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A Conversation on Photography

Short story By: Jack Flagberry
Literary fiction

Please keep in mind that this story is not meant to be for or against religion. It's simply about the damaging effects of argument on relationships. As always let me know what you think.

Submitted:Jul 4, 2010    Reads: 150    Comments: 2    Likes: 2   

It was a warm afternoon in September, and the man and the chow were having a picnic under a sizeable maple tree at a park near their home. The chow was rambling. "… And that's pretty much why I don't like having my picture taken. Don't get me wrong, I have a great respect for it as a profession, or even just as a hobby, but these people always go on about me in pictures like I'm some kinda fucking baby to be ogled at. As if it's any less creepy because I'm not some 19 year old bitch with an overabundance of flabby chest tissue, even though it isn't. In fact, the whole thing is probably even creepier given the pedestal infants are put on… Don't get me started on that one, man."
As if by force of the dog's tangent, orange and brown maple leaves began floating gently down to the old man, catching his beard, and settling on his Leica M4. He casually brushed the leaves off, not minding the ones on him, but he had had this same camera since 1967, and took great pride in keeping it in at least decent condition. Unfortunately the same could not be said about the rest of him. From his ratty, tattered trucker cap that announced to all his pride for his 3 tours of duty in Vietnam to his wispy, food encrusted "Gandalf" beard, as he has heard it referred to, he was in any kind of shape but good.
"I hear ya. I just like takin' 'em. Never was a big fan of bein' in 'em. It's this feelin' I get of bein' watched. The idea of somebody lookin' at me whenever they want without me knowin' just kinda gives me the willies, ya know? It's like this hypocritical obsession with voyeurism that I got. I can't stand it bein' done to me, but I love doin' it to other people. Maybe it's wrong, I dunno."
The chow, having just finished scratching behind its orange-blonde ears while listening, or rather half-listening, to the photographer's explanation of his hobby, was now eager to speak his mind on the bits and pieces he actually found interesting.
"Well, of course it's "wrong". It's a blatant violation of the whole "Do unto others…" thing. It's okay though. Morals are relative. They're dynamic, and they're anything but sacred. In doing "wrong", you're only being human. You all set up these rules, and expect them to be followed, and then condemn each other for not following them all the while not doing it yourselves, thus continuing the cycle. You fucking feed on hypocrisy. The whole thing's a trip to see. It's the fuel that runs your ever day lives. It's what you do."
Feeling a slight bubbling on anger at what would have been taken as an insult from anyone else, the old man swallowed and gave his reply to the chow's criticism of the supposed hypocrisy of his, and his fellow religious. After a moment or two, any trace of anger was gone, and the man felt it was safe to let out his retort.
"I can't say I know about all that, but you can't deny that it's worth the effort to give that Golden Rule a try. You can't sit there and tell me that if everybody lived that way things'd be a hell of a lot better. Everybody treatin' everybody as good as they wanna be treated. It'd be a paradise. That's why it's in the Good Book, and that's why so many people try to follow it. It's also why we all try to remind each other that we should follow it, and I'm sorry that we can't always be nice about it, but I know I've always remembered the harsher reminders I've gotten a whole lot more than the nice little requests."
"Right, but we don't live in a paradise because people don't follow the Golden Rule as well as they probably should. Even if they did, do you really think they'd do it because it benefitted their fellow man? Hell no they wouldn't. They'd do it because some cosmic used car salesman strong-armed them into it with an ultimatum of either treating the people they share a planet with as well as they'd like to be treated or spend an eternity in pain and anguish. Don't get me wrong, I'd do the same thing if I had that kind of leverage. Although, I don't know if I'd go for the whole "worship me or spend an eternity in pain and anguish" angle, or any of the other "do this or suffer forever" deals that people seem to think are somehow made out of love and benevolence."
The man looked visibly taken aback. It was not the look of someone who was offended or incredibly upset at what was said. It was a kind of deep seeded fear that had been chiseled into him when he was young. He was raised in a Baptist church, and still had a healthy fear of the almighty. So upon hearing the chow's rebuttal, he felt a something akin to fear, although it was unexpected and came, seemingly, from nowhere.
Being a normally level-headed individual, he let the fear pass and chose his words carefully. He had no desire for the discussion to take any more of an argumentative turn, although he knew just how much his companion seemed to enjoy throwing words back and forth over a subject that neither of them would agree on or come out any wiser for having argued it.
