Photographs

Isadora was a 23 year old waiter at Lucia’s Restaurant. She was always friendly and helpful to her customers and they rewarded her with good tips. The waiters liked her too because she traded shifts and work days with them whenever they asked.

Isadora was a large woman. Her complexion was fair and her black and curly hair was cut short, framing the attractive features of her face. She had a crush on Tom, a night shift bartender at Ronnie’s Tap a few blocks away from Lucia’s Restaurant. Tom was around forty, but he was still slim and athletic. He often flirted with the women customers and they showered generous gratuities upon him.

One summer night after work Isadora mentioned to Jeremy and Craig, two other waiters in their early twenties who worked at Lucia’s, that she might go to Ronnie’s for a beer before going home.

“You are going there because Tom is working tonight,” Jeremy said.

Isadora wished she had not talked so openly and freely about her crush on Tom. It had led to all kinds of teasing.

“You know what you ought to do to get his attention? You ought to flash your boobs at him. How can he resist boobs as big as yours?” Jeremy said.

The idea grew on Isadora as she walked down the street to Ronnie’s with Jeremy and Craig. After she had had a few beers with them, she reached inside her t-shirt and removed her bra. When Tom came to serve them another round, she stood up with her bra in her hand.

“I have something to show you,” Isadora said.

She raised her shirt and showed Tom her boobs. She handed her bra to Tom after she pulled down her shirt.

“I wear a size F and sometimes a size G,” she said.

Tom placed the bra underneath the bar and walked away to serve his other customers without saying anything.

Quentin, a man much older than Tom, sat on the barstool next to Isadora while she was putting on her show. He wanted her to pull up her shirt again.

Jeremy and Craig left, but Isadora stayed at the bar hoping Tom would talk to her. When he did not, she turned her attention to Quentin.

“I hope I did not gross you out,” she said.

“No, you have spectacular breasts. I was quite impressed.”

Isadora liked his answer. She also liked the way he looked into her eyes and the way he smiled.

Tom turned up the bar lights.

“Last call,” Tom said.

The beer was beginning to lower Isadora’s inhibitions even more.

“Would you like to go to my place for another drink?” she said.

“Sure, one more,” he said.

It was raining hard when they left the bar and the rain soaked them before they could hail a cab. When they got to Isadora’s apartment, her shirt was still wet.

“Do you mind if I take a picture of you?” Quentin said.

“I don’t mind.”

Quentin took a small camera from the cargo pocket of his shorts and snapped her picture.

When she woke the next morning, Quentin was gone. While eating her breakfast of toast, Corn Flakes and milk, and coffee Isadora reconstructed what happened the previous night. Quentin took many pictures of her. In fact, he took pornographic pictures of her most private parts. Then he performed oral sex on her until she pulled away. He did not crawl into bed with her. Instead, he got dressed, pulled the sheet over her, and kissed her goodnight. Before leaving, he said he would like to see her again.

She worried about what Quentin would do with the pictures. She hoped they would not be on the Internet or making the rounds at Ronnie’s. She thought of various ways she could get the pictures back. She could think of no easy way. What did she expect after what she had done?

But most of all, she wished it had been Tom who had come home with her last night and that she had given herself to him.

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Published in: on January 23, 2005 at 1:13 am  Leave a Comment  

Zulu

He was standing in the checkout line at Border’s bookstore on Michigan Avenue. The woman in front of him, who looked to be about his age, was holding and reading a package containing the DVD release of the movie “Zulu”.

“That’s a darned good movie,” he said.

“It’s my favorite movie. I have the VHS, but now it’s just come out on DVD and I had to have it,” she said.

That ain’t no chic flick, he thought.

“I remember first seeing it on one of those big 70MM screens when I couldn’t have been more than 12 or 13 years old,” he said.

“Next in line, please,” one of the cashiers said.

She walked to the cash register.

