Dusty offered, “It was a pleasure to spend the afternoon with you fine people, but I better take off.”  He then looked at Wade to twist the knife one last time, adding “Those of us who stay on the farm still got our chores to do,” pausing for dramatic effect.  “Sure was nice meeting y’all though…especially you, Lauren,” he said with a final intimidating smile as Lauren made sure to avoid him with the exhale from her cigarette.

Trevor could finally feel the tension in Lauren’s grip start to dissipate as Dusty walked away and climbed into his truck.  Trevor looked at her to try to measure her body language, but she was soldiering through, smiling and keeping what resembled her usual energy level enough to convince Wade everything was normal.  Trevor could still tell something was off, but now was not time or place to confront her about it.  As soon as Wade turned away, she flirtatiously took a drag from her cigarette and exhaled into Trevor’s face with a feigned mischievous smile, selling normalcy as best she could.  But Trevor hadn’t failed to notice that the top button of her low-cut plaid blouse was now fastened in a way it wasn’t before she left, and he didn’t figure that was a coincidence.

The awkwardness and tension of the moment were broken up as Courtney emerged from the stable, beaming after her first ride on horseback.  The excited look on her face was quite a contrast to the dour looks coming from her traveling buddies, but they all put on their game faces so as not to rain on Courtney’s moment.

“So how awesome was your girlfriend on that horse?” Courtney asked Wade, fishing into her purse for her cigarette pack as Wade smiled to affirm his enjoyment of seeing her riding the horse.

Wade’s parents soon followed Courtney, and tried to keep their poker face as they saw underage Lauren smoking first, and then noticed Courtney pulling out her cigarette and lighting it.  Wade had warned them that Courtney was a heavy smoker and they didn’t make a fuss about it, but he could still see some doubt in their eyes watching her light up in the aftermath of an otherwise impressive introduction teaching her how to ride horse.

Wade formally introduced his parents Glen and Louise Rosenquist to Trevor and Lauren.  His parents sensed nervousness in the young couple but had no idea of the context.  Glen broke the ice asking them if they wanted to ride horses as well.

Trevor simply shook her head, but Lauren was in mid-drag of her two-thirds-smoked cigarette and verbally responded through a talking exhale, “I don’t think today but maybe the next time I come visit I’ll take you up on it,” her sweet tone throwing Glen and Louise given the cigarette between her fingers.  Lauren nonetheless was quite certain she would never be coming to Cannon City again for the rest of her life.

“Nothing wrong with that,” Louise warmly replied.  “But I am gonna have to insist on you guys all coming back to the farm with us.  I got a beef roast cooking in the crock pot and there should be more than enough for everybody.”

Courtney spoke on behalf of everyone, responding, “That sounds great!” through a talking exhale, with genuine positive energy about Wade’s parents despite just meeting them.  She looked back at Trevor and Lauren, not identifying anything amiss as she rhetorically asked them, “You guys don’t mind staying for supper, do you?”

Lauren enthusiastically replied, taking a final drag from her cigarette and flicking the butt to the ground as she let loose a mild smoker’s cough.  She could tell Trevor knew something had happened, and she began avoiding eye contact as a result, despite continuing to hold his hand.  The tension in Lauren’s grip was gone ever since Dusty left, but Trevor still noticed that same tremble in her hand he identified the second she got out of Dusty’s truck and lit her cigarette.  Trevor had felt a tremble in Lauren’s hand before, but usually it was a result of an unfulfilled cigarette craving.  He was pretty sure the source of her tremble was something more ominous this time.

—————————————–

Haylee was really getting into the Super Mario Galaxy video game, despite her general indifference toward video games, as she worked the control to move the Mario character, a half-smoked cigarette dangling from her mouth with smoke expelling from her mouth and nose after every breath.  Carly cheered her on sitting next to her on the couch, the boys picked up by their parents nearly an hour earlier.

“You’re gonna want to jump here!” Carly warned.  “There will be like 10 Goombas coming at you from out of nowhere.”

Haylee did as Carly suggested, punching the button on the controller to make Mario jump and barely dodging the villains swarming toward her.  “Yes!” Haylee exclaimed with uncharacteristic competitiveness.  “Thanks for warning me!” she added, her cigarette bouncing up and down from her lips as she spoke while keeping her eyes trained on the screen until she reached the flagpole that marked her destination for this level of the game.

“And just like that….” Carly congratulated,  “…you conquered level 1.”

“Oh wow I’m good!” Haylee said sarcastically and adding  “It only took me a half hour!” before using the level break in the game as an opportunity to remove the cigarette from her mouth and tap her long ash into the butt can on the coffee table.

“You’re doing fine!” Carly responded with matching enthusiasm, patting Haylee on the upper arm in a way that compelled Haylee to make eye contact with her, detecting an odd energy in Carly that briefly made her feel off-balance.  Haylee put the cigarette back in her mouth, which triggered another craving in Carly.

“Mind if I have another one?” Carly asked, pointing to Haylee’s pack on the table just as Haylee was starting the next level of the game.

“Go for it!” Haylee responded as Carly leaned forward to mooch another of Haylee’s Camel Pinks.

After taking a nervous glance at Haylee, Carly reached into her pocket for her lighter, lifting it toward the dangling cigarette between her lips.  Just as was the case three days earlier outside the western store, Carly’s empty lighter was failing to light again, as she expected.  “Damn broken lighter!!” Carly exclaimed theatrically.

Haylee gave her a quick side-eye, puckering up her lips for another dangling drag from her mostly expired cigarette and then responding, “Sucks for you.  Just use mine on the table.”

Carly paused as if trying to muster up the courage before responding, “I got a better idea.  Why don’t we monkey fuck again.”

Haylee was briefly annoyed as she paused her game to play along with Carly’s request, but as she looked Carly’s way, it was immediately obvious that Carly was after more than just a light from her cigarette.  Haylee was drawn to the continued electric energy in Carly’s eyes that she’d never seen before, and pulled forward to touch the stub of her smoldering cigarette to the end of Carly’s unlit cigarette.  A simmering passion filled Carly’s face as her cigarette slowly came to life, locking eyes with Haylee as both girls pumped tobacco smoke into their lungs.  It was a moment Haylee never saw coming, but that she could tell Carly had probably been fantasizing about for quite some time.

Haylee finally pulled away, at which point Carly removed the cigarette from her mouth and exhaled, but with neither taking their eyes off of the other.  Haylee had never really noticed tangible beauty in Carly’s rather plain appearance, but had to concede she looked very pretty at this moment with that beaming smile radiating electric energy right at her from only a few inches away.  Haylee knew something big was probably about to happen unless she stopped it, and even though her brain was telling her that she absolutely needed to put a stop to it, she couldn’t resist going with her gut at this moment as Carly’s hand approached Haylee’s face to gently touch it.

“You’re so pretty, Haylee!” Carly muttered softly while taking a second drag from her cigarette.

Haylee responded with a warm and accepting smile that Carly correctly accepted as consent, leaning forward with smoke flowing out of her face to lock lips with her friend.  Haylee had never given a moment’s thought to a romantic encounter with another girl before, but as Carly’s soft lips pressed onto hers, she found herself completely at peace in a way she hadn’t felt since the last time she was making out with her ex-boyfriend Jacob.  Being on the receiving end of a kissing partner’s smoky breath was also a new experience for Haylee, and one that she was really enjoying.

Carly began kissing Haylee more aggressively, slipping some tongue into Haylee’s mouth and feeling the passion escalate.  The normally shy Carly was at this point so taken in the moment she had created that she pushed the envelope further, slipping her hand on Haylee’s stomach underneath her tanktop and sliding it up her belly toward her bra.  Haylee continued to accept the advances, the soft caress of Carly’s fingertips on her breasts filling a void in Haylee’s empty soul that had been vacant for two months now.

The kissing and breast-stroking continued for several moments, with Carly feeling empowered and fulfilled for taking this huge risk, and Haylee shocked that she had yet to feel out of her comfort zone even in this most unlikely situation…right up until the point where she did feel outside her comfort zone.  As Carly began lowering her hand from Haylee’s chest down her stomach toward her shorts, Haylee began to freeze up as the encounter was becoming a bit too real.  And when Carly unfastened the top button on Haylee’s white shorts, Haylee decided it was time to put a stop to it.

Pulling away from the kiss, Haylee didn’t know quite what to say or how to say it, but a startled Carly asked breathlessly, with disappointment smeared across her face, “What’s the matter?!”

Haylee paused and then gulped before speaking, trying to find the words that wouldn’t offend.  “It’s just….I’m not into girls,” Haylee responded with anguish knowing she was probably gonna break Carly’s heart.

The light that had been beaming in Carly’s eyes quickly flickered out as Carly fully pulled away from Haylee, lowering her eyes to the ground to avoid eye contact and taking a nervous drag from her neglected cigarette.  She shook her head in humiliation before exasperatedly responding “Oh my God….I’m so sorry, Haylee!” standing up from the couch and beginning to pace the floor as though she wanted to crawl out of her skin.

“No, no!  It’s okay!” Haylee forcefully retorted, desperately trying to comfort her.

Continuing to pace the floor and nervously drag from her cigarette, Carly put her hand in her face and bellowed, “You’re like my only real friend and now I’ve gone and fucked everything up!”

“No you haven’t!” Haylee responded, not knowing quite what to say but trying her best to calm Carly down as she seemed on the cusp of a breakdown.

“I think I’m gonna go!” Carly exclaimed, walking toward the door.

“Please don’t go!” Haylee pleaded, even as Carly began walking toward the door in agony.

“No, no….I really need to leave!” Carly replied, taking another nervous drag from her cigarette, but feeling Haylee grab her by the wrist before she could walk away.

“Carly….” Haylee opened authoritatively, demanding and getting Carly’s undivided attention.  “….there’s no reason anything has to change between us.  But I need you to settle down and have a seat here.”

Carly paused and then nodded in agreement, returning to the couch with tears welling up in her eyes.  Haylee plucked out another cigarette from the pack of Camel Pinks on the table and lit up.   Haylee took an intense dangling drag off of the light-up as Carly took a shallower and more calming drag of her own.  Through a messy talking exhale that drifted into Carly’s airspace, Haylee helped Carly calm down a little more as she softly said, “Now let’s just sit here and talk this out.”

Carly smiled, grateful that she hadn’t scared Haylee away from a continued friendship and welcoming the opportunity to bare her soul about the long-held secret life she’d been hiding from everybody.

—————————————–

Standing next to Wade and his parents inside his parents’ dairy barn, Trevor watched the surreal spectacle unfolding in front of his eyes as his girlfriend and older sister crouched down in front of a dairy cow.  With cigarettes dangling from their lips and obvious trepidation on their faces, city girls Lauren and Courtney anxiously reached forward to grab hold of one of the cow’s udders.  Both girls clearly felt far outside their comfort zones as they placed their hands on the cow’s teat and squeezed.  Neither girl drew any milk upon their first squeeze, dragging from their dangling cigarettes and cringing not at the smoke clouds their own respiratory systems produced but at the awkwardness of touching the cow’s mammary.

“Pull down,” Glen advised the girls with a familiar smirk, recognizing the usual rookie mistake of novices trying to milk dairy cows.

The girls took his advice and Lauren was having some success, a trickle of milk squirting out of the cow’s udder into a bucket.  Courtney was still struggling, however, and jokingly asked, “Wade, will your parents even let me back here if I’m not any more useful on the farm than this?”

Glen, Louise, and Wade all laughed, with Wade joking back, “I think she smells those pants of yours and is a little intimidated about what comes next” in reference to Courtney’s leather pants which seemed all the more out of place crouched down in a dairy barn that reeked of manure.

Lauren giggled at Wade’s joke and Trevor got a chuckle too, but Courtney was too frustrated to play along.  Finally, Glen crouched down next to her, right into the haze of her freshly exhaled cigarette smoke, and showed her the downward wrist pressure necessary to generate the milk stream.  Courtney finally succeeded and quietly celebrated as she did.

With as straight of a face as possible, Glen looked at Courtney and said, “And after this one, just 239 more cows and then we can go eat some supper.”

Courtney and Lauren both hoped he was joking but couldn’t tell as they looked at him, cigarettes still dangling from their mouths.

“Really?” Lauren finally asked through a talking exhale of the three-quarters-smoked cigarette she’d been dangling for the last two or three minutes while milking the cow.

Glen couldn’t keep a straight face any longer and let loose a chuckle.  Louise laughed in the background but then placed her hand affectionately on Lauren’s shoulder and said, “Ignore him, dear.  No dairy farm has done it by hand for over 50 years.  We use milking machines now.”

Lauren giggled and Courtney sighed in relief, with Trevor smirking in the background unsurprised that the girls fell for it having never set foot on a farm in their lives.  But as they finished off their cigarettes and crushed them out on the dirt floor of the barn, Glen got more serious as he explained, “Even with the machines though, it’s hard work.  Two milkings of 240 cows every day…up before the sun every morning and out in the barn again every afternoon…seven days a week, 365 days a year.  Just Louise and I, our one hired hand, and Wade’s brother Kevin now that he’s back.”

Trevor, Lauren, and especially Courtney listened intently to Glen’s description, with Courtney thinking it sounded intimidating but not closing her mind to the lifestyle.

Louise picked up where her husband left off, adding, “It’s not an easy life but it’s what we know, what we love, and what we’re good at,” making eye contact with Courtney, a hint of skepticism about Courtney visible on her face but a willingness to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Wade helped Courtney up from her crouched position in front of the cow and added, “Speaking of Kevin, when is he gonna be here?”

Glen looked at his watch to see it was now 4:40, then added, “He’s supposed to be here by 5:00 and we’ll be eating by 5:30.  I suppose we should get back to the house so Louise can have the roast ready.”

The group began to exit the barn with Courtney continuing to chat with Wade and his parents.  Hovering behind them were Trevor and Lauren, as Lauren fought through a smile, pinching her nose playfully as if grossed out the manure odor in the dairy barn while fishing around in her purse for her cigarettes.  Just as they stepped outside, Lauren had a new cigarette in her mouth and beckoned a light from Trevor.  Trevor was impressed how well she was masking her pain, but he still knew his girlfriend enough to know something was very wrong as she took her first exhale from the cigarette, a slightly aggrieved release of smoke spilling from her face as they walked in the direction of the Rosenquists’ country home.

—————————————

Carly and Haylee were nearly in tears laughing, sitting on the couch in the McPherson living room as Carly relayed the details of her epiphanous seventh-grade phys. ed. soccer game, with Haylee hanging on her every word with a cigarette dangling from her lips.

“So here I am, trying to be the goalie, and I got Bella Reese plowing right into me and falling on top of me!” Carly elaborated.  “I’m laying there looking up at her and feeling her boobs pressing into me, and it was at that moment that it was TOTALLY clear I preferred girls!”

Haylee could barely contain herself listening to the animation in Carly’s voice as she told her story, struggling to keep from laughing the dangling cigarette right out of her mouth, and Carly fed off of Haylee’s energy, laughing at Haylee’s response.  When Haylee got her composure in a few seconds, she inquired, “So only girls?  You’re not into guys at all?” with a swirl of exhaled smoke surrounding her face.

Carly’s demeanor got a bit more serious and perplexed again as she shrugged and then responded, “Some I guess,” pausing before adding, “I mean those cowboys Lauren was pointing out the other day got me a little excited….”

Haylee laughed again, puckering up her lips for another dangling drag as she continued listening as Carly continued, “I’m still trying to figure things out I guess.  Guys are way more intimidating,” and then added with a hint of sadness, “I don’t exactly have guys or girls standing in line for me so I should have all the time I need.”

With smoke jets rocketing out of her nose, Haylee replied “Do any of your family or friends know?  Does Lauren know?”

Carly shook her head.  “You’re the first person I’ve ever told….and I’d appreciate it if you kept this conversation between us.”

“Oh definitely!  I won’t say anything to anybody!” Haylee reassured.

“You hadn’t figured it out though, huh?” Carly asked, adding “I thought you had me pegged when I was standing there drooling over you at your birthday party last spring,” fluttering her eyebrows as she jokingly added, “Bella Reese took an immediate backseat in my fantasies when you bummed me that first Camel Pink!”

Haylee laughed again, seeing a vibrant and unfiltered side of the usually insecure Carly who had recovered so well after the initial humiliation and was already able to joke with Haylee about it.  Haylee finally removed her cigarette from her mouth and tapped her long granny ash into the butt can, giving Carly another visual of the pose that so excited her back in April at the birthday party.  Haylee interrupted her laughter with a hearty cough and then responded, “Well you did a good job of not tipping me off that you were into me as more than a potential friend,” bringing her cigarette back to her lips for another extended dangle.

Carly couldn’t help but once again admire Haylee’s gorgeous face as she sat there and how the white and pink cigarette hanging from her lips was such a badass complement to the pretty face.  Carly teasingly and animatedly responded, “So just to clarify, are you totally sure you’re not gay?”

Haylee almost laughed the cigarette out of her mouth again and responded, “Yeah pretty sure.”

Carly shrugged with passive defeat and added, “Can’t blame a girl for trying!  I figured my chances were about 50-50 when I pulled in for the kiss.”

Haylee laughed but quickly became more serious as she added through a haze of smoke, “But I’d definitely have been better off if I’d kept hanging out with you at my birthday party rather than ditch it and meet up with Jacob.”

Carly nodded, seeing in Haylee’s eyes that she still wasn’t over Jacob and was still hurting deeply about the breakup.  “I’ve never been in a relationship so I can’t imagine how hard it must be for you.”

Haylee took a final dangling drag from her cigarette, paused to get a minor cough out, and then leaned forward to crush the cigarette out in the butt can, giving her time to gather her thoughts and then respond.  “I was kind of looking forward to going back to school….thought it might help distract me from thinking about him all the time.  It hasn’t worked….” she shook her head in sadness, smoke still trickling out of her mouth and nose several moments after her final drag.  “Everything reminds me of him.  You know the vent area in the janitor’s closet where I told you I go to smoke during lunch?”

Carly nodded affirmatively.

“Jacob used to meet me there most days last spring after we started seeing each other,” Haylee continued.   “Now when I go there to smoke at lunch, it just feels so empty.”

Carly could see Haylee was getting more emotional and leaned forward to give her a platonic hug, both of them realizing they were sharing things with one another they’d never shared with anyone else, and Carly was really pleased that Haylee held her back when she wanted to leave earlier so they could talk things out.  Carly pulled away from the hug and put things in perspective.  “Sounds like we both have different things to figure out, but more than ever we’ll have each other to talk to as we do.”

Haylee nodded, liking the sound of that and appreciating that her own struggles to find herself after the Jacob breakup paled in comparison to Carly’s struggles with her identity and the social isolation that’s emerged from it.  And Haylee genuinely wanted to help in any way that she could.  Haylee reached to the coffee table to pluck out another Camel Pink No. 9 from the pack when Carly’s eyes lit up with a familiar request.  “Can I have another one?”

Haylee lit up her cigarette and dangled off the drag, filling Carly’s airspace up with a tempting explosion of secondhand smoke and then teasingly responding, “I got a whole carton in the fridge.  Why don’t you just go up there and grab a full pack?”

“Really?!?” Carly asked with enthusiasm.

“Better than draining my pack!” Haylee teased, smoke still spraying from her face before she took her second dangling drag.

Carly headed into the kitchen as Haylee dug out her phone, scanning through her photos and feeling her heart melt as she admired a few of them of her and Jacob that she’d saved on a secret folder.  Thumbing through the photos one by one, a nostalgic smile returned to her face, ultimately distracted as Carly shouted out from the kitchen.  “How much do I owe you?”

A startled Haylee looked over her shoulder and asked “For what?”

“For the Pinks, silly,” Carly responded as she held up the Camel Pink pack she just took out of the refrigerator.

“Oh…just leave a couple of bucks on the counter.  My mom will pick it up,” Haylee replied, belching out a blast of exhaled smoke and putting her phone back into her white shorts to hide the evidence of her retro photo gallery with the guy she couldn’t forget.

Carly returned to the couch, packing the Camel Pink pack against her wrist and opening it up, extracting the first cigarette.  She looked at Haylee’s lighter on the table and asked, “Mind if I use that?” Haylee gave her the affirmative consent and Carly reached over jokingly adding, “Good…because I’m guessing you don’t want to test what happens if we monkey fuck again.  You got in for quite a bit more than you bargained for last time!”

Haylee laughed again, once again admiring how pretty Carly was when she smiled and lit her cigarette.  It was a look that she knew would win over whatever lucky girl–or guy–that Carly chose to pursue if only she could up that confidence level to go with the personality, and doing everything she could to boost Carly’s confidence was gonna be Haylee’s pet project moving forward, and she began by inquiring, “So Bella Reese fell for you in 7th grade class.  Tell me about the next hot girl you got to feel up.”

Carly laughed, bending her elbow on the top of the couch and holding the cigarette close to her face between drags.  It was the most confident pose she’d ever seen Carly take while smoking, and as Carly began relaying more stories from her personal archives, Haylee couldn’t help but feel the first corner on Carly’s journey had already been turned this afternoon.

———————————-

The front porch of the Rosenquist farm house was bustling with activity with two tables of patio furniture pressed together and seven people seated in chairs encircling the table.

“…..it was the steamiest July night you can imagine and this older lady just collapses.  It was so scary to see!” Courtney recalled aloud, describing a scene to Glen, Louise, and Kevin from one of her early dates with Wade at the fair, her elbow resting on the table with her freshly lit Marlboro Menthol 100 held inches from her face  “And then Wade comes swooping in like a hero from a Western movie to help her out, even taking off his hat to let her rest on it.”

Wade’s brother grinned listening to Courtney’s description while his parents beamed with pride listening to Courtney rhapsodize about their son’s heroics at the county fair.

“It only took him about two minutes and the woman was coming around.  The medics arrived but if Wade hadn’t been there, I don’t know what would have happened to her,” Courtney continued, pausing to give an affectionate smile to a humbled Wade and then took a deep drag from her cigarette, wrapping up her story through a talking exhale as she added, “And that was when I knew I couldn’t let this cowboy slip away!”

The Rosenquists laughed, simultaneously annoyed at the incessant waves of cigarette smoke coming from Courtney and moved by the crackling chemistry they were seeing between Courtney and their son.  They knew he’d found someone special and were enjoying her company.

Seated behind them and listening to their interactions were Trevor and Lauren, who had never heard Courtney tell this story before and both began to connect the dots that it happened the same night they were at the fair, right around the time Haylee’s boyfriend Jacob was arrested.  Lauren was smoking a cigarette of her own, using an empty Coke can for an ashtray as Courtney was at the table in front of her, laughing along but with a decidedly more subdued presence than usual.

“I better make sure that roast isn’t burning,” Louise announced, getting up from her chair  to tend to the meal she was preparing.  “It should be ready in the next 10 minutes.  As beautiful of a night as it is, I think we should all just eat out here if that sounds okay,” she added looking to her guests to see if they’d concur.

“That sounds great!” Lauren responded warmly through a talking exhale.

“I’d love that!” Courtney responded with even more energy, mentally checking herself to tilt her head skyward to exhale her big stream of cigarette smoke, doing her best to be mindful of her manners in front of Wade’s parents despite the culture of the McPherson home where ill-mannered smoking had been the backdrop of her upbringing.

Louise smiled warmly back before turning to head into the house, and both Trevor and Courtney could tell by Louise’s body language and eye movement that despite the very positive energy she was feeling toward Courtney and how good she seemed to be for Wade, the incessant smoking was a red flag that would be no small challenge for her to get past.

Minutes later, Louise brought her roast out to the patio tables along with the side dishes she’d prepared, and Courtney had to check herself to keep from lighting up during the meal as she usually did at home.  During and after the meal, as the laughs and easygoing banter flowed generously with minimal awkwardness, Courtney was struck that her chemistry with Wade’s parents and brother was just as solid as her chemistry with Wade, her nervous anticipation of the first impression drifting away as effortlessly as the continued exhales from her litany of post-meal cigarettes as the night went on.  She looked affectionately at Wade every few minutes, conveying without words how ecstatic she was that everybody seemed to like each other so much.

Yet while the Rosenquists attempted to include Trevor and Lauren in their conversation, the young couple was largely spectators for the hour and a half after dinner, drawing the attention of Wade’s brother and parents primarily when Lauren beckoned Trevor to light one of her seemingly endless chain of Marlboro Light 100s, or when they heard one of her intermittent coughs.  Trevor knew that this was Courtney and Wade’s moment and was content to be a spectator, but as Lauren got increasingly quiet as the night went on, he became increasingly impatient to find a moment to get to the bottom of whatever was going on that was making Lauren so introverted and detached this evening.  He increasingly felt like he knew the answer, but couldn’t bring himself to accept what his imagination kept returning him to.

———————————

“You guys have fun today?  You’re awfully quiet back there,” Courtney asked from the passenger seat of Wade’s truck as they made the long drive back to the Minneapolis suburbs after dark.

Trevor paused for a moment to let Lauren respond first as she usually did, but decided to avert the awkwardness of Lauren’s atypical silence when he responded, “Yeah it was a good time.  Might not want to go to a rodeo every weekend but it was something new.”

Wade looked up to the rearview mirror, still sensing something wasn’t right with Lauren but barely able to see her face in the darkness of the backseat of his truck, adding, “Sorry if you got in for more than you bargained for going to my family’s place for supper.  Hope you didn’t have any big Saturday night plans that fell apart.”

Lauren giggled and responded, “Not at all.  This was a really fun day, Wade.  Thanks for inviting us and introducing us to your family!” still doing her best to convey her usual level of bubbliness.  She handed Trevor her lighter and beckoned him to light yet another cigarette for her, and Wade tried to use the brief gleam of light to study Lauren’s face, still feeling a nagging suspicion of the same thing Trevor feared but unable to get the clarity he needed from studying her expressions.

“Your family is so great!” Courtney exclaimed, beckoning Wade’s attention as she lit another cigarette of her own.  “You guys are like out of a storybook of what I always imagined a farm family would be like.  It’s so sweet!”

Wade beamed a brighter-than-usual smile and then responded, “Glad you had a good time,” pausing as a cloud of her exhaled smoke nailed him in the face and then continued playfully, “Since you liked them so much, now might be a good time to make a little confession.”

Courtney furrowed her brow and responded, “What??!” with wisps of smoke still pouring out of her mouth and nose in Wade’s direction.

“I’d set it all up with my parents and brother to meet you today as soon as I invited you to come to the rodeo.  I didn’t want you to stress about meeting them so I kept it on the down-low until the rodeo ended,” Wade confessed.

“Oh you asshole!” Courtney replied whimsically, shaking her head in faux frustration and taking another fierce drag from her cigarette.  “Honestly though, it was a good idea….because you’re right I’d have been freaking if you’d told me.”

Wade nodded in agreement, “And I knew you’d have nothing to worry about.”

Courtney was turned on looking and listening to her boyfriend, especially with the context of the successful meeting of his parents, and decided to unbuckle her seat belt and sidle on up to him, loving that his truck didn’t have bucket seats and allowed her to do this.  Putting her chin on his shoulder, her minty tobacco breath aggressively invading his space as she rhetorically inquired, “Bet you never figured last year at this time you’d be bringing  a leather-wearing, chain-smoking bad bitch from the city home to meet your parents huh?”

Wade laughed and deadpanned, “Well you’re actually the fourth girl fitting that description I’ve brought home to mom and dad.”

Courtney took a fresh drag from her cigarette, her laughter felt on his shoulder that she continued to rest her chin on as she kept on bantering with him in an extended foreplay that both knew would soon enough come to a head at his apartment when they got back to Eden Prairie.

Watching from the cramped backseat, Trevor felt a contagious energy from his sister and Wade as he observed them flirt, and then turned to his increasingly quiet girlfriend who stared blankly out the window dragging from her cigarette.  He reached his hand to her thigh and began to lovingly touch her, unprepared as Lauren jolted back in abject terror from the touch of Trevor’s hand, pulling away with a petrified and maximally traumatized response.  Trevor’s mouth hung open helplessly as Lauren, after her initial reaction, feigned a smile at him and took hold of his hand.  She leaned forward to kiss him on the cheek, the intense flavor of tobacco on her breath being the only thing familiar about Lauren’s energy tonight, her hand still trembling as she held Trevor’s hand.  There was no longer any mystery in Trevor’s mind that something terrible happened to Lauren in Dusty Beaudry’s truck.  It was just a matter of how and when he’d have the opportunity to address the issue with her.

For the next 45 minutes, Wade continued driving home, with both couples eager to get back to their home addresses for entirely different reasons.  As Wade was finally heading down the block en route to the McPherson home, he was hoping Trevor would be willing to agree to the terms of his pending request.

“So Trevor,” Wade opened, “Lauren rode up with us and she needs a ride home to Maple Grove.  I’d kind of like to get your sister home as fast as possible so would you mind taking care of that?”

“Sure, that’ll work,” Trevor replied immediately, eager for the opportunity to finally be alone with Lauren.

“Thanks Trevor!” Courtney responded, looking into the backseat with a fiery libido raging in her eyes that left no doubt she and Wade were gonna be having white-hot sex when they got back to his place.

Wade looked into the rearview mirror as he pulled into the driveway of the McPherson home.  “Thanks a lot for spending the day with us, guys.  Lauren, you want me to pick up a can of Grizzly Wintergreen for you the next time we hang out?”

Lauren giggled, trying to mask the viscerally negative connotation she now had to that after the Dusty encounter, but responded, “Thanks but I think I’ll stick to my cigarettes.  It was my pleasure to meet your nice family, Wade!”

The two couples soon parted ways as Trevor and Lauren climbed out of the back of Wade’s truck, both happy for and a bit jealous of Wade and Courtney as they admired their electric chemistry which would soon be consummated with a passionate physical display of their love for one another.  As Wade’s truck pulled out of the driveway en route to his place and Lauren and Trevor headed for Trevor’s car, they both knew it would be a much different drive for the two of them.

Lauren fished out a cigarette from her pack as soon as she sat down, avoiding eye contact with Trevor as she handed her lighter to him and invited his flame to the end of her cigarette.  She finally looked up, smoke spewing from her face, and feigned another smile for the umptieth time since mid-afternoon, saying “Aren’t they just the cutest?!?  I’m so happy for them.”

Trevor started his car and backed it out of the driveway, eager to broach the difficult topic but willing to buy some time for himself as he tried to find a good opportunity to pivot the conversation, playing along with the topic at hand for the time being saying, “Yep….kind of reminded me of when I brought you home to meet the family for the first time last fall.”

Lauren smirked as she exhaled after a second deep drag, “I hadn’t thought of that but you’re right.  It would have been a lot less nerve-wracking for me if I’d only found out I was meeting them two minutes ahead of time like Courtney did.”

The conversation continued as they got onto the freeway for the 15-minute drive to Maple Grove, with Lauren keeping the small talk up at all costs in an attempt to filibuster the drive home away.  She was determined not to allow a moment of silence to creep in for Trevor to address the topic she so desperately wanted to avoid.

As they got off the freeway and had only a few minutes of drive time before getting to Lauren’s place, Trevor knew he needed to force this pivot by whatever means necessary.  Lauren fished another cigarette out of the pack in her purse and kept jabbering as Trevor stopped for a red light, guiding his hand toward her for a light.

Trevor took the moment of silence when Lauren was taking her first drag off the light-up to awkwardly interject with a solemn, “What happened today, Lauren?”

As the smoke emptied out of Lauren’s face, a moment’s silence filled the car as Lauren realized the gig was up, yet still feigned ignorance as she eventually responded, “What do you mean?”

Trevor made direct eye contact to confirm she wasn’t fooling him and then assertively responded, “You know what I mean….with Dusty!  In his truck!  On the cigarette run!”

Lauren looked straight forward out the windshield, taking a deep drag from her cigarette and continuing to stall as she replied emphatically, “Nothing happened, Trevor!”

Trevor was growing increasingly frustrated knowing he only had a couple of minutes drive time left to get to the bottom of this, cutting to the chase and asking directly, “Did that bastard rape you?”

Lauren began to look his way but avoided direct eye contact, nonetheless responding with a forceful “Noo!” with smoke spraying from her face.

Trevor could feel the rage build as he could tell she wasn’t being honest.  “If he raped you I swear to you I’ll kill him!”

“Noooo!” Lauren whined in a voice similar what Dusty heard moments before he forced himself upon her.  This time she made direct eye contact and her words were slightly more convincing as she added, “He didn’t rape me, Trevor.  I promise!” technically speaking the truth given that she set him on fire before he penetrated her.

Trevor nodded, his worst fears slightly assuaged, but he was unconvinced, “Something happened though, didn’t it?”

A few moments of silence that seemed like agonizing hours filled the car as Lauren filled her lungs with a deep drag and slowly let the smoke empty out of her lungs and mouth, coughing and then matter-of-factly responding.  “Something did happen.  But I don’t want to talk about it.  Not tonight.  Not tomorrow.  Not ever.”

Trevor pulled onto Lauren’s street and the clock was working against him for getting any kind of satisfactory confirmation, “You expect me to just forget about the fact that that son of a bitch came after my girl?”

“Yes!” Lauren exclaimed, residual smoke continuing to trickle out of her mouth and nose several breaths after her last drag.  “I do expect you to forget it Trevor!  And I expect you to let me forget it too!”