"That's an opinion, and it's respectable from where you stand. It's not mine though. I don't pretend to understand what God's thinkin', and so I don't pass judgment. In fact, I think it's kinda arrogant to try to judge an almighty being, and I don't think it'll getcha anywhere good. What are you plannin' on doin' with all that opinion anyway? You gonna flag down God one day and give him a piece of your mind? Even if you could, it wouldn't matter. God already knows what your two cents is, and it ain't changed nothin' yet."
During the photographer's rebuttal, the chow had been sitting, curled by the picnic basket listening to what he was saying, this time actually listening because of the argumentative tone that the photographer had slipped into in spite of his own wishes against it. Once the photographer was finished, the chow sat up, walked nonchalantly over to the man, and promptly bit him on the arm. It wasn't a hard bite, just enough to break the skin and cause a little pain. Nonetheless, the man yelped, and looked as if he was about to retaliate when the chow began:
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, you don't get to do that. You have to turn the other cheek. It's what your book tells you to do. Don't give me that "eye for an eye" shit either. You know damn well that by citing that you're ignoring the obvious rule set in place by your religion's fucking namesake. If that doesn't give it precedence, then maybe the fact that it was put in place later, thus nullifying it will convince you.
"You can't call common sense arrogance. People are still going to treat people like shit; it's just how people are. Since you don't get to retaliate with anything but love, how do you think you'll survive? On a side note, I mean Christians in general, and not just you. You'll survive because you're kind of a crappy Christian. Anyway, what about the people that are devout? Do they just take whatever they're given with a content smile on their face, or do they break their own literally God-given rules for the sake of survival? Those aren't rhetorical questions. I want to know what you've got to say to them."
The old man, nursing his arm, was taking time coming up with a response. There had never been a time when he could not just drop an argument. The man was a veritable blood and guts Switzerland. This time, however, he felt he had to defend his side. Having spent several minutes in thought, he began:
"We're arguin' from two completely different places. We got no common ground to speak from. The whole point of faith is to accept it no matter what happens, and no matter what nobody says. You can say all that stuff about my God, but in the end He's still my God, and he'll be there for me when I'm dead an' rottin' in the ground. What about you? What do you got? Smugness? That it? Well that ain't gonna get you shit. You can say He ain't good, you can say He ain't powerful, hell, you can say he ain't even real, but ya know what? It don't matter. Even if He ain't there, it makes me feel like I got a purpose, and some kinda safety. It gives me somethin' solid to stand my ideals on, and that's a lot more than you can say."
The photographer's skin was nearing red when he finished. His breathing was speeding up. He could hear his heart beating and his sweat stinging his eyes. His chest began tightening, sending waves of pain out that panged in his shoulders.
Ignoring the old man's pained expression, the chow moved into the response he had been mulling over since the man was only a fraction of the way through speaking.
"You're right. We are arguing from two different places. I'm talking about logic, and you're just spouting a lot of bullshit about believing things that are completely unfounded because you're that desperate to feel stability. You act like it's some kind of "simple country wisdom" or something, and that those of us that don't understand it don't simply because we're too arrogant and proud. We just don't like lying to ourselves for the sake of comfort. Don't kid yourself, either, what you're doing is cowardly. You do it out of fear. Using the argument that "something's better than nothing" to defend religion is fucking laughable. It's ridiculous, and every time you use it, you just sound more and more pathetic. You're such a goddamn child, you know that? So what do you have to say? What could you possibly say now that you literally have no argument to protect your beliefs?"
The chow had not been facing the photographer during his rant. When there was no reply, he turned, seeing the old man lying on the ground, face frozen in an expression similar to the one that had been ignored earlier.
A couple passing by found the man's body alongside the chow, and reported the incident to the police. Once the connection between the bite marks and the dog were made, it was taken by animal control and put to sleep.
On his way to be put down, the chow was turning the events over and over in his head, trying to find where he went wrong. His thoughts were cut short, and the event was written off as the work of a dangerous animal. The incident was reported in the paper, and there was a brief wave of caution around the chow breed as a result of the unusually good reporting job on the part of a local newspaper.
A good number and friends and remaining family showed up to the photographer's funeral. His work was displayed with pride, and nostalgic speeches praising his life and work were given by a number of people. The general mood was bittersweet, and all in attendance agreed it was about as enjoyable a funeral as is possible.


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