He recalled they used real Zulu warriors in the filming. He liked the part at the end when the British soldiers thought the Zulu warriors had deserted the battlefield, but then appeared en mass on top of the hills. The Zulu warriors chanted what sounded like a battle song. The soldiers, completely surrounded and outnumbered, prepared for another assault until their guide and interpreter told them the Zulus were singing a song commending the British soldiers’ courage. The Zulus walked away without attacking again.

That ain’t no chick flick, he thought. He might have to buy one for himself.

Published in: on January 22, 2005 at 4:51 pm  Comments (1)  

Snow Showers

Lance sits in his apartment looking out the window at the snow showers that have continued from yesterday into today, only today the wind blows more fiercely from the north and keeps the blower to his heater running. Ice falls from the windows and balconies above him.

He tries to write, but the cold and the snow and low clouds obscuring the buildings nearby distract him. Every now and then he reads a short story by William Trevor. He is overcome by a somber almost melancholy mood after each story. He wishes he could write one story nearly a tenth as good. He wishes he could say one thing that moved him.

He recalls a day like this several years ago when, bored, he made a list of all the women he had slept with. He cannot recall where he placed the list. He would like to recover it and underline those with whom he had been in love.

He stayed up late last night to finish reading Doctor Zhivago. He knew it was not the best novel to have started reading over the holidays and on into January. Some of the pages with their cold darkness and misery made him feel uneasy, but none were strong enough to sadden him. Later, he watched a movie called “Only Angels Have Wings”, a melodrama and adventure story starring Cary Grant. He had seen it before and it made him feel good even though there are many scenes where pilots crash their airplanes and are seriously hurt or killed. The movie was made in the Thirties at the beginning of aviation. It was a time when love conquered all in stories no matter what else happened.

He met a new woman in his dreams last night. He attempts to write about her smile, their first kiss, and the feeling of what it was like just before they made love for the first time. He knows she is out there somewhere. He might balk this time when he meets her. He might let her pass by, nearly unnoticed, no matter how much he likes her. He cannot remember whether he caught her name in the dream. She seems lost like the facades of the buildings in the snow showers swirling past his window.

He walks outside into the storm. He heads south down State Street with the wind at his back. The sidewalks are not shoveled and he steps cautiously as he walks. He looks at the faces of the women bundled in their hats and scarves and tries to find a face he recognizes, a face he saw in a dream, a face he knows is out there waiting to be discovered.

Published in: on January 22, 2005 at 3:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Premonition

Chris had a premonition he would fall in love again soon. It was not much of a premonition, for Chris had spent most of his life in and out of love. It was like predicting it would rain again some day.

Chris walked to his local bar on a chill Sunday night in mid January to watch his favorite TV show, “Desperate Housewives”, with acquaintances at the bar. After the show, Chris met Lucretia and Christiana, two women in their thirties and from out of town. Chris took a shine to them both and when they suggested going to some night clubs where there was music, he decided to tag along with them. Another man they met at the bar, Mitchel, who would only say he was from Texas, but not what part, went along too.

Chris danced with Lucretia. He liked her straw colored and textured hair cut to just over her shoulders except for the bangs which were a little too long for her forehead. She was easy to talk to and he felt she genuinely liked him when she smiled.

Mitchel had lots of whip out cash. He gave the band a $600 gratuity and offered to buy drinks more than once for all of the people in the crowded bars where they went. Mitchel left them after the bars closed early Monday morning, for neither Chris, Lucretia, nor Christiana would go to his hotel room with him.

Chris, Lucretia, and Christiana ate breakfast at the only restaurant open early on a Monday morning. Chris stayed with them as they waited for a cab outside the restaurant after breakfast. Chris and Lucretia hugged and kissed each other on the cheek when the cab pulled up to the curb to take her back to her hotel. Then Lucretia and Christiana were gone.

Chris felt sorry to see Lucretia go, but he reminded himself she was married with two young sons and a husband back in Kansas City.

Chris had a premonition on the walk home. It felt like the frigid winter air blowing hard from the north.