Trevor stewed in silence till he reached the driveway of Lauren’s parents’ place.  As he pulled in, Lauren tried to calm things down by affectionately grabbing his arm and saying, “I’ll be fine, baby.  I promise you I wasn’t raped.  But now I need you to make a promise too.”

Trevor sat silently awaiting her next words as she took a drag from her cigarette while collecting her thoughts.

“I need you to promise me that you won’t ever talk about this again….and that you won’t say or do anything to Dusty…or tell anyone else.  Okay baby?” Lauren requested.

Trevor sat there in silence, the volcanic rage in his face tipping off Lauren that this promise wouldn’t come easily for him.

“Promise me!!” Lauren exclaimed, continuing to fight back the tears she’d been suppressing all afternoon and evening.

“Okay,” Trevor muttered softly.

“I mean it, Trevor!” Lauren continued, her tone more aggressive than Trevor could ever remember seeing from her.  “Neither of us will ever speak of this day again!  I want to hear you promise me!”

Trevor nodded, his love for her leading him to agree to terms that he knew he shouldn’t agree to.  “I promise,” he said with as much conviction as he could muster.

Lauren’s stern face broke a halfhearted smile as she slid on up to him behind the steering wheel and hugged him aggressively.  “I love you so much, Trevor!” she passionately asserted.

The tone of Lauren’s voice along with the length and tightness of her hug spooked Trevor as it felt a bit like a hug goodbye.  He savored the feel of her touch and the dense aroma of cigarettes clinging to her hair and blouse over the duration of this hug, finally responding “I love you too.  More than you’ll ever know.”

When Lauren finally pulled away, Trevor took a close look at her beautiful face and admired the sexy cowgirl outfit she’d prepared for him that day even though it would be forever etched in his memory as the outfit that represented by far the most difficult day of their relationship, that top button on her blouse still buttoned up tight and undoubtedly concealing some evidence of what happened to her.  He kept waiting for the typically emotional Lauren to break down, but was instead met with a loving smile as she said, “I’ll talk to you tomorrow, okay, baby,” helping to ease Trevor’s mind if only for a moment as she took another drag from her cigarette and blew it into his face before climbing out of the car en route to her parents’ home at the other end of the driveway.

A tidal wave of negative emotions rushed into Trevor’s heart as he watched Lauren walk away.  He lamented again as he had for hours the decision to let Lauren get in Dusty’s truck in the first place, and knew that Lauren had undoubtedly been playing the day back in her mind wishing she’d made different choices every step of the way as well, any one of which would have allowed her to avoid the moment of reckoning and every awkward and unpleasant moment since.

Trevor continued to watch her progress toward her front door, dragging from her cigarette as always, and expecting her to break down, but she never did.  Instead, the tears started rolling down Trevor’s cheeks, particularly as he pondered the typically sweet father-daughter moment Lauren shared on the phone with her father just before she got into the truck with Dusty….and now she had to walk into her home and face her father carrying the burden of a likely sexual assault on her shoulders.  It broke Trevor’s heart, but as he watched her cigarette glow one last time as she dragged before walking in the door, he realized that was why she’d been able to avoid an emotional breakdown.  Just as she put on a show of herculean strength for him in the face of such a dark secret, she had to keep that game face for everybody else.  He knew that maintaining this facade of normalcy would be the most difficult thing she’d ever done, and he suspected she might never be the same because of it.

As Lauren stepped inside her home, completely out of Trevor’s view and undoubtedly giving a sugar-coated account of her day to her parents, Trevor backed out of her driveway to head back home.  There was nothing more he could do tonight, and if he was to hold to the promise he made Lauren, there was nothing more he could do period.

————————–

Becky McPherson poured a glass of iced tea from a jug in the refrigerator and noticed three $1 bills sitting on the counter next to the refrigerator.  She furrowed her brow and took a deep drag from her Marlboro Red, shouting into the living room to her daughter Haylee sitting on the couch.

“Haylee, did you have company today?” Becky asked.

Cigarette dangling from her lips and a flash of paranoia on her face, Haylee abruptly responded, “No”, the cigarette bouncing up and down in her lips as she added, “Just the boys,” in reference to Jarrod and Joshua.

“Well who left these three dollars next to the fridge?” Becky inquired with suspicion.  “I know it wasn’t you!”

Haylee panicked for a split second before responding in a talking dangle with messy bursts of smoke spilling from her face, “Oh I forgot.  Carly came by for a bit and she took a pack of cigarettes.  She said she left some money behind to pay for them.”

Becky was confused by Haylee’s evasiveness, knowing there was more to the story but simply answering, “Oh…okay,” while taking a deep and introspective drag from her cigarette.

But Becky’s attention was quickly diverted to the front door when Trevor walked in.  She smiled upon seeing him, but could tell by his red and swollen eyes that there was trouble in paradise.  She nonetheless tried to remain chipper as she said, “Hi honey.  How was your day at the rodeo?”

Trevor tried to bulldoze his way to the stairs en route to his bedroom without his mother seeing that he’d been crying, but knew it was already too late for that.  “It was good,” he answered unpersuasively.

“Well tell me about it!” Becky exclaimed in her husky voice, wisps of smoke still coming out of her mouth and nose.

Trevor was in no mood for story time and had no problem telling his mom that, responding “I’ll tell you more tomorrow.  Right now I just want to get to bed.  It was a long day in the sun.”

Becky watched Trevor head upstairs and softly responded, “Tomorrow it is.”  She watched Trevor disappear upstairs and then looked over to Haylee in front of the TV, a swirl of smoke around her face as always, and correctly deduced that both of her children had far more going on today than they were willing to share.  That was nothing new, but her maternal instinct told her today had been a particularly eventful day of secrets for both Trevor and Haylee.

Meanwhile, Trevor walked into his bedroom and then closed and locked his door behind him.  He sat on his bed and briefly buried his face in his hands after an emotionally exhausting day.  After a few seconds, he looked up and his eyes landed on his desk, and in particular the notebook he’d used to write poems and short stories in the final days of summer after his storybook day at the Minnesota State Fair with Lauren.  For several days, Trevor had been full of inspiration and filled up a couple dozen pages of notebook paper with his creative writing, but after school started on Labor Day, he’d drifted from that creative spurt of late summer and let the notebook sit idle.

Trevor stood up and walked toward the desk, opening the notebook and thumbing through the pages of inspired, upbeat writing that transferred so effortlessly from his imagination to the page only a few short weeks ago.  He sat down at the desk and flipped the notebook to the first blank page, his mind suddenly brimming with a new spurt of creativity that he once again felt emotionally obligated to put in writing.  Only this time, the words coming off of his pen were coming from a much darker place than anything he’d written on those earlier pages.

 

 

 

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Trevor Winds Down Summer At The Ozarks (Chapter 12)


Becky McPherson turned her tan Buick into the same suburban Minneapolis alley as she had been doing at least two times monthly for the past few years on an early August Thursday afternoon.  She spotted the familiar black van parked in the empty alley and smiled, pleased to see her long-time bartering partner was reliably waiting for her as always at the agreed-upon time.  Becky dragged hard from her Marlboro Red, not entirely free of the anxious feeling she usually gets when meeting with her contact in this alley, but the routine nature of these black market cigarette transactions had certainly led to a diminished tension over time.

Becky put her car in park and honked, taking a final drag from her cigarette while opening her car door and stepping outside, tossing the spent butt into the alley and watching as her Somali immigrant contact Abdullah stepped out of the driver’s seat of the van and greeted her with his usual warm smile.

“Out of cigarettes so soon, Becky?” Abdullah asked with a thick East African accent while walking to the back of the van and opening it.

“Ugh,” Becky said with mild exasperation.  “My girls can’t go back to school quickly enough as far as I’m concerned.  They burn through the cigarettes I buy them faster each week during summer break.”

Abdullah laughed as he retrieved the bag containing Becky’s usual order of nine cigarette cartons, three each of the preferred brands of herself, Courtney, and Haylee.  “I hope they appreciate how much you’re spending on them.  Even with my North Dakota discount, cigarettes ain’t cheap!”

Becky took the bag of cigarettes from Abdullah, fishing out the $500 in cash from the envelope in her purse she just retrieved from her ATM, responding “Not sure they’ll appreciate it enough until the day comes that they have to pay for their own cigarettes,” handing Abdullah the envelope full of cash.

Becky was about to ask Abdullah how his mother in Somalia was doing when the casual nature of their transaction was abruptly interrupted by squealing tires coming from both directions in the alley.  Two unmarked black SUVs with flashing police lights sped up to the scene, braking suddenly just behind Becky and Abdullah’s vehicles.  Agents dressed in black Kevlar burst out of the SUVs, guns drawn, as one agent parked behind Abdullah’s van shouted through a megaphone, “Hands up!”

Becky and Abdullah cooperated, both quickly putting their hands up in the air and looking at each other realizing the jig was up for both of them.  Abdullah quickly sized up the look on Becky’s face to try to determine if she had betrayed him and was in on this, but could tell by the stunned terror in her eyes that she was taken completely by surprise by this.  Becky looked at Abdullah and saw something entirely different in his eyes….a look of inevitability and defeat as if he knew this moment would come eventually but that his world was about to come crashing down on him now that it was officially here.

Five law enforcement agents swooped in from both directions, guiding Becky and Abdullah to stand against the wall to be frisked as one agent picked up the bag of black market cigarettes that Becky had just purchased and began looking them over.  Another agent plucked the envelope of cash out of Abdullah’s pocket before finally verbally addressing him.

“We are agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.  We’ve been investigating your cigarette smuggling operation for years.  We got this transaction recorded,” he said, pointing up to a small camera mounted on a nearby fire escape that Abdullah and Becky could barely notice upon looking in the direction the officer pointed to.  “Expect more arrests in the days to come, but Abdullah Guleed, you are the first in your organization that I am placing under arrest.  You have the right to remain silent….” the officer continued, slapping a pair of handcuffs on the wrists of Abdullah as he proceeded to read him the rest of his Miranda rights.

Becky was overcome with feelings of sadness, remorse, and regret as she watched the officer lead Abdullah to the back of the ATF truck, feeling the pain of this well-mannered immigrant she’d come to know so well in the past few years and realizing his freedom and his dreams of a better life for his mother back in Africa had likely come to a grinding halt.  Only when Abdullah was out of sight did Becky begin to wonder why a pair of handcuffs was not yet being put on her wrists.

No sooner did the thought enter her head before she was startled by the voice of another ATF agent approaching her from the other direction.  Becky listened intently as he began to speak.  “Ma’am, you’re not under arrest and you’re free to go.  However, we will be confiscating the black market cigarette purchase you made and give you a warning to never do business with Mr. Guleed or anybody from his organization again.   We know who you are and have all of your information.  If in the future you’re ever caught in possession of cigarettes without the proper tax stamp data, you will be sent a bill from the Minnesota Department of Revenue for unpaid tobacco taxes.”  He paused to let that all sink in to a stunned Becky before adding, “Any questions?”

Becky nodded in the negative, still at a loss for words in the midst of such a harrowing encounter.   While she felt a small measure of relief that she was being let go without legal consequences, she continued to struggle to mentally process what led up to this armed encounter with federal agents, climbing back into her car and reflexively lighting up a cigarette to provide herself some desperately needed nicotine relief.  The ATF officer waved her around the law enforcement SUV and she proceeded down the alley, mental gears grinding away trying to put the pieces together of what just happened and what would come next.  It never occurred to her that the series of events that led to this moment came when her daughter Haylee’s cigarettes were seized by a fairgrounds cop a few weeks earlier.

———————————————

Three weeks later, Becky was riding in the passenger seat of her husband’s Lexus, with Steve behind the wheel and 15-year-old daughter Haylee in the backseat, driving northward in the first hour of a long drive home following a family vacation to Lake of the Ozarks in central Missouri.  With a Marlboro Red between the fingers of her right hand, Becky carefully studied the stack of printouts she held in her left hand that documented her purchase plans for the drive home with the detail of a military operation.  She looked at the map on her phone for a definitive reading on their location.

“Looks like 33 miles north till Boonville,” Becky informed Steve in her sandpapery smoker’s voice, pausing to take a nervous drag from her cigarette before continuing.  “We’ll be stopping at Al’s Tobacco Outlet just off of Highway 87 to pick up my Reds.”  She pushed a couple more buttons on her phone before adding “Only $45.99 a carton!” looking up from her phone to give Steve a “not bad” facial gesture with wisps of smoke spilling out of her mouth and nose.

Steve smiled back, enjoying witnessing Becky’s passion about turning this “vacation” to the Ozarks into an elaborate run for discount cigarettes, this time from an ostensibly legal source.  “Wow, that’s like half what they sell for in Minnesota,” Steve finally verbalized in an understated tone that contrasted sharply with Becky’s mile-a-minute intensity.

“Cheapest cigarettes in the country,” Becky responded proudly, looking at her printouts again for the store names, street addresses, and cigarette sticker prices where she wanted the rest of her vacation entourage to stop on their way home.  “If you don’t count the cost of the gas, I’ll be paying even less per carton here than what I was paying to Abdullah.  We’re definitely gonna be coming here two or three times a year to buy in bulk.  I’ll be damned if I’m paying those Minnesota prices.”

After saying his name, Becky became quiet and contemplative a moment, dragging from her cigarette and feeling the surge of sorrow and guilt that always came when she thought of Abdullah.  Even though Becky knew Steve didn’t like when the subject came up, she nonetheless felt compelled to add, “And I think whatever money I end up saving I’ll use to hire a better lawyer for Abdullah. His mother in Somalia must be just sick about her son.”

Steve shook his head disapprovingly before responding, “Becky, you have no idea what Abdullah was involved with.  The others arrested in the smuggling ring had links to a terrorist organization.  Be glad you got off with a warning and cut your losses.  You don’t need anymore encounters with the ATF!”

Becky sat silently, listening to her husband’s words and knowing they made sense but still feeling as though she had betrayed Abdullah and owed him something. She took a final drag from her cigarette, tossed it out the passenger window, and then shrugged, acknowledging Steve’s comment with an abrupt “You’re right,” hoping it would close the topic for now even though they both doubted it would be the last time Becky would bring it up.

Becky cut the brief interval of tension by turning to the backseat to acknowledge their quiet passenger.  “Haylee, we’ll be stopping 30 miles up the road if you need to go to the bathroom.”

Becky was not surprised to look back and see her sullen and moody 15-year-old daughter looking down at her phone while dangle-dragging her Camel Pink No. 9 in silence, refusing to acknowledge her mother’s comment and emanating maximal attitude without even making eye contact.  Becky refused to be ignored and raised her voice to reinforce her earlier comment as she added  “Haylee, did you hear me?!?”

“I heard you,” Haylee fired back with dripping contempt, still refusing to look up from her phone and make eye contact while puckering her lips around the filter of her cigarette, the force of Haylee’s latest nasal exhale by itself making the granny ash wobbly but ultimately hanging on to the rest of the cigarette which hadn’t been removed from Haylee’s mouth for at least two minutes.

A look of mild defeat filled Becky’s face as she looked her youngest daughter up and down, noticing by the white tanktop and black shorts combination Haylee was wearing that she still wasn’t her old self.  Becky could never have imagined a wardrobe combination from Haylee that didn’t include something pink until the last month.  Ever since the chain of events that led to her 18-year-old former boyfriend Jacob Roth’s arrest, and the parental response that followed, Haylee had reverted to her old self and then some, shutting down the lines of communication completely and making it clear in no uncertain terms that she was angry at the world…and even angrier with her parents.  Haylee finally removed the cigarette from her mouth and ashed it out the cracked rear window before placing it between her lips for another long-distance dangle, never taking her eyes off of her phone even though she could sense her mother was still looking at her.

Becky knew a confrontation with Haylee was inevitable before school started again in less than two weeks, but right now she wanted to focus on the issue at hand that prompted this trip to Missouri in the first place.  She looked briefly to Steve and casually muttered, “I think I’m gonna touch base with the kids and make sure we’re all on the same page,” before proceeding to scroll through the contacts on her phone, about to press the button to call oldest daughter Courtney.

——————————–

Driving parallel to Becky and Steve about 30 miles to the west, Wade Rosenquist fit right in on the rural Missouri two-lane driving his old Ford truck with his arm hanging out the open window.  He looked over to the passenger seat and smiled as his passenger and six-week girlfriend Courtney McPherson placed a Marlboro Light Menthol 100 between her lips and lit up, fitting in with her surroundings just as much as Wade was, dragging deeply from her all-white cigarette and decked out in a tanktop and daisy dukes.  Courtney flashed her eyes flirtatiously at Wade while wrapping her lips tightly around the cigarette for a drag, maintaining eye contact for as long as possible until Wade had to look back toward the road.

Courtney’s summer had tracked inversely to her sister Haylee’s, starting slowly but coming alive these last several weeks to become one of the most unexpectedly satisfying stretches of Courtney’s life….and the country boy behind the wheel of this Ford truck was responsible for all of it.  Courtney began to muse how bored she’d have been sitting in the backseat of her parents’ car on a typical vacation or weekend trip up to the cabin, her earbuds in her ears the entire time, but she was loving mile after mile of blissful silence in the company of the man of few words driving her around this Wednesday morning in the dog days of August.

But just as Courtney was musing about the pleasing silence, her train of thought was broken by the sound of her cell phone ringing.  Looking down to see “Mom” on her caller ID, Courtney gave Wade a bemused and slightly annoyed smirk before placing the phone to her ear.  “Yes mother?” Courtney responded, knowing she’d be getting another update about Becky’s elaborate cigarette purchase plan, taking another drag from her own cigarette knowing she’d have plenty of time to enjoy it as her mother rambled on.

“Yeah Courtney….” responded the gravelly voiced Becky, getting right down to business just as Courtney expected, “….just reminding you to look for the Discount Smoke Shop when you get to Marshall.  It’s on South 4th Street just south of downtown.  According to their website they have your Marlboro Light Menthols on sale for $47.99 a carton.”

“Right,” Courtney responded matter-of-factly, remembering the details from only a couple hours earlier when they discussed before leaving the hotel at Lake of the Ozarks.

“And remember to wait for your brother to meet you there.  We’re gonna have you buy 15 cartons of your menthols to fill the back of Wade’s truck….and then have Wade buy 15 cartons of Lauren’s Marlboro Lights to put in Trevor’s car.  And then stop at Trenton before you hit the Iowa state line to get 14 more cartons.  Don’t buy more than 29 cartons or else we’ll go over the legal limit when we cross the state line though, okay?”

“Yes mom, I remember,” Courtney said as gently as possible while still trying to make her mild annoyance known, flashing her eyes back at Wade with an expressive grin that he picked up on immediately, knowing Courtney couldn’t wait to be done with this conversation.

“How far are you from Marshall now?  I think you guys are well ahead of Trevor,” Becky inquired.

“I don’t know…like a half hour maybe,” Courtney responded.

“Hmmm,” Becky said while taking a contemplative drag from her cigarette, knowing Trevor and Lauren were dragging their feet leaving the hotel and were probably still trailing well behind.  “Well I better get in touch with your brother and find out how far behind he is.  I hope you don’t have to wait too long for them at Marshall.”

“Well we’re in no real hurry I guess,” Courtney responded through a talking exhale in the aftermath of a deep drag, adding with no attempt at subtlety, “But could you do me a favor and text back next time?”

Courtney held the phone a few inches away from her ear as Becky’s husky voice raised to a dim shout, “I’m not trying to pester you Courtney, but we really need to have our ducks in a row on this!  I’ll call your brother and text you back how far behind he is.”

“Got it mom.  Talk later.  Love you,” Courtney closed the conversation as quickly as possible, ending the call as she looked Wade’s direction.

“Your mom sounds pretty wound up,” Wade said as Courtney rolled her eyes, dragging again from her cigarette in an attempt to maintain the chill vibe of the quiet country ride.

Looking up to see a sign showing it was still 26 miles to Marshall, Courtney let the smoke flow slowly from her mouth to get back in the mood, unbuckling her seat belt and sliding across the seat to put her left arm around Wade’s broad shoulders and her right hand on his lap, the aroma of her cigarette smoke enveloping his presence more directly than it had when she was in the passenger seat.  She leaned forward toward him to further enhance the tobacco stimulus that Wade had become increasingly familiar with in the past month.

“I think they got seat belt laws even in Podunk, Missouri,” Wade said with as playful of a smirk as he was capable of.

Courtney laughed as she took a drag from her cigarette, exhaling right past his face as she responded, “Can’t imagine we’d even be noticed out here unless I was riding on the tailgate.”

Wade smiled back as Courtney buried her chin on his right shoulder, loving the feeling of his deeply masculine build as she ran her left hand through his close-cropped blond hair.  It was a long ride back to Minneapolis, but that was just fine by her.

—————————————

Twenty miles behind Wade and Courtney on Highway 65, Trevor McPherson was not yet to Sedalia as he sped northward in his own vehicle.  He looked admiringly to the passenger seat where a display of supercharged feminine energy was expelling a force field of pheromones his direction, even though the source of this pheromonal onslaught wasn’t remotely aware of her power at the moment.  Trevor’s 16-year-old girlfriend Lauren sat in the passenger seat, her right hand texting away on her phone while her left hand held a half-smoked Marlboro Light 100.  With her window fully down, she leaned back in her seat with her bare legs tucked just outside the window, relaxed and taking in the easygoing summer vibe while she still could in the season’s final couple of weeks.

Trevor strained to focus on the road as he looked her over top to bottom, her dark blond hair gently whipping with the wind from the open window, a pair of badass aviator sunglasses covering her eyes that were distracted by the cell phone she was texting into.  Below the neck, her sparkly silver tanktop glistened over her curvy chest and onto her flat stomach, ending just north of her belly button.  The journey south from there was as curvy as any Ozark back road as Lauren’s waist was draped in a pair of skin-tight white shorts with a lace-up fly that perfectly framed her crotch, and those long tan legs extended at a slightly upward angle all the way out the passenger window where her bare feet were hugging the passenger side mirror.

There was only one thing that could make this image more perfect for Trevor, and Lauren was about to help him with that as she approached her cigarette to her lips and took an intense drag, the airborne smoke produced from the drag immediately getting sucked into the car by all of the air streaming inside from the open window.  Trevor couldn’t have been more pleased when the blast of smoke went right into his face in a hurry, and continued coming as Lauren exhaled, still texting away.  As Trevor looked at the long ash on the end of Lauren’s cigarette, he had a feeling what was coming next and his suspicion was soon confirmed as an unthinking Lauren extended her left hand toward the cupholder in his console, flicking her ash into a nonexistent ashtray without realizing she did it.

Trevor raised his voice to be heard through the open windows as he playfully scolded, “That’s the third time you’ve done that this weekend!”

A startled Lauren let a brief flash of guilt burst from her face after realizing what she’d done.  “Oh gosh, I’m sorry!  I’m so used to my butt can being there in my car!” she said leaning down to scoop up what she could of the ash she had spilled into the console.

“That’s what you said the last two times!” Trevor exclaimed, feigning anger.  “I think I’m gonna have to get an upholstery guy clean up the mess you made and then send you the bill!”

Lauren stuck out her tongue playfully at Trevor, taking a double-pump final drag from her cigarette and then flicking the spent butt out the car window with the giant exhale of smoke following the butt in the same direction.  “I was just texting Haylee,” Lauren explained.  “I feel so bad for her.  She’s still not over Jacob.  She was just asking me if I’d heard anything from him.”

Trevor nodded, pretending to be interested but being sick of hearing about Haylee and Jacob after a month in which the two of them had been pretty much all his parents had talked about.  Hoping to change the conversation without saying so, Trevor took hold of Lauren’s left hand and brought it to his face.  He made a special point of looking over her fingertips as they approached, noticing the yellow and black nicotine stains near the fingernails that accompanied the smell of fresh tobacco that had become omnipresent on Lauren’s fingers, especially since her midsummer experiment with vaping had ended and a Marlboro Light 100 had become an almost permanent fixture in her hand.  She caressed his face as he kissed her fingertips, her eyebrows raising with peaked interest as she felt some rough stubble on his chin.

“How often do you shave these days?” Lauren asked.

“Couple times a week.  Getting to be more often.  Why?” Trevor asked, hoping her response would be favorable.

Lauren fulfilled his expectations when she playfully replied, “Just feeling more whiskers there than I had before.  That’s all,” before slowly pulling her hand away from his face.  As her hand then approached her purse, Trevor knew what was coming next and dutifully waited for her to hand him her lighter as she fished yet another Marlboro Light 100 from its pack.  Trevor flicked the cigarette to life for her and maintained eye contact as she briefly dangled off the exhale, pulling the cigarette from her face and smiling while performing another of her now-routine performative French inhales and then blowing the smoke straight into his face.

Trevor was now fully turned on and couldn’t resist keeping the momentum going as he looked at Lauren’s smoldering body all sprawled out in his passenger seat, his eyes particularly focused on those white shorts and how the drawstring tying her crotch together was nearly bursting at the seam and straining the eyelets to their breaking points.  He migrated his hand to the bow of the shorts and started to unfasten it, asking “How about you?  How often are you shaving these days?”

Lauren erupted in a louder laugh than usual, her voice hitting an octave huskier than what he’d been used to, almost certainly a result of her heavy smoking.  “The usual,” she responded, biting her lip as Trevor began working his finger under the loosening lace holding together the fly of her shorts.

Another ding from Lauren’s phone annoyed Trevor, try as he may have to not express that annoyance.  But as Lauren pulled her phone up to take a look at the incoming message while dragging from her cigarette, Trevor was concerned he was losing the moment.  The smoke poured from Lauren’s mouth and nose as she began responding to the text, not seeming to respond as dramatically as Trevor was used to as he trickled his index finger one by one down the eyelets of her shorts to loosen the drawstring a bit more.  Normally Trevor didn’t have to vie for Lauren’s attention but passive-aggressively conveyed his frustration by asking, “So are you into this or not?”

Lauren placed her cigarette in her mouth and responded, “I’m certainly not gonna tell you to stop,” through a talking dangle while continuing to text, still far too detached to match the moment Trevor was trying to create.

The moment suffered an even more fatal setback as the phone rang on the bluetooth device on Trevor’s car, the caller ID unsurprisingly reading “Mom”.  Trevor had no choice but to retreat his free hand from Lauren’s crotch and redirect it to the phone call from his mother.  Lauren finally looked up from her own phone, her shorts untied and her cigarette still hanging limply from her mouth, excited as she looked through the cloud of her own exhaled smoke to see that Trevor’s mom was touching base with him as the mother-son relationship was adorable to her.

“Hey mom,” Trevor responded, knowing another familiar update was on the way.

“Hey Trevor.  Where are you?” Becky asked.

“Just pulling into Sedalia,” Trevor responded as he passed the city limit sign.

“That’s what I figured,” Becky replied.  “Your sister is about 25 miles ahead of you.  Remember you’re meeting at the Discount Smoke Shop south of downtown Marshall.”

“Yes, mother.  You mentioned it before,” Trevor said with a mild tease, making playful eye contact with Lauren who was trying to suppress a giggle.

“Just want to make sure we’re all on the same page,” Becky reassured.  “And don’t forget.  Hide the cigarettes under the blanket in the trunk.  Do not drive over the speed limit and if a cop pulls you over and asks to search, tell him he has to show you a warrant!” Becky insisted, knowing that there could be some potential issues with two juveniles in possession of 15 cartons of cigarettes but still willing to take the risk.

“Yep.  I remember,” Trevor responded, using his free hand to make a chatterbox motion for Lauren’s benefit, to which Lauren once again had to fight to restrain an audible giggle.

“Remind Courtney of that too!  It’s an even bigger deal for Wade since he’ll be only one carton short of the legal limit….” pausing to add, “…and be sure to tell Lauren to remind her parents of that too.  You there, Lauren, sweetie?”

“Right here Mrs. M,” Lauren responded sweetly in response to her name being called.  “I’ll be sure to tell them,” she reinforced before dragging, knowing her parents were driving home in their own separate car and stopping to pick up multiple cartons of Marlboro Lights 100s as well, the preferred brand of all three smokers in the Nelson home.

Becky’s tone always perked up whenever she talked to Lauren and did once again here as she asked, “How are your folks doing?  I hope they didn’t mind taking a weekend off from the cabin and tagging along with us down here for the weekend?”

“They had a great time!” Lauren reassured her.  “It was good timing since they’re having that hot tub built outside my parents’ cabin this weekend.”

“Oh that’s great to hear,” Becky replied, maintaining her more tender tone chatting with Lauren, wrapping the conversation up with, “So you kids doing anything special on the drive home?”

“Not really,” Lauren responded through a talking exhale.

Trevor decided to give Lauren the first clue of his scheme for later in the day, responding to his mother while eyeballing Lauren as he said, “Just going for lunch up the road after stopping in Marshall.  Got a place picked out.”

“Sounds good,” Becky concluded.  “See you guys at home tonight.”

After the call ended, Lauren looked at Trevor with mild confusion, wrapping her lips inquisitively around the filter of the Marlboro Light and pumping her lungs full of smoke before asking, “What kind of place to eat do you have picked out for us way down here?”

Trevor smirked as he watched the smoke lazily exit Lauren’s respiratory system, responding, “Oh it’s a small-town diner I’ve heard some really good things about…” pausing for dramatic effect before adding, “…I think you’re gonna like it.”

Lauren’s confusion transitioned to a responsive smirk as she picked up on Trevor’s body language and knew he was setting her up for something.  “Treeevor!” she playfully scolded.  “What are you up to??”

Trevor smirked back and responded, “You’ll find out about an hour up the road.”

Lauren beamed as she took a final drag from her cigarette, flicking it out the window as she already had so many others in the less than two hours they’d been on the road, knowing that whatever Trevor had up his sleeve would keep things fun on this long drive back to Minnesota.

————————————-

Courtney continued to sit in the middle of the seat of Wade’s truck, her arm around Wade as he drove, the mild discomfort of their bodies pressed together in the August humidity being more than worth it for both of them.  Courtney took a drag from her latest cigarette before reaching over Wade’s body to ash out the driver’s side window.

“Grrrr!” Courtney exaggeratedly growled upon hearing her phone buzz with yet another text message.  She took a look and, as expected, it was from her mother.  She then looked up to the road to see a sign for a remote wayside rest one mile ahead.

“Good news, babe,” Courtney said, looking at Wade.  “My brother just pulled out of Sedalia….so we’ll have some time to kill before he meets us at Marshall.”

Wade nodded as she leaned up to kiss him on the earlobe, not instinctively loving the idea of having to wait for Trevor to catch up to them but knowing Courtney might make it worth his while.

“Why don’t you pull over into this wayside rest,” Courtney playfully requested.

Wade couldn’t miss that unmistakable fire in her eyes as he wistfully asked, “You gotta to go to the bathroom?”

Courtney gave him a prolonged googly-eyed stare before curtly responding, “Nope.”

Wade began pulling off the highway, steering his truck into the isolated foliage of this vacant wayside rest as Courtney made her agenda official reaching for his crotch and unbuckling his belt.  As he pulled the truck to a complete stop, Courtney continued to undo his jeans and then offered with escalating passion in her voice, “I think you need a reward for driving me around Missouri the last few days!”

Courtney slid her body over Wade’s lap, squeezing herself in between the steering wheel and the stiffening male body part that she had just let out of its denim lair, emerging on the other side where she opened the driver’s side door of Wade’s truck and quickly exited.  Wade sat on the edge of the seat, his exposed manhood hidden from possible traffic on the adjacent highway but exposed outside the driver’s side door of this truck as Courtney crouched down so it was pointed straight toward her face.  Intimidated for a split second as if looking down the barrel of a loaded shotgun pointed at her face, Courtney opened her mouth as wide as she could, knowing that wrapping her mouth around this male reproductive part would require all of the real estate available between her upper and lower jaws.

Courtney sucked on the head of Wade’s penis for a few moments, listening to his rising moans of passion as she let it slide deeper into her mouth.  She hadn’t had too many moments of privacy with him at the hotel but was making up for it now, devouring as much as she physically could of the most enormous cock she’d ever seen let alone touched.  Wade did his best to thrust himself into her mouth while still being careful of not hurting her or himself with the heavy equipment.  Courtney wrapped her hands around what her mouth was unable to consume, jerking it back and forth to maximize the intensity of the experience for both of them, but especially Wade.  She was so grateful for him being in her life right now that she couldn’t possibly convey the extent of her appreciation, but figured this was one of the best ways she could deliver that message.

Wade could feel Courtney laboring to breathe, her hot breath heating up the portion of his dick immersed in his mouth one intense oral thrust after the next.  “I’m gonna come!” he finally exclaimed in about as boisterous of a tone as Courtney had ever heard from her laconic boyfriend.

Courtney knew she’d be unprepared for the moment that was fast arriving, choosing to close her eyes as if not wanting see the pending wreckage.  Like a pressurized steam pipe reaching its bursting point, an eruption of hot male fluids rocketed out of Wade’s dick and Courtney felt like she had an oversized garden hose in her mouth, the overflow of his cumshot squirting out of the circumference of her mouth and spraying all directions onto her face while she gulped down the plentiful amount that remained in her mouth.  Wade continued to moan with pleasure as Courtney was willing to delay dealing with the aftermath of the mess he made all over her face as she wanted to suck him off just a few moments longer.

