The Photo

I joined a writing group because I like stories and, although I don’t often work on the art of writing, I still find it fun. My writing group gives us a story prompt once a month, and we’re supposed to write 1,000 words or less on it. This month’s prompt was to find an old photo and make up something about the people in the photo. So here we go: 

My little sister said she wasn’t going to even blink when the flash went off. I smirked but said nothing, watching Mary’s burden of a hairbow bob as we walked. She despises that decoration, but Mamma thinks it cute.                                                                                    Jason kicked a pebble along as we went. He, too, had promised not to blink when the photographer took our picture. I think that was very brave of him, considering he was pale all morning with the thought of facing that strange invention.
Baby Albert stared at me over Father’s shoulder, and I made faces at him while we walked. Albert is absolutely the most amazed child I ever saw. The only time his eyes aren’t terror-stricken is when they are closed in sleep. He’s only four months old. Maybe he’ll learn to smile soon and life will be more bearable for him.
My name is Priscilla, by the way. I’m seventeen years old and still never had a beau. I’m not much good at anything except housecleaning. I’ll be finishing school soon and if I’m not married by then I’ll start working with Mamma in the dress factory. I hope I’m married.
We were all walking, as I mentioned, dressed in our best, to the photographer’s studio.
I’ve only heard my friends describe the long moments of waiting while the photographer sets everything up for the picture, and then at the end of it all the explosion of flash powder. Mother finally decided last week that she wanted a family photo. She heard that Mr. Kilpatrick is the fastest photographer on this side of Chicago. She said we’d be in and out in twenty minutes.
We’ve been here nearly an hour. I do not mind. It is amusing watching Mr. Kilpatrick’s apprentice (for Mr K is out today) struggle with the camera, then struggle with his shoelaces, then step on his cap for the fourth time (that poor cap). But if the lad ever gets the flash powder lit I may start trembling as much as Jason. Photography studios have been burnt down by more capable hands, I do believe.
Father taps his shoe and whispers to Mother that we must come back another day when Kilpatrick is here, for this boy will take all afternoon. Mother won’t hear him, even though the sweat is running down her face from the heat of the studio’s lamps. She’s not practical. Father knows better but he’ll always give in to her. I hope I get a husband like him.
I know I’ll never be famous or do anything incredible, like Elizabeth Blackwell or Louisa Alcott. That’s why I want to get married as soon as possible. My only hope is to have a brilliant and famous child.
Larry might be famous one day. People think he’s my older brother, but he just outgrew me last winter and he’s three years my junior. Sometimes I think that he, too, thinks he’s gotten older than me. Father exclaims over Larry’s math exams every month, and says Larry could start engineering school as young as sixteen. The boy’s head can’t hold much more air.
In fact, he’s telling the camera lad how to do his job right this moment. I am ashamed but I can’t stop my grin when the film reel leaps out of the photographer’s hands, and Larry brings it back to him in such a patient, fatherly manner.
I think they are ready at last. The apprentice stands in front of us, stuttering, trying to tell my siblings and I where to stand around Mother and Father’s chairs. My parents’ knees are knocked against each other, but they hold the position, as the camera lad tells them they must to fit in the photo.
The lad moves us around several times, once grabbing my elbow to direct me. Larry isn’t helping with his contradictory instructions to Jason and Mary and myself. Mary sticks out her tongue at our brother and runs to stand between Mother and Father. The apprentice’s eyes light up for the first time, and he sets Larry and I behind our sister. Only Jason is left. He huddles behind Mother’s arm.
The camera lad (or should I say man, since he really is about my age?) stands behind the camera and holds aloft the flash powder. I try not to grin as I think of our impending demise. Mary is rigid and Jason is quaking. Mother doesn’t look like she can stand the heat much longer.
The flash explodes and the camera lad, coughing, stumbles over the camera’s leg and spills powder all over himself. He starts laughing.
I think I will marry him.

All content in this post is copyrighted Marissa Pruett 2018

Here is a link to the inspiring photo:

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