Published in: on January 22, 2005 at 1:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

Cedar River

You drive out of Cedar Rapids headed east on Highway 30 until you turn off the highway toward Tipton. You drive through Tipton until you reach a gravel road and turn off there. After that, you zigzag along more gravel roads passing through green corn fields until you reach one that leads you a mile more to a house at the end of the road. The house overlooks the Cedar River. It is night. You descend the steep bank which leads to the river behind the house. All you hear are the calls of the whippoorwills and the owls and the river rushing past the snags. You sit on the river bank with your feet dangling in the cool stream. The light of the full moon reflects across the water.

Who knows what you might think or do after your journey? You are in Iowa and it is midsummer and you are hopelessly lost and alone. Anything might happen.

Published in: on January 13, 2005 at 2:03 am  Comments (1)  

The Dictionary

You stand in the checkout line at the grocery. Two women in front of you discuss the gym where they workout. Exercising fulfills their new year’s resolutions.

You recollect your new year’s resolution, reading the dictionary all the way through, from first entry to last. You are eight days tardy in starting.

You return home. You sit down with the dictionary. First entry, “a.” Your eyes scan down the page to the word abaft.

“That’s cheating,” says the critic hidden deep in the recesses of your mind.

You recall the word anal.

Reading the dictionary will be more difficult than you imagined. You should have made an easier resolution. Like giving up sex.

Published in: on January 7, 2005 at 1:39 pm  Comments (2)  

The Town

The snow began to fall shortly after he broke camp. At first it fell gently, the flakes large. Then the wind blew in from the northwest, turning the snow to pellets stinging his face.

The trail, such as it was, a track of matted down prairie grass cut by the few wagon wheels that had passed over it, disappeared underneath the snow. Neither his mare nor he could make any sense of it except for continuing to head straight into the wind and blowing snow, the direction towards the next town.

His horse sensed the town first from the scent of the stable and the horse bedded there. The fierceness of the wind and snow blinded him. He entered the small town before he recognized it was there.

He rode to a building whose sign said, “Clem’s Stable.”

“Two bits for the horse, two bits for oats, and two bits if you want to bed down here too,” Clem, the stable keeper, said.

Clem’s sour smell and his unkempt black beard made him feel at home.

“I’ll bed the horse and take the oats,” he said.

He unsaddled his horse, put his pistol in his saddle bag, and paid the man.

He walked into the street. The cold evening wind cut him. The saloon and hotel lay across the street from the stable.

Two men stood at the bar when he entered the saloon. One man, short and squat, reeked of buffalo. The man may not have bathed in the past year. The other man, merely a boy after he looked at him closely, was tall and thin and wore his pistol like a gunfighter.

The thin man instinctively searched him to see if he was wearing a gun. He walked to the bar as if he did not notice the thin man’s glance.

“I’d like a room and a glass of whiskey too,” he said to the bartender.

Later, in his room, he, slightly drunk from the whiskey, still chilled from his ordeal, the ride all day into the teeth of the first winter storm, lay on his straw pallet, listened to the wind blowing through the cracks in the walls, and wondered if the storm would end tonight, then, before falling asleep, he wondered when he would end.

Published in: on January 7, 2005 at 1:38 am  Leave a Comment  

First Snow

After he finished writing the first draft of a novel, he decided to write some 500 word stories while he figured out what his novel was about.

The first snow storm of the winter hit the city the day he started writing the first story. An idea never came to him even though he spent the whole day trying to write it. The snow blew past his window all day and distracted him. He fell asleep that night thinking he should have written a story about snow. But the first snow, so recently fallen, was too difficult for him to make sense of.

The next day he started another story. This time an idea came to him shortly after he began writing. He worked all day on the story. Despite the many drafts he wrote, the closest he came to 500 words was a story 1,000 words long.

He would never learn what to put in and what to leave out.

Published in: on January 6, 2005 at 1:18 pm  Comments (1)