Suddenly, both of them came back to reality very quickly upon hearing the sound of a car pulling up behind theirs at the wayside rest.  The driver’s side door blocked Courtney’s vision but she abruptly let loose her oral grip of Wade’s male equipment while Wade nervously looked through his windshield to see an elderly couple park behind them.  They made nervous eyes with him as he worked fast to put his dick back into his pants, figuring that even this wholesome-looking elderly couple would be able to figure out what was going on here after eyeballing the lower half of Courtney’s body crouched down below the bottom of the driver’s door.

Courtney dug into her pocket looking for a tissue but couldn’t find any.  “Hand me my purse!” she exclaimed urgently but still unable to restrain nervous laughter as Wade handed her the purse, from which she pulled out a couple of Kleenex, hearing the strangers’ car door open and footsteps coming outside.

“Excuse me, sir” came the voice of the kindly old man behind the wheel directed at Wade.

“What can I do for ya?” Wade responded, laying on the country boy charm in hopes of disarming the incredible awkwardness.

“I was wondering if you could tell me how to get to Boonville.  My wife and I aren’t from around here and we’re kind of lost,” he replied.

Realizing the encounter wasn’t gonna end particularly quickly, Courtney had no choice but to stand up, somewhat startling the elderly couple as she continued to use her Kleenex to wipe the shower of ejaculate Wade had left on her face.

“Boonville’s where your parents are going, right?” Wade asked Courtney.

“Yeah,” Courtney responded, remembering from the map she looked at before she left.  “We’re not from around here either but I think if you just keep going north on 65 here and then turn right on Interstate 70, it’ll take you right to it.”  Courtney then began fishing out a cigarette from her purse.  Considering this old couple had already effectively seen her sucking off her boyfriend at a wayside rest, she didn’t feel particularly embarrassed about the notion of them knowing she was a smoker.

“Okay, so it’s east of here,” the older man said, stroking his chin as if realizing he should have thought of that as he looked up to see Courtney lighting up her Marlboro Light Menthol 100.  “Thank you….” he said, pausing with a wry smirk as he climbed back into his car and continued, “…now I’ll let you get back to what you were doing.”

Wade laughed nervously and waved as the couple pulled away, with Courtney burying her face in her hand in rosy-cheeked humiliation.  She peeked between her fingers to get Wade’s reaction as he shook his head in a playfully scolding manner.

“Don’t say it!” Courtney teased, pulling her hand from her face and then taking a drag from her cigarette, beginning to walk around back to the passenger seat so they could leave.

“I wasn’t gonna say a thing,” Wade replied with a continued playful tone, watching as Courtney’s exhaled smoke drifted into the humid early afternoon sky and then got lost in the foliage from the overhead trees.

Courtney climbed into the passenger seat, her youthful body looking both refreshing and refreshed to Wade in the tanktop and jean shorts, fastening her seat belt and content to ride shotgun again for the near future having had her fun.  As Wade pulled away, Courtney settled into her seat, a goofy smile lurking on her face that was nonetheless masking a new wave of insecurities as she pondered her continued battle with sexual sobriety.  Having put herself into a situation of getting busted by a sweet elderly couple for public copulation at an out-of-state wayside rest, Courtney couldn’t help but feel it was the latest reminder of the issue she sought treatment for only a few months earlier.  The current circumstance was comparatively innocent and done amidst a committed relationship, so she refused to beat herself up too much over it, but still made a mental note of the continued need to view her sexuality through the prism of an addict.  She brought her all-white cigarette to her lips for another deep drag, darting her eyes over to Wade and hoping he’d be able to put up with some conflicting messages he’ll probably continue to get from her about sex as she keeps dealing with this issue.

—————————————————

Haylee sat in the backseat of her parents’ Lexus with another cigarette dangling from her mouth, leering up from her phone just long enough to see them walking out of the tobacco shop in Boonville with bags full of cigarettes, but she pretended not to be paying attention to them.  After Steve and Becky finished concealing the multiple cartons of Marlboro Reds in the trunk, they returned to the front seat of the car and climbed inside.

Becky looked back to see Haylee slouching as she texted into her phone, her lips puckering up around the dangling cigarette and contributing further to the haze of secondhand smoke surrounding her in the backseat.  Trying in vain to make conversation once again, Becky excitedly offered, “About an hour up the road in Moberly, we’re gonna hit the motherlode of your Pinks, Haylee,” in reference to her daughter’s Camel Pink No. 9s.

Haylee looked up briefly to give her mom the stink eye, shrugging as if to project a what-do-you-want-me-to-say-to-that response conveyed through a verbal, “Okay?”

As Steve began to drive away, Becky sighed, exhaling a burst of her Marlboro Red smoke to drift into the airspace currently dominated by Haylee’s Camel Pink smoke, and then exasperatedly intervened with, “Haylee, your cigarettes are not easy to find.  It would be nice if you could show just a little appreciation.”

“Pfffft….” Haylee fired back, “…..yeah there’s just so much to appreciate these days!” as she continued tending to her phone.

Steve had by now had enough, “Haylee, do you know how many kids your age would kill to spend time in a place like you just did the last four days?  We’re so sick of this attitude from you all the time.”

“Leave me alone!” Haylee fired back angrily, the dangling cigarette stiffening tight in her lips in the way a cat hisses to warn its tormentor to back off.

Becky resisted Haylee’s warning, finally going there and broaching the festering Jacob topic as she said, “Maybe when you go back to school you’ll finally forget about romanticizing your rapist!”

“He’s not a rapist!” Haylee shouted, speaking with enough animation that she nearly lost her oral grip on the dangling cigarette.  “He was the only good thing that’s ever happened to me!”

“What a drama queen!” Becky responded with an angry laugh, escalating the tense conversation.  “He’s 18 and you’re 15, Haylee!  That’s statutory rape!  That’s why he was arrested!” she pressed, flashing back to that ugly night the previous month when she got the call to pick up Haylee at the police station.

“They dropped the charges so I guess they didn’t consider him Jack the Ripper like you do!” Haylee fired back, the conversation finally becoming heated enough that she removed the cigarette from her mouth and leaned up in her seat, ready to do verbal battle for the umptieth time since that night.

“Just because your friends changed their stories to get him out of trouble doesn’t mean he didn’t violate you, Haylee!” Becky fired back.

“Oh yeah!  Chloe Mays is really my friend!  She ruined my life and Jacob’s!” Haylee responded, quietly pleased that Chloe, Madison, and Taylor at least recanted their witness statements about seeing Jacob fondle her on the ferris wheel and prevented him from being tried for statutory rape.

Steve pleaded for calm, raising his hand to interject and adding, “Let’s not rehash this again.  Nothing good can come of it,” pausing but then realizing he needed to reinforce he and Becky’s mutual position.  “But I see you texting away on that phone back there Haylee and God help me, you better not be contacting him.”

Haylee cut short the final drag from her cigarette, a blast of smoke spraying from her face as she emphatically exclaimed, “Well you have nothing to worry about there!  Thanks to you trying to put him in prison he’s never gonna speak to me again!”

Not fully buying Haylee’s word, Becky doubled down.  “We mean it Haylee.  We put a restraining order on that kid.  If he contacts you in any way, it’s a probation violation and he WILL BE locked up.  If you really care about him, you better leave him alone!”

“Jesus Christ, mom!” Haylee shouted at the top of her lungs, wisps of residual smoke still trickling from her mouth and nose.  “I’m texting Lauren!  Is it okay with you if I still talk to my one friend left??!?” she guilted them, failing to pass along that while she was texting Lauren, she was texting her trying to get Lauren to contact Jacob.  Getting one final jab in, Haylee lowered her voice to deliver the finishing blow, “So can the person buying cigarettes from terrorists maybe quit lecturing me on what a criminal Jacob is?!?!”

Becky and Steve finally took their own advice and relented, knowing the argument would continue to go in unhelpful circles if it persisted.  They allowed awkward silence to again fill the car, a silence that was nonetheless a sweet relief from the shouting.  Neither Becky nor Haylee needed an excuse to smoke another cigarette, but reaching into their respective purses for another one was nonetheless the only thing they could agree on in their heightened state of agitation.  Both mother and daughter’s lighters fired up another cigarette in the tobacco-drenched sedan, marking the last audible sound heard in the car for quite a few miles to come.  It was gonna be a very long drive home for this trio of travelers.

————————————–

“There they are,” Trevor announced as he pulled up to the Discount Smoke Shop in Marshall, Missouri, and noticed Wade’s truck parked in the lot.

Lauren pulled the drawstrings tight again on her lace-up white shorts, preparing to step out of the car for a stretch break and chat with Wade and Courtney for a bit as Trevor pulled the car into the lot behind their truck.

Both couples stepped out of their respective vehicles, with Trevor and Lauren stretching their road-weary muscles and making a point of eyeballing each other as they did, getting a little turned on at seeing the other flexing their bodies.

“How are you two lovebirds doing?” Courtney called out, hoping to get a rise out of Trevor while not coming across as awkward, still reeling a bit having heard Trevor and Lauren having sex in the family cabin a couple of months earlier.

“Doing good,” Lauren volunteered, pulling out a cigarette and lighting up.

“I’m guessing quite a bit better than Haylee’s doing stuck in the backseat with mom and dad,” Trevor said to change the subject, eliciting uncomfortable laughter from all.

Wade was eager to head inside to the tobacco store to make the second purchase, with Courtney having already bought her own Marlboro Light Menthol 100s when they got there.  Wade looked to Lauren and inquired for clarification, “Marlboro Lights 100s…nonmenthol?  Right?”

“Yup!” Lauren responded with a youthful flair, the residual smoke spraying from her mouth and nose in a way that brought a smile to Wade’s face, reminding him of the hundreds of times a day when Courtney sported the same look.

As Wade walked toward the tobacco shop’s entryway, Lauren gave Courtney a gleeful and approving smile, verbally conveying her approval as she said, “I’m sooo happy for you Courtney!  He seems like such a great guy!” before pulling her cigarette to her lips for a satisfied drag as if briefly fantasizing about having her own way with him.

“Thanks Lauren.  He really is,” pausing contemplatively while dragging from her cigarette before adding, “….I’ve been looking for a long time but I think I finally found Mr. Right.”

“Well you deserve it, Courtney.  I bet it’s less scary to start college in a couple of weeks when you have his shoulder to rest on at the end of the day,” Lauren responded, impressing both Courtney and Trevor with her eloquent insight.

Courtney nodded and added, “It’ll certainly help,” unable to completely hide her butterflies about starting college in 10 days.

As he so often did, Trevor just hung back and quietly took in this rare conversation between his girlfriend and his older sister as they commiserated mostly about the pending transition from the dog days of summer to the beginning of the school year, with Lauren about to start her junior year of high school and Courtney going to college.  While Lauren’s connection had become more natural and persistent with Haylee, Trevor was glad to see her finding common ground with Courtney as well, with both girls casually dragging from their respective cigarettes as they continued to converse.  Trevor was enjoying the stretch break generally, but found himself hoping Wade’s departure from the tobacco store would be delayed so he could watch Lauren and Courtney connect even longer, their smoky exhales intersecting between them as they spoke, perfectly commemorating the fusing of these worlds.

Moments later, Wade came out with three plastic bags filled with cigarette cartons, handing them to Lauren who proceeded to put her two-thirds-smoked Marlboro Light 100 to her lips to take hold of plastic bags in each hand.  Trevor popped open the trunk of his car for Lauren who looked up to Wade to thank him mid-dangle, Haylee-style.  Lauren added with a touch of nervous apprehension, “My parents are taking care of paying you back….” cigarette bouncing up and down between her lips as she spoke, “…..you know that right?” hoping Wade didn’t think he’d be reimbursed by her right now.

“Oh I know,” Wade responded, adding  “Mrs. McPherson spelled out all of those details this morning.”  Laughter ensued as they all recalled Becky’s lectures about withdrawing cash from ATM machines rather than buying the discount cigarettes on credit card and then transporting them out of state.

As Lauren lifted her three bags of cigarettes to put them in Trevor’s trunk, she took a triple-pump finishing drag from the cigarette still dangling from her mouth, her inadvertent audience all quietly impressed by the aggressive stunt as an explosion of smoke surrounded her face as her lungs expelled all of that smoke.  Lauren pulled the spent cigarette from her lips and flicked it into the parking lot as she closed the trunk, unable to stop a fierce smoker’s cough that bellowed from deep within her lungs and momentarily rattled the others.

“Whoa girl!” Courtney responded with a nervous laugh, attempting to downplay her genuine concern over what she heard.  “Probably time to cut back on those cigarettes a little!”

Lauren nodded with a shared moment of serious contemplation before succinctly responding, “I know.”

The two couples chatted for a couple more minutes before preparing to part ways.  Courtney smiled appreciatively at Lauren as she watched her climb back into Trevor’s passenger seat, their bonding moment helping to remind Courtney that overhearing Lauren’s intimate moment with her brother helped motivate her to get back into dating life.  She then looked to Wade as he started his truck and her gratitude accelerated for the timing of that epiphany that Trevor and Lauren helped inspire.

Driving north out of Marshall, Lauren quickly spaced out her casual vow to “cut back on the smokes” to Courtney as she plucked another Marlboro Light 100 out of her pack.  Trevor smiled and leaned over to light it for her, then pointed up to the highway sign showing it was 45 miles to Carroll Springs.

“Carroll Springs,” Trevor directed Lauren’s attention.  “That’s the town where they have that GREAT restaurant I was telling you about.”  He paused with a smirk and added, “Hope you’re hungry.”

A bemused smirk re-emerged on Lauren’s face in response as she replied, “Forty-five miles from now I will definitely be starving!” eager to get the resolution on what was so special about this restaurant and having no idea what the surprise might be.

————————————————

Nearly an hour later, Trevor drove past the city limits sign that read “Carroll Springs, Population 1,368”, taking in the downscale rural atmosphere of the residential streets of this most typical-looking northern Missouri town.  Trevor seemed to know where he was going as he made a couple of turns to the town’s main street, eventually pulling into a parking stall in front of a dingy downtown storefront with a sign reading “Main Street Diner”.  Trevor smirked at Lauren as he turned to her and simply asked, “Ready?” looking at his car’s digital clock reading 1:47 and adding, “I know I’m starving.”

A confused Lauren dragged from her cigarette as she studied the unassuming storefront profile and asked, “This is it?” with an exaggeratedly skeptical tone.

“Oh you’ll like it,” Trevor reassured with a mischievous smirk, opening his car door and stepping outside, adding, “This place is known all over the area for its excellent food.”

Lauren smirked back, a little nervous about Trevor’s odd fascination with luring her to this clunky-looking diner, taking a final drag from her cigarette as she opened her passenger side car door and then flicked the spent butt to the curb and followed Trevor to the front entryway.

The teenage couple stepped inside to see the final throes of a diminishing lunch crowd of locals and a very homespun diner environment the likes of which neither of them had really experienced outside of a couple small towns near their families’ northern Minnesota cabins.  Lauren began to migrate to the booths in front of her, but Trevor tugged gently on her arm, his smirk splashed across his face wider than ever as he made his alternative suggestion.  “Why don’t we sit over here?” he suggested, pausing for dramatic effect before adding, “….in the smoking section.”

Trevor wished he had his camera recording as he took in Lauren’s startled response as she mouthed back, “The smoking section?” with genuine surprise.  Trevor found an open booth to his left and sat down, maintaining his smirk as he pointed to the ashtray on the table to confirm to Lauren that he wasn’t messing with her.

Lauren shook her head as she looked at the ashtray, vocalizing her elated energy.  “I didn’t know there were any restaurants anywhere that still allowed smoking!” briefly recollecting memories and adding, “I remember when I was like six I sat in a smoking section with my parents but that was like forever ago!  What kind of place have you taken me to, Trevor McPherson?!”

Trevor grinned smugly, taking a figurative victory lap for pulling off the pleasant surprise, adding, “I did a little digging before we left and found out Missouri doesn’t have any statewide laws against smoking in public places.  Not every restaurant in every town allows it, but I sent a couple of emails last week to make sure I could find one that does allow it.”

Lauren shook her head playfully, adding “You’re crazy, you know that!!!”

“Of course I know that.  You wouldn’t want me other way,” he responded, eliciting a childlike giggle from Lauren.  Trevor then reached for the pack of Marlboro Lights 100s poking out of her purse, plucked it out, and set it on the table, asking “So since we’re here…can I interest you in a cigarette, m’lady?”

Lauren’s uncontrollable giggling streak continued, finally getting her bearings and responding, “Don’t mind if I do!” removing a cigarette from the pack and dangling it from her lips as Trevor reached across the table with her lighter and fired her up.  For the first time in her life, Lauren was enjoying a cigarette in the smoking section of a restaurant, resting her elbow on the table and holding the cigarette near her face in one of Trevor’s favorite poses.  He had no idea what the food would be like at this greasy spoon, but even if it was nasty, he knew he’d still made the right choice as he stared lovingly at Lauren as she took her second drag, her exhale clouding up the uncirculated air above their booth.

Their moment was interrupted by the middle-aged waitress approaching their booth with menus.  In a husky but perky voice set on autopilot, the waitress announced her presence in a slight twang with “And how are you two doing today?” before setting the menus down in front of the young couple, a bit startled to see the clearly underage Lauren holding a cigarette.

The waitress regained her composure quickly as Trevor responded with an abrupt “good” while Lauren delivered a more emphatic, “Really good!  Isn’t it a beautiful day?”  The waitress smiled at Lauren’s sweet and perky demeanor as she asked them if they wanted something to drink.  Writing down their beverage orders and informing them she’d be back in a few minutes to take their food orders, she kept her eyes trained on Lauren as she took a drag from her cigarette, the teenager’s natural poise assuring her that this girl was no novice at this habit.

In the next few minutes, the couple looked over the menus filled with typical small-town diner offerings. Lauren dragged repeatedly from her cigarette while studying the potential selections until she realized she had already burned through her first cigarette, crushing it out in the ashtray in front of her.  She waited no more than a minute before reaching for her next, eliciting a light from Trevor at the exact moment their waitress returned to take their orders.

“Have you decided yet hun?” the waitress asked Lauren, still intrigued by the dynamics of this wholesome-looking teen couple whose female participant was so shamelessly smoking.

“I think so!” Lauren responded, looking up to the waitress and confirming, “I think I’d like the hot beef sandwich, please” through a cloudy talking exhale.

Trevor cringed a bit from across the table, not at all liking the sound of her selection and mentally checking that he was gonna go with a safer selection for himself, ultimately responding “Bacon cheeseburger and fries for me,” when the waitress turned to him.

“Alright, we’ll get that out to you guys in about 15 minutes,” she replied with a smile, turning away to leave the young couple to their smoke-filled booth once again.

Trevor and Lauren bantered about vacation memories from the past few days as they waited for their food to arrive, with Lauren casually smoking her cigarette as they spoke and at least a trickle of smoke escaping from her mouth and nose with every breath she took.  Her second cigarette was crushed out in the ashtray and before the meal arrived, a third was lit, inadvertently pushing the tolerance threshold for smoke in this smoker-friendly venue.

In moments, the waitress arrived with their plates of food, setting Trevor’s bacon cheeseburger and fries in front of him followed by Lauren’s hot beef sandwich in front of her.  Trevor wrinkled his nose again upon officially seeing Lauren’s entree, a mash of potatoes, beef with gravy, and soggy bread that looked absolutely disgusting to him, but which brought a hungry smile to Lauren’s face as they both thanked the waitress.

Trevor took a bite from his burger and decided the diner he sought out from two states away made a pretty good bacon cheeseburger.  Lauren, meanwhile, was ravenously shoveling in spoons full of her own sandwich, her smoldering half-smoked cigarette resting in the ashtray next to her.  It was a strangely enticing image for Trevor to behold, although he hoped by the time they kissed later on that her tobacco breath would overpower whatever residual taste was left from the hot beef monstrosity in front of her.  He allowed a broad smile to splash across his face as he looked adoringly at Lauren.

Lauren, picking up her cigarette for a drag in between bites of food, made eye contact with him, smirking back and playfully responding, “Why are you grinning at me?” as she simultaneously swallowed her food and exhaled her cigarette smoke.

“The small-town Missouri diner culture suits you,” he responded, beholding her enjoyment of both the food and the smoking permissiveness, as well as her general girl-next-door image that seemed to fit right in at the establishment.

After a startlingly husky laugh, Lauren replied, “Thanks.  I agree,” before returning to her food.

The couple finished their lunch and their waitress returned, asking if they had room for dessert to which Lauren patted her mostly full belly but then looked to Trevor and asked, “Should we split a piece of pie?”

Trevor wasn’t necessarily craving pie but shrugged in agreement, welcoming the idea of sticking around a bit longer and asking  “What kind?”

Lauren meekly cowered as if asking permission when she responded, “Apple?” knowing that Trevor preferred cream pies.

Trevor shrugged with passive indifference once again, agreeing to the terms and responding, “Why not?”

“Slice of apple pie coming right up,” the waitress responded, thoroughly enjoying the positive energy of this teenage couple, peeking again at the ashtray with three of Lauren’s cigarette butts in it and feeling even more intrigued due to the contradicting images.  At nearly 2:30, the diner was entirely empty by now save for Lauren and Trevor, so the waitress returned with their pie very quickly, not surprised to see Lauren smoking yet another cigarette when she got there.

“Here you are, loves,” she offered, setting the plate with the slice of apple pie between them and getting thanked graciously by Trevor and Lauren as they dug in.  The waitress smiled and surveyed them, her curiosity getting the better of her as she gave the couple a vaguely scolding look and inquired, “Shouldn’t you two be in school right now?”

Lauren shook her head no, stalling for a second to swallow her pie and then responding, “No we’re from out of state.  Just passing through on our way home.  School hasn’t started yet where we live.”

“Oh,” the waitress responded disarmingly, “Where are you from?”

“Minnesota,” Trevor replied, looking up to the waitress’ name tag and seeing her name was Joyce.  “Spent a few days at Lake of the Ozarks.”

“Well that must have been fun,” Joyce said.  “So when do y’all start school up there?”

“The day after Labor Day,” Lauren responded, picking up her cigarette for a drag in between bites of pie, looking a bit surprised that that wasn’t the time schools reopened everywhere.

“Oh gracious,” Joyce replied.  “They started school already last week here.”

Wide-eyed surprise filled Lauren’s face and Trevor seemed surprised too as Lauren said through a talking exhale, “That’s crazy!  I would hate to be stuck in school in summer weather this nice.”

Joyce smiled at the continued mismatch of contradictions coming from Lauren and decided to prolong the encounter, asking, “Hey do you mind if I sit down and have a smoke with ya?  Things have finally slowed down around here.”

“No we don’t mind at all,” Lauren spoke for both of them with an inviting energy.

Trevor was a little more conflicted, hoping to enjoy this moment with Lauren but also intrigued with Joyce’s interest in them and finally giving her a thorough inspection as she sat down next to Lauren, pulling her pack of generic Exeter cigarettes from her apron and lighting one up.  She sighed as if this smoke break was long overdue, and her face matched the strain and exhaustion of her tone.  Trevor figured she was in her early 50s and had probably lived a tough life working on her feet since high school, her demeanor and long-time heavy smoker’s look vaguely resembling that of his own hard-working mother.  An intense smoker’s cough immediately followed Joyce’s light-up that reinforced Trevor’s comparison to his mother.

After a couple of relaxing drags from the cork-filter cigarette, Joyce continued the conversation.  “So how old are you two?”

Lauren again got the jump on the response, firing back with “We’re both 16…” pausing a second before adding, “Well for a couple more days anyway.  Trevor’s got a birthday coming up on Friday!”

Joyce smiled, flashing her yellow-stained teeth briefly at Trevor and offering, “Happy birthday.  Seventeen huh?  Any big plans?”

Before Trevor could answer, Lauren gleefully interjected, “Oh I have some plans for this birthday boy!” pausing to drag from her cigarette and then directing a question to Trevor through a talking exhale.  “You cleared your schedule for Friday right?”

Trevor nodded affirmatively and Lauren continued, “That’s good because I’ve made big plans,” her pitch getting higher as it often did when she was being playful, although struggling to reach the high pitch she did a year earlier, likely a result of her voice changing from the much heavier smoking.

“Oh you two are so cute,” Joyce said, introducing herself formally and conversing with the young couple as they finished their pie.  In moments, Joyce was reaching into her Exeter pack for a follow-up cigarette, triggering Lauren to reach for her own Marlboro Lights 100s pack for another, popping open the box to see that it was empty and then casually crushing the box with her left hand while chatting and dropping it into the ashtray.

“Would you like one of mine?” Joyce offered upon seeing Lauren’s pack was empty.

“No that’s okay.  I got more,” Lauren responded, her hand already in her purse pulling out a fresh pack of Marlboro Lights 100s that she was soon packing against her wrist while continuing to make casual conversation about her family.  Trevor listened to Lauren talk Joyce’s ear off, musing that he saw Lauren open a pack before they left the hotel that morning, making this the second fresh pack she was already opening today and it was only mid-afternoon.  Briefly lost in the daydream, Trevor was quickly brought back to full consciousness as Lauren plucked out her first cigarette from the fresh pack, reflexively handing him her lighter.

Trevor silently cheered as he watched Joyce’s eyes follow the scene, the unlit cigarette bouncing up and down between Lauren’s lips as Trevor reached across the table to light it for her.  Lauren paused from talking as she took a deep drag off the dangle, her exhale pumping out far more smoke into the airspace of the booth than what Joyce’s airy generic brand was capable of.

Joyce looked to Trevor during the break in conversation, smirking as she commented, “She’s got you pretty whipped, huh?”

Trevor appeared to grudgingly concede, nodding as if slightly annoyed as he responded, “You could say that.”

Joyce laughed, then pressed further.  “You don’t smoke?”

Trevor shook his head no, at which point Joyce pointed to Lauren’s messy ashtray and rhetorically added, “You mean she smokes like this and you don’t smoke at all?  You two are quite a pair aren’t you?” and following it up with a deeply husky laugh that both Trevor and Lauren saw as a bit of a foreshadowing of what Lauren’s laugh would likely become in another 30 years.

The conversation continued for another 20 minutes, with Joyce showing Trevor and Lauren photos of her three young grandchildren and talking more about the life she had made in Carroll Springs, burning through two more cigarettes with Lauren who showed Joyce some vacation pics and family pics of her own.  Lauren went so far as adding Joyce as a Facebook friend and vowed to stop back if they ever came down that way again, with Trevor getting fewer words in but still enjoying the experience.  The lunch was fine, but the diner experience was everything he dreamed of and more.  They were behind schedule after spending more than an hour here but it was easily worth it.  As far as Trevor was concerned, he’d already gotten his birthday gift this year.

As they climbed out of the booth, Joyce hugged Lauren as if she was a long-lost niece when they bid each other farewell, the latest example to Trevor of how quickly Lauren was capable of making friends with adults of their parents’ vintage.  Joyce pulled in to hug Trevor as well, reaffirming her desire for them to stop by again if they ever returned to town.  “Have a great birthday.  Don’t let this little lady get you into too much trouble,” Joyce advised Trevor with a wink.

Lauren giggled as Joyce looked her way one last time en route to the exit.  “Don’t let this one slip away, darlin’,” were Joyce’s parting words to Lauren in reference to Trevor before final farewells.

Trevor held the door open for Lauren, who walked out into the fresh air and cut loose another fierce smoker’s cough comparable to what Trevor heard from her outside the tobacco store, unsurprising to Trevor after seven cigarettes in an hour at the diner but still a little startling as Lauren’s cough was starting to match his sisters and mother.  Trevor was progressing toward his car parked in the street but soon felt a presence approaching from behind before he got to the car door.  He began to turn around to investigate but before he fully made the pivot, Lauren swooped in, using her body to pin him to the car and aggressively approaching his mouth for a passionate kiss.

Trevor was happy to be on the receiving end of this unexpected burst of passion from Lauren on this nearly empty small-town street, feeling the front of her body squeeze into him with his back pressed firmly into the car door.  He peeked down to see her cleavage poking out of the sparkly silver tanktop, peeking further down to see her hips in those white shorts digging into his lower body.  He was pleased that her breath tasted like an afternoon of cigarettes with no trace of the unappealing meal she finished eating not long earlier.

Lauren finally pulled her lips from Trevor’s after about a minute of heavy making out, her smoky breath still fresh in Trevor’s grill when Trevor asked, “What got into you?”

Still breathing heavily, Lauren responded, “I just think you’re a really hot guy and wanted to show my appreciation for lunch!” she continued before proceeding to suck on Trevor’s chin with a few repeated strokes of her lips.

“You’re really liking that stubble aren’t you?” Trevor responded, reminded of Lauren’s favorable comment about his accelerating facial hair growth earlier.

“It’s a nice change,” Lauren responded through continued heavy breathing.  “Do me a favor and don’t shave before Friday….for your big birthday surprise.”

“About that…” Trevor replied, hoping to charm some details out of Lauren, but quickly realizing she had other priorities as she reached into his shorts pocket and pulled out his car keys.

Lauren pulled her body off of Trevor’s and playfully teased, “You’ll just have to wait till Friday and find out….but you’re gonna like it” shaking Trevor’s car keys in front of his face and then heading to the driver’s seat, ready to let Trevor ride shotgun for awhile.  Trevor slipped into the passenger seat as Lauren started the car up, placing a cigarette between her lips and letting Trevor light it for her before she aggressively exhaled into his face.  He could tell by the look in her eyes that they’d be making a detour in the first empty parking lot or vacant wayside rest.  As he peeked down at the snug bowstring holding Lauren’s white shorts together as she pulled away, he was confident he’d have better luck getting them completely off on his next attempt than he was the last.

————————————

————————————

Two days later, Trevor was driving up to Lauren’s place in Maple Grove as instructed on the morning of his 17th birthday.  He had packed in a full day worth of work for his neighborhood lawn mowing service the previous day so he could clear his schedule for Lauren’s birthday surprise.  As he pulled onto the block of the Nelsons’ home, he looked at the digital clock on his car reading 10:30, right on schedule as he approached the house and saw Lauren’s eyes peeking out of the gate in the yard that surrounded the pool which she so often did when she knew Trevor was on the way.

Trevor stopped his car in front of her house and immediately got a text message from Lauren.  He smiled knowing she was setting him up for something, opening up the text that read, “Look in the mailbox for your birthday gift!!!”

Trevor got out of the car and walked to the mailbox, opening it up and seeing two tickets to the Minnesota State Fair, which ran the last 11 days of summer up to Labor Day.  Trevor had only a couple of seconds to look over the two tickets before the sound of the gate on the pool fence opening drew his attention behind him.  He turned around to find the extra ingredient of his birthday gift, watching Lauren approach him dressed in the same outfit that drove him crazy at the county fair the previous month.  Her hair was once again braided into schoolgirl pigtails that hung onto her bare shoulders, with the same bare-midriffed white lacy tube top and the same buttery-smooth black leather shorts below the waist, this time accompanied with a chain along the waistline that made it look even more badass.

Trevor beamed with delight as Lauren approached him, cigarette in hand, taking an intense drag with a shit-eating smirk on her face.  He wasn’t surprised that Lauren decided to take him to the Minnesota State Fair on his birthday as they were both big fans of the state fair, but her memory for detail and sentimental associations for impactful moments in their relationship really validated how perfect she was for him, and her willingness to recreate this iconic image as a birthday gift hit him right where he lived.

Lauren walked up to Trevor and kissed him on the lips with breath that tasted like it had already consumed a half pack of cigarettes since she woke up.  Pulling her lips away from his for a second, Lauren muttered, “Happy birthday baby,” then kissed him again and added, “I figured I owed you a do-over after things went south at the county fair last month,” as she rubbed her hand on his maroon T-shirt and then lowered it to the waist of his tan cargo shorts.

Trevor showed his appreciation without words as he wrapped his arms and hands around her body and savored her tobacco-drenched aroma, continuing to kiss her.  Lauren again rubbed her chin against Trevor’s, becoming excited as she added, “Your scruff feels amazing.  Thanks for not shaving!” before plunging in for a little more of his rookie stubble on her face.

When they pulled apart, Trevor put his hands on her pigtails, remembering that Haylee and Lacey braided them for her last time and asked her, “Did Haylee come over to braid these for you?”

“Nope,” Lauren responded.  “My mom did it for me before she left for work,” pausing before adding with fluttering eyelashes, “And she’s going out to a movie with my dad and brother tonight so I’ll be able to give you your other present when we get home!”

Trevor was elated at the sound of it, letting Lauren lead him by the hand into the house to pick up her stuff and lock the place up before they left for the state fair, a trail of her exhaled smoke flowing into his face as he followed her inside.  Stepping indoors, he was again struck how the Nelsons’ house at this point smelled just as intensely of tobacco as his parents’ place, which was no small thing for a home where just a year earlier, Lauren and her parents both typically went outside every time they wanted a cigarette to spare younger brother Brian.

Lauren’s open pack of Marlboro Lights 100s sat on the countertop in the kitchen.  She placed her two-thirds-smoked cigarette in her mouth and dangled it as she picked up the pack, looking outrageously badass to Trevor in her tube top and leather shorts as she took inventory of the open pack to find a half dozen cigarettes left in it.  She stuffed the pack into the back pocket of her leather shorts and then walked to the refrigerator, dangle-dragging as she opened the fridge and took out two additional packs of Marlboro Lights 100s.  She made frisky eye contact with Trevor, cigarette stub still dangling from her lips as she theatrically opened her purse and dropped each unopened pack inside individually, all for Trevor’s benefit, and then saying in a tone just as frisky as her body language, “NOW I’m ready to spend the day at the Minnesota State Fair.  How about you?”  She took a double-pump final drag from the cigarette before finally removing it from her lips and crushing it out in the nearby butt can on the counter, letting out a minor smoker’s cough.

