Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Two Images Separated at Birth

Think up a vivid, haunting image (a picture in one frame that tells a great deal of story). Work hard to construct this image so that it is not only visible to the reader but exciting and thought-provoking. Then think up another unrelated but equally vivid image. Work at composing two unrelated images, two scenes or situations you do not think are part of any story. Then write a 600 word story fragment out of the two images.
(from prompt #15 in The 3 AM Epiphany)

Read my response:

Crowd is to Disneyland as rain is to Seattle. Everything takes so very long, and it is unsettling to realize what humans are willing to put up with in the name of having a good time. In addition to crowds in line for Thunder Mountain, crowds in line at the churro cart, and crowds in line in the Frontier Store Souvenir shop, there is a crowd gathered around the face painting booth. There is a murmur that there is a Make-A-Wish Foundation little girl, and like a car accident, everyone wants to see how bad it is. A little girl, about three, sits on a barstool with her feet tucked under her for added height. The span of her legs from knee to toe is still less than the diameter of the round wooden seat. She is completely bald, and it’s the lack of eyebrows that confirms the rumor. She looks like the poster child for a sympathy driven fundraiser, and also a little alien, with eyes that take up her whole face. The white face paint makes her eyes stand out more, and then there are red polka dots on her cheeks, exaggerated red lips, orange triangle eyebrows, and finally, a little black polka dot on her nose. The crowd oohs and awws at the patience the little girl demonstrates, like she is sitting for a portrait painting by Michelangelo. She doesn’t blink at the gathering crowd, or turn her head to acknowledge them, or smile at the pictures being taken. The face painter respects the little girl’s concentration, and mimics it by likewise ignoring the crowd. The two, painter and painted, make up their own little ring in the center of the circus around them, and despite the number of people in the Happiest Place on Earth, there is a somber hush.

Behind the little girl, her parents blend in with the crowd of concerned adults holding cameras and camcorders. The father long ago took it upon himself to be chief photographer, and while now his daughter is his most remarkable subject, she wasn’t always and won’t always be. He bought the camera, his favorite camera, when he was a kid, eighteen or maybe nineteen, from a pawn shop in Seattle. He went there as a tourist, which is to say, to see a girl. He hadn’t ever been to a pawn shop, or to the west coast, and as boy growing up in the Midwest both had seemed as unlikely a place to go as the moon. But there he was, buying a camera in a pawn shop in Seattle, with an old man behind the counter and a dark sky dimming the shop’s interior. There was no else in the shop, just a skinny white kid running his fingers over lenses, leather cases, flash attachments, tripods, all more involved than anything he’d had in mind. He had a pack of cigarettes in his back pocket and he reached for them, lit one, then thought to offer one to the old man behind the counter. The old man sat fat and cruel in his chair, his thighs hanging off the thin plastic edges of a low seated chair with insufficient back support. The back panel of the chair was like a little black stamp on a wide, overstuffed envelope. He grunted and adjusted his whole body to uncross his arms, and he accepted the cigarette, and the light, with a nod. The skinny man stood leaning against the pawnshop counter, all limbs, smoking a cigarette and considering the investment he was making by buying a photographer’s camera, while behind him, behind the counter, the fat man sat and cynically considered the likelihood of his customer using the camera for anything more than pictures of pretty girls.

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