Girl In The Black And White Photograph
This piece of fiction was first begun in 2004 but lost when my disks corrupted. It was re-written in part in 2006 but lost when my computer died this year. Today I decided to rewrite it as a piece of flash fiction (under 1,000 words). It has been submitted to The Pedestal Magazine.
Crowfoot gave the signal then disappeared behind the stacks. Fulk glanced around the library then dove over the counter. The table ran in a horse shoe shape from the Librarian’s office on the right to the main entrance on the left. Beyond the table lay the restricted and reserved books alcove. Today Fulk was interested in neither of them.
He looked at the cold tea in the Librarian’s cup then rummaged in the small drawers under the table. The first contained spare books of bureaucracy. The second spare papers, old circulations and the red book of the banned. He wondered if he should just write his name in right there and then to save the circus to follow. In the end he decided to allow the Librarian his one pleasure in life.
The third drawer, identical to the rest, held a single book. It was a pristine yet aged tome; the leather-bound complete works of Oscar Wilde. A quick peak above the desk saw Crowfoot leading the librarian across the nave and into the modern history section. He opened up the book somewhere between A Woman of No Importance and An Ideal Husband. Somewhere amidst the seven of the seven veils, if one read the notes, he found his prize.
The black and white photo smelt faintly of age. The picture within had faded just a little. Fulk removed the photograph and placed it in an envelope then put it in his coat pocket. He closed the book up and slipped it into the drawer. Crowfoot was still occupying the librarian in the deeper bowels of the lower mezzanine when he leapt of the counter and rolled into the over-sized reference section. He landed dangerously close to the housewife romance shelves.
He quietly slipped outside and waited in the refectory with an iced ring doughnut and a glass of orange juice. Five minutes later Crowfoot lumbered in with four books on the Byzantine Emperor Justinian.
“You got it?”
“Yep,” Fulk patted his pocket then looked at the glossy codices. “What’s with the books? Planning on studying?” “You won’t believe it but the whole leg fell of my table. Just keeled over onto the floor and broke in three. And you know; a wedge of paper just won’t cut it so I went for the big books. Now, eat your doughnut and let’s go.”
Fulk cringed as Crowfoot threw the books in the back of his mini as he wiped flecks of icing off his full length leather coat. They turned out of the college and went down Bow Lane which, curved round the edge of town. New houses sat smugly on one side and an old graveyard on the other. As the road went downhill took at right at the Bullring.
The house they wanted sat in the middle of the identikit Victorian redbrick houses. Cracked tiles and purple petunias led a merry dance to the front door. They knocked on chipped wood and rang the yellowed bell.
A silhouette appeared down the hall way. Padded footsteps munched softly as she came up to the door and opened it. Erica smiled as she poked her head round the door.
“You have it?” she asked.
Crowfoot nodded. “They were freshly defalcated this very afternoon; as anticipated.”
He took a bow. She jumped with joy, rolled her eyes and danced down the corridor to the kitchen. “Meet me in the front room,” she sang.
Erica was thin and sprightly, her eyes so alive from their sunken sockets. Her baggy grey jumper danced like fairies in spring. Crowfoot and Fulk took a right and entered the small front room. There was little room. A vast dressing table and cabinet rose up to the ceiling on the left. Its shelves and drawers stocked full of photo albums. Under the windowsill sat Erica’s desk. It was piled high with photography books, magazines and papers. Crammed into the middle, and surrounded by boxes of albums, were three arm chairs and a coffee table.
They took their seats. Moments later Erica bounded into the room; her face a paradigm for Wharton’s Olenska flush with innocence and anticipation.
“Can I see the photograph?”
“Sure,” Fulk pulled the envelope out of his coat pocket. “You asked me if I would do anything for you and I said, ‘yes.’ In return you promised an explanation.”
Her lips scrunched up in mock disgust.
“It is the only photo I do not have,” she picked up a nearby album. “Look, this album is July nineteen-ninety-two, my first year at secondary school,” she flicked it open and showed them a photograph infused with lingering remnants of eighties’ brown. “This is me having dinner on the seventeenth; looks like some kind of spaghetti and meatballs.”
“You can’t remember?” Crowfoot asked.
“Who remembers what they ate when they were twelve?” She turned to Fulk. “Before I was born my mother lost her short term memory in a car accident. My whole life we’ve taken photos of everything so she has a memory.”
Fulk took the black and white picture out of the envelope and looked at it. It was dated, August, 1967. In it was a woman with short Twiggy-style hair dancing in a one-piece dress. Next to her a man in glasses with a mop-top and Nehru jacket posed. For a moment he did not recognise the man but then the glasses twigged.
“After the accident she contacted her friends and family. Together they made all of these albums. Only one person refused to donate a photograph. It was of the summer ball when she was twenty. The man in the photograph used it to gain a power over my mother. He knew she wanted it desperately and so used it to continually taunt her. That is why I asked you to get it for me.”
Fulk nodded and handed over the photograph. “Her memory is complete now.”
“Mine too,” she smiled.