Trevor shrugged approvingly, asking “your car or mine?” to let his readiness be known.

“Oh let’s take mine,” Lauren said.  “The birthday boy shouldn’t have to deal with fair traffic!”

In moments, Trevor was in the passenger seat of Lauren’s car, his girlfriend behind the wheel en route to the Minnesota State Fairgrounds on the north side of St. Paul.  She was in a particularly perky mood, her stereo blasting with a preset chain of pop and country-pop songs, mostly breezy summer party songs, with Lauren singing along and swerving her shoulders and hips to the music as she drove, and all with a steady chain of cigarettes between her fingers on the steering wheel.

“Sing along, Trevor!” Lauren playfully instructed as she looked over to see Trevor stiffly sitting in his seat watching her with a smile as the car stereo blasted one overproduced pop trifle after another.  Just as Trevor never felt at home on the dance floor, it didn’t come naturally for him to sing and swing in the car, but he played along a bit for Lauren’s benefit, moving his shoulders exaggeratedly and eliciting the intended giggles from Lauren, residual smoke constantly spilling from her mouth and nose.

Over the course of the 25-minute drive, the soundtrack bounced from Demi Lovato to Carrie Underwood to Katy Perry to Ariana Grande to Taylor Swift to Jason Derulo, with Lauren singing and shimmying around to each of them with the energy typical of a teenage girl in a really good mood, and it was as infectious to Trevor’s eyes as the music was to Lauren’s ears.  And it was even more intoxicating for Trevor to see in the accompaniment of her endless smoking, ashing her multiple cigarettes into what was now two cup holders in the console filled with butt cans, both overflowing with all-white cigarette butts.  The ashtrays told a story of a summer as loose and carefree as her body language was right now in response to the music.

After a block-long traffic bottleneck leading to the fairgrounds parking lot, Lauren paid the parking lot attendant her parking fee with cigarette in hand and then proceeded into the lot, following the multiple fair workers pointing her in the direction of where to park.  Ultimately settling on a spot, the excitement in her eyes was more tangible than ever as she prepared to walk to the fair gate, looking at Trevor and rhetorically asking, “Ready?”

But before Trevor could answer, the melancholy opening notes of a song from her stereo led Lauren to request a brief delay.  “Oh wait.  I love this song!” she exclaimed, looking to Trevor intensely as if he should listen along.  As the tempo started to pick up, Trevor recognized it as the country-pop song “Sunny and 75”, and quickly realized Lauren was having a much more visceral response to this song than those that preceded it.  Rather than moving to the beat, she dug into her seat softly swooning, hanging intently on the smooth baritone of the vocalist and listening closely to the midtempo lyrics relaying love and beautiful summer weather.   She approached the cigarette to her lips, drawing in a giant snootful of smoke while swaying her head, ultimately closing her eyes with a slow trickle of smoke spilling lazily from her nose.

Trevor was moved by Lauren’s extremely emotional response to the song as it continued to play out.  He’d seen her like this before, but never quite so entranced, and as the song soared to its closing instrumental crescendo, Trevor was really taken aback to see a tear welling up in Lauren’s eye and beginning to trickle down her cheek.  She took one final drag as the song reached its final note, before opening her watery eyes and seeing Trevor looking at her lovingly.  “I really love that song,” Lauren confessed with an understated passion that matched her nonverbal response when the song was playing.

“You’re crying,” Trevor said as nonjudgmentally as possible while raising his hand to her cheek to wipe away the tear.

Lauren nodded that she was and then added with a vocal flourish, “You know I’m an emotional girrrl!”

“You’re crying from “Sunny and 75″?!” Trevor added with a hint of good-natured ridicule that he hoped Lauren would be cool with.  “I don’t know if I can walk around the fair with you after this sorry spectacle!”

Lauren quickly transitioned from tears to a giggle as she playfully batted him on the arm and said, “Oh shut up!!”  She paused for a second while they both laughed a bit more, and then got serious again as she added, “The words just really hit me as I thought about what a great summer we had together and that we’ll always remember it.  And then I got sad thinking about how Haylee and Jacob’s summer blew up on them….” pausing again and then adding, “…if you’re gonna be in a relationship with me, buddy, you better expect some waterworks.”

Trevor smiled, genuinely appreciating Lauren’s sensitivity and letting it be known as he responded, “No, I totally get it.  I wouldn’t have you any other way.”

Lauren took a final drag from her cigarette, leaned over and kissed Trevor on the cheek as she crushed out the cigarette in the butt can, and then decided it was time to make even more summer memories.  As they got out of the car and made the walk through the parking lot to the ticket gate, Trevor and Lauren both internalized the “Sunny and 75” lyrics as they beheld the perfect late summer weather they walked into, with blue skies as far as the eye could see and low humidity.  Everything was in place for a perfect birthday at the fair as they clasped their hands together and proceeded, with Lauren pulling down on those tight leather shorts that were already giving her a wedgie before they even got inside the gate.

——————————–

Haylee sat on the couch alone in her parents’ living room, still wearing her pink pajamas with her hair an unkempt rat’s nest even as noon approached.  She stared at the TV, the vacant look on her face somewhere between indifference and depression as she extracted another Camel Pink No. 9 from its pack and lit up.  Smoke belched out of her mouth and nose as she dragged off of the light-up, letting it hang from her lips as always but with just a little more pout than usual.

The bustle of footsteps from upstairs diverted Haylee’s attention briefly.  Either Courtney was running late for work or she had plans for the day that didn’t include work, Haylee thought to herself, and was curious which it was as another burst of smoke escaped her face.  Seconds later, Courtney descended the steps wearing a bare-midriff black leather top and skin-tight pale blue jeans, freshly lit Marlboro Light Menthol 100 in hand as she frantically looked around for her purse.

Haylee’s curiosity got the better of her and when Courtney wandered into the living room within earshot, Haylee asked through a talking dangle, “You late for work?”

Courtney didn’t respond immediately, placing her own cigarette in her mouth while keeping her mind laser-focused on finding her purse, finally looking up to Haylee and responding, “No, I’m hanging out with Wade today.  We’re having a picnic lunch and then going to a Twins game.”

Haylee retreated deeper into the couch cushion, sorry she asked only to find out her sister had romantic plans with her lover just as Trevor did.

“Damn, have you seen my purse?” Courtney asked, continuing her dangle.

“I think maybe I saw it in the bathroom,” Haylee replied without trying to hide the melancholy in her voice, hoping her cry for help would be heard without having to actually make it.

Courtney proceeded into the bathroom on the ground floor and found her purse sitting near the sink just as Haylee predicted.  She took a look at her reflection in the bathroom mirror, admiring the mix and match of colors and curves from her long blond hair, her tanned shoulders and midriff, with the tight jeans and the black leather top.  She was thrilled that the peak humid season was mostly over so she could start wearing her leather outfits again, anticipating Wade would like what he saw.

She left the bathroom and looked at Haylee on the couch.  “Thanks Hales.  The purse was in there.”  When Haylee didn’t respond and Courtney finally observed Haylee in full-blown funk yet again, she pressed further, “Didn’t you go with Trevor and Lauren to the fair?”

Haylee diverted her eyes to Courtney and said, “It’s Trevor’s birthday,” adding with an air of cynicism and jealousy, “Pretty sure Lauren wanted ‘time alone’.”

Courtney shrugged, dragging from her cigarette before continuing,  “Maybe….but you should get out of here anyway.  Maybe go to the fair with Carly or Lacey or one of your other friends.”

Haylee sulked a couple of moments, still feeling Courtney’s eyes trained on her as she dangle-dragged once again and finally responded, “Not really feeling it today,” through a talking exhale.

“Oh Haylee,” Courtney replied with a sigh, trying not to be dismissive and condescending but still coming across as such as she added,  “You really need to move on.  Life’s too short,” then looked at her phone and progressed toward the front door.

As she listened to Courtney’s footsteps trail off to the door and knowing she’d be alone the rest of the day, Haylee found herself suddenly overcome with the need to reach out and decided this would be her last shot.  She took the cigarette out of her mouth and then projected her voice to cryptically evoke, “I don’t think he ever cared about me, Courtney!”

Courtney had her hand on the doorknob, about to open it when she heard Haylee finally vocalize her cry for help.  Much as she wanted to walk out the door, she knew Haylee wouldn’t reach out this way unless she was at her wit’s end.  Courtney slowly walked back to the living room, making eye contact with Haylee and seeing the hurt on her face in a way she hadn’t in quite some time, finally breaking the silence by replying, “What makes you think he didn’t care?”

“Because he was chatting with Lauren for a while and asking about me, but Lauren said she hasn’t heard from him in like two weeks.  He’s already forgotten about me!” Haylee pouted, placing the two-thirds-smoked cigarette back in her mouth and puckering her lips for another dangling drag.

“He has a restraining order against him, Haylee!” Courtney exclaimed.  “Mom and Dad would have his ass thrown in jail if he contacted you in any way.  I think you’re gonna have to accept that.”

“I’m not gonna accept it!  Not ever!” Haylee responded angrily.  “I love him, Courtney!”

The words were painful for Courtney to hear, both because she knew Haylee’s pain was deep and because she didn’t trust Jacob, but sensed from secondhand accounts that maybe the feeling was more mutual on Jacob’s part than she suspected.  “I know you do, Haylee.  But you just can’t be with him.  You understand that, right?” Courtney asked in as calm and disarming of a tone as was possible.

“He’ll be leaving for college in Wisconsin next week,” Haylee responded defiantly. “Maybe I’ll just run away and go with him.  It’s not like anybody will miss me around here,” removing the cigarette from her mouth and crushing it into the ashtray on the coffee table with a final blast of smoke spraying from her mouth and nose.

Courtney stood in silence, mulling over an idea that seemed incredibly ill-advised but considering it strongly, eventually burying her face into her head and muttering aloud, “This is such a bad idea,” before looking up at Haylee who was looking at her with confusion.  “Why don’t you get dressed…..I might be able to find him.”

“Huh?” Haylee responded, liking what she thought she heard but asking again just to make sure they were on the same page.

“I think I might be able to find Jacob.  He works for the park and rec department right?” Courtney asked.

“Yeah,” Haylee replied, the first light in her eyes in weeks.

“Assuming the student worker program is still going, I bet I can find him in one of the parks in town.  I think you both deserve some sort of closure, and if you promise to not tell ANYBODY, I’ll see if I can help you get it,” Courtney responded.

“I’ll get dressed,” Haylee replied, springing off the couch and letting out a quick smoker’s cough as she headed to her bedroom with energy Courtney hadn’t seen from her since she and Jacob were still an item.

Courtney lit another cigarette and began texting Wade, dangling as she typed out, “Sister needs me.  Gonna be running a little late.  Don’t let the bugs eat my picnic dinner!”

Moments later, a smile emerged through Courtney’s dangled cigarette as Wade responded, “I’ll hold them off.  Me and lunch will both be waiting for you.”

With record speed, Haylee came flying down the stairs, decked out in the same pink velvet top and shorts that she wore the night she lost her virginity to Jacob, feverishly running a brush through her hair as she walked, heading to the coffee table to pick up her cigarettes.  Brushing her hair with one hand and placing a cigarette in her mouth with the other, Haylee barked out an energetic, “I’m ready!” Courtney’s direction as she sparked up the cigarette and headed to the door.

Courtney let out a troubled sigh as she followed Haylee out the door, hoping she was doing the right thing but knowing it was an extremely risky gambit for both Haylee and Jacob.

————————————

Trevor and Lauren held hands as they walked eastward down heavily trafficked Judson Avenue of the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.  It was only the noon hour, but the fairgrounds were already becoming pretty congested as the early weekend crowd spilled in this Friday.  Lauren took one of the two fresh packs of cigarettes out of her purse and began packing it against her wrist.  She had already smoked the last cigarette from her previous pack while making their first lap on the grounds, even though she knew smoking was officially restricted to “designated areas”…and Trevor knew she knew.  She nonetheless opened the pack and placed another unlit cigarette in her lips, handing Trevor her lighter.

As he lit her up, Trevor tugged gently on the chain on the waist of Lauren’s leather shorts and then smacked her on the ass, reminding her, “You better make sure you don’t get those cigarettes taken away like they were at the county fair.”

Lauren’s eyes perked up at the reminder, the cigarette still dangling from her lips as she responded, “Oh that’s right.  That’s why I brought this purse,” pulling the purse in front of her and showing Trevor the hidden compartment where she placed the remaining unopened pack.  The cigarette bounced up and down between her lips as she slyly added, “They’re not gonna find them here!” before stuffing the pack she just opened into the back pocket of her shorts.

Charmed and turned on as always, Trevor squeezed her by the waist and pressed her closer as the couple approached the dairy building and the designated smoking area in front of it.  Trevor had always come to the Minnesota State Fair with his family in the past and always welcomed the opportunity to stand near the multiple smoking areas while his mother and sisters smoked, keeping his eyes open for attractive girls, who had unfortunately become fewer and further between in the smoking areas in recent years.  Sure enough, looking over the dozen or so people standing there right now, everybody was over 45 and looked decidedly downscale, but as he felt his spirits dip a bit, he quickly reminded himself that he had the cutest smoker girl at the fair on his arm already.

“Let’s stop here while I smoke,” Lauren announced, reclaiming Trevor’s full attention as she diverted him toward the curb on the edge of the smoking area, and then added, “This should keep us out of trouble…at least for now,” giggling mildly as she pulled the cigarette to her lips and took a drag while pulling down her tight shorts with her free hand, drawing a few passing looks from the middle-aged crowd of smokers around them who were a little surprised to see a girl like Lauren openly smoking among them this day and age.

Lauren looked at a young couple their age walking out of the nearby dairy building with towering ice cream cones in hand, used her cigarette to point to it and announced to Trevor, “Oooh, I want one of those before we leave!”

Trevor, meanwhile, looked across the street to the fairgrounds’ on-site haunted house, and averted Lauren’s attention that direction.  “I want to take a tour of that place before we leave!”

Trevor could feel Lauren tense up as she took in the spooky aura of the haunted house, taking a drag and then exhaling her smoke in tandem with a giant burst of simulated smoke spilling from the yard of the haunted house.  “Don’t know about that!” Lauren responded, with apprehension in her voice.  “You know what a scaredy-cat I am!”

Trevor smirked, “You know you want to do it!”

Lauren smiled but shook her head as though unconvinced.  “I’ll make you a deal.  We’ll go through a haunted house before Halloween if you let me off the hook today.”

Trevor nodded approvingly, but put Lauren on notice, adding, “Alright…but I’m gonna hold you to that.”

Suddenly a duo of modestly attractive teen girls approached from behind, startling both Trevor and Lauren as they tapped Lauren on the shoulder and asked, “Hey would you mind if we bummed a cigarette from you?” with an air of guilt in their eyes.

“Oh sure!” Lauren said, putting her own cigarette in her mouth and digging one out of the pack in her shorts for the girls, who looked a year or two older than she was and were holding vape pods in their hands, as Trevor quickly picked up on as well.

“Thanks so much!” they responded as Lauren handed them a cigarette.

“No problem!” Lauren said through her ongoing dangle which had been going on for about 30 seconds now, adding “Anything to save you guys from those nasty things!” in reference to the vape pods.

The girls laughed as one of them lit up, saying “Yeah these are pretty bad but I suppose cigarettes are still worse.”

Passion filled Lauren’s eyes as she disputed the claim, “No way!  The vaping is way worse!  Haven’t you seen the stories in the news of the kids going to the hospital from it?”

The girls seemed genuinely fearful of Lauren’s passionate tone, with one of them responding, “Yeah I heard something about that,” as she handed the cigarette to her friend to take a drag.

“Oh yeah!” Lauren replied, preparing to launch into the shpeel Trevor had heard repeatedly in early July when Lauren and her parents switched back to cigarettes, “I used to vape too but then the stories started coming out about how dangerous those things are!  Kids are going to the hospital with really bad lung problems.  Some are even dying!”

“So you think cigarettes are safer?” one girl asked, clearly being persuaded by Lauren’s words of caution.

“Way safer!” Lauren said confidently, pausing for an ironic smoker’s cough before continuing, “I’m NEVER going back to vaping!”

Trevor grinned as the girls bantered, not at all buying that vaping was more unhealthy than smoking but pleased that Lauren convinced herself of that since she was not only back on cigarettes now, but she was smoking more than ever, the nicotine monkey on her back having gotten even more intense during Lauren’s vaping period.  And he hoped that the chatter about vaping-related hospitalizations would drive more vaping girls to cigarettes, all too happy to let Lauren lead the charge on this fight with her words of warning to every girl her age she saw vaping.  The four teens kept talking for the rest of Lauren’s cigarette before parting ways en route to the Space Tower ride.

Trevor walked past the haunted house with Lauren at his side, teasing her with a “muuu-ha-ha” which elicited a whack on the arm before they slowly walked past the horticulture building and the International Bazaar, casually looking over their wares on the final block before their destination.  Less than five minutes removed from her last cigarette, Lauren plucked another one out of the pack in her shorts pocket, beckoning Trevor for a light and then seeing the giant wood-carved statue of Fairchild the State Fair Gopher at which point she enthusiastically called out, “Oh let’s get some pics!” leading Trevor hand in hand toward the statue.

When they got there, Lauren dug out her camera phone and then looked around for the nearest bystander, beckoning a middle-aged lady nearby and asking, “Would you mind taking some pics of my boyfriend and I in front of the statue?”

A smile splashed across the face of the early 60s woman as she said, “I’d be happy to,” grabbing hold of Lauren’s camera phone, only then noticing the aroma of cigarette smoke and being unpleasantly surprised to see it was in Lauren’s hand.

“Thank you so much!” Lauren responded, taking a quick drag from her cigarette and exhaling out of the corner of her mouth before posing for the camera.

Trevor could tell the volunteer’s original enthusiasm had deflated in the presence of this teen smoking display, but like so many others, the woman still seemed charmed by Lauren as she began to ready the camera to get the young couple and the statue behind them all in the shot.  Lauren put her hands around Trevor’s waist and squeezed him tight, inadvertently putting her cigarette on full display of the shots.

Lauren thanked the woman again as she reclaimed the camera and sat down on the nearest bench as she looked over the photos with Trevor.  “Awww….we’re so cute together!” Lauren exclaimed as she scanned the pics, dragging intermittently from her cigarette while evaluating them and asking Trevor which ones he wanted to post to Facebook.  They’d only been there an hour and it was already the best trip to the Minnesota State Fair that Trevor ever had, with many hours to go.  Lauren finished her cigarette on the bench before they proceeded to pay their $4 admission to ride the nearby Space Tower.  As they ascended the spiral platform to climb aboard the 300-foot tall tower overlooking the skyline of downtown St. Paul to the southeast and downtown Minneapolis to the west, Trevor knew that Lauren’s tobacco odor would stink up the car and annoy whoever sat next to them, but he also knew Lauren would probably charm them into liking her before the ride was over.

——————————-

“There he is!” Haylee shouted through a talking dangle of a half-smoked Camel Pink No. 9 from the passenger seat of her older sister’s car.

At the very moment Haylee spotted Jacob with a weed-eater trimming grass along the perimeter of a pavilion at a city park, Courtney spotted him as well and began looking for the nearest parking spot.  They had spent 20 minutes and driven past five city parks before finding Jacob at his summer job, and Courtney was thinking it might have been much easier if they hadn’t found him.  Courtney’s heart began to pound, and she could only imagine how nervous Haylee must have been.

“Pull over!” Haylee barked urgently as Courtney began to do just that.  Haylee then turned to Courtney and frantically asked, “How do I look?”

Courtney gave her a nervous smile and responded, “You look really good,” in a tone that she hoped would lower expectations, even though it was obvious by Haylee’s elation that that ship had sailed.

Haylee opened the car door and began to climb out when Courtney requested she pause for a moment.  “Why don’t you let me go with?”

Haylee flipped around angrily.  “But I want it to be just him and I!”

“It will be,” Courtney replied.  “I’ll let you two have your privacy but he’s not gonna be expecting you, Haylee.  Seeing me with you might soften the blow a little.”

Haylee grudgingly conceded, climbing out of the car and nervously pulling down her top and shorts, cigarette still hanging from her mouth with a sea of smoke swirling around her petrified mid-teen face.  She walked side by side with Courtney, only 100 yards of well-manicured city park grass between her and the young man who was her first love before their love was deemed forbidden.

Jacob was isolated and distracted, slowly encircling the park pavilion with the weed-eater, an OSHA-mandated helmet and pair of safety glasses obstructing his view of the approaching females behind him.  Suddenly, the familiar odor of cigarette smoke overpowered the aroma of freshly cut grass surrounding him, diverting his attention behind him to find the two sisters only steps away.  His jaw hung open with equal parts fear and surprise, his eyes locked on the light brunette in the pink velvet shorts whose profile was identical to the girl whose virginity he stole only two months earlier.  His stunned eyes followed her cigarette to her lips as she took a final drag, and then carelessly flung the spent butt into the grass that Jacob had just tended to.

Haylee stopped right in front of him and shyly greeted, “Hi Jacob,” with smoke spilling out of her mouth and nose.

“What are you guys doing here?!” Jacob asked with genuine fear in his voice as he took the helmet and safety glasses off.  “Your parents and the cops will string me up if they knew I was near you.”

Courtney interjected, responding, “It was my idea to bring her here so I’ll take the heat if anybody finds out or says anything….” pausing and then adding, “…but I think you guys need some closure.”

“I just want to hear it from you, Jacob!” Haylee pleaded with the same desperation in her eyes that Jacob saw that night at the police station.  Jacob nodded affirmatively, looking over his shoulders to make sure he was alone.

“I’ll leave you two alone,” Courtney said, fishing a cigarette out of her purse before adding, “And I’ll sit on that bench over there and keep look out for your coworkers,” in reference to the half dozen or so other park and rec employees mowing the lawn on the other side of the park.   Courtney lit her cigarette and began to walk away, making final eye contact with Jacob and pointing her index and middle fingers to her own eyes and then pointing the fingers his way, a universally understood “watching you” gesture that seemed even more badass with the freshly lit cigarette dangling from Courtney’s lips.

Jacob then looked down to Haylee, an extended awkward silence filling the late summer air that was the first clue to Haylee that things weren’t gonna go well.  She finally broke the silence when she asked, “Why did you quit texting Lauren and asking about me?”

Jacob nodded with genuine sorrow on his face.  “We both gotta let go, Haylee.  It isn’t our time.”

“What does that even mean??!” Haylee fired back.

“Haylee, I had the best summer of my life with you.  I’ll never forget all those great times.  But if Chloe Mays and her friends hadn’t changed their stories to the cops, I’d be going to prison rather than college next week,” Jacob responded, adding “I don’t think you get just how much trouble I was in.”

“I know!” Haylee exclaimed.  “And I’m really sorry about that!  But I’m not gonna be underage forever.  Next year at this time I’ll be 16 and then we can be together.”

Jacob shook his head with continued sorrow, adding “Your parents will always hate me.  And that restraining order of theirs is good until you’re 18.”

“Well aren’t I worth waiting for until I’m 18?!” Haylee pleaded, reaching into her velvet top’s cleavage to extract a cigarette from the pack tucked into her bra, lighting it up in a single stressed-out motion.

Jacob smiled, the image of her lighting the cigarette being the latest visual and olfactory cue that brought a rush of memories of their time together to the forefront of his memory.  His smile quickly faded as the dilemma Haylee presented him had no satisfying response.  “Part of me wants to say yes,” he softly responded as if having considered it before and currently considering it again.  “But it would be unfair to both of us to spend almost three years waiting for each other.”

Cigarette dangling from her lips, it finally begin to sink in to Haylee that she was definitively about to lose him.  Her instinctive response was anger, as she lashed out with “You never loved me, did you?!?'” but she could tell by the look in Jacob’s eyes in response to the question that he did love her.

“You gotta know that I did, Haylee….and I still do….” he replied.  “But I’m about to leave the state and start a new life for myself next week.  I got really lucky that the criminal charges didn’t stick or else my scholarship would have fallen through!   And you….you’re only gonna be starting 10th grade.  This was gonna be a big problem for us even if it wasn’t for all the drama last month.”  He paused, before adding, “It just wasn’t our time, Haylee.  We both need to make a fresh start.”

“Oh Jacob!” she cried, successfully fighting off the tears but needing to burrow her head into his chest to hide the emotion, engulfing Jacob with a full blast of the cigarette odor that clung to her hair and skin that was such a mainstay of his association with Haylee.

“I’ll never forget you Haylee,” Jacob comforted her, patting her on the back as they hugged.  He looked up to see Courtney watching from afar on a picnic table, out of hearing range but close enough to be reading their body language.  Courtney pointed toward the park and rec coworkers, alerting Jacob that they were beginning to head his direction.  He quickly pulled Haylee out of the embrace to wrap up the conversation.  “Haylee, my friends are on their way.  I can’t be seen with you.”

Haylee nodded with understanding, even though her heart was clearly more broken now than it was when she got there.  “Goodbye Jacob,” she said with intense sadness as she placed the cigarette back between her lips, finding it useful as a pacifier to hold back the tears.

Jacob nodded, fighting back the tears himself as Haylee got one last look at him and then turned around.  As he put the helmet and glasses back on and restarted the weed-eater to be ready when his coworkers came back, all he could hope for was that Courtney was right and that the closure he had just given Haylee would be for the best moving forward.  He had given plenty of his past girlfriends plenty of reasons to hate him, but he really hoped Haylee wouldn’t view him the same way.  And he also hoped that there would be someone else for both of them in the next chapter of their lives who meant as much as Haylee and Jacob meant to each other.

Courtney watched in agony as Haylee approached, the sunshine beaming down on them masking an incredible sorrow lurking deceptively amidst the beautiful late summer afternoon.  Courtney didn’t think it was possible to see a cigarette hang from Haylee’s lips more sadly than it had this morning when Haylee was sulking on the couch, but the image Courtney was looking at now was just a gut punch as Haylee approached, a swirl of smoke rolling from her mouth and nose with moisture welling up in both eyes.  Haylee had kept a stiff upper lip during the conversation with Jacob, but Courtney could tell with each approaching footstep that the waterworks weren’t gonna stay contained much longer.

Haylee sat down next to Courtney on the bench and buried her head into Courtney’s shoulder, a show of vulnerability above and beyond anything Courtney had seen from Haylee since she was a little girl.  “I’m so sorry, Haylee,” Courtney comforted her, wrapping her arms around her in an embrace, both hearing and feeling Haylee’s heartfelt sobs on her shoulder as Courtney lit another cigarette.

Courtney held her for several moments when her phone started ringing.  She’d heard two texts come in from Wade in the last 10 minutes, likely wondering what the hold-up was for their picnic.  She’d held off responding, but with Wade now calling, she knew she needed to touch base with him, answering the phone, “Yeah Wade,” pausing to let the anticipation set in that she was gonna have to break their plans.  “I’m having a family issue right now.  My sister really needs me tonight.  Would you mind if I took a rain check on our plans?  I’m sure we can go to a Twins game some night next week.”  She paused as Wade responded, to which she replied, “Thanks for understanding.  Sorry to stand you up but I’ll make it up to you.”

As Courtney wrapped up the brief conversation with Wade, she could feel Haylee relax some despite the continued sobs.  “Thank you, Courtney,” Haylee responded through her sniffles, eliciting Courtney to squeeze her a little bit tighter.  They both took drags from their cigarettes, helping to relax the situation a little bit more and bring them each some well-needed peace of mind.

———————————-

Trevor and Lauren began to ascend the steps parallel to the state fair’s Giant Slide, each hanging onto a burlap sack for sliding as they worked their way up one step at a time with a couple dozen people in front of them.  Lauren looked back to Trevor with glee, exclaiming “I haven’t gone down this since I was like 10!”

Trevor smiled, telling her “Haylee and I went down last year with Jarrod and Joshua,” in reference to the two boys Haylee regularly babysits.

“Oh fun!  I bet Joshua was scared!” Lauren responded, clearly thrilled at the prospect of riding down the 150-foot yellow slide with her boyfriend.

The young couple approached the top of the stairs with Lauren standing in front of Trevor and a couple of attendants preparing the fairgoers in front of them to take the ride.  As the seconds passed and Trevor and Lauren stepped onto the platform at the base of the slide, Lauren looked at Trevor and exclaimed with bright-eyed excitement, “Let’s race!”

Trevor looked over to one of the attendants then smirked back at Lauren and responded, “I have a better idea.  Hand me your sack.”

Lauren raised her eyebrow with confusion, but smirked back when Trevor motioned her to pass it on to him.  Trevor took hold of Lauren’s burlap sack and laid one on top of the other on the slide, sitting down on the burlap and guiding Lauren to sit on top of him.  He was nervous the attendant would put a stop to his plans if he caught him soon enough but quickly realized that he wasn’t gonna stop them from riding down together.

Lauren rested the back of her head snugly into Trevor’s face, laying her body atop his in perfect symmetry, the warm skin of her shoulders, midriff, and legs transferring the body heat onto Trevor as he wrapped one arm above her waist and the other on the buttery smooth leather shorts.  The stench of heavy tobacco use had attached itself to Lauren’s hair and clothes so intensely that it overpowered the otherwise dominating odors of the fair.  Lauren let loose a girlish scream as they got the push from the attendant, descending the slide one bump at a time for the glorious five seconds, her body bouncing slightly off of his and then crashing back down and her braided pigtails going airborne after every bump they crossed until they reached the bottom.

“That was fun!” Lauren said as she climbed off of Trevor at the bottom of the slide, the overpowering odor of tobacco lingering in his airspace even after her body began moving away.  She pulled down on her leather shorts immediately upon standing as they were really riding her ass after the slide.

Trevor stood up and nodded in agreement, playfully adding, “But I do hope that’s not all the action I’m gonna be getting today.”

Lauren giggled as they walked away from the slide, reassuring him by saying “I think you know better than that!” digging into her shorts pocket to extract another Marlboro Light 100 and handing her lighter to Trevor to spark her up.  After accepting the light, she asked, “So what next?” through a talking dangle, smoke exploding from her face.

“Maybe a snack before the midway,” Trevor offered.

Lauren scanned her brain to consider her options and then looked up to him with an epiphany.  “Cookies?” she asked excitedly, smoke still pouring out of her face as she continued to dangle.

Trevor nodded approvingly, thinking that sounded good.

“Oh!” Lauren exclaimed, thinking of something else after finally taking the cigarette out of her mouth.  “And let’s go to the all-you-can-drink milk place after we get the cookies!”

Trevor went along with that request as well, putting his arm around Lauren’s waist, addicted to the intense tobacco odor clinging to her after that trip down the slide.  Lauren returned the favor putting her arm around his waist as they walked the block to the cookie stand.

With a slightly guilty look, Lauren requested of Trevor, “Would you mind standing in line for the cookies?  I should hang back and finish this,” in reference to her half-smoked cigarette.

Trevor again accommodated, standing about a half-dozen people deep in the line for Sweet Martha’s Cookies.  As he approached the front of the line, Trevor looked back to see a heartwarming profile image of Lauren standing about 20 yards back on the sidewalk, dragging from her cigarette while people-watching.  He smiled that even amongst this mass of humanity at the fairgrounds, Lauren stood out in the crowd for her beauty and presentation, the mid-afternoon sun glimmering down on her golden hair and smooth, tan legs.  A few random people did a double take to see this most unlikely teen girl publicly smoking just as they’d being doing all day as Lauren had not been bashful about smoking just about everywhere, seldom limiting herself to any of the fair’s designated smoking areas.   Somehow, Trevor thought to himself, I’m so lucky that she’s mine, as he watched her take the final drag from her cigarette, reflexively peeking to her side for an open lane and then flicking her butt to the pavement.  The beaming smile deepened on Trevor’s face with this final image before he stepped up to place his order for a cone-full of chocolate chip cookies, poetic language swirling through his mind as he processed the visual stimulus.

A minute or so later, he walked back to Lauren with the cone of cookies and she wasted no time taking the first cookie while it was warm, expressing through her intense body language how tasty the cookie was, her taste buds not yet appearing to be diminished from the heavy smoking.  The couple stepped up their pace walking to the milk stand a block away, eager for a beverage to wash down their cookies.

Trevor lit another cigarette for Lauren just as they got to the milk stand, drawing another round of unsavory looks as they approached the counter.  Trevor handed the cashier $4 to give them each a small cup.  They both gulped down the first hit of milk, knowing it was an all-you-can-drink portion.  Trevor stood with a half-empty cone of cookies in one hand and the glass of milk in the other while Lauren stood next to him with a cigarette in one hand and a glass of milk in the other, both requesting a refill.  As the cashier handed them the refills, Trevor could read the annoyance of the cashier who seemed very close to ordering Lauren to put her cigarette out as her smoke began wafting inside the milk vendor pavilion.  They finished their second small glasses and requested one more for the road.  Walking away, they just wanted to sit down for a bit and finish their afternoon snack, roaming until they found an open bench about 100 yards away.

Trevor and Lauren took a seat, bantering intermittently between milk and cookie consumption while looking up to the extreme Sling Shot ride that was loading in front of them.  Seconds later, the sound of young children approaching broke the silence.  Trevor looked to his left to see a young father with two daughters under four years old preparing to sit next to them on the half-open bench.  “Mind if I sit here?” the father asked of Trevor.

