One summer I took a photography class at the Art Institute of Boston and spent most of my free time roaming the city for interesting shots. During this week’s 2-Minutes-Go flash fiction fiesta at JD Mader’s blog, I remembered one of my favorite places, and this story popped up.
A tiny finger poked my shoulder. “What are you doing?”
I’d been as still as one of the stones in the Christian Science Center’s courtyard for so long that it took a moment to remember. An even longer moment to figure out how to explain it to the pixie-faced girl who’d asked the question, then peered at my camera. “Watching the world go by,” I said.
She wrinkled her small nose. Obviously, I’d chosen the wrong words. “I’m taking pictures.”
I pegged the girl at about five, the perfect age for her spongy brain to fill up on information about the big issues, even if she couldn’t catalog and analyze them yet. I didn’t think she’d be interested in knowing that it made me feel connected to humanity, or reduced my stress level by giving me an outlet for my frustrated creative impulses, or even because I liked the way the waning sunlight played on the reflecting pool and the smooth, polished metal surrounding it. Or because I couldn’t bear to be in the house when he came by for his things so he could move in with his new girlfriend. “Because it’s fun,” I said.
“But why is it fun?”
That one stopped me. What was “fun” about staring into a postage-stamp-sized pane of glass, lining up a shot, waiting for the right moment when the beautiful man turned his head just so as he walked beside the sentry of streetlights guarding the pool? Satisfying, maybe? But fun?
“Do you want to take a picture?” I made room for her to slip between me and the tripod.
Her eyes swept to the cobblestone, a finger pressed to her lower lip. Of course. She might think I’m some kind of freak. Stranger danger. “Or not,” I said.
She glanced up at me, and I could imagine the calculations going on in that spongy mind. If I was safe. If taking pictures of essentially nothing looked like fun.
“Can I take a picture of you?” she asked.
I looked like crap; I’d escaped the house to make way for him, so I was still wearing ripped jeans, grubby old flip-flops, and a stained T-shirt, my hair in the roughest excuse for a ponytail I could beat it into as I walked from the subway stop to the reflecting pool. But the light in the giant eyes made me melt a little, gave me a glimmer of hope that the world I’d been watching through my viewfinder still had some life in it.
Adorably self-important, as if she were a miniature Hollywood director, she told me where to stand and how to hold my arms. I did everything she asked. And as I was waiting for the shot, she tightened her hands on the camera and tripod and took off at a dead run.
I sprinted off after her, but in my ratty flip-flops, I couldn’t keep up, and she disappeared.
I stopped, staring off in the distance, my shoulders sagging forward. Oh, well, I thought after a while. At least it wasn’t my equipment. And knowing that was kind of fun.
I hope you have a great week ahead. Just to let you know, most of my titles are on sale this month. Check here for the details.
Great story. At least the woman got a little revenge on her ex. Hope he wasn’t planning on using that camera any time soon…
Thank you, Carrie. It was fun to write.
-giggles- So not what I expected. 😀
Me, either! 😀
Loved this, Laurie. The little hint hidden in that one sentence and then the zing of a payoff. A tightly polished gem. Sorry I missed Dan’s soiree this week. On the road in the Deep South. Some stories in them humid hills.