Fiction - PHOTOGRAPHS
Slides of memory, tinted by the sunlight of the past, lie unmoving in an album, patiently waiting to be opened. Publicity stills from real life where everyone smiles. Poses capturing the spirit of the moment. Dust falls, after wandering around the attic listlessly, falls on the album. These loves and fears and people are all dead or forgotten. Like the photo album.
The new child of the house’s new family has made his way precariously into the pasts rooftop refuge. The room, slowly, every so slowly becomes in turn a spaceship, a jungle filled with the mating cries of unfamiliar animals and then when the imagination tires and turns to sleep the room returns to a wooden floored relic.
The album waits.
Clumsy fingers fumble through yellowed magazines, pausing occasionally to linger upon a photo of an antique aircraft, or a picture of Elvis joining the army. The army barber shaves off all identity, hair that millions would pay for is swept away on the concrete floor and a man goes on to train to kill for his country.
The pile of history has been scattered around the room when the boy notices behind the remaining magazines, a brown leather coated book. Now for the first time in many years it is opened.
A wedding, a bride and groom still smiling after all those years, for their honeymoon they travel on to Blackpool and the sound of jazz piano in a smoky blue bar room. In the next photo a child stands on a beach, bucket and space in hand, happy in his innocence. Two years later the boy – Paul – contracts T.B. and dies, age nine, in a pale cold sweat. This no one knows, for he is forever trapped on the beach.
More photos and more memories, every so often a Family gathering, perhaps at Christmas or maybe Easter. As the group photos progress, one or perhaps two are missing from the gathering of toothy smiles. Dogs, Cats and other pets flow by – and then a new house. The boy is too young to recognize that it is the one he now kneels in, and sleeps in. In this historical still a woman sits on the porch, book on her lap and cigarette in hand. You could almost hear the radio in the background, filtering through the summer heat. The cat at her feet cocks its ears thinking the music is a bird. Then the photo ends and the past begins dancing again. A Morris Minor comes in through the gates and shudders to a halt in that patch of shade just in front of the house. A tall gawky man pulls himself out of the too small car, then shouts his hello. Night falls, day is born, again and again. Another family portrait, another person missing. The kids emigrate and forget about their home. The woman stays and with every passing day, with every photo grows older before the boy’s eyes. Seasons change golden leaves fall, green takes their place. The paper grows yellow.
The child’s eyes see old photos, black and white, quaint people, funny clothes, like a history book. He is too young to think that anything except his parents and his parents’ friends existed before him. The minutes move on. Like a T.V. series, none of these people are real.
Coming to the end of the story, three or four people stand by the Christmas tree now, around a chair. On the chair sits a barely human figure, almost slumped, but noticeably supported by her surrounding family. The familiar grin and the glint in her eye has gone. The kids, now in their fifties seem to find it harder to smile. Then several empty pages, and finally, taped to the back cover, inside, is a photo of a young girl, she seems really happy, really and truly. This one is much older than all the others.
“Stephen, STEEPHEN, come down, your dinner’s ready. Down, and I mean now, you can go back to your games later.” The boy shuts the album, he is bored anyway, then turns and walks to the attics wooden steps, he goes down into the present. “Hope it’s chicken and potatoes for dinner,” he thinks reaching the bottom of the steps. He smiles.
“Good boy Stephen, we shall show you the photo as soon as we get the roll developed, I’m sure it’s a beauty.”
© Fathercrow 2004
Peace and Hope