“Not at all,” Trevor responded as the exhausted father and rambunctious young daughters took the other half of the bench.

Like Trevor and Lauren, the newcomers were transfixed watching the giant Sling Shot ride spiral in circles hundreds of feet into the air, with the father pointing that direction to make sure the daughters took notice.  He then looked to Trevor and his partially hidden girlfriend sitting to his right and asked, “You two gonna go on that before you leave tonight?” wrinkling his nose as he finished speaking and finally noticed the smell of fresh cigarette smoke.

Trevor casually responded, “I don’t think so” before Lauren leaned forward to make eye contact with the man, the cigarette between her fingers finally in his line of vision.

“That would be a terrible idea after just eating cookies, I think!” Lauren responded with good-natured effervescence, failing to realize she was being judged negatively for her smoking that moment by the father, the smile on his face rapidly morphing into a disapproving scowl.

The father paused a moment to look at his daughters, clearly concerned about their exposure risk from Lauren’s secondhand smoke, before he leaned over to speak directly to her as diplomatically as he could.  “You know there are designated areas all over the grounds for smoking?”

Lauren had already sensed he didn’t approve of her smoking and was prepared to play along, responding “Really?!?!” with put-on astonishment, then pausing to add, “I’ll have to remember to look for one the next time I have a cigarette,” approaching the cigarette to her mouth for another drag and making it clear she wasn’t gonna be driven from that bench.

The father looked away with passive-aggressive annoyance, lingering for only a few more seconds before rounding up his daughters and walking away.  Lauren looked at Trevor as she noticed the guy leave, and Trevor shook his head with playful aggravation.  “What am I gonna do with you?  Scaring away children!”

Lauren giggled as she took the final drag from her cigarette and then flicked the butt to the curb, smoke spilling out of her face as she plucked out the last cookie from the cone.  “These are so good!” she exclaimed, changing the subject as she devoured the cookie and washed it down with her final swig of milk, leaving an adorable milk mustache on her upper lip for a few seconds before she wiped it off.  She leaned back with satisfaction and then reached to her back shorts pocket again.  Plucking out yet another cigarette, she smirked at Trevor as she handed him her lighter and confessed, “I guess I lied to him didn’t I?  I’m staying right here to smoke this one!”

Trevor laughed and then flicked the cigarette to life, watching the ball of smoke off of the first drag disappear down her throat and then slowly filter out of her mouth and nose, right before she cut loose another intense smoker’s cough.  Trevor couldn’t resist pressing the subject, commenting “It’s gonna be hell for you to go back to school and deal with the nicotine cravings again.”

Lauren nodded in complete agreement as she took another drag, and then responded with fairly solemn contemplation, “It really is.  I’ve been smoking three packs a day since I quit vaping.  I definitely won’t be able to do that anymore when I’m back at school.”  She paused to make eye contact with Trevor, smoke still spilling out of her mouth and nose before she completed her thought with the exclamation, “It’s gonna be helllll!”

Trevor was at a loss for words, putting his arm over his crotch hoping to make his fast-growing erection undetectable and guiding Lauren’s head onto his shoulder with the same goal in mind.  He knew Lauren had been smoking an outrageous amount for the second half of summer, but this was the first time she had verbalized to him that she was smoking three packs a day.  The confirmation turned him on above and beyond what he anticipated, and the fact that Lauren didn’t seem to realize that this revelation turned him on as much as it did only made it that much more satisfying.  More poetic language swirled through Trevor’s mind as Lauren continued to smoke her latest cigarette, the smell and compression of her body resting on his shoulder bringing Trevor closer to a long-festering epiphany.  He could feel he was on the cusp of something big but didn’t know exactly what it was yet, hoping that their pending venture to the State Fair midway would help bring it to the surface.

————————–

“And that’s when Jacob showed up at the cabin…just as we were coming home from the day at the water park,” Haylee recollected aloud with smoke spewing from her mouth and nose, her spirits somewhat elevated after an hour’s worth of sharing her memories of Jacob with Courtney for the first time at any level of detail.  “He kept his promise of taking me skinny dipping…off the dock of the lake behind the cabin.”

“Awww that’s sweet,” Courtney responded with a smile, driving around town aimlessly listening to her sister share months’ worth of stories as Courtney drove, both girls chain-smoking through a heaping pile of cigarettes and leaving an intensely hazy air quality inside the car that contrasted sharply with the picture-perfect late summer weather outside the car’s cracked windows.

“It was really sweet!” Haylee replied, pausing as if considering whether she wanted to say the next words or not.  “….so sweet that I decided that was gonna be the night.”

Courtney’s eyebrow furled.  “Not sure I want to hear what’s coming next!” she warned, only half-jokingly.

Haylee took a deep drag from her cigarette and laughed halfway through.  “It happened right there on the dock with the fireworks going off.  It was so special!” she confessed through a messy talking exhale, followed by a mellow smoker’s cough.

“Damn,” Courtney responded, before inquiring, “So this was Saturday night?”

“Yup” Haylee replied.

“I was in the cabin that night Haylee,” Courtney admitted, thinking back to overhearing Trevor and Lauren in the room next door and having a hard time believing that wasn’t even the most consequential event of the evening.  “You and Jacob were going at it like 100 yards away from me.”

Haylee looked confused.  “You went to the casino that night.”

“I never went,” Courtney confessed.  “I was too down in the dumps and stayed in the cabin in my room all night.”

Haylee looked a little embarrassed as she took the final drag from her cigarette and then tossed it out the cracked window.  “Guess I’m lucky you didn’t decide to go out for a walk.”

Courtney laughed as she took the final drag from her own cigarette and tossed the butt out the window, appreciating the rare moment of vulnerability she was getting from Haylee and that, at least for the moment, she seemed to be lifting her from her funk only an hour removed from one of the worst moments of her life.  She was pleased to hear that despite her worst expectations of Jacob, he seemed to have connected unusually well with Haylee and probably wasn’t quite the scumbag she had warned Haylee about in the spring.

“Things got a little more R-rated between Jacob and I after that,” Haylee confessed with a wry smirk.

“Okay I definitely don’t want to know about any of that!” Courtney replied to mutual laughter but then got serious when she added, “I just hope you two protected yourself!”

“We did…always!” Haylee said, making sure to give Courtney maximum reassurance.

The girls both halted the conversation for a moment, taking the opportunity to take an additional round of cigarettes from their respective packs and light them in near-perfect unintended synchronization.  Their long-held styles were on full display after the light-ups as Courtney sent a missile of exhaled smoke that smashed into her windshield and then parted across the glass while Haylee kept her cigarette dangling from her lips, smoke billowing from her mouth and nose for a lengthy period after ignition.  The silence allowed sadness to creep back into Haylee’s heart, at which point she decided keeping the lines of communication open was the best medicine.

“So tell me about Wade,” Haylee offered, cigarette bouncing up and down in her lips as she spoke.  “He seems like an awesome guy.”

Courtney smiled but delayed her response as if deciding this wasn’t the time to rhapsodize about her new boyfriend just as Haylee lost hers.  “He really is,” Courtney opened, pausing before continuing, “…but it’s not a good time to tell you all about my new guy.  It’s a better time to tell you some of what I was going through before I met Wade.”

Haylee made intense eye contact with Courtney while continuing to dangle her cigarette, very curious about what was coming next.

Courtney took a deep breath before confessing, wanting to make sure she didn’t share too much and taking a deep drag from her cigarette for nicotine courage.  “You know how I’m gone every Saturday morning and a couple afternoons a week….and I always say I’m working?”

Haylee nodded while puckering her lips around the cigarette in her mouth once again, letting it go limp just as Courtney began responding.

“I’ve been getting therapy for sex addiction.  I realized I had a problem and needed help,” Courtney shared.

“Damn,” Haylee said, mirroring Courtney’s exact phrasing from earlier, before finally removing the cigarette from her mouth to dispose of the granny ash out the cracked passenger side window.  “So was that part of the deal with Grant?” Haylee asked in reference to her ex-boyfriend that Courtney slept with.

“Grant was a huge part of it, definitely,” Courtney responded, adding, “There were some other big mistakes too” without offering any details about her 40-something boss at the leather store and definitely avoiding reference to her attempted seduction of their father.  “It’s been a struggle to come to terms with, but the lesson that came from it is that Wade was the light at the end of the tunnel for me.”

Haylee listened intently, letting a mild smile emerge as she began picking up on where Courtney was going with this.

“I can’t promise you’ll have a reward as big as I had a few months from now,” Courtney started, dragging from her cigarette before continuing, “…but tough times don’t last forever.  Things seem horrible for you right now, but I promise the pain will get better.  You’re going back to school in a week or so.  Don’t close yourself off to opening new doors.  Something really great might be waiting behind one of them,” she closed with a comforting smile that really seemed to resonate with Haylee.

Haylee took the dangling cigarette from her lips and closed in to hug Courtney, who accepted the hug while making sure to keep one eye on the road and avoid burning Haylee with her cigarette.  She pulled away with another round of tears starting to form in her eyes.  “I know we’ve have our problems, Courtney, but you’re a really good big sister,” Haylee thanked.

Courtney smiled back at her, starting to feel some tears well up in her own eyes.  After a moment of awkward silence, Courtney broke it up by joking, “Look at us getting all sappy.”

The sisters laughed together, cigarette smoke spraying from their mouths and noses as they began laughing, and both girls hacking up smoker’s coughs as their laughter came to an end.  Courtney looked up to see the sun approaching the western horizon, less than an hour from setting and then came up with an offer for Haylee.  “We can keep driving and talking if you like, but how do you feel about going home and watching some movies together?” Courtney asked.

Haylee smiled through her dangling cigarette, thinking that sounded like a good idea.

“I think it’s a comedy night if that sounds good to you?” Courtney said.

Haylee nodded in agreement, asking with a measure of guilt, “Adam Sandler?”

Courtney gave her a lighthearted cringe but ultimately nodded approvingly.  “It’s your night Haylee.  We can watch some Sandler.  But I have an old movie called ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ that I think you might like.  It was an old favorite of dad’s that he got me into when I was little.  Maybe we can watch that before the night’s over.”

Haylee nodded, thinking it sounded like a fun way to spend the night, her mind temporarily distracted from the soul-crushing grief she felt only a couple of hours earlier.  A wave of exhaled smoke spilled out of the cracked windows of both the driver and passenger seats of Courtney’s car as the girl’s lungs were pumping out more carcinogens than the car could contain as they proceeded toward the setting sun on the gorgeous August evening, en route to the family home.

———————–

Trevor and Lauren walked casually down the streets of the Minnesota State Fairgrounds with their arms interlocked in the moments after the sun set and the lights across the fairgrounds all came on in automatic response to the onset of dusk.  Trevor was nibbling gingerly on the order of cheese curds he was holding, sharing a few with Lauren who was primarily occupied with her latest cigarette.  She took a drag followed by a deep breath, taking in the still-crowded early evening streetscape of the fair and rhetorically offered, “Mmmm…what a beautiful summer night.”   Getting no immediate response from Trevor, she made eye contact with him and pressed, “Don’t you think?”

A distracted Trevor shook back to the present and responded, “Yeah….beautiful night.”

Lauren furrowed her brow, picking up once again on Trevor appearing distracted and even a little nervous as he had for the last couple of hours.  They had walked through some fair buildings and rode on an hour’s worth of midway rides, but his mind seemed somewhere else most of the time, leaving Lauren concerned about their pending nightcap as the crackling chemistry they had built up the previous month at their night at the county fair seemed a galaxy away right now, even with as hard as Lauren had tried to recapture the moment.

The couple approached their agreed-upon final attraction of the day at the fair….the ticket booth to board the Sky Glider, the chairlift-style ride that gave riders an elevated view of the fairgrounds from about 25 feet above over the course of several blocks.  They both thought it would be a nice way to end the night before retreating to Lauren’s place, enjoying the light show on the grounds just after dark.  Trevor paid their admission at the ticket booth while Lauren flicked her spent cigarette butt, the two of them standing in a short line to climb aboard.

“Everything okay, baby?” Lauren asked, becoming concerned upon noticing Trevor’s nervous energy seemed to be escalating, and that he had less and less to say.

“Yeah, sure….couldn’t be better,” Trevor responded unconvincingly, giving off a vibe Lauren hadn’t recalled seeing from him since their early days as a couple when they were both always nervous.  He’d been feeling an unusual energy much of the day, particularly after seeing Lauren’s emotional response to the country-pop song just before they left the parking lot.  He was very close to verbalizing something to her that he never figured he’d share outside of their multiple months of unspoken cues.  Trevor knew he was at least as capable as the singer of “Sunny and 75” was to articulating something that would deeply touch Lauren, albeit with a different intended emotional impact.

Lauren squeezed his arm a little tighter as they approached the revolving lineup of cars in constant motion moments before they started swooping up behind them.  Lauren let out a slight girlish scream as they sat down to the approaching chairlift and the attendant quickly fastened the bar locking them in place seconds before the car lifted off the ground, guided by the aerial wires.  Trevor put his arm around her shoulder as Lauren leaned into him, continuing to feel something was off as Trevor’s hand seemed to be shaking.  She reached to her purse where she extracted the other fresh pack of Marlboro Lights 100s she brought for herself for the day, having already drained what was left of the original pack as well as the full pack she opened shortly after they arrived at the fairgrounds.  Lauren packed the Marlboro box against her wrist, noticing that Trevor’s body language seemed to be trying to hurry her along.  She casually opened the fresh pack and plucked out the first cigarette, leaning into Trevor waiting with lighter in hand.

Trevor smiled awkwardly as he ignited her cigarette, appreciating the glow of its cherry from only inches away as it dangled from her lips while she took the first drag.  He gathered his courage for a couple of seconds before finally landing his open-ended initiation, “Always got that cigarette, don’t ya?”

Lauren found the observation a bit odd, but responded playfully through a talking dangle with a forceful, “You better believe it!” pausing before continuing even more playfully, “But I don’t think you mind too much!” the dangling cigarette bobbing up and down between her lips as she spoke.

Trevor smirked back nervously, pulling her a little closer and responding, “You are definitely right that I don’t mind!  I actually find it…..incredibly sexy!  Sexier than you could ever imagine!”

Lauren’s eyes perked up just as the dangling cigarette perked up between her lips for an intense drag, never expecting the day would come when Trevor would actually verbalize his obviously held sexual attraction for her smoking, inquiring “Oh really!  Do tell!” with a nervous anticipation for Trevor’s response.

“Where to begin….” Trevor opened, pausing for a second before unloading the commentary he’d been mentally preparing for the last few hours.  “Seeing the response from complete strangers when they see with you a cigarette is such a thrill.  Nobody expects a girl like you to smoke, so when they see that you do, my God it’s sexy, Lauren!”

Trevor paused only for a second as Lauren’s face lit up with a heartfelt smile, the cigarette flexing between her lips again for another dangling drag and the cherry glowing only a couple of inches in front of Trevor’s face.  “Ya like that huh?” Lauren pressed, expecting more commentary was on the way.

“Even more than that…” Trevor continued, “it’s so clear you love the feeling you get from smoking.  It just fills your body with pleasure.  I try to never miss the look in your eyes when you get that first hit of nicotine, especially when you haven’t smoked in a while.  Your eyes, your lips, your chest….hell, your whole body….just perks up like the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center.  It’s a thing of beauty.  It’s a feeling I’ve never gotten.”

Lauren continued to lean in ever closer, puckering up for another dangling drag so close to Trevor’s face that the heat from her cigarette cherry almost felt like it was touching his skin.  She started to wrap her leg around Trevor’s as he spoke, with Trevor responding in kind, their legs commingling together like the braids in Lauren’s pigtails.

Trevor reached up to softly stroke her pigtails as he reached the climactic moment of his explosive confession.  “And I think that’s what I find sexiest of all about it.  I’ve tried smoking over the years.  Many times.  It was overwhelming for me.  So when I see my sweet little girlfriend in her pigtails smoking like a chimney all day, I just have this….intense respect for this power you have over me.  I’m just…completely at your mercy!  And it never stops being exciting….”

Trevor could tell his intense confession was having the intended effect on Lauren as he could feel just by holding her that her libido was about to erupt like a volcano.  Her breathing became labored as she puckered up her lips firmly around that Marlboro Light 100, effectively breathing from the cigarette with intense never-ending drags being expelled from her nose simultaneous with her drags.  The heat from her smoldering cigarette so close to his face was becoming almost more than he could bear as he watched a relentless geyser of smoke blast out of her nostrils like a medieval dragon.  The smoke was getting into his eyes and they began to water, his beautiful suffering reaching an intolerable level that played right into his narrative.

“….Right now is a perfect example baby.  You’re just dominating me with your smoke…totally dominating me….and I’m absolutely loving every second of it!” he closed with a simmering passion in his voice that perfectly matched the hot, smoky air he was being forced to breathe.

Finally, after a minute’s worth of intense drags from the cigarette that still hadn’t left Lauren’s mouth since it was lit, the long, smoldering cherry dropped right onto Trevor’s hand that was groping her thigh.

“Owww!” Trevor yelped, pulling his back his hand after getting burned by the inch-long tobacco ash.

Lauren finally removed the cigarette from her mouth and played her mama bear role just to Trevor’s liking as she said, “Oh I’m sorry baby!”

“No!”, Trevor snapped back with the same level of intense passion from before.  “Don’t apologize!  Like I said, I love every second of it.  And the more power you wield over me at moments like this with your smoking, the more I have to do my best to return the favor when I finally get you out of this tube top and shorts!”

Lauren took another wildly intense drag and then plunged in to Trevor’s face, fiercely thrusting her tongue into his mouth with the smokiest-flavored kiss Trevor ever recalled getting from Lauren, and that was a high bar.  The sexual passion could be cut with a hairpin as they made out like it was seconds before the apocalypse, pressing their mouths together with such impassioned force that they were mashing noses and clicking teeth, the quick intervals of pain being easy to ignore given their soaring adrenaline levels.  Trevor was over the moon that his confession went over so well.  He certainly had even more reasons in the back of his mind on why Lauren’s smoking turned him on, but he definitely didn’t want to cross the line and overshare, unsure how well-received it would be if he’d mentioned her ferocious dependency on nicotine, her incessantly tobacco-drenched odor, or certainly any possible connection to his mother and sisters hard-wiring his instinctive attraction to smoking females.  But then again, Lauren had picked up on Trevor’s attraction to her smoking almost right away after the first night he met his family, so she probably already had that figured out anyway.

After more than a minute of aggressively making out, Lauren pulled away, cutting loose another intense smoker’s cough amidst her labored breathing, before taking another drag from the cigarette.  “Oh Trevor…I just can’t wait for what you do to me tonight!”

Trevor smiled, the feeling being more mutual than she could know.  He looked ahead to see the Sky Glider ride approaching its descent, only 100 yards or so from landing at the other terminal.  Both Trevor and Lauren realized their stated intent of admiring the fairgrounds lights from the Sky Glider had gone unfulfilled, but they were both fine with that.  Lauren took a final double-pump drag from her cigarette, a mess of smoke pumping out of her mouth and nose into the night sky as she prepared to flick the butt.

“Ummm…” Trevor reached out to hold her wrist back.  “The last time you flicked your butt from a carnival ride, it didn’t end too well.”

Lauren giggled, remembering burning Chloe Mays on the ferris wheel the month before at the county fair.  “Good point!” she exclaimed playfully, looking directly below her to see an empty patch and then dropping her smoldering butt to the ground in the last 20 seconds or so before their chairlift reached its destination.  The attendant gave the couple an annoyed look, smelling the cigarette smoke on Lauren despite the list of rules warning that there be no smoking on the Sky Glider.  He didn’t say anything though as the young couple stepped off the ride with an electric spring in their step, Lauren pulling those tight shorts down as a reflexive afterthought.

“Any more livestock buildings you want to walk through?  Or maybe some commercial exhibits?” Trevor teased as they migrated from the ride.

Lauren laughed and then passionately responded, “All I want to do now is for you to take me home and FUCK me!” plucking another cigarette from her back pocket and quickly receiving a light from Trevor.

Holding on to her waist, Trevor had all he could do to keep up with Lauren, whose walking pace was more accelerated than it had been all day as she hustled in the direction of the parking lot.  He could feel the goosebumps on her stomach as he groped her, and she followed his eyes in the direction of her midriff as he asked “Cold?”

“A little!  It sure cools off after the sun goes down this time of year!” Lauren responded.

“I agree.  I definitely haven’t been inclined to take my T-shirt off tonight like I did the last night we were at the fair together,” Trevor teased.

Lauren giggled, dragging from her cigarette and exhaling deliberately into his face.  “These shorts aren’t nearly as miserable for me tonight either!”

Trevor smacked her on the ass and asked, “Not gonna be as swampy down there tonight, huh?”

Lauren giggled loudly as they proceeded closer to the south gate of the fairgrounds walking past the giant Coliseum building.  Lauren’s phone dinged with a text message notification.  She first looked at the time and saw it was 8:20, taking a mental note that they’d have plenty of time to have their fun at Lauren’s place before her parents and brother got home.  But when she noticed the text that just arrived was listed as coming from “Mom”, an uneasy feeling filled her heart as she opened it.

Lauren stopped dead in her tracks as she read the message, verbalizing the bad news with a pouty “Noooooo!”   Trevor didn’t like the sound of that and Lauren confirmed as she added, “My mom said my dad and Brian wanted to go to the matinee and she couldn’t talk them into going tonight.  They just got home.”  The crestfallen Lauren looked up to Trevor with sorrow, burying her face into his shoulder and adding, “I think we’re jinxed for hooking up on nights after the fair!”

Trevor had made up his mind that he and Lauren were going to copulate that night and was not gonna let this logistical inconvenience mess things up now.  He looked to the sign outside the main entrance of the Coliseum they were standing next to and saw the posting for “Clydesdale Show  8-9:30 p.m.”  After a couple of moments of pondering, he decided he was gonna run with his bonkers idea.

“C’mon….I got an idea for a Plan B,” Trevor said with a wry smirk, leading Lauren by the hand as they progressed south.

Lauren could tell he had something really naughty in mind and played along, inquiring  “Where are you taking me, Trevor?” as she dragged from her half-smoked cigarette.

Trevor silently smirked, leading Lauren around the corner of the Coliseum but moving in the opposite direction of the south end gate where Lauren’s car was parked, instead encircling the south end perimeter of the giant building into a dark and isolated corner of the grounds.  She was confused about Trevor’s plan until she saw the vast sea of horse trailers parked in the livestock parking lot behind the Coliseum.

“Are you really THIS crazy??!?” Lauren asked through a whispered shout as Trevor continued to guide her by hand, weaving through the dozens of parked trailers and assuming they’d be unattended because the horses and owners responsible for them were all inside the Clydesdale show in the Coliseum.  Once several rows deep and feeling sufficiently isolated from anybody who could realistically hear them, Trevor started testing the door handles on the horse trailers.  The first few were locked and he started to become concerned they all would be, but hit the jackpot when twisting the handle of the back gate of a giant gray trailer and hearing the latch open.

Trevor peeked in to inspect with the help of the moonlight overhead, hoping to find it reasonably clean without piles of manure on the floor.  The conditions weren’t pretty and the odor was nasty, but he quickly decided it would serve his needs if Lauren was up for a really kinky and unglamorous experience.  “What do you think?” he whispered, letting her have a look at the accommodations.

Lauren smirked, taking the words right out of Trevor’s depraved mind as she excitedly responded, “I think we’re gonna fuck like animals tonight!”

Trevor aggressively pulled Lauren into the back of the trailer and closed the door behind him.  He was grateful for the vents near the top of the trailer that let rays of moonlight inside, as the only other light in the pitch-black trailer was the glow from Lauren’s cigarette.  He propped up his cell phone in the corner for the few moments before it darkened to the screensaver, giving them a few more watts of lighting for their carnal extravaganza.  The smell of the methane from the departed horses was so intense that the thought briefly went through Trevor’s mind that Lauren’s cigarette might trigger an explosion.

“Now I’m ready to celebrate my birthday!” Trevor said with a savage lust that haunted Lauren just a bit as he grabbed hold of her body from behind.

“Don’t be gentle with me, baby!  Don’t be gentle!” Lauren commanded, recognizing her words were likely unnecessary on this of all nights.

Overcome with a primal energy from being in this horse trailer with the girl he only minutes earlier confessed his most secretive sexual preferences to, Trevor was ready to unload, lowering his face down her back until it was touching the ass of those leather shorts he’d been getting hard every time he looked at today and the previous month.  He pressed his face aggressively into the smooth leather, thrusting his nose between Lauren’s asscheeks and using his lips to bite into her ass, making sure not to puncture the soft leather with his teeth but still getting a mouthful.  He could tell by Lauren’s moans that she wasn’t expecting this kind of foreplay as she leaned her hands against the wall of the trailer, grabbing on to the overhead bridal rack as Trevor devoured her from behind.  After a final drag that took it to its filter, Lauren tossed her spent cigarette butt to the corner of the trailer, an explosion of hot ash briefly making the dark trailer look as though it was about to catch fire.

Trevor pulled his face an inch or so away from her leather-shorted ass to quickly push up the box of Marlboro Lights 100s stuffed in the back pocket of the shorts.  He sniffed the nearly full pack of cigarettes, taking in the aroma of the fresh tobacco along with the aroma of the quality leather which complemented each other wonderfully, managing to overpower the foul odor of the surrounding horse trailer from Trevor’s extremely close vantage point.  He used his mouth to extract another cigarette from Lauren’s pocket and then handed it up to her.  It was the first time in hours she lit her own cigarette without Trevor’s chivalrous assist, but it was for a very good cause.

Trevor quickly turned her around so that her back was now up against the wall of the trailer, keeping his face buried in that smooth leather on her shorts until he could feel the metal zipper of the fly on his lips.  He used his to teeth to unzip the shorts, still savoring the feeling of that leather on his face and knowing that the teenage girl inside that leather was enjoying it just as much.  He then unbuckled the top of the shorts and pulled down on the chain link near the waist, lowering them a few inches down Lauren’s thighs.

Trevor hoped he wouldn’t get any protest as he then used his teeth to lower Lauren’s panties as well, beginning to softly kiss her vagina once it was exposed.  Lauren was still bashful about Trevor going down on her, particularly if she hadn’t showered very recently, always nervous about having an unpleasant odor.  There wasn’t a protest to be heard tonight though as Trevor’s lips and tongue were working their way gently around her labia, her passionate moans escalating in tandem with Trevor’s forcefulness.  In moments, he began to rub his chin along the perimeter of her pussy.

“Oh my God your stubble!” Lauren shouted with elated passion, only now realizing the full reward of having requested Trevor not shave before their day together.

Lauren’s legs continued to slowly spread and Trevor began thrusting his chin more forcefully inside of her, his scruffy and unshaven mandible penetrating Lauren with increasing depth and heightening the sensation as it plunged a couple of millimeters deeper into her vaginal walls with each thrust.  He could feel Lauren’s body begin to slide down the wall of the trailer, forcing himself to crouch lower and more awkwardly to keep it up.

“Don’t stop!  Don’t stop!” she screamed, fearing Trevor might abandon orally servicing her with his mouth and facial hair sprouts.  At her command, Trevor continued for several more moments until he was completely out of breath, peering up to see a giant cherry from Lauren’s repeated drags from the cigarette, still managing to smell some of the exhaled smoke even though his face was covered with the odor of her vaginal fluids.

Breathless but still hungering for more, Trevor helped Lauren up and commanded her, “Front of the trailer!” leading her toward the crossway gate a few yards ahead.  “Hang on tight,” he instructed breathlessly, pointing to the metal grips on the gate, and then adding, “….and kneel down on this!” pointing to the sealed-up water trough just in front of the crossway gate.

“Okay!” Lauren responded obediently and breathlessly, grabbing hold of the gate and kneeling down on the water trough per Trevor’s instruction as he removed the leather shorts still hanging loosely from her thighs, reaching up to the bridal rack above and hanging the shorts by the chain.

“Fuck me!  Fuck me!” Lauren shouted in primal anticipation of what was about to come at her from behind, impatient with Trevor who was dropping his own shorts as quickly as possible.  Trevor took the opportunity to smack her bare ass a couple of times to appetize her before the doggystyle penetration.

Lauren cut loose a shriek of sexual pleasure as Trevor thrust his male equipment where his chin had recently taken up residence, vocalizing her encouragement while struggling to keep her knees on the unwieldy lid of the water trough.  Trevor warned her that he wanted to return the favor of domination in response to her inadvertent lording of her smoking supremacy over him, and he was making good on that promise with manic, feverish perforations into his girlfriend in her most vulnerable possible position.

Inspired by the setting, Trevor reached down to grab hold of Lauren’s braided pigtails, pulling them as if pulling the reins on a horse he was riding, warning Lauren to “tell me to stop if it gets too rough.”

“Never!” Lauren responded through a dangling cigarette deep in the throes of ecstasy, thrilled at Trevor taking the initiative for maximal domination as he yanked repeatedly on her pigtails for the torque necessary to maintain his thrusts in this position.  Having her hair pulled this way was painful, but in exactly the kind of way Lauren wanted it to be.  But Lauren was even more worried about her knees giving out on this hard metal trough lid, her body only able to handle so much intensity from so many different directions.  She spit out what was left of the cigarette and watched it smolder on the trailer floor just as the previous one had.

The sounds of extremely intense sex dominated inside and outside the horse trailer, Lauren’s unrestrained moans ricocheting off the aluminum walls at a shrill decibel level while the trailer creaked, squeaked, shifted, and rocked from outside, impossible to miss had there been anyone in close enough proximity to the trailers to hear it.  As Trevor continued to slide his moist reproductive parts repeatedly into Lauren’s even moister parts, the thought crossed his mind briefly that he hoped nobody heard them, and if they did that they would keep their distance realizing it was a horny couple having a very private moment.

Realizing Trevor was probably nearing his climax after several intense minutes, Lauren finally decided she had to shift some of the burden, requesting of Trevor in a voice overcome with exhaustion with wheezy, smoked-out lungs, “My knees are gonna give out, baby!  Hold me up!”

Trevor was exhausted himself but found the adrenaline to lift Lauren’s lower body off the water trough lid.  She wrapped her legs around his waist as he held her up, squeezing her legs together tighter and putting even more pressure on his dick as her tight snatch consumed it.  Lauren’s hands maintained a fierce grip on the crossway gate in front of her and hoped she could hold out physically until she received Trevor’s final bodily reward.

“It’s coming!” Trevor announced, barely able to get the words out in the seconds before his eruption of male fluids into her female anatomy finally allowed him to break even in their rat race of physical domination.  As her pussy contended with this massive steaming load of his ejaculate, it was as close as Lauren would come to understanding how Trevor contended with her daily domination of him via incessant exhales of noxious tobacco smoke at close range.

Moments after their copulation came to its natural completion, Trevor pulled his shorts back up and he and Lauren both collapsed to the floor of the horse trailer, hyperventilating and covered in sweat, both amazed at their physical endurance to soldier through their most intense sexual experience ever.  After a minute or so of catching their breath, Lauren finally reached up to her shorts and plucked out a cigarette from the pack of Marlboro Lights 100s still in the back pocket.  Trevor lit her up and leaned her body into his, enjoying each other’s touch in silence until Trevor caught his breath enough to speak coherently.

“Well….I think we made up for whatever we missed out on last month at the county fair,” Trevor teased.

Lauren giggled after an intense drag from her cigarette, reaching her hand up to gently caress Trevor’s face and replying, “You were absolutely amazing, Trevor!”

Trevor thanked her without words, instead leaning over to kiss her gently on the forehead and then continued to enjoy the silence as their bodies wound down.  Touching his hand to his own hair to find it drenched in perspiration, Trevor then ran his hand over Lauren’s forehead and then lowered it to her shoulders, discovering she was equally sweaty.  “Just think 20 minutes ago we were both talking about how chilly we were,” Trevor mused.

Lauren was contemplative as she took another deep drag from her cigarette, the illumination from her cigarette’s cherry producing nearly all of the light Trevor had to work with to see her face at their current angle.  With billows of cigarette smoke flowing from Lauren’s mouth and nose, allowing to Trevor to smell what he could barely see, Lauren philosophically offered, “I don’t think I’ll ever be chilly again after tonight.”

Trevor squeezed her a little bit tighter and kissed her gently on her forehead again.  They both knew they should probably reduce their exposure and get out of this trailer as quickly as possible, but right now things were just a little too peaceful as they enjoyed their well-earned reprieve in the aftermath of Trevor’s birthday gift exchange.

——————————–

Forty-five minutes later, Trevor pulled into his parents’ driveway, surprised to see his dad’s car was gone while Courtney’s car was home.  He put a baseball cap over his head, hoping to hide his still-sweaty hair and forehead as much as possible, slinking in the front door with designs to slip up to his bedroom under the radar of whoever was home.   But as he walked in the door, the vibe coming from inside was entirely different than he expected, joyous laughter filling the living room.  Trevor doubted he could make it to the stairway undetected.

The aroma of fresh cigarette smoke was more prolific than usual or what he anticipated tonight, tipping him off even before he got to the end of the hallway to see for himself that Courtney and Haylee were both home.  It was befuddling and ultimately gratifying to hear laughter coming from Haylee after seeing her so endlessly miserable since the night of Jacob’s arrest, and he wondered what possibly could have happened in the last 24 hours to lift her from the long-term doldrums.  Trevor walked past the entryway when Haylee and Courtney both spotted him.

