Having taken my photography style to heart, Tiphanee had decided to wear jeans and a t-shirt, along with her most comfortable sneakers. Maybe she hadn’t been shot this way since Daddy took her to Disneyland, but she felt that was about to change and become the best photos ever to grace her portfolio.
I hope she remembered my words the first time she was in the studio: “I like shooting models who’re actually smiling, having fun. Hugging animals and mascots and all that stuff.” She was pretty much known for the pouty, disinterested look that everyone told her was what made models famous. That made modeling boring. It was time for a change.
“It’s like stepping into an oven!” she wailed. “You’re used to this heat, I’m not. A little consideration, huh? I’ve never been in 120-degree heat before.”
I pointed to the thermometer placed next to the ticket booth. “Only 105. The 120s are on the other side of the snowy mountains. And there‘s no humidity, like there would be off the Chesapeake.”
She wanted to kick the thermometer. “That does not help.”
So I whistled Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”
Oddly enough, she recognized it. “I’m trying,” she sighed, “but I don’t see it.”
“Lots and lots of ice cream.”
Slowly a smile creeped onto her lovely features as I bought the tickets. “I’m buying the first round,” she pronounced. “Do us both a favor and don’t choose vanilla.”
“Only if they have orange.”
Trying to hide her dismay, she quickly remembered the time I’d been interviewing another model while she changed clothes. The girl, not knowing Tiph could overhear, informed me that she’d dumped her boyfriend because of his dandruff.
I’d sniffed, “You’re so shallow I’ve stepped in deeper puddles!”
Back in the right-now, I had to ask. “Which joke are you remembering?”
“Yeah, I have to admit that’s one of my faves.”
After a quick glance around she asked, “So what do we see first? Or do we just wander?”
“I’m for wandering. Eventually we’ll find out what new and unspeakable uses they’ve come up with for Spam.”
She pointed to a building with a sign that said “Extreme skating,” but I blanched and shook my head. She obviously wondered what that was about, by her look, but only filed it away as yet another in the hundreds of things she wanted to ask me.
Then she forgot all about that when she saw the next exhibit. “Petting zoo!” she squealed. “C’mon, let’s play with some animals!”
“You missed a word,” I informed her, looking like I was suffocating in my attempt not to laugh at her.
So she checked closer; now that she was able to look around the building that had blocked a complete view of the sign, she saw it read “PLANT petting zoo.”
That stopped her, and she turned to me with her face one big “Huh?”
I shrugged. “Go find out, little girl. You go play and I’ll catch up once I THINK I know what it’s about.”
She laughed and skipped away from me and into the exhibit.
Nope, not even close, I saw when I entered.
Since she was stopping to pet every single fruit, vegetable, or anything else that grew out of the ground, it didn’t take me long to catch up. She was debating exactly what something called “ilex” felt like when I joined her.
She smiled at me. “I’d never seen Brussels sprouts except neatly trimmed and sitting in a basket,” she murmured.
“I’ve never seen them, period.”
“Never figured you for a vegetarian.”
“Any lamb’s ear?”
She brightened and looked around, then did mournful; with her, verbal answers were hardly ever necessary.
Finally we left the so-called zoo, which was no doubt just as well. Just outside, a group of old-looking people–based on their faces, the only visible part–were singing golden oldies while dressed as vegetables.
“Go, corn!” I shouted, but was instantly censored.
After making me happy by deciding to skip the daily demonstration of feng shui, Tiphanee suddenly declared, “Hey, ice cream?”
“One black cocaine and one snowball, coming up!”
“What else would you call chocolate?”
When I came back, I wasn’t surprised to see her fending off yet another come on, though the guy didn’t seem aware his date was fuming right behind them. As always I was amazed that such a blatant babe could pull off demure.
And then she totally screwed that up by asking me perkily, after a few glorious licks of the ice cream, “Would you believe me if I told you I was a virgin?”
I didn‘t bother to wonder why. “I believe everything you say.”
“Smooth,” she sighed, thinking I’d gotten out of it rather well. “But do you think I’m a virgin?”
Hmm, this should be fun. “Why not?”
“A beautiful woman with an incredible body is gonna get a lot of offers, and it only takes one.”
“Well put!” she laughed.
Not wanting to go any deeper into this discussion, especially not here and in this weather, I changed the subject in a big damn hurry. “According to this thing they gave me, there are 27,000 entries in all the competitions here. And that’s without counting 6,300 livestock entries.”
“How many competitions are there?” Tiphanee wondered. “I’ll bet even I could find one to enter.”
“This would be the place. Where else can you enter your quilt or jam or jelly?”
“I can do quilts,” she replied wistfully, “but I wouldn’t have it ready for NEXT year!”
“Salsas and tamales are most popular contests.”
“Did a lot of that in Maryland,” she replied, a little nastily. Then she noticed her ice cream had melted on her hand and decided her vocal chords could use the rest.
I absent-mindedly watched her licking her hand like a cat, gaping as the pink tongue curled around, scooping up drops and flicking them back into her mouth. I gawked even more as her mouth and lips worked, imagining her . .