“Happy birthday Trevor!” Haylee exclaimed through her trademark talking dangle.

“The birthday boy!” Courtney thundered, putting Trevor on the spot in a way that was a bit surreal given his sisters’ general indifference toward him for pretty much every birthday leading up to this one.

“Thanks,” Trevor responded modestly, taking notice of the blurry haze of cigarette smoke and the overflowing ashtray full of white, green, and pink cigarette butts on the coffee table in front of his sisters, suggesting to him that they’d been watching movies together for a few hours.

“Mom and Dad went to the store to buy your cake for tomorrow,” Courtney informed him in reference to the belated birthday party the family was gonna throw for him.  “They’ve been gone like two hours though.  Wonder what’s holding them up.”

Trevor nodded, responding, “I’m guessing mom really found some deals.”

Courtney and Haylee laughed in agreement, dragging from their respective cigarettes and contributing to the air pollution in the living room.

“So did you have a good birthday at the fair with Lauren?” Courtney asked.

Before Trevor could answer, Haylee put him on the spot further, observing, “Look at that smirk on his face.  He looks like a man who had a really good birthday!”

Trevor blushed as his sisters laughed, with Courtney half-jokingly shouting, “I don’t want to know!”

“Guess I don’t have anybody fooled,” Trevor responded with a laconic swagger.

“Nope!  You don’t!” Haylee responded through her dangling cigarette, pausing before issuing a surprising invitation.  “We’re just starting ‘Ferris Bueller’.  Wanna sit down with us and watch it?”

On any other night, Trevor would have jumped at the chance to sit in the same living room with his chain-smoking sisters as they watched a comedy together, but tonight he had a higher priority.  “Love the offer but I’m not really feeling movies tonight.  Think I’ll just head upstairs.”

Courtney furrowed her brow in a bit of surprise, asking “Everything okay?”

“Yeah, it’s great.  Just got something I want to do tonight,” Trevor responded, taking in the final wave of adieus from his sisters as he migrated toward the steps to head up to his bedroom.

Trevor closed his bedroom door behind him, turning on the lamp on his desk and sitting down for the first time since spring when he was still doing homework at the desk.  He hadn’t been able to get Lauren’s emotional response to the song playing in her car out of his mind all day, and it had triggered a swirl of metaphors in his mind that he couldn’t stop thinking about, some about Lauren….some about the sex appeal of smoking….and some about the joys of breezy summertime living. He verbalized some of what was on his mind to Lauren on the Sky Glider, but that only scratched the surface of what he had to say.

He opened his desk drawer and dug out a 5″ by 8″ notepad with a plastic cover he had been gifted at some point in the last few years but up to this point had never utilized, and he then fished out an ink pen from the same desk drawer.  He paused for a moment to collect some of his thoughts, but he didn’t require too long to collect those thoughts as they’d been swirling in his mind all day in a ready-made poetic prose.  He quickly put pen to paper, determined to capture the momentum of these divinely inspired thoughts and was fully prepared to spend as much time writing as was necessary to make sure all the words and images bouncing around in his brain made it onto the paper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Iowa State Fair Overview


Coming from Minnesota, I had only heard stories about the Iowa State Fair throughout my childhood and young adulthood.  I attended a non-fair function on their grounds in 1990 but for some reason found the grounds to be small, even though they are far larger than memory served me attending as an adult.  I had always heard good things about the Iowa State Fair but my perspective was jaded by the 2000 report that police were going to crack down on teen smokers on the fairgrounds, having nonuniformed officers ticket underage smokers.  I was infuriated and feared that it would catch on in the Minnesota State Fair.  Not only did that not happen, but the practice was quickly abandoned in Iowa.

It was likely that reason that kept my confidence and morale low about sightings prospects at the Iowa State Fair when I attended for the first time in 2006, the year I moved to the state.  Within an hour after arrival, a flurry of outstanding sightings quickly erased my preconceived notions about the fair and made clear that previous efforts to crack down on teen smokers were apparently abandoned.  That first day at the ISF was spectacular.  The following three years were all pretty decent, but didn’t quite live up to my Minnesota State Fair adventures, so I always found the venue to be somewhat of a second-tier venue compared to Minnesota.  My theory on this is that the Iowa State Fair is a more agricultural and family-oriented environment than the more cosmopolitan Minnesota State Fair, bringing a somewhat different demographic of fairgoers that was less likely to smoke.

But just when I began to get comfortable with this narrative the 2010 Iowa State Fair would produce one of my best sightings days of all time.  And the 2011 Iowa State Fair, while not quite as Earth-shattering, was still considerably better than my early years in the venue.  Overall, the logistics of the ISF aren’t quite as perfect as Minnesota’s, with steep hills that wear down the feet much earlier in the evening than the MNSF grounds following an intense full day of fetishing.  The ISF’s timing in early-to-mid August tends to produce steamier days than the late August/early September MNSF as well.  Plus, the smaller grounds (less than half of MNSF) tend to mean fewer overall numbers annually than its neighbor to the north.  But all these things are inconsequential when you hit the perfect day or night and nail a number of impressive sightings.  The Iowa State Fair hasn’t lived up to the Minnesota State Fair every year, but it has proven it is capable of doing so.

Number of Sightings Per Year At the ISF

2006–85

2007, Saturday–70

2007, Wednesday evening–50

2008, Saturday–101

2008, Wednesday evening–52

2009, Saturday–107

2009, Tuesday evening–64

2010, Saturday–136

2010, Wednesday evening–83

2011, Saturday–143

2011, Wednesday evening–97

2012, Saturday–109

2012, Wednesday evening–80

2013, Saturday–114

2013, Wednesday evening–61

2014, First Saturday–141

2014, Wednesday evening–68

2014, Second Saturday–111

2015, Saturday–122

2015, Wednesday–89

2016, Saturday–124

2016, Wednesday–51

2017, Saturday–142

2017, Wednesday–37

2018, Saturday–108

2018, Wednesday–62

2019, Saturday–130

2019, Wednesday–34

2019, Friday–85

Posted in Top-55 Iowa State Fair Sightings | Leave a comment

ISF #1. Pint-Sized Marlboro Reds Teen Becomes Most Prolific Chainsmoker I’ve Encountered


My day and evening during my first visit to the 2014 Iowa State Fair was already going very well even before I journeyed down the block on the concourse that separates the teen huddle that forms at the center of the fairgrounds after dark and the east side entrance to the midway.  It was there that I spotted a group of teens (two guys and two girls) with an adorable petite blond as the only attractive one of the bunch, decked out in a white top and short jean shorts.  I took a seat on a berm just outside the midway and watched her take the last couple of drags from her cork filter, featuring fairly modest draws, hold times, and exhales. As she dropped her cigarette to the ground and crushed it out, the thought even crossed my mind that she might just be a social smoker out smoking with her friends. Even so, that face was just precious, and she even had braces on her teeth that, when coupled with her diminutive size and soft facial features, made her look like she was about 15 even though the friends group helped convince me she was probably 17. As they drifted just a short distance away, I swooped in and IDed her discarded cigarette as a Marlboro Red. This was without question a memorable sighting and I was annoyed that I didn’t get to see more, but little did I know this sighting would shortly escalate into my best sighting of the day and one of my best Iowa State Fair sightings of all-time.  To be continued…and continued….and continued….

About a half hour later, I was drifting to that seating area on the south side of the grounds. After dark, it tends to empty out almost entirely but it wouldn’t be the first time I came across underage teens sneaking a smoke in the area, and sure enough, there was a familiar-looking foursome hovering that night that included my petite blond Marlboro Reds smoker with braces who I had last seen about a half hour earlier. And what an eclectic foursome it was upon more isolated inspection. In addition to the adorable blond, there was a hip-looking black guy, a shirtless and muscular white guy, and this unattractive brunette female. Not sure what brought a group like this together in life but as I watched three of the four (the two guys and blondie) insert cigarettes in their mouths, it was bizarre how prophetic that common denominator would prove to be….

An unlit cigarette dangled in blondie’s mouth and it took about 30 seconds after I arrived and took a wide open bench before her lighter illuminated the dark corner of the grounds. The light-up itself was odd, with blondie producing a flame halfway between her and the shirtless white guy who both proceeded to lean forward into the flame until their cigarettes were lit. From there, the group started leaving the dark area, headed towards the main south side street. As I began to follow I noticed that the cigarette hadn’t left my little blond’s mouth since it was lit, and she was approaching the black guy with the lighter to fire up his cigarette. Her dangle, complete with at least two dangling drags, lasted at least 30 seconds before she finally removed it from her mouth. When I first saw this girl smoking up near the midway entrance, there was no indication there was anything special about her. That long distance dangle was the first evidence that proved my first impression was wrong, but it certainly wasn’t gonna be the last….

As they started walking down the south side, I thought it was the best-case scenario as it would allow me to watch from an inconspicuous side angle as they progressed, but I could never have imagined what weirdness was about to transpire. Blondie waved to the guy inside one of the food stands as if she knew him, and after walking about 15 yards down the block, decided she was gonna go back and talk to him. I didn’t know if she was gonna order food or not, but she didn’t. She just stood there talking to him and smoking her cigarette. It was just so cute seeing this 5’2” little blond with that cigarette in her hand, and as she took her first drag while standing there, the thought crossed my mind that her exhale might go inside the food stand, but if I was preparing myself for a homerun, what I got was a grand slam. Her exhale went straight into the food stand to the point that I could see the waves of smoke rolling inside even from across the street. Blondie realized a second after she exhaled what she had done and began waving her hand in front of her face in attempt to brush the smoke away, but the damage was done and her little boyfriend inside the food stand was being asphyxiated. I wish at that point I was closer so I could hear if she was apologizing to him or not. Whatever the case, her subsequent exhales were all directed to the side as she kept conversing with him for a couple more minutes before heading back to her friends group without making a purchase…

Finally I figured this sighting was gonna have some stability and predictability, but that wasn’t gonna happen. She began running back in the other direction again, and the shirtless guy playfully tried to stop her, racing her way and grabbing her by the waist as she held her cigarette out in front of her so she wouldn’t burn him.   He let her go after a few seconds and she drifted, all by herself, back to the dark and empty seating area where this sighting had originated, sitting on a berm and texting furiously. The unpredictability worked to my advantage in this unusual situation though as I found a wide-open bench parallel to her to watch her smoke the rest of the cigarette in solitude…..

As I observed, I was struck that her style was generally pretty average, with medium-length drags and medium-sized all-mouth exhales, and certainly nothing like that long-distance dangle that began this second cigarette of hers for the evening, but she more than made up for the lack of stylistic flourishes with what the rest of the evening held for me. Her female friend finally showed up just as she was wrapping up the cigarette, which she flung in front of her in the dark without bothering to crush it out while wrapping up whatever oddball texting business she had to do all by herself in the dark. End of sighting right? Hardly. Not 10 seconds after this microscopic little blond princess stood up, she was foraging in her little purse again. She wouldn’t….would she? Unbelievably the answer was yes, as another cigarette came out and was placed in her lips. She fired up and confirmed my feelings that there was indeed something very, very special about this girl, the likes of which I had still just scratched the surface of even after a good 15 minutes invested in her at this point….

She was now out of the darkness and sat in a nearby bench with her group, smoking at least her third cigarette of the last half hour. I sat across the street on a bench of my own watching her smoke yet again, admiring that adorable face and racking my brain trying to think of who she reminded me of. It wasn’t until the bus ride home that it occurred to me that it was the mid-teen country singer Lila McCann who had a few hits in the late 90s before fading into oblivion. This girl’s features were just as wholesome as a 1998-era Lila McCann, right down to the braces, except this girl also had an adorable petiteness to her that lifted her above her country-crooning counterpart. Her group was hovering in front of her so I wasn’t seeing much….and I wanted to do some exploring elsewhere anyway so I finally proceeded down that south side block as far I could go, scoring a couple of mediocre sightings and then heading back the direction I came from, fully mindful of what I left behind but thinking for sure by this point the show had played out….

Sure enough, the foursome was still on that bench that they were on 10 minutes or so earlier when I abandoned the scene. And almost immediately when I got there, blondie was rummaging through her little white purse again. No way, I thought to myself! She can’t possibly be about to do it again. But out came an empty pack of Marlboro Reds that she tossed into the nearby trash can…..followed by a brand new pack of Marlboros that she starting packing against her wrist for the next 30 seconds ago. I nearly collapsed as I watched in awe as she opened the pack and started distributing cigarettes to her friends, offering one to the unattractive brunette girl as well who was the only one who took a pass. And then of course, blondie got a cigarette for herself, at least her fourth of the last 45 minutes, and lit up. Once again, I reclaimed my bench and watched her smoke at least half of the cigarette before the usual high risk of familiarity compelled me to leave. Besides, I wanted to make one more run down the midway tonight anyway with the 11:00 hour approaching….

I walked past the teen huddle and the beer gardens block and then into the midway, stitching together a few sightings but nothing particularly memorable over the course of the 15 minutes or so since I had migrated out of the south side. But when I exited the midway, I came out at the same area where I originally saw the teen foursome commandeered by the little blond about an hour ago….and they were back again….with my favorite blond on the final couple of drags of her FIFTH cigarette of the night, and that was just the ones I witnessed. I took a seat on the very berm in which I saw her take her first drag on that first cigarette, and she dropped this Marlboro Red to the ground and crushed it out. By this point I grew to expect the unexpected from this girl and while I didn’t want to jinx it by openly allowing myself to hope for yet another cigarette, I would barely have time to ponder the thought before her little white purse was opened again. My little cigarette Santa Claus opened that pack of Marlboro Reds and was again trying to corrupt her friends by handing them out….

The shirtless white guy (whose shirt was now on again) took it, but placed it behind his ear. He may be a smoker, but there was no way he was even gonna attempt to keep up with this tiny blond girl lest he be taken to the emergency room for nicotine poisoning. My little blond ashtray mouth was now lighting up her sixth cigarette in barely an hour…and that was just the ones I had witnessed. She did share a couple of drags off of this one with the brunette friend, who I hadn’t seen smoke at all up to this point, but blondie claimed most of the cigarette and got a couple of pics taken with the girl that made me wonder if those two were more than just “friends”. My blond certainly didn’t look like a stereotypical lesbian, but the brunette sure did. Either way, as soon as the photos were finished, the group zipped right on through the teen huddle, with the blond and at least one of the guys brandishing cigarettes as they did, and migrated to yet another isolated area in the dark where they sat by themselves and smoked. The isolation they sought validated my suspicion that some if not all of them are underage….

This was a sighting where everything just seemed meant to be, because as isolated as their location was, there was a series of mostly empty benches next to a food stand with a perfect vantage point to overlook them. The foursome kept chatting and horsing around as blondie finished off her sixth cigarette, the cherry glowing a bright red every time she took a drag in this dark location. She pitched the cigarette a good five feet to the side when she finished it this time, and sat waiting with baited breath if it was humanly possible for yet another encore. In less than a minute, I’d get my answer. As she prepared her seventh cigarette of the last hour and a half to light up, I was numb with a combination of elation and disbelief. How could I have ever imagined at 10:00 when I saw this girl smoking the last few drags off of that Marlboro Red near the midway that it would have snowballed into this. A real-life teenage girl chain smoker in the year 2014, a creature I had no idea even existed anymore, and an absolute adorable pint-sized one at that. As I watched her take her early drags off of this seventh cigarette, seated on that berm with her jean shorts so short that plenty of bare upper leg was touching that cement, I also found myself thinking that her standing on my all-time ISF greatest hits list was rising with each new cigarette list, and she was now positioning herself for the very upper reaches of my all-time list.

I was nonetheless getting anxious sitting here, wanting to see what this girl was capable of but also wanting to tick off more sightings. Given how close I was to the fairgrounds’ main sightings arteries, I decided to do small loops around to pick up some additional sightings but to be sure to come back to this spot every few minutes to see how high her cigarette number for the evening would go.  And the craziest thing happened with blondie the chain smoker. After that seventh cigarette, she actually took a break. I hovered for about five minutes and she didn’t light up again yet remained sitting there BSing with her friends. This was my cue for another detour that would hopefully get my numbers up some, and I had already exceeded last year’s haul of 114. Had I not spent a good half hour at this point focused like a laser on this stinky little sexpot, who knows how high my number would have gone?!??!

After completing this latest loop and stitching together a few more modest sightings, it was back to my favorite cluster of benches yet again overlooking the isolated spot where Lila McCann’s chain-smoking baby sister was sitting. She was still sitting there, and before you even ask, the answer is YES! She was indeed in the middle of her eighth cigarette of the last hour and a half….and that was just the ones I saw. Remember a half hour passed between when I saw her smoke her first and her second, and she could have easily smoked three more cigarettes during that time. But alas, it was the eighth I had witnessed and I got there right before the two guys in her group were parting ways with the two girls, and I continued to get the lesbian lover vibe whether true or not just based on their body language around each other. Blondie’s cigarette continued to glow bright red in the darkness with her subsequent drags until she polished off that cigarette to her satisfaction and proceeded to spike it like a football on the cement. That in itself was cool enough but things got weirder when the brunette, who had taken no matter than three or four drags from any cigarette that evening, proceeded to jump off from the berm, pick up the still-smoldering cigarette off the ground and take another drag off of it. This was the oddest group of smokers I think I’ve ever come across, but I wouldn’t change a thing. A couple of minutes later, they both finally got up to leave, heading to the south side once again, and as 11:30 approached, I was prepared to abandon blondie for the night and make one loop through the main arteries of the grounds before leaving for my midnight shuttle bus.

I had a game plan for my final lap of the day about 10 minutes later, and the plan was going swimmingly as I proceeded down the south side but the evening would have one more detour from the day’s most familiar little blond.  It would be one thing if I was consciously following this chainsmoker around all night, but I wasn’t…..I just kept randomly running into her with that ever-present cigarette in hand, and this time would be no exception.  Standing right in front of the entrance to the horse barn next to her brunette friend, my adorable little blond was polishing off her NINTH Marlboro Red of the last two hours (again, her ninth that I had seen…there was plenty of opportunity for her to have smoked a few more that I missed).  I would catch her right in the middle of her final drag before she dropped the smoldering butt to the ground and walked inside the horse barn with her friends.  Once inside, she met back up with the two guys who must have gone in in front of her while she had to stand down to smoke her latest cigarette.  And once inside, the guys were taking more pics of the two girls which set off a light bulb in my own head.  I hadn’t even thought about trying to get a photo of my own up to that point given that it was dark and I didn’t want my flash to go off, but with my girl now inside a well-lit horse barn, this could be my chance.  Unfortunately, there was no way they missed my lurking presence in the last two hours and I’d really be pushing my luck trying to score a photo, even as stealth as I’m able to be snapping pics with this camera phone.   I opted to dance close to the sun and try to score a couple of photos from just outside.  Neither of them ended up being close enough to truly capture this girl, but one at least gave a general sense of her size and pedigree.

I crossed the street to the south side beer gardens and foraged through the crowd to score another couple of modest sightings, but then migrated back to that horse barn to see if my favorite Iowa State Fair girl in years was still there.  She was, lingering with the friends towards the back of the horse barn.  Adorably, the little blond appeared to be talking to one of the horses inside the stall, and I felt sorry for the horse as his own manure had to have smelled better than being face-to-face with this chain-smoking little girl for an extended period.  Seriously though, seeing her talk to this horse really got me to thinking about how erotic it would be to make out with this girl after she had just smoked nine Marlboros in two hours….

Was this a special occasion “partying at the fair” thing or does this girl really smoke at a comparable clip day in and day out?  I’m inclined to believe it’s more likely the latter, and assuming she was going back to her senior year of high school in a couple of weeks, I can only imagine what a torturous adjustment it will be for her to struggle through a full day in class without the nicotine her body demands in such massive quantities.  I once again strongly considered going inside and snapping a pic but it was just too risky with her friends right there with her.  A close-up photo would have been the perfect icing on this multi-tiered cake, but even without one, how could I ever forget the face of the most prolific chainsmoker in my two-decade history of state fair fetishing?  A sighting that started so unassumingly only two hours ago had morphed into an all-time classic, and if I walk away from state fair season with one “classic” on any given year, I feel like I’ve achieved a major victory.  To have scored it on this day that I began with such limited expectations only made the victory that much sweeter…..

Now obviously as I left the Iowa State Fairgrounds that Saturday evening, it seemed certain that I had seen the last of my favorite new chain-smoking teen girl, but the damndest thing happened four nights later when I showed up on Wednesday night for my second day at the fair…..

It was approaching dusk as I ventured to the south side and slipped by the seating area once again that has been so rewarding this year.  And I could see from afar that it was about to be again as I saw from behind two teenage girls with cigarettes sitting by themselves on a berm.  And lucky me, I had my choice of benches across from them to get a front-row seat.  I planted my ass on a bench directly across from them to get as close as possible, about to get one of the biggest pleasant surprises in the history of fair fetishing.  Even though there were two girls smoking, I was only going to be able to count one of them as a sighting, and that was the decently attractive brunette in a red top and dark jeans.  Now the reason that I didn’t count the other girl was not because she wasn’t attractive….she was in fact the more attractive of the two.  I couldn’t count her because I never count a girl I’ve already counted before as a sighting earlier in the same year.  In this case, it was a girl from Saturday night…..THE girl from Saturday night.  I was staring right back at that innocent face of a petite blond who looked like 90s country singer Lila McCann….a face I couldn’t forget even if I got a full frontal lobotomy.  As very close to unprecedented as it is for me at least in state fair sightings, I was seeing this same Marlboro Reds-chaining cutiepie again who smoked nine cigarettes in two hours on Saturday night.  It was surreal enough to keep running into her on Saturday night, but now I was running into her yet again four days later!!

She was distracted on her smartphone when I sat down and since I knew she’d recognize me from Saturday, I quickly got up and moved a couple of benches away.  The brunette friend, who by the way was a different and more attractive friend than the brunette she was with on Saturday, was just finishing her cigarette, crushing it out on the berm and that was the cue for the duo to get up and walk away, with my blond still clutching on to a couple of remaining drags on her cigarette.  I followed at a bit of a distance, not wanting to get called out for two nights of familiarity, but I also wanted to get a couple of photos.  After two more drags, she dropped the butt to the pavement, burning ash scattering all over as she halfheartedly crushed it out with her foot.  Unsurprisingly, another Marlboro Red, now my 10th from her in two nights…..

I had one objective and that was to get photos of her since it was too dark to get good ones on Saturday night.  Unfortunately, it was approaching dusk and I was at the danger zone where my photos start getting blurry without the flash.  I managed a couple of rear photos that aren’t too bad, capturing her sexy body which tonight was draped in a more revealing black tanktop that exposed quite a bit of bare flesh on her back and a pair of very tight dark jeans.  Now I preferred her short shorts from Saturday, but these jeans were sexy too, and the presentation made her look even more like Lila McCann circa 1998.  I tried to take a couple side photos of her walking but they didn’t turn out, and I saw her looking my way both times and making awkward eye contact.  I would definitely have to hang back at this point as the girl turned down the concourse and then headed into the midway….

I kept a distance as I followed, hoping she’d at least light up another cigarette.  Instead, she met with her guy friends, at least one of them the same from Saturday night, and they stopped at some junk vendor in the midway and lingered long enough that I couldn’t risk hovering any longer and vacated, hoping and expecting I’d see her again later in the evening.  As is the story all too often with this girl, to be continued…

Fast forward to 11 p.m. when I had an hour to go on the evening and was heading to the south side of the grounds.  By this point in the night I had all but forgotten about her, thinking she had to have left early or I certainly would have seen her, but as I walked down the middle of the street on the south side and looked to my left, there she was…..my chainsmoking Marlboro Reds girl with the same friend as before…..and she was smoking another cigarette even though the friend wasn’t.  This was the second cigarette I witnessed from her tonight and the 11th of two days at the Iowa State Fair, a record I suspect will hold for the rest of my life and for however short her life is likely to be.  Once again, we made eye contact, which meant I had to tread carefully as I followed.  Her cigarette looked recently lit so I should be in store for quite a show, and it turned out to be vintage unpredictability from my Lila McCann clone, who walked pass this cluster of middle-aged guys looking at this new statue of the couple from the American Gothic painting that was erected in the last year.  For whatever reason, my smoker and her friend were prompting high-fives from these guys in their 50s .  The guys awkwardly cooperated, touching the free hand of the teenage girl with the smelliest and most nicotine-stained fingers of anyone on the fairgrounds.  She pressed forward on a near identical path that they took earlier in the night, on a direct line to the midway, as Miss Chainsmoker kept taking her modest drags and modest exhales from the cigarette…

Once in the midway, the girls continued their immature little game of high-fiving everyone they came across from random midway people to the carnies operating the rides and games.  In between high-fives, she predictably attended to her cigarette.  Finally, she finished off the cigarette and crushed it out right before high-fiving a guy with a jumpshot basketball game, who let her take a shot after the high-five, which she missed.  The girls pressed on and I felt I was so exposed that I only dared to follow for another minute or so, in hopes she’d smoke another cigarette.  When she didn’t, I turned around to fetish elsewhere, still hoping and fully expecting to run into her again with as empty as the grounds were becoming.  Sadly I wouldn’t and her 2014 Iowa State Fair saga came to an end. But what an unbelievable ride with this girl who seemed next to impossible to beat for the for 2014 Sighting of the Year, and indeed it played out that way.

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ISF #2. Sexiest Girl At The Whole Damn Fair Smokes A Big Cigar


I capstoned an outrageously incredible final two hours on my Wednesday evening visit to the 2011 Iowa State Fair with my best sighting of the entire year.  The only disappointment from those final hours was a result of my own inexplicably poor judgment as I came upon a sexy blond in white shorts smoking a small cigar, but for some dumb reason walked away briefly, only to return and find she was gone.  I had really blown it, but as I frantically searched for her, I managed to somehow stumble into a sighting that was even more incredible….

I walked on the sidewalk in front of the beer gardens, feverishly scanning the area for the blond in white shorts and coming up empty.  But from out of nowhere, an absolutely nasty aroma of fresh cigar smoke was violating my senses.  I kept moving hoping to identify its stealth source, and that’s when I laid eyes on the girl who would change everything.  Sitting on a bench was a plain jane brunette seated next to this complete sexpot of a dark brunette wearing a bare midriff candy apple red top and a pair of tight black shorts….and smoking a full-sized cigar.  To call her the most beautiful girl in the room would be the understatement of the year, as she was an equal mix of sweetheart next door and glam girl.  It was love at first sight, and basically from the second I saw that big cigar in her hand, she became my favorite Iowa State Fair sighting of all-time, but I could have never in a million years imagined the kind of show I would get from her…..

It was about 11:25, and time was short as I absolutely had to get to my shuttle bus before midnight or else be stranded in the east side Des Moines ghetto with no ride home, but at the same time I wanted to see this sighting play out in its entirety, unsure of how long that cigar of hers would last.  Now it wasn’t some giant 7 ½ inch Churchill or anything, but it was long and the size of a dime around.  As shocking as it was to see the blond in white shorts smoking her little cigar, seeing a larger cigar between the fingers of this brunette bombshell was even more shocking.

She didn’t inhale every drag, but she did on some, and as is often the case with any kind of cigar, especially the bigger ones, she produced a huge cloud of filthy cigar smoke with every exhale.   I can’t even begin to describe how sexy it was seeing this beautiful girl with her legs crossed while wearing those black shorts in the most feminine pose imaginable…and smoking from her big cigar, tapping it against the bench to ash it after every few puffs/drags.  Again there was no available bench so I was reduced to standing there on the curb acting like I was waiting for somebody while sneaking glances on her.  I occasionally sat down on the curb, sometimes out of necessity to hide my bulging crotch watching this unfold…..

Her exhales were being carried by the light breeze to the south and west and I just had to walk in that area to get a whiff.   I swear that at least from that direction, you could smell this girl from 30 feet away, her rancid cigar smoke hovering in the area like cold air in a river valley.  Unfortunately, I was unable to both smell her smoke and see her smoke the cigar at the same time so I had to return to my old location to watch the show and feel my heart warm after every time that cigar was placed in her mouth.  But she was just getting started.

From out of nowhere, some guy emerged with a drink.  He looked about 22 or 23, around the same age she was, but I didn’t really sense that he was a boyfriend.  In his hand was some girly, fruity drink in a red plastic glass that she took ownership of.  So here she was sipping her girly drink from this red glass….while smoking a cigar, which extended from her fingers pressed up against the glass.   Amazingly, it got even better as the guy sat next to her in the direction her smoke was drifting.   For the next several puffs, her careless exhales drifted straight into this guy’s face, one after another.  The girl seemed perfectly aware where her smoke was drifting, but frankly couldn’t care less.  Suddenly the luckiest guy in the world was getting an endless headwind of direct exhaled cigar smoke from the most beautiful girl at the Iowa State Fair….

And then it got even weirder when she began engaging the girl next to her in discussion.  If her indifference about hitting the guy in the face with her exhales seemed obnoxious, she took it to an entirely different level when she took a drag from her cigar while the other girl was talking, looked her straight in the face not a foot in front of her, and then exhaled directly into her face.   And then did the same thing again!   Hell, in the next drag she wasn’t even talking to the other girl but would turn right at her and exhale into her face again.  Were these people for real?  Was I dealing with some funky threesome fetish where the nonsmoking guy and girl have a cigar fetish and get off on this knockout beauty exhaling cigar smoke directly into their face from a few inches away in public?  I honestly don’t think so…and believe she was really clueless and obnoxious enough to exhale cigar smoke this carelessly in the presence of her nonsmoking friends.  And nobody flinched at all, leading me to believe this girl is probably a regular cigar smoker and her friends are so used to her stench that even such in-your-face rudeness of the highest order doesn’t faze them anymore.  Incredible beyond belief….

I started to notice there was only a stub left on her cigar by about 11:40.  She was really gonna smoke the whole thing.  And the way she held the small remaining portion of the cigar that was left, you could see the wet part where her saliva had moistened it for the last 20 minutes or more.  Seeing that moist cigar butt between her fingers was the pivot point where I could barely contain myself from jumping on this girl’s insanely sexy body and copulating with her then and there.  She salvaged a few more drags from the cigar before stubbing it out on the pavement.  Rarely is that a good sign, and sure enough, the girl got up from there, holding her cell phone and her cigar butt, and then walking across the street for some reason.  I fantasized about how stinky her fingers must have been holding that cigar butt, but the fantasy would turn into a nightmare as she approached the garbage can across the street—in the pitch black—and tossed it inside.

From there, she got on her phone and started gabbing away in this dark spot, leading me to cross the street in hopes of salvaging something else from the sighting.   What a sexy girl!   On top of the perfect 10 beauty, her body looked flawless with that bare midriff separated by that red top and those skin-tight black shorts.  If only she knew how much I wanted inside of her!!!  There was a cop standing no more than five feet from her and since the sighting had run its course anyway, I decided to retreat, but only after fulfilling this once-in-a-lifetime sighting.

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ISF #3. Thirteen-Year-Old Blond Smokes Publicly With Her Mom In Line For Slipknot Concert


Teen smoking wasn’t entirely extinct this fair season or on Day 1 of the 2019 Iowa State Fair, but make no mistake that the cool kids were vaping and juuling. At one point I’d say my vaping/juuling sightings count exceeded my smoker girl count, which has never happened before. Most stunning was a long-haired dark blond who looked 13 at most sitting along the edge of the grandstand next to her friend in the early afternoon, taking a hit from her vape pen twice and hacking away both times. I wondered if these things are as prolific in middle schools as they seem to be among high schoolers as this girl had been the youngest girl I’d seen vaping thus far for the fair season.

Fast forward a few hours and I was navigating the massive crowd in line for the heavy metal band Slipknot performing at the grandstand that evening, a crowd whose size I did not anticipate when I showed up for the fair that day. It was within this long line of metal fans that came the moment that would turn a really good day into a great day as I once again saw the sort of sighting that I figured was already obsolete a decade ago but which I somehow keep getting. A few hours earlier, I alluded to a 12-13ish blond who I saw taking two hits from a vape pen and launching into a severe smoker’s cough after both. Well now I was looking at that same cutie standing in line with her mom and presumably brother and friend, but her vape pen was replaced with a cigarette. This was all transpiring standing in a long line for the Slipknot concert so there was hordes of humanity in every direction, yet here was this girl who couldn’t be a day older than 13 publicly smoking a cigarette. Her presumed mother, a mid-30s blond, was smoking too, but the other girl who looked about the same age as the smoker, and the younger boy, were not. Best of all, this was playing out just a few feet in front of the curb with the line for the concert at a stand still since they weren’t allowing anybody inside yet, meaning I had a perfect vantage point to sit there and watch it all.

And what a show! Aside from a slightly alternative piercing in her eyelid, this girl couldn’t have possibly evoked the innocence of small-town Iowa youth better, her golden blond hair flowing all the way down her back and her slender body contained in a black Slipknot T-shirt and an entirely presexualized pair of dark jean shorts. If there was any doubt by looking at her face that this girl was of seventh grade vintage, it was dispelled when looking at her twig-like legs coming out of those utilitarian jean shorts. The girl’s smoker’s cough I detected when vaping earlier in the day was not on display here as she smoked, but it was clear this wasn’t just a “treat” cigarette mom gave her while waiting for the rock concert. This girl was a real deal smoker, which was especially adorable on her exhales, which drifted into the face of her female friend and brother almost as a necessity in this tightly packed crowd. At one point mom and daughter were both briefly looking down at her cigarette as if conversing about the awkwardness of smoking in this crowd.

My vantage point was almost perfect here, but she turned her head to the left when she took her drags, meaning that was the only pose of her I didn’t get on camera during the few minutes I watched the show and documented it on camera. Toward the end of her cigarette I took a big risk and walked to her other side, and while I missed the pic of her drag by a split second, what I got instead was even better….a geyser of smoke blasting out of her face with the glowing sun as a backdrop. I believe it was the final drag from her cigarette as the mother was soon taking pics of the girl, her friend, and brother together. Her cork filter cigarette butt was smashed under the heel of her sneakers and lying on the pavement with a black ash smear just like so many dozens of others on the pavement of the concourse, yet this one was almost certainly smoked by the youngest smoker of this year’s Iowa State Fair.

It was bonkers to consider that I started fetishing at the Iowa State Fair in 2006 and now I was getting a sighting from a girl who either wasn’t born yet at the time or was still being spoon-fed in her high chair. I was on the clouds as I walked away from this one, always taken aback to my youth when I see girls this age smoking and remembering how exciting it was when I found out the first girls in my age range were smoking. But of course that was 30 years ago when smoking was still culturally acceptable in some circles. For any girl of her pedigree to be a regular smoker today, and allowed to do so at the most public venue in the state in front of tens of thousands of people, just completely defies belief.

For the next 20 minutes or so, I continued to seek out sightings elsewhere on the concourse but I never allowed myself to get too far from that line of Slipknot concertgoers….just in case. I walked by my favorite family a few times and saw that blond-haired cutie with her arms folded the way you’d expect a shy early teen girl to do in a big crowd like this. I got in line for a root beer and was apoplectic when the line for the Slipknot concert had been moving some as I didn’t want the family to disappear into the grandstand before I got to see them again, but the crowd had to pass through metal detectors before being allowed in, so if the line moved slowly enough I still had a chance. I had a hard time imagining what a second act from the mother of the year and her middle-school daughter would look like under these circumstances, but once again I’d have storybook timing to find out…..

I approached the grandstand gate in front of the metal detectors and once past the entry partition was a mother and three young kids who decided that the two nicotine addicts amongst them had better get a final fix in front of thousands of onlookers before entering the grandstand. There was a line of people moving from the side in front of me so pictures would be (mostly) elusive, but there stood mother and daughter with unlit cigarettes in hand, and only seconds after my arrival the daughter was firing up what was at least her second cigarette in the last half hour. And so she stood with that adorable early teen girl pose, her arms folded around each other except with a freshly lit cigarette protruding from her fingers, untethering those arms only when taking a drag from her cigarette. It was surreal in every possible way, and the density of the crowd appearing to work in her favor as apparently nobody was paying attention to the 13-year-old girl openly smoking in the year 2019….except me. I managed one cloudy holding pic at her new location but unfortunately one of the guys manning the metal detector probably screwed me from another farrow-to-finish sighting when he shouted, “I got room over here” as if letting the crowd know now was the time to approach. The teen cutiepie bent over to crush out her half-smoked cigarette on the pavement and followed her mom and the other two youngsters to the gate, where I knew no additional smoking would transpire until the concert was over….

Every time I get a sighting like this I think “surely this is the last one”….yet they keep coming, if not once every year then at least every two years. I suppose it’s a bit distressing that there are parents enabling a behavior that when initiated at this young age very likely means a lifetime of health problems and overall limited choices, but the visual is just so otherworldly that I can’t help but be gratified at a gut level. I’ll never forget being the sixth grader who lit up like a Christmas tree upon learning the first girls in my class were smoking….so it’s fun to know that there are at least a few girls out there providing the same thrill for budding male fetishers their age today.

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ISF #4. An Epic Brunette Cigar Girl Closes Down My Evening


It had been quite a first day at the Iowa State Fair back in 2006.  I had scored a bounty of classic sightings over the course of about 10 hours and maintained a pretty good consistency of impressiveness over the course of the day, rarely going an hour without an impressive sighting. If I had ended the evening at 9:30, it would have been a great day, but I always prefer to end the day/night with a bang it if at all possible, and I decided to press on past my foot pain to see if I could end on that elusive high note.  But nothing could have prepared me for what lied in store for me as I approached that 10 p.m. hour…

Sighting #77 of the day came when I was heading to the east side of the grounds, set up on a steep hill. I saw a bright red cherry in the hands of shapely college-age girl only a few yards to the east and began to follow and admire the body of this girl concealed in tight jeans and skimpy halter top. The overweight and unattractive girl accompanying her (who wasn’t smoking at all) made it easy to focus all my attention on the shapely brunette. It took me a couple of moments in the dark of night to notice, but I eventually discovered that this girl was not smoking a cigarette, but a rather a pretty good-sized tiparillo cigar. For me, there is no sexier novelty than seeing a pretty girl smoking a cigar, particularly in a public setting like a state fair rather than some seedy bar.  The small cigar trend was by and large in its infancy in 2006, at least in the Upper Midwest, so this was one of the first cigar sightings I was fortunate to take in, and in this case, with as perfect of a vantage point as possible.

After this bombshell revelation, I began to follow at even closer range, enabling me to ingest as much secondhand cigar smoke as possible. Every pungent whiff felt as though it was heaven-sent as it splashed me in the face. From there, the already astounding sighting got even better as the two girls stopped at a lemonade stand to purchase a beverage. There she stood, cigar in hand, buying her lemonade. I couldn’t tell whether the young girl in the booth took notice of the cigar-wielding babe she was serving, but I was thinking to myself that I would have given anything to be that girl in that lemonade stand selling a drink to this cigar-chomping hottie…..

After the lemonade purchase, the girls proceeded up the hill to a crowded area near extreme rides. As they weaved their way through the crowd, a number of people took a second look upon getting a noseful of cigar smoke coming from this attractive young lady. As if it was the most normal thing in the world, she stood amongst this crowd dragging on her cigar without the slightest hint of self-consciousness. Standing there admiring her with her shameless chutzpah for this incredibly public cigar-smoking display, I was extremely close to approaching her and requesting a date. I’ve never been good at that sort of thing, but a situation like this comes up so rarely that I nearly forced myself to proceed. Then I started to evaluate this situation a little more closely. Here we have a butch looking girl in the company of a female cigar smoker….not exactly the most heterosexual union I’ve come across in my day. The more I thought about it, the more I feared tremendous embarrassment if my date request was met with the revelation that the girl didn’t swing my way so I think I made the right call, not that I was in any way assured of finding the nerve to ask her even if not for the lesbianism observation.

Determined to go out with a bang, this unpredictable girl carefully snuffed out the cherry on her two-thirds smoked tiparillo and then stored the remainder of it in her the back pocket of her jeans (don’t ask me how it even fit back there as tight as the jeans were), apparently saving it for later. Moments later, the girls turned around and walked away from the scene, passing me at close range and providing me one final chance to ask the girl out that I let pass. I kicked myself for weeks for letting this opportunity slide, but my instinct was probably right and I was able to relive the scene in my fantasy for months to come.

Not only did this sighting allow me to wrap up my day at the Iowa State Fair in style, it also gave me one of my best cigar sightings of my life, and definitely the best at the Iowa State Fair.  I realize they’re not for everyone, but something about cigar sightings points to a girl with a deliciously naughty streak that I find irresistible, and this girl was near the top of that list.

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ISF #5. Epic Blond Teen Goddess Gives Me Hero’s Welcome To The Iowa State Fair


I had irrationally low expectations on my first day of fetishing at the Iowa State Fair back in August 2006.  Within the first half hour of arrival, my pessimism dissolved with a classic mother-daughter profile cited as my #28 ISF sighting of all time.  I wasn’t expecting to top that sighting for quite some time, but less than five minutes later, the Iowa State Fair would really prove its mettle with one of the most delicious sightings I’ve ever gotten there.

I was walking through a more populated street on the grounds and suddenly heard these two feminine voices behind me. I slowed down and moved to the side, allowing the girls to pass me. As they passed, I looked to my side to see these teenage knockouts, probably about 16-17. They were both beautiful….homecoming queen-quality babes. One girl had long blond hair and the other was a light brunette, both in tanktops and tight jeans that perfectly accentuated their shapely young figures. I quickly dismissed the idea that they would be smokers because they definitely didn’t look the type, but was nonetheless pleased with the opportunity to have had my day brightened up by their youthful beauty. Then, as the girls proceeded several feet in front me on the sidewalk, I was blown away as I noticed a freshly-lit all-white protruding from the fingers of the blond. It was one of those rare fetish moments that makes your heart start racing with excitement.

Both myself and the girls in front of me proceeded down the sidewalk. The blond took intense drags off of her cigarette and it was pretty clear she had been doing this for awhile. She reached into her purse and opened up the pack of Marlboro Lights to see how many she had left for the rest of the day, and from my angle, it didn’t look like very many. She and the other girl soon turned down a different stretch and give me the opportunity to see her pretty face again, only partially obstructed by a pair of sunglasses. It was at this time that the sighting hit its peak as she put the cigarette in her lips and took an extremely intense dangling drag that last a good five seconds before removing the cigarette from her mouth and exhaling a mighty cloud of delicious “secondhand girlsmoke”.  By now I was elated beyond description and remembered six years ago when the Iowa State Fair was enforcing teen smoking. Apparently, that rule is no longer enforced as this beautiful and very obviously underage blond was performing a very public dangling drag for the world to see right in the middle of the fairgrounds.  The sighting would have been incredible even if she was a new smoker, but a technique this impressive took her to an entirely new level, and my already racing heart began to pulsate even stronger.

The girls then proceeded to a commons area and the blond smoker got out her cell phone. I stayed at a comfortable distance but could hear her talking on the phone, cell phone in one hand and cigarette in another, figuring out a destination to meet with a second party. Her voice was very soft and feminine, not at all husky like most long-term smokers. That made me think that perhaps she was a fairly new smoker, but her professional technique certainly didn’t seem like that of a beginner. After placing the phone call, the two girls continued to their destination. I just had to follow, aching to see how this masterpiece would play out.

While walking up the steep hill en route to the east side of the grounds, the blond finally finished her cigarette and tossed it onto a grassy knoll near the sidewalk, then continued to walk. I watched it smolder as I passed, and was again in awe of the mouth it had just been inside.  In moments, the girls finally arrived at the place where they had agreed to meet the second party. They sat and waited in front of a building and I kept hoping to see more tobacco consumption as I sat on a bench across the road. That didn’t happen (and the fact that the other girl, who was just as cute, never lit up was the only thing that kept this sighting from becoming my greatest ISF sighting of all time), but within five minutes, the second party arrived. I expected it to be a pair of studly boyfriends, but it was a couple of middle-aged ladies…perhaps the girls’ mothers. Whoever it was, it was a bonus for me to visualize this bombshell blond finishing off that pack of Marlboro Lights of hers in the company of elders.

For months to come I got off on the image of this blond bombshell, particularly that dangling drag where her sexy lips puckered up around that Marlboro Light filter and sucked the bejeezus out of the tobacco inside of it.  But perhaps the most significant lasting impact of this sighting is that sealed the fate of the Iowa State Fair as a classic new sightings venue on my annual summer lexicon.

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ISF #6. Miss Teen Pork-Chop-On-A-Stick Smokes In Front of Her Baby Sister


One of the hottest and most miserable days in which I engaged in significant all-day physical activity was that 96-degree day in August 2007 when I trekked around the Iowa State Fairgrounds on a sightings safari.  But despite getting heat exhaustion by the late afternoon and having to cut the day short, I can still say without hesitation that going to the fair that day was entirely worth it…if for no other reason than it allowed me an epic sighting of this girl….

I was proceeding up a steep hill on the east side of the fairgrounds and spotted a vendor selling those “Dippin’ Dots”, the super-chilled balls that are actually ice cream. I placed an order and walked as I ate, modestly impressed with the synthetic ice cream but growing tired of it fairly early. I later noticed my upper lip was blistered up, and figured it could only have happened from one of those bitterly cold “dots” sticking to it and chewing up my flesh. While I probably won’t be purchasing Dippin’ Dots again, I am nonetheless eternally grateful for having purchased them that day because it allowed me to be in the right place at the right time for one of those rare, classic “you gotta be kidding me” moments fetishers score.  I was venturing to the north side of the fairgrounds, but was sidetracked by the sight of a freshly lit cigarette in the hand of what looked like a wholesome teenage girl.

I quickly reversed course and followed her, seeing this perfect little 16-ish female body in a blue tanktop and jean shorts and her shoulder-length blond hair wrapped up in a ponytail…..standing next to what I assumed what a kid sister who was about eight. I followed at close proximity for quite some time, watching her take intense drags off of her cork-filter cigarette, with the wind tossing her exhales straight into my face where they belonged. She eventually would stop in front of a food stand, with very little left of her cigarette. I briefly passed her to get a look at her face to find that she was the perfect stereotype of the sweetheart Midwestern farm girl, was at most 16 years old, and could not have better typified the girl next door…..well, except for that strangely out-of-place cigarette in her hand!

I was wondering what she was doing as she extracted her camera phone from her back pocket when I heard her mutter to the younger sister next to her “This needs to have a picture taken”. She raised her camera phone with both hands, but still maintaining her grip on the cigarette with her left hand, as took a picture of a sign that said “Pork Chop on a Stick”. Could this cutie be such a bumpkin that she’s that intrigued by the concept of a pork chop on a stick at a State Fair where EVERYTHING has been on a stick for several years? Whatever the case, I was digging it and continued to follow her as she and the sister again proceeded forward….. I noticed this girl was not carrying a bag or a purse, so I surmised that she got the cigarette from mom before she and little sister went their own way.

This assumption would lead to the grand finale of this sighting….something I don’t believe I’ve ever seen by a girl this young and cute. There was very little left of the cigarette even when she took that photo, but she made it last another full block, eventually taking three or four successive final snap drags. What the heck are you even smoking girl, I thought to myself when she finally dropped the cork filter to the ground. I stopped and looked at that butt….and every last molecule of tobacco had been sucked out of it. She smoked it right down to the filter…..completely. There was NOTHING left. I couldn’t even tell what brand it was as I stared at the butt because she made the thing disappear like a nicotine magician.

I would cross the street and rapidly loop around to get one final look at this girl to burn her image in my mind forever. She was just so cute….not in the realm of “classic beauty” as much as down-home cute….the kind of girl who you expect to see at a fair in Iowa….only not with a cigarette. What an astounding way to wrap up the first hour of my day!  And as high as the temperatures would soon rise, Mother Nature had nothing on this amazing girl.

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ISF #7. The Tall Blond I Would Later Know As Brittny


Here was a sighting from my Saturday ISF visit in 2008 that was a blockbuster then but would develop into an epic as I would come to know the girl who was the subject of my affections….

That sunny Saturday started with a pretty impressive array of smoking in the first 15 minutes after arrival in the morning.  Unfortunately virtually none of it was being done by attractive young females. There was a cluster of 30-something gals wielding cigarettes, but only one of the three would I consider attractive enough to count as my first sighting of the day. The morning hours are usually fairly unproductive, but that morning was downright ridiculous. It would be well over an hour before I would come across my second sighting of the day, but was it ever worth it when I finally did.  In the benches outside of a restaurant sat a family with two teenage daughters. The youngest was brunette and about 14, but the oldest was a long-haired blond who looked about 18 and was incredibly attractive. Even though she was sitting down, it seemed as though she was quite tall in comparison to everybody else in the family, particularly due to her short khaki shorts that revealed a long pair of sexy smooth legs. She had the look of a smoker, even though she wasn’t smoking at the time. I made a mental note of her and would return in the near future to see if my hunch was correct.

And it was….the family was still there about 20 minutes later when I returned, and the beautiful older daughter was smoking. The off-brand pack of Marlboros (with the bronze logo) sat in front of her along with her lighter. The seating arrangement made it very hard for me to observe her smoking progress so I kept moving from point to point hoping to get a better look but remain inconspicuous. Unfortunately, the girl was clearly paranoid, not so much because she saw me watching (I don’t think she did), but because she was smoking in an area that I believe is forbidden even though it was outside the restaurant. I walked away before she finished her cigarette considering the sighting somewhat of a lost opportunity, but I was fortunate enough to have an encore act in the near future..

Fast forward an hour or two, after plodding along through sightings mediocrity for a few hours now and I was walking through an outdoor seating area near a fountain on the southeast side of the fairgrounds where a lot of smokers tend to congregate. Sitting there was the blond beauty and her younger sister, engrossed in casual conversation and the text messages they repeatedly sent. I stopped for a bit to see if any tobacco use would ensue, but when none did, I moved on. Still, I kept returning to this seating area every 15 minutes or so, and the girls remained there the entire time, but with nary a cigarette in sight. But when I decided to have my lunch at about 2:00, I purchased my gyro and proceeded to the seating area where the girls continued to sit. Not long afterward, mom showed up and sat on the bench next to them. It seemed intriguing that the girl waited until after mom arrived before reaching for her own purse. I knew exactly what I was in for in the split second before that familiar bronze pack of Marlboros re-emerged. She inserted a fresh cigarette into the corner of her mouth and dangled it for a few seconds before sparking up. This time, I was seated in the perfect spot to watch her every extended inhale, followed by her cloudy combination nose-mouth exhale. It was quite a sight to behold as she conversed with mom and sister, yet stunk up their small corner of the fairgrounds with her cigarette for the next 5-7 minutes. As she crushed out that cigarette, I knew I had just witnessed one of my best sightings of the day, and I was right.

Fast forward once again, this time to the summer of 2010 where I met a hot blond 20-year-old on an online dating site named Brittny and exchanged notes with her for a couple of months.  She made it clear early that I was too much older for her to be romantically interested in me, but we still had a good connection and every time I looked at her photo I had a sense of deja vu.  A couple of weeks after our daily discourse began, I found myself exchanging more notes with her the evening before I left for my Saturday visit to the Iowa State Fair, and she said she also planned to attend the fair the next day with her family.  It was that point that it hit me….Brittny was the girl from the above-cited sighting….or at least I thought so…

The uncertainty killed me so I presented my story to her from two years earlier, minus the stalking part, and cited how I remembered a cute blond sitting by the fountains smoking a cigarette.  As expected, I was right, and she remembered the setting perfectly, even citing a guy she met there in a white wifebeater who I remembered seeing with her at one point during my numerous passes.  We both had a small world moment, and knowing that I was talking to the same girl who smoked so openly in front of the family raised the stakes of both this sighting and of Brittny herself.

And sure enough, the next day it happened.  I saw Brittny with the family, decked out in a utilitarian white T-shirt and black shorts that fit her nicely.  I watched from a distance for about 20 minutes hoping to see her light up, but never did.  I drifted elsewhere planning to reemerge semiregularly and see if she was smoking, but when I returned, the family was gone.  But lo and behold, not 10 minutes later I was walking past the bathrooms and saw her standing there by herself, presumably waiting for the family to leave the bathroom.  I didn’t know if she would be creeped out or not but I decided it was a perfect opportunity to approach her and say hi…and did.  I certainly caught her off-guard, but we did greet each other warmly, but I could tell she preferred me not to embarrass her in front of the family and wandered off after that first greeting.

In the following weeks, I kept contact with Brittny, but she found herself a new boyfriend and would delete her online personals profile shortly after.  In  more than a decade of fetishing, this was my only sighting that would ever come to life at any point in the future.  And the fact that I now have a name to go with this face, particularly from a girl as classy and friendly as Brittny, has lifted this sighting from its former berth in my top-15 to an adjusted top-10 in my reconfiguration.

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ISF #8. Teen Smoking Goddess and Her Imitator Wear Their Cigarette Packs as Fashion Accessories


I had so many classic sightings at the 2010 Iowa State Fair, especially on Saturday and especially after dark on Saturday, but narrowly edging out the competition for best Iowa State Fair sighting of the year was this escalating sighting I scored in the late afternoon on that Saturday sightings safari…..

I hit my benchmark 50th sighting of the day in style near the bathroom area.  There is a cluster of benches not far from there and seated on them were two incredibly hot brunettes, both in the 17-18 range where they were either just about legal or barely legal.  I took note of their beauty but smoking wasn’t really on my radar, until I took one more look on my final pass and saw the girls had respective packs of Marlboro Lights resting comfortably on their crotches as they sat there.  A bench right next to them was open and I took it.  Neither girl was smoking, but the presence of these packs nonetheless made me include them as sightings.

The girls were adorable, and practically glowed with pride about the packs of cigarettes they were advertising on their denim-clad crotches.  Then they started checking their phones and managed to hold up their cigarette packs along with the phones.  It was as though these packs of cigarettes were extensions of their hot young bodies, as their every movement for the next few moments involved the cigarette packs moving with their hands.  It was so sexy, and I saw the darker brunette girl briefly looking inside her pack and saying to the other one “we should probably save some of these for later”.  I was bummed that I was apparently not gonna get an actual sighting.

The girls stood up and revealed their young bodies.  The dark brunette was a tad chubby but still hot as hell, decked out in a fairly conservative top and blue jeans.  I wouldn’t doubt if she was Italian based on her features.  Meanwhile the other girl was even hotter, with her still dark brown but less dark hair hanging almost all the way down her back, with a much more slender figure draped in sexy blue denim capris.  I moved onto their bench and looked around the pavement, further frustrated that there were no cigarette butts in sight below.  I watched them walk away and lamented what could very well have been my best sighting of the day if this had played out.

For the next half hour or so, I couldn’t get those girls out of my mind and scored another three average sightings.  I began moving to the south side of the grounds at around 6:30.  Now it’d have been better if I was able to build some suspense in my narrative here, but my favorite girls of the day came through that soon after I first saw them in the fashion of the previous week’s county fair where this same sort of thing happened several times.  The sighting that “would have been” my best sighting of the day a half hour earlier official became my best sighting of the day.

On a bench on the south side sat the two girls.  I immediately recognized a freshly lit cigarette in the hands of the chubbier brunette.  The more slender girl was next to her eating, but her pack of Marlboro Lights was half exposed, tucked into her bra underneath her gray tanktop.  If only these smoker girls had the slightest hint of how adorable they are.  I found an open place to stand across the street and watch the events unfold, and the fair cooperated as their nightly parade of horses was occurring at this time so I actually had a reason to be looking across the street in the girls’ direction.  At first I was disappointed in the chubbier brunette.  Her drags were weak with long distances between them.  It was still kind of cute that she was apparently a beginner smoker who was nonetheless advertising her habit based on the proud way she sported the pack of smokes on her crotch earlier.

I was now more interested in the slender girl as she wrapped up her fair food, as I just knew she would light up too.  And sure enough, the pack of smokes came out of her bra and she inserted one in the corner of her mouth, letting it dangle as she searched for her lighter.  This was interesting, I thought to myself observing her light up and then dangle the lit cigarette for a moment.  She sure seemed to be more comfortable with her cigarette than did the friend.  From there, she cut loose and took fierce 4-5 second drags, generating intense and cloudy exhales with them.  While her friend seemed to go 90 seconds between drags, she was lucky to go nine seconds, taking frequent and intense drags.  And then it stepped up even further….

The friend, no longer able to compete with her more slender and prettier friend, crushed out the remainder of her cigarette and put it back into the pack.  The girls were preparing to leave and the hottie did a good 20-second dangle as she inserted the pack back into her boobs.  Now it was the chubbier girl’s turn to get fair food.  The vendor she walked up to had no line, but the heavily addicted hot friend stood right next to her and perched her cigarette hand on the counter in full view of the vendor as if saying “You got that right buddy…I’m a hot girl who smokes”.  The girls then proceeded northward on the concourse and I followed at a discreet distance.

I followed as she was smoking the final drags from her cigarette keeping just enough of a distance to catch the already epic sighting’s impressive final act.  Since I wasn’t following closely enough to catch the headwind of her exhale, somebody else was, and in this case it was a little girl about 7 or 8 years old.  The smoker inadvertently spewed her noxious carcinogens into the walk space of the girl who at first wrinkled her nose in disgust and then went into a fake coughing fit as she proceeded.  Crazy hot stuff, all capstoned by the girl dropping her Marlboro Light butt to the pavement and crushing it out with her flip-flop.

There was so much going on in this sighting, but also so much subtext.  The chubbier girl was something of a protégé, who probably recently took up smoking to be like the friend, who clearly was a long-time pro.  And she seemed to be doing everything she could to mirror the glamour factor of the older smoker, right down to the two of them resting their packs on their crotches earlier.  Put into that context, the “we better save these for later” comment from the heavier girl seemed even more adorable, and you can almost imagine the other girl rolling her eyes hearing these naïve words from her best friend who was trying so hard to follow in her footsteps.  As stingy as I am with declarations of “epic” sightings, this one qualified.

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ISF #9. Smoky Light Brunette Role Model in Painted-On Jeans


The weather situation cast an ominous cloud over my entire day of my daylong Saturday trip to the Iowa State Fair in 2009, although I generally got lucky and avoided all but a couple intermittent showers.  I scored three very memorable sightings that day that saved it from overall mediocrity. And the best one of the year has grown on me further in the year and a half since….

It was late afternoon and I had a decent if unspectacular day thus far when I migrated through the edge of the midway and the cluster of bars in front of it. My eye caught this stunning light brunette beauty. She had such an innocent and adorable-looking face that I originally expected she was about 18 even though I would later surmise she was probably more like 21. Most striking about her appearance was this pair of painted-on blue jeans covering her spectacular ass. The back pockets on the jeans were bursting off the ass, frayed in several spots and about two-thirds loose from the rest of the jeans. This girl really stood out to me for a number of reasons, with those amazing jeans being near the top of that list of reasons. She didn’t fit the profile of a smoker, but I just had a feeling about her anyway…..

But even with this strong first impression, I couldn’t have possibly imagined just how great she would prove to be when I returned to the same general area about a half hour later. In between the two primary restaurant/bars at the edge of the midway is an office which is apparently the base of operations for the police on the fairgrounds. I saw several troopers inside the back door of this small building, but standing just outside and talking to one of the troopers with her friend was a very familiar looking light brunette with a very familiar pair of tight jeans with back pockets falling apart. Only this time, she was holding a freshly lit all white in her hand and had a pack of Marlboro Light Menthols stuffed underneath her belt. I was beside myself with elation. Not only was she smoking, she had that pack of MML strapped onto her person like a trophy.

The conversation between the trooper and the two young ladies (one smoking and one not) ended very soon after I spotted them. The two girls then proceeded to the edge of the midway. I followed, unable to take my eyes off of how amazing that posterior looked in this pair of jeans. They were eventually met by a couple others, including a woman and a guy who looked considerably older than the smoker and her friend.  Both the woman and the guy embraced my adorable smoker girl with a warm hug, carefully avoiding the cigarette smoldering between her fingers. Amidst the hug, I got another chance to admire this girl’s classically beautiful face. Even though I’m suspecting she was in the 21 age range, her fresh face screamed 17 or 18. She was very close to being a perfect 10 beauty-wise….

And that’s when the sighting really got hot. This new couple she had just hugged had two young kids (a boy and a girl in the three to six years old range) who also greeted lil’ miss smoker. She hesitated briefly, but held her cigarette behind her back and embraced the two kids with a hug as well. I can only imagine the thoughts going through these kids’ heads, both apparently having nonsmoking parents, as they looked up at the pretty face of mommy and daddy’s friend but then being struck by how incredibly stinky she was as she hugged them….

At this point, dad took the kids and the three young ladies were headed for the entryway of the bars. Thankfully, I still had plenty of time to admire my girl’s smoking technique, which I had no suspicion at all would be as impressive as it was. The crowd in front of the bar was pretty intense so I really had to pay attention to keep track of my girl. On two different occasions, I saw the cigarette approach her lips followed by a pretty deep drag. She would then get caught behind a couple of people and I would lose track of her for 3-5 seconds. Damn, I thought to myself on both occasions….I must have missed the exhale. But lo and behold, a clearing would open up and I would see her head tilted upward, exhaling jet streams of smoke that had spent a pretty good length of time trapped inside her black lungs. This same thing happened twice, seducing me into believing she had already exhaled while getting temporarily lost in the crowd, only to emerge five seconds later and just beginning to exhale her smoke. It got me to fantasizing that the length of time she held that smoke in her lungs may have contributed to those back pockets bursting off her skin-tight jeans from all the built-up pressure.

The friends were heading into the entry of the bar, and of course the state smoking ban applies to fairgrounds bars as well, so my girl had to finish her smoke outside, taking one final long drag, but then apparently deciding to save the few remaining drags from her cigarette as she snuffed out the cherry with her fingers. It hardly seemed worth reviving the remaining 3/4-inch of tobacco left on her cigarette, but she nonetheless unlatched the MML pack from her belt and dropped the remainder of the cigarette inside, leaving me to ponder how that butt had to have had a tar-black filter. She then marched into the bar, never to be seen again that night. But what an impressive performance, but itself making me glad I endured the shaky weather of that day and growing in its legendary status since.

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ISF #10. Young Teen Smoker Trio Lifts My Spirits With Their “Spirits”


Another classic from that second night at the Iowa State Fair on Wednesday in 2010, which was bookended by greatness in the evening’s early hours and late hours.  The two sightings in this countdown from late in the evening have already been accounted for, but the biggest epic of all from the night came the first hour after I got there….

There are two sides of the street when walking down the Grand Concourse, otherwise known as the main street of the fairgrounds.  Both sides of the street are busy so you generally loop the street by walking down one side of the street first and the other side on the return volley.  I was originally planning to loop around the north side first and come back on the south side, but decided to go the other way for some reason.  Well thank God fate compelled me to go the other direction as I didn’t even have time to process it completely when walking down the sidewalk and observing a half-smoked cigarette in the fingers of this cute little long-haired brunette with blond highlights wearing a gray tanktop, adorably tight jean shorts, and cowgirl boots who was standing in a huddle.  My heart skipped a beat momentarily as she was only a few feet in front of me.  I then walked around the huddle….and the other two girls had cigarettes too.  The first was a really cute brunette in a bare midriff tanktop and PINK shorts.  The other girl was the hottest of the three….another glamorous light brunette with blond highlights in a skimpy black tanktop and a pair of white shorts that fit her perfectly.  All three had cigarettes between their fingers that were mostly smoked.  And I kid you not when I telling you that these girls were no older than 14….

How could this be?  Sure, 14-year-old girls still occasionally smoke on the fairgrounds, but they don’t stand in the middle of a sidewalk obstructing foot traffic and only a few feet in front of a middle-aged couple sitting on a bench.  The nearby benches were all full so I had to find an awkward place to stand and watch what I could of this madness.  The girls took short, cute little puffs and were obviously beginner smokers, but just seeing these adorable little girls standing in the most public spot in the whole fairgrounds with cigarettes in their little fingers in broad daylight sent my heart pulsating.  Now I guess I would say that these girls had the look of smokers….but future smokers.  In no way would I have been able to envision clouds of fumes flowing from their pubescent bodies if I wasn’t watching it with my own eyes.  But amazingly, it got even better….

Standing right beside this trio of early teen girls was a cluster of about five or six nonsmoking girls.  I didn’t connect these two groups until the three smokers immersed themselves in the crowd of nonsmoking girls, every one of them 14-15 and the picture of early teen innocence (a few others in the group who I would have LOVED to see in possession of cigarettes of their own).  Apparently, the girls didn’t want to wait to finish their cigarettes and were not directly in front of the bench where Ma and Pa Fuddy Duddy were sitting, with no expression on their face that indicated strong feelings one way or another about the stink coming off these teen cuties.  The girls at this point just had the final inch or so of their cigarettes left, but since they took small little beginner drags, the cigarettes continued to last a while longer.  The huddle of girls was pretty densely packed so it became hard to see, but out of nowhere would emerge a snootful of smoke spewed by one of the girls directly in the personal space of their nonsmoking friends.  Imagine being eight inches away from a friend who thoughtlessly exhaled smoke straight at you.  That’s what these girls did when they were in the huddle.

Finally, two of the smokers crushed out their cigarettes at the edge of the pavement, but for whatever reason the hottest girl in the white shorts was walking off with the finished butt in her hand, likely looking for a garbage can to toss it into.  I saw a canary yellow box sticking out of the front pocket of the girl’s white shorts, but only know of one cigarette brand in a yellow back, and it’s not one of my favorites.  More on that later.  It was challenging as that middle-aged couple was still sitting right there on the bench, but I was able to check out both butts discarded by the other two girls.  The first was a Camel Blue and that was smoked by the girl in the cowboy boots.  The second didn’t have a name on the label and was smoked by the girl in the pink shorts, who was still adorable but the least attractive of the three.

Watching that huddle of cusp-of-womanhood teen girls giggling and giddily prancing about, thoughts of the midway at Summerfest came to mind.  As a general rule, it’s pointless to walk through their midway in search of smoker sightings because you always see huddles of girls just as cute as this bunch, but for obvious reasons in the modern era, virtually never see them smoking.  Well what I saw last night expanded those horizons some.  It was a sighting straight out of the 70s except with 2010 fashions.  If girls like this are still willing to smoke publicly in broad daylight on the busiest street of the Iowa State Fair, it means there’s still potential to see just about any girl smoking.