I started walking away before my control broke; I felt as if I could take her on the wooden bench right there in broad daylight, regardless of dangerous weather and envious eyes; I couldn’t wait to get this vixen back to my place. . .
We moved on for a while in silence, me watching her ass as she bent over to play the ring toss, until she saw the shooting range. Time to give him a chance to win something for me. No, better idea! I’ll shoot first, so he can watch ME!
I just hope feeling his eyes on my bod won’t make me shoot too badly.
Badly must have been a relative term, because not one of her shots came close. I did mutter something about her almost hitting the next sitting duck over by accident, but not loud enough to mess up the gal’s concentration and possibly make it worse.
Though it couldn’t get much worse. . .
And then the next shot missed so bad she hit one of the teddy bear prizes, taking its eye out.
The man in charge of the booth prudently moved farther away.
“And that was my last shot, too,” she groused.
“Notice that I did not do the usual guy thing,” I announced as I picked up another rifle, not taking the chance that her shooting was so bad due to mechanical error. “It would have been so easy to move behind you and put my arms around you and pretend to show you what you’re doing wrong–”
“I woulda missed worse!” she laughed.
Figuring she’d gotten the point, I aimed at the first target that caught my eye, going from bigger to smaller, just as a warm-up. I didn’t realize I’d used up all my ten, but the guy manning the place let me go on until I missed, mostly because a crowd had formed behind us, gasping after each shot, and he figured some guys would want to challenge whatever record I set.
As I aimed my next shot, I realized this was exactly what I needed to calm myself down. The intense concentration necessary for this activity not only made me forget my thoughts about her, but also regulated my heartbeat and breath rate. I was back under control, and I would prove it by not missing one target, then claiming the reward and presenting it to her with the biggest shit-eating grin I could manage.
And I knew which reward it had to be. . .
By the time I brought down the smallest target available–looked like a nail, of all things–Tiph was cheering wildly, egging the crowd into the reaction as well. The arcade man opened his arms expansively, signifying I could choose any of the prizes available.
Before Tiphanee could begin to look, I chose the bear she’s maimed during her shooting spree. “You owe it to him.”
She looked at the arcade man. “For what, damaging the prize?”
“No! You owe it to the bear.”
She looked down at the stuffed animal with the punctured eye, then smiled and hugged it to her bosom. The crowd burst into another round of cheers.
She hadn’t complained about the weather in a while, but that was because she hadn’t come across a mist shower till now. Squealing, she tossed her teddies back at me before jumping in. In all fairness, I would have caught both of them–I can juggle, as well as having been a goalie and wide receiver–had I not had the camera in the other hand. All things considered, I was glad I’d been able to catch the one-eyed one, since he’d been through a lot already. The one she’d gotten in the ring toss earlier had looked unhappy all day anyway.
I stuffed them and the camera into my backpack, since I wanted to get a little wet too, as well as make a wet t-shirt contest joke. But of course it was just a mist, not enough to make cotton transparent or even to slick back her hair, which I’d been hoping to see as well. Oh well, dream only postponed, not lost.
“Just be ready,” I told her a few seconds later. “The minute you step out of it, it’s over. I know from experience. It’s like you were never in it at all. In fact, you’ll probably feel worse.”
“Stop being such a spoilsport. Enjoy life while you can.”
“Okay. My eyes thank you.”
Now wandering aimlessly, we came to the huge animal section of the fair. Since she’d been wanting to pet some creatures when she’d come across the plant petting zoo, she felt it was her duty to do so now. She didn’t even care if I was still behind her, though shots of her being cute were exactly what I’d said I wanted.
She came across a young blonde–she approximated about fourteen, according to how big her cousin was–shearing a lamb, or probably a ewe. Whatever; she was no farmer.
Not knowing my camera was ready, she took out her own, for she noticed the inherent humor in a girl shearing sheep while dressed in a Brit Spears cut-off t-shirt. The girl looked up and smiled at Tiph. “Wanna help?”
She stepped up and tried to pat the animal on the head, but it reared back. “Usually I would, but your buddy doesn’t look like she wants me to.”
“She’s not used to all the hubbub. Animals get really stressed out in places like these.”
“So you do this for fun? Or do you actually live on a farm?”
The girl hooted. “I live in Orange County! This is just a project my mom got me into.” She ticked on her fingers. “Mom says I’ll learn social skills, marketing, how to speak in public. . . and it keeps me out of the mall.” She made a face at that one.
“Do your friends make fun of you?”
Shrug. “Most of them think it’s pretty cool. They come over to help. Some tease, but who needs ‘em?”
The self-proclaimed nerd model nodded. “Exactly!”
“Oops, one of them is trying to escape! Here, hold her right here.” She dashed away, leaving Tiph helpless and struggling with the sheep, then really flush when she heard me laugh. She knew the camera was pointed right at her. . .
Luckily the girl wasn’t bothered by the heat, or was more likely used to it, and came back quickly, allowing Tiph to made as graceful an exit as she could while filching a towel from my backpack to get all the tufts of wool off her arms and shirt.
To be continued. . .