Closing up the subsequent experience with these girls in a single paragraph, the cluster of smoker girls with a few of their friends continued to be a presence later in the evening, albeit without cigarettes, in the presence of some older teenage boys who clearly had fantastic taste.  It was part of what was making those midevening hours frustrating as I invested a fair amount of time watching these girls hanging out on the edge of the midway.  That cutest girl in the white shorts was even holding that yellow pack of cigarettes, confirmed as American Spirits, in her hand for the longest of time, yet never extracted another cigarette.  I kept looping around to try to score an encore performance from these girls but they wouldn’t deliver again.  However, they still helped facilitate my ultimate sighting of the Taylor Swift-ish girl (ISF #16) in my countdown, so they still gave me two reasons to forever be in their gratitude.

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ISF #11. Teen Midway Smoke Missile Launcher Leads Underage Trio


Same fair, same night as several other entries on my list from that epic Saturday night at the Iowa State Fair in 2010.   But somewhere in between that final sighting (ISF #16) of the night and when I left the Whitney Duncan concert about an hour and a half earlier, I scored this benchmark epic for this ages….

I usually make three runs through the midway at the Iowa State Fair, and always leave the final run until the 10:00 hour, where you’re more likely to find the “naughty girls” going on rides.  My previous record for sightings in a single day at the Iowa State Fair was 107, but I was on the precipice of smashing that record reasonably early in the evening, and boy did I…I walked past a trio of mid-teen brunette bombshells, all in the 15-16 age range, and although she was hiding it fairly well, I could have sworn that I spotted a cigarette in the hands of one of the girls.  I followed long enough to see that indeed I had as this cute little thing soon took a drag.  I could tell from the rear that these girls were exactly the kind of mid-teen cutiepie smokers that represent the Holy Grail for myself and a large swath of fetishers, but so far was only able to see them from behind.  I desperately needed an opening to see their faces, and I would soon get one as the girls came to a stop near the line for one of the rides.  There was no good place to watch, but I wasn’t gonna be denied and stood on the other side of the line observing from close proximity.  I was nearly breathless when I saw the girl in possession of the cigarette….

All three girls were attractive dark brunettes dressed similarly in tanktops and nice-fitting jean shorts, but this girl was far and away the prettiest and absolutely the most wholesome with some of the softest features you can even imagine.  She was probably 15 or 16, and sported the sweetest and most fragile face I had seen all day!  It only got better as she took her first drag in my line of vision.  The jet streams that flowed from that beautiful young face were so extreme that I’m surprised the G-force didn’t lift her little body about three feet up into the air.  It was the kind of exhale you would expect from a 10-year smoker, not the cutest possible teenage girl in the state of Iowa….

She then passed the cigarette around, meaning Sighting #108 of the night would also include Sightings #109 and #110.  This allowed me to study the other two girls a little closer.  The girl she first passed it to was the chubbiest and least attractive of the three.  She was still a 7.5 or an 8 on the hotness spectrum, but in this group she was what qualified as the ugly duckling.  After a quick and relatively average drag, she passed the cigarette to the other girl who was the smallest girl of the group but still looked a little bit older than my favorite of the three.  She also took a single average drag.  But then it was time for the G-force girl to get her greedy little hands back on the cigarette.  She took back-to-back fierce drags only seconds apart and the smoke blasted out of her little face like a rocket both times.  The other girls got one more drag each as she passed the cigarette around, but the pretty girl wrapped things up in style by taking three final drags from the cigarette, absolutely dominating it both in terms of smoking style and number of drags.  And all of her exhales were equally stunning.

She crushed out the cigarette beneath her feet and the trio walked away.  I could see a few inquiring people watching this unfold, probably not pleased with the young girls being smokers, making it all the more epic.  I had no problem scooting over to the barren area they stood and discovering the butt was, adorably, a Camel Crush.  And I tell you just by looking from my distance standing atop it that cigarette filter was a shade of pitch black after the beating it took by these girls, and I suspect one girl in particular.  I bow to RJ Reynolds with their marketing prowess getting girls like this to become smokers. Absolutely out of this world….and a most memorable way to beat the previous record for most sightings in a day at the Iowa State Fair.

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ISF #12. Stealth Mid-Teen Duo Sneaks A Smoke Right Out In The Open


It was a fluke of luck and long-time fetisher’s intuition that led me to my best sighting of the day during my Saturday visit to the 2011 Iowa State Fair rather than simply walk right past as I could very easily have done.  I was making a loop down the Grand Concourse at around 1:30 on the northwestern edge of the grounds, scanning the crowd as I always do for smoking.  I passed a duo of mid-teen girls, one of whom had an IT factor but in my split-second observation of her didn’t get a smoker vibe.  But I caught something in her hand as I walked past that raised some suspicions.  As I got a few yards away, it continued to nag me that there was more to this girl than met the eye, so I turned around and started following, looking at the hand to see if I could figure out what it was.

It wasn’t big enough to be a pack of cigarettes but the way she was cupping her hand led me to believe she was holding something she wasn’t supposed to be.  Sure enough….as I got closer, I could tell it was a green lighter and an unlit cigarette.  My heart started racing when I came to this epiphany, and though her back was to me, I began looking her over more closely.   She was a curly-haired light brunette who had a body to die for with above-average height (I’d guess about 5’8” or 5’9”) wearing a nice-fitting black and white striped tanktop and a pair of killer jean shorts that perfectly wrapped her lower body, framing her adorable bubble butt and coming to an end just underneath her asscheeks, leaving those long tan legs on full display.  But my observation of her body would come to a temporary conclusion as she finally raised what was in her hand to her mouth, inserting that cigarette between her lips and firing up.  And that’s when the real show began….

She then proceeded to hand the friend the lighter, and then the friend, who I’ll describe in more detail later, put the lighter in her bookbag, indicating she was the cigarette supplier.  The girls then proceeded into the area by the DNR building with the birds in the water.  Cutie placed the cigarette in her mouth and took her first drag, and while it wasn’t anything profoundly epic, it was nonetheless impressive with a good four seconds of dragging, another four seconds or so of holding, and then a cloudy exhale.  She exhaled a brief distance in front of a middle-aged woman and while the woman didn’t get hit with the girl’s exhale, she nonetheless developed this scowl on her face as she passed them, clearly not pleased with this open display of underage tobacco consumption.

It was soon clear that the girls were gonna turn around, and I welcomed the opportunity to see the smoker up-close for the first time.  And then it happened….and I could not have possibly caught her at a more perfect time as she turned around and faced me, with her beaming smile revealing a mouthful of braces and look of pure mid-teen innocence.  Combine her Midwestern sweetheart look with those skin-tight jean shorts that so perfectly framed her awesome body and I was reminded of exactly the kind of girl who I go to all these fairs to see smoking.  Right there, not five feet in front of me, was the embodiment of why I spend endless hours searching fairgrounds every August.

More times than not, you know when you’re experiencing what will be your best sighting of the day and I knew I was in the middle of it now, and savored it thoroughly as I followed these girls down the Grand Concourse.  And I quickly discovered that I was lucky that I saw these girls when I did because never in my many years of fetishing have I encountered such a stealth smoking display.  The girl was clearly a master of sneaking cigarettes, cupping her cigarette hand to the point that I would have most likely walked past without even detecting that she was a smoker if I hadn’t known already.   But every minute or so, when she thought nobody would see her, she would raise that cigarette to her mouth  and take a nice long drag, holding the smoke for an impressive amount of time and then exhaling.  After a handful of drags, she then turned into a two-for-one by handing the cigarette to the friend, a much more petite dark-complected brunette who like my preferred girl looked about 15 and also didn’t give off a definite smoker vibe.  She proved herself an accomplished smoker as well, taking very nice drags and producing impressive blasts of exhaled smoke.  Had this girl been the only smoker of the duo, it still would have been a great sighting because of her age, but she clearly lacked the IT factor of her taller and more wholesome-looking friend.

But anyway, the second girl was incredibly paranoid herself, cupping her cigarette hand deftly and only taking drags when she didn’t think anyone was looking.  These were easily the most paranoid young teen smokers I’ve ever come across, and while it was cute, it took away a little from the sighting since I really prefer unashamed young smokers who flaunt their addictions.   After about three drags, she handed the cigarette back to my favorite girl and I was thrilled, but as she walked through the busy blocks immediately in front of the grandstand, she simply cupped the cigarette without dragging and it was getting frustrating.

But as the girls migrated into the midway, I saw the friend taking her bag off her back and I knew she was going for the lighter again to reignite the cigarette.   I watched from a distance as cutie placed the two-thirds smoked cigarette in her mouth and took the green lighter from the friend to fire it up again.  They stood there finishing off the cigarette taking a couple more nice drags much like her previous drags before handing it to the friend for an equally impressive final drag.  It never ceases to amaze me how in this day and age, mid-teen girls get to be such accomplished smokers.  The darker brunette dropped the butt to the ground and crushed it out before moving just a few feet ahead to buy tickets for the midway rides.   As I approached, I took one final look at that cute girl’s amazing ass in those jean shorts, hoping I hadn’t seen the last of these girls for the day but recognizing I very well may have.  The discarded butt was an all-white Marlboro with a blue ring around it, which I suspect are the new Marlboro Skyline brand.  Whatever the case, the day had new momentum now and even though I wouldn’t top this sighting that day, I gave it a run for its money a few times.

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ISF #13. Mid-Teen 4-H Brunette Takes Public Smoke Break Outside Sheep Barn


That first Saturday of the 2012 Iowa State Fair was the dreariest day of fairgrounds fetishing I had experienced in several years, and by late afternoon the day was really at its nadir, frustrating as all hell as I journeyed the grounds seeing virtually nothing for hours on end.   But at some point around 5:30 I would score the sighting that single-handedly salvaged the entire day.  I came upon this sighting at the unlikeliest of locations to boot….the block containing most of the livestock buildings on the south side of the grounds.  Soon after turning onto this block I laid eyes on the sweetest face I’d see all day…..a 15-16ish brunette of the highest magnitude of Midwestern wholesomeness sitting on a bench with a cigarette in her hand next to a blond-haired farm boy who was either a boyfriend or just a guy friend as it wasn’t overly clear by watching.

FINALLY I remembered saying to myself as I saw her and then had to find a position to watch which, as was the case so frequently that day, was difficult.  I leaned against a tree and observed.  How positively adorable she was, her sugary sweet look barely disguising a naughty little smirk that let you know the girl was a spitfire.  She had shoulder-length light brown hair, wearing a white T-shirt and dark jean shorts that really complimented her perfect little Midwestern cutie image. She was talking to the guy and very clearly amusing both him and herself with her antics before taking a drag from her cigarette, then proceeding to turn her head upwards and release a very generous skyward exhale that immediately informed me the girl was no flash in the pan style-wise.  Another girl of average attractiveness sat down next to them after a couple of minutes, clearly the friend of both.  A little too exposed at my current vantage point, I decided to go directly behind them and lean against the livestock building, hoping to snap a couple of pictures.

As I arrived at the spot, the smoker girl put her hand affectionately on the blond guy’s upper back and waved it around briefly, making me think they might have been boyfriend and girlfriend but it could also have just been a friendly gesture of affection based upon whatever they were talking about, which unfortunately I couldn’t hear because I have a feeling if I did this sighting would have been that much more adorable.  The highlight of the sighting came next, when my girl took another drag from her cigarette, once again turning her beautiful face skyward and releasing an even more generous snootful of smoke into the summer air…..only one breath was not enough to release the entire contents of her black lungs as the stream of smoke ended briefly…and then resumed with a second smaller spurt of sky-bound smoke with her next breath.  And the look on this girl’s face was pure pleasure as she exhaled that smoke.  It was abundantly clear her pleasure level from consuming that cigarette bordered on the orgasmic.   I managed to snap a couple of pictures from this angle, but unfortunately they’re blurry as it was too far away with my crappy camera phone to give much detail on what a cutie she is.  I stuck around for one more skyward exhale from the rear, her pleasured look evident once again but without quite as much pomp and circumstance with the exhale.

I had to go back to my original vantage point leaning against the tree in hopes of getting a better frontal photo of her with the cigarette.  I did manage another photo and while it was the best of the three, it’s still not great.  She cooperated by taking a drag from the cigarette and this time exhaling straight forward so I could see she managed a pretty impressive distance with her smoke missile when directed straight in front of her face as well as into the air.

The last three minutes or so of this sighting were frustrating though as she had this stub of a cigarette between her fingers with one drag left, but she wasn’t taking it, instead engaging the friends in comedic discussion where it continued to be clear she was the life of the party.  Finally she took the last drag and proceeded to smear the cigarette butt on the ground beneath her and blowing her smoke to the ground while doing so.  Thankfully, she left the butt sitting there as she got up with the friends.  Immediately after they started walking away, I went to that bench in hopes of identifying the butt.  She had smoked the cigarette almost completely down to the filter, and after she smeared it onto the ground all that was left was the cork filter, so I have no idea what the brand was.   I then immediately pivoted to see where they were.  Seeing this girl standing in the company of her friends made the context of what I had just seen of her smoking that much more adorable as she was so tiny….maybe 5’1″ or 5’2″, walking next to her taller, nonsmoking friends with her cute little butt draped in those girl-next-door jean shorts.  And as a final adorable sunset for this sighting, the trio then walked into the entrance of the sheep barn, indicating to me that one or all of them are 4-H kids with livestock exhibits.  They sure looked like country kids, especially the boy, and now they were about to wander amongst the smelly livestock in the barn but still probably finding them to be less stinky that the petite cutie in their presence reeking of fresh smoke from the cigarette she just pleasured herself with.  I cannot even begin to convey how desperately I needed this sighting with as dull and exhausting as the day had been thus far.  For the first time in nearly seven hours on the grounds that day, I had a spring in my step and hoped I had turned a corner.

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ISF #14. Sultry Heavy-Smoking Brunette In White Minidress Dangle Drags Nearly Every Drag


They removed some seating in the center of the Iowa State Fairgrounds where the concourse and south side street convene.  It didn’t cramp my style too much and ended up working to my advantage on Day 2 of the 2015 ISF with a cluster of gals of various ages who I assumed were related in some capacity stood in the area where the seating used to be acting very much like tobacco was about to be consumed.  Little did I know it would become my sighting of the night.  One gal pretty much dominated this cluster in terms of beauty, a very thin mid-20s dark brunette with sunglasses in a lacy white dress with cowgirl boots who exuded sex appeal and looked very much like a smoker.  Besides her, there was a chubbier but still attractive brunette who looked about the same age as well as a couple of older women, one of whom looked like she was in her 50s and the other who looked like she was in her 60s.  My brunette beauty in the white dress started fishing around in her purse and I positioned myself with my fingers crossed that my instinct was right….and sure enough out came a pack of Marlboro Lights, of which she extracted one for herself and passed another on to the chubbier friend….

It turns out all four women smoked but I only really paid attention to one of them, and did she ever have a lot to show me.  The girl loved to dangle and loved to dangle-drag even more, always with her cigarette perched in the dead center of her mouth.  I got a couple of pictures of her in mid-dangle but there was something very specific and adorable she did three times on this cigarette.  She placed that beautiful all-white cigarette in her mouth, let go, and then started playing with her hair as if bunching it in a ponytail.  It must have been a nervous tick of hers and it couldn’t have possibly been cuter as her cheeks sucked in to absorb the cancerous smoke into her black lungs.  And as luck would have it, I got a photo of her doing this routine–dangle dragging while playing with her hair. Her exhales were nice too once she got around to removing the cigarette from her mouth sometimes turning her head to the left to release a tight missile of smoke from her mouth and nose which progressed straight forward.

She was a truly skillful smoker with the most intriguing technique I’ve seen all fair season.  The fact that she was so hot, was likely smoking in the presence of her mother and sister, and wearing this highly feminine white dress made the show all the more delicious.  I watched every wonderful moment of her smoking, with dangling drags of some variation on almost every drag, before she became the first of the four women to retire her cigarette, dropping it to the street and crushing it out with the boot.  I knew it was a Marlboro Light but when the other women finished smoking and walked away, I proceeded to the discarded butt to make sure and confirmed it.  This would likely have been my favorite of the night even if it had been the only time I saw her smoke…but it wasn’t……

The country group Alabama drew a large crowd that facilitated several great sightings, both before and after their concert.  The show seemed late to start and about a half hour after the previous sighting there remained a substantial line to get into the grandstand show, with some smokers hovering around getting their final nicotine fix.  Included in this group was none other than the female foursome that was the high point of my night so far.  Despite the country girl wardrobe of the younger women in the group, it hadn’t occurred to me that they’d be attending the Alabama concert but it certainly seemed now as though they were….at least after another cigarette.  Once again, the star of the show was the long-haired dark brunette in the white dress, whose technique hadn’t changed from an hour earlier.  I was not in a position to observe them from upclose this time, particularly since I had already been right up in their grills watching an hour earlier, but the crowd was such that I was able to do a circular motion around them from afar and take in some of that brunette’s great technique.  Again, most of her drags occurred mid-dangle, the best of which came when she was playing with her hair and forming a brief makeshift ponytail between her fingers, only now with the after-dark context of the cherry of her cigarette glowing a bright red as she dangle-dragged.  She smoked at a very nice pace which worked for my timeline as I was able to see about six of those drags before deciding I should press on and not push my luck.  But you never know, there might just be another sighting from this girl yet to come…..

The Alabama concert ended around 10:45 and I made sure I was there when it did.  As the grandstand was emptying out there was one smoker girl in particular who I knew attended that Alabama concert that I was most interested in seeing again.  And as I turned the corner around the grandstand, there she was with the rest of her all-female group….the slender dark brunette in the tight white dress with the affinity for dangling drags.  And it should come as a surprise that she was smoking again with the rest of them.  Again though, 100% of my attention was laser-focused on her as I stood to their left undetected and watched her smoke her entire cigarette, this time appearing to up her pace from the previous two outings as I’m sure her blackened lungs were particularly starved for nicotine after the long concert.  And while her pace picked up, her style didn’t change.  Long six-second dangling drags were still the rule rather than the exception, with dangling drags as she played with her hair coming two more times.

I’m not sure if it was a lighting issue this time or not but I wasn’t able to see her exhales very well, save for one.  Perhaps it was less about lack of lighting preventing me from seeing the smoke exiting her mouth and more about the fact that her lungs weren’t letting any of the smoke out of them after two hours of cruel deprivation.  Either way, she finished her cigarette long before the others in her group and I noticed her beginning to walk away from the spot, clearly without a cigarette in her hand anymore, while nudging the other females to move it along and follow her even though they were all still smoking.  I watched them walk away for the final time last night and confirmed again that she was without a cigarette.  So where did it go?  I walked around in the area where she stood and a glowing beacon of burning red tobacco lay on the grass, the smoldering remains of a Marlboro Light that she had disposed of seconds earlier.  If there was any doubt that she was my best girl of the night, that doubt was no longer in dispute.

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ISF #15. Animated Blond In Neon White Pants Serves Up Colorful Three-Cigarette Performance


My Day 1 Saturday at the 2018 Iowa State Fair had very much come alive after dark, and I had averted my planned route to follow a couple of modest smoker girls to the Bud Tent, and I’m so grateful for that Bud Tent detour from the south side because it would lead me to the opening salvo on what would be my sighting of the night.

I ventured to the back of the Bud Tent and the area was crowded with people, many of whom were out for a smoke break. But capturing my attention most strongly among them was a trio of two girls and a guy, all wielding cigarettes, where one girl radiated IT factor. The area behind the Bud Tent is not very well lit, but who needs light when you have a blond decked out in neon white pants serving up her own kind of “moonlight”, particularly with the glowing cherry of a cigarette adding to the illumination. The female duo drew my eyes like a bee to honey as I found a good spot to observe standing next to the port-a-potties and got my first good look at the sighting’s main attraction, the bubbly and fairly tall mid-20s, long-haired blond in the blue-gray tanktop and skin-tight white pants, the pants curving perfectly around her ass, crotch, and thighs and the tanktop showing off just enough cleavage to be tasteful yet sexy. She looked a lot like my heavy-smoking friend from northeastern Missouri, with quintessential Midwestern features that screamed wholesome-girl-next-door. I was already thoroughly captivated and I hadn’t even seen her take a drag yet!

The smoking friend proved a fantastic foil as she was going on and on about some funny story and the blond in white shorts was absolutely in stitches with a contagious laughter that seemed to be taking her breath away as much as her cigarette likely was. It was shortly after this jocularity reached its peak when the blond took her first drag and damn if it wasn’t entirely worth the wait. The cherry glowed for a good five seconds as she fiercely dragged, pulling carcinogenic smoke into that wholesome young body, holding it there a while, and then releasing a rewarding blast of smoke from mouth and nose into the group with little concern of whether either of her friends were forced to choke on it. A couple of other sightings of solid blonds were playing out in the same general area, sightings that would have been worth serious inspection at most points earlier in the day, but they were taking a backseat to this main event as blondie’s show still had a few more minutes of life in it and I wasn’t about to miss any of it….

The storytelling light brunette friend was okay in terms of her presence wearing a blouse and jean shorts, but her smoking style was pedestrian and it’s impossible to overstate how strongly she got outsmoked by the blond, who dragged just as fiercely and exhaled with as much respiratory force and as poor of manners for the rest of the cigarette as she did on the first drag. She smoked more slowly than I’d prefer but she sure made it worth my while when she did go in for a drag. She took one final intense drag and clouded up the area with one more exhale before crushing the cigarette out below her feet and heading back into the Bud Tent with the friends. I swooped in to identify the all-white butt she left behind. It was a Camel Crush. The show was over but she left quite an impression on me…and I just had a feeling if I returned to the Bud Tent in the hour and a half I had left, I’d be seeing more of her. Time will tell if my instinct was correct….

It was after 11 and I was on my way to the Bud Tent and had one girl in mind as I drifted that way. I’m glad that I explored the front side of the open-air bar first….because she was there….my blond in the tight white pants who was smoking behind the building the last time I was there. And now she was standing there with a guy friend right in front of me with full lighting, freshly lit cigarette in hand again, and I could simply pretend to be looking inside to the band playing behind them and take in the whole show. The smoking was just as incredible as before, with long and indulgent drags and exhales that went pretty much right into the face of the guy she was talking to. I was annoyed by one issue though….here she was right in front of me in this well-lit area where I could have pulled off a pretty good photo…but there were two cops hovering right behind me and I simply couldn’t risk taking the snapshot. It was frustrating but I still got a kick out of her show, punctuated by a slower pace of dragging than I preferred but dynamite skills and rotten manners when she did. And then she placed her non-cigarette hand on the crotch of those stunning white pants and gently rubbed herself with her thumb. I didn’t know if I saw it right on her prior cigarette behind the bar, but she did it again now and it was just an adorable little quirk. Before she finished her cigarette, the light brunette friend from before returned with a few other friends, so the spot got quite a bit more crowded. The light brunette would fire one up but neither of the other girls who joined them did. Since blondie finished her cigarette, I figured it was a good time to walk away so at not to arouse suspicion from those cops still lurking behind me….

I had ventured elsewhere on the grounds but my heart was still at the Bud Tent and I couldn’t get my mind off of that sexy blond in the white pants. I had been away for about 15 minutes but was gonna make my final stand of the night at the Bud Tent, heading eastward hoping to catch lightning in a bottle again when I got there. I zeroed in on the same spot in front where blondie was smoking before….and there she and her friend were again….with unlit cigarettes in their hands. And this time, the cops had moved on, giving me a clear lane to settle in for a stress-free show, preparing my camera for a couple of snapshots. She was socially engaged with the guy friend and the brunette friend so they were slow to light up, making me hope I could get the light-up on camera. That didn’t go as planned but I would get pics, including one action pic with a glowing cherry, but knowing they’d be dark and blurry I reined in the photo-taking to enjoy the show. And the third cigarette managed to be her best since I got to see it farrow to finish, her lighter bringing it to life and stinking up the area before her friends got theirs lit. Interestingly, the brunette friend got a moment of her own this time around as she removed a cigarette from her purse and handed it to the guy..and then proceeded to use her lighter to fire him up, a nice gender reversal move that I don’t see every day. But the main event continued to be that blond. I had a feeling she was probably at least a little under the influence at this point but she definitely was still in control of her facilities enough to function and coherently converse in between incidents of making that cherry glow long and hard with her five-second drags…..

It was after 11:30 now and I had to be mindful of the time given that the last shuttle bus left by midnight. Ordinarily that wouldn’t be a big deal but this girl was such a slow smoker that in this case it was. It was my only pet peeve about her, but whenever I found myself getting a little frustrated about her slowness, she came up with new and exciting things to do with that cigarette that helped me forgive and forget very quickly. First she took an intense drag from the cigarette while in extended conversation with the guy and the brunette friend, and then proceeded with her most obnoxious exhale yet…a direct hit into both of their faces with an intense plume of smoke pouring straight ahead from her mouth and nose. From there, another minute passed before her next drag, and just as I was starting to get annoyed, she placed the stub of the cigarette with its growing granny ash into her mouth and pressed forward with an extended talking dangle, the cigarette bouncing and up and down for a good 10 seconds and making me wonder if that ash would hang on. Observing that talking dangle, it really hit me how much she resembled my Missouri girl who’s also a maestro at talking dangles.

And even though she had taken the last drag from the cigarette, she still had two great tricks up her sleeve, immersed in the conversation and then holding up the cigarette as a prop and thrusting it in front of her as she spoke, as if making a gesture of putting the cigarette out onto somebody’s face. That was a new one for me and I wished I was able to hear the context to understand the gesture, whether she was just using the cigarette as a pointer or whether she was really making a violent gesture as it seemed. But the violence turned to love thereafter when, for the third time in as many sightings, she proceeded to touch her crotch with her thumb and gently rub it a couple of times. Not sure whether she did this as an awkward nervous tick or if she was attempting some relief from the tightness of those pants pressing into her vagina…or if it just felt really good to touch herself. But whatever her motive, it was just impossibly sexy to see a mini-masturbation gesture from this incredible smoker who, again, had the wholesome appearance to match her virginally colored outfit. It had been a good 90 seconds since she took a drag from the cigarette and I figured there wouldn’t be much if anything left. And sure enough, at some point when one her friends was in my line of vision, she lost the cigarette and it was resting on the pavement below her feet. Had I been able to stay around till the Bud Tent closed, who knows what else I could have seen from this best girl of the Iowa State Fair, but it was 11:48 and I had to head towards the loading area for my shuttle bus, my heart still full after seeing the best sighting of the night.

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ISF #16. SOS! Smoker Girls on All Sides


I was having a decent if unsubstantial day at the Iowa State Fair on my all-day Saturday visit in 2008.  It was late in the evening, somewhere around 10 p.m., and my feet were killing me, so I had just sat on a bench and enjoyed a sighting that came to me for about 10 minutes.  After that much needed rest, I had recovered to the point where I could press on, and my timing again proved successful as I had journeyed about a block northward past the beer gardens (where I scored a few modest sightings) to stumble upon what would be the most abundant source of sightings I came across all day, and ultimately my top sighting of the day as well.

Immediately grabbing my attention was Sighting #75 of the day, where I caught a glimpse of a very pretty 21-ish blond with her curly medium-length hair contained in a ponytail seated on a bench. Between her fingers I saw darkness with a glowing ember at the end, and the darkness of what she was holding immediately brought to mind the nuclear option….a cigar. There was a burm area right behind the bench where this blond, and a modest but less attractive brunette friend seated next to her (Sighting #76), providing me a perfect location to observe from behind. She only took one drag from the dark cigarette/cigar between her fingers before crushing it out on the pavement beneath her. Meanwhile, the friend next to her was still smoking on her cigarette. I obviously thought the best of this sighting had passed, but about 30 seconds later, the attractive blond would insert another cigarette in her mouth, this time a traditional cork filter cigarette. Apparently, if her friend was gonna take that damn long to have a smoke, she was gonna by God have a second smoke rather than give her lungs a break. I focused like a laser on the blonde and saw some deep and impressive inhales, followed by some equally impressive combination nostril-mouth exhales that I was positioned just perfectly to watch yet avoid being spotted…..

With all this excitement going on in front of me, it had almost escaped my notice that there was even more excitement going on very close to me. To my right was an 18-ish blond cutie sitting by herself and smoking a cigarette…that would be Sighting #77. Not sure how I missed this as she was only a few feet away from me. I could see the Marlboro logo on the cork filter she was intensely dragging from it, but I unfortunately was unable to observe much given that I was too close to avoid being detected. Then to my left was a young and moderately attractive 20-something brunette mom also having a smoke break (Sighting #78). For those keeping score, you read right. I had four young female nicotine addicts surrounding me, with two to my front, one to my left and one to my right. I love the Iowa State Fair! The young blond to my right appeared to be in a hurry, finishing off her Marlboro and crushing it out before taking off rather abruptly. This allowed me to focus all my attention on the blonde hottie in front of me, still smoking that second cigarette of hers. She kept on puffing for a couple more minutes before crushing the second cigarette out as well, and then quickly taking off with the friend.

I finally got the first full-profile view as they walked away, and the blond was definitely prettier, with a shapely body contained in a tanktop and capri pants. Very sexy. There was only one last mystery to solve here, and I would advance to the bench they were seated at to figure it out. I looked below my feet to find her recently crushed cork filter was a Marlboro Red. But what about that dark cylinder of tobacco I saw her with a few minutes earlier? I quickly spotted the black cigarette filter with the logo “Black” on the butt. Now I first became aware of these Blacks a few months ago, noticing that a young couple who lived in my apartment building smoked them. I know nothing about them, except that I find their exoticism kinda sexy the same way I find Mores sexy. With that in mind, I think this blonde was probably my favorite smoker of the day, so addicted to cigarettes that she carries packs of different brands in her purse and smokes them back-to-back interchangeably. Suddenly, my aching feet didn’t seem to hurt so bad anymore!

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ISF #17. Mid-Teen Trio of Camel Pink Cuties End My Night In Style


It’s only fitting that any great sightings day at the fair has a worthy grand finale.  My Saturday at the 2010 Iowa State Fair was by all metrics a great day, and this final sighting of the night was by all metrics a grand finale….

It was about 11:15 when I returned to the main concourse and I was planning to leave for the day.  But the girls of the Iowa State Fair weren’t ready to let me go just yet.   I made a final pass near the cluster of benches in the middle of the grounds that’s crowded with teens after dark.  On the west side, I stumbled upon a cluster of six teenage girls, all around 16 and all very wholesome-looking from afar, so I was flabbergasted to see a freshly lit cigarette between the fingers of this cutiepie light brunette with shoulder-length hair who was wearing a pink top and brown shorts.  All of these girls were the definition of the girls next door, and as I scanned the crowd and didn’t see any other cigarettes, I found it amusing that one of the girls somehow found herself in a situation where she became a smoker.  There was a mostly open bench only a few feet away, so I sat there for my front-row seat for a pretty solid smoking show as this girl was no amateur, smoking right there in her tight cluster and not making any serious effort to direct her stinky fumes away from the crowd.  This clearly drunken redneck sitting next to me briefly engaged me in conversation, and I was distraught at the idea that my show would be sidelined by this clown, but thankfully he only exchanged a couple of comments with me before leaving me alone…

Suddenly, the tall brunette in the cluster whose back and cute jean-shorted ass was towards me surprised me as she turned her head and exhaled a plume of cigarette smoke.  Now there was a second player to this sighting with the revelation of this girl, and a beautiful and equally wholesome one at that.  But I was looking at this girl from behind and both of her hands were in clear view, and neither one of them was holding a cigarette.  Where did it come from?  In just a few seconds, the tall brunette moved over a bit and created an opening from which I could finally tell where the source of the cigarette was….another blond girl in the cluster who was the most innocent and adorable girl of the entire group of six, a cluster in which at this point, at least three of these uber-wholesome girls were confirmed smokers.  She stood there in her tanktop and khaki shorts with an outrageously adorable and clearly underage face, with just a hint of an evil smirk that helped realize how this girl was a smoker.  She was the primary holder of the cigarette, and the tall brunette got her table scraps.  And again, all this was going on with a flurry of cops only a few feet away….

And right when I thought the sighting had hit its peak, another player entered in the form of a middle-aged man who sneaked up behind one of the equally adorable nonsmokers in the cluster, a girl who was primarily chatting with the original light brunette smoker.  I’m not sure if it was her father or what, but I was at first expecting he was giving her or her friends hell for smoking.  But nope, he was just razzing them and inserting himself in their foul-smelling cluster.   Before long, he was conversing with the really cute newcomer of the cluster who was grinning ear to ear as the middle-aged guy was razzing her about something.  He then did something that would raise the sighting to the stratosphere.  He reached out to hand and requested a drag from this cute teenage girl’s cigarette.  He took a single puff and handed it back to her.  For the next couple of moments, the cute girl and the tall brunette finished off the cigarette, with the brunette closest to me taking the final drag without bothering to crush it out on the pavement right in front of me.

As this was going on, the original light brunette I first spotted in the sighting was walking off with a couple of the other girls.  Since she had her cigarette all to herself, she still had a couple of puffs to go.  She literally walked right by a cop with a cigarette in her hand.  She came to a stop not far from there and I watched from behind as she took her last couple of drags before crushing out the cigarette underneath her feet.  It was time to head back to the original cluster, where the girls who shared the cigarette had drifted a ways and left me an easy opening to identify the still-smoldering butt….a Camel Pink, one of my favorite cigarettes to see teen girls in possession of.  There was no way I was gonna top this and it was way past time to head home after a dream day at the Iowa State Fair.

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