PHOTOGRAPHS

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
this story is about life itself. i know this statement isn't a rown puller but i would like a few of those who appreciate literature and the beautiful art of story telling and details of lights and shadows to have a look at it and comment on it.
thank you

Submitted: January 20, 2007

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Submitted: January 20, 2007

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A A A


PHOTOGRAPHS.

It was a small but beautifully decorated room. A large piano, black in color, stood in the right corner, with its slender, polished wooden legs fixed on the floor covered with a red carpet. A painting hung just above the piano, an oil painting of a waterfall, captured as if it were in motion, captured like it had life, splashing down against the rocks, making a small pool. The pool had tall oak trees around it and a plethora of green, showed itself deep into the forest nearby.  A beam of light came through the window on the left wall with dust rising up in it. The old man sat on the rocking chair looking through the window at the fields that stretched as far as his old eyes could catch, slowly fading away like a canvas painted with blur colors with no shape, no edges or lines, just randomly painted colors. It was evening, and the sun was setting down on the horizon. The green fields were thus mixed with the orange color of the setting sun. This felt to be a brilliant mix of colors, orange of the sun  from far away, blue of the small tulips that grew  in the gardens of  other small cottages, yellow of the mustard that grew in the fields, flowing with the wind  kissing its soft petals and green of the leaves that grew along with the flowers on its stem. His eyes were fixed at the beautiful scene outside.

The old man was  Lucas Lant, the retired CEO of lucas and sons, and its founder. His company which is now the biggest construction company in the country is at its peak.  It was a quiet evening in his countryside cottage, that he had bought during the seventies, a time when his company was fast progressing, and swept away by the wind of success and money, he had bought a lot of expensive materials ranging from golden cigarette cases, to cars to cottages and bungalows. This cottage was one of the best and most expensive one around the area at that time and he had not been able to resist himself from buying it..

Rising up his bed early this morning, his heart heavy and his mind empty on thoughts, he had given his butler and all the other house servants, except for the cook, a day off.

A newspaper lied in his lap. He looked down at the newspaper, something felt abnormal inside him, something he knew he had no control of, and his heart was sinking. He could not read a single of the words printed in the newspaper, for his mind was wandering into something else. He  got up from the chair and opened the door guiding his steps downstairs. On the right wall of the wooden staircase were photos in silver frames, with a thin and almost  invisible layer of green line drawn at the border and a golden line drawn right below it. He closely looked at the family photos, gripping the wooden railing for support.  Martha looked so beautiful in her red gown. Charlie was smiling at the camera, his hands behind his back. He looked at himself in the picture, first just a glance at his own young, handsome, energetic self, and then a close look, and immediately he turned away to look at the other pictures.  This one was when he was little, with his father, mother, and sister Emily, a black and white picture, not such a common occasion back then. It was taken when he must have been 12 or 13, during Christmas. His late father, used to work at a timber company. He still remembers  the times when he used to go to the mill and just look at him measure and cut those woods into fine pieces. He can still smell the aroma of the fresh timber at the mill.

 He used to play with his friends at the mill, and at Saturdays he would go swimming with them, betting  on who crosses the river first. He used to lose most of the times  to the other boys, mostly because he wasn’t that athletic, his body slightly smaller in size than others, slightly weaker than most of his friends, and quite thin, a thing which his mother was always very worried of. He had met Martha, at his high school, who was then, new in town. He was not the first boy to ask her out, but was the first one to be accepted, and he had been blown away by the mixture of  surprise, excitement and nervousness. The first date is still for him one of the best days of his life, not because of her beauty, her smile, the eyes of other boys jealously staring at them , or because he was simply thrilled to meet her, be with her. It is mostly because of this unseen connection he had had with her, and for some reason even at that time when he was just a boy of 17 who never believed in love, he had had this amazing vibe that made him feel just too good. And of course it is so for the little awkward  moments, the things he had said to her to impress her, the way he looked from side to side so that she could notice the way he had combed his hair  and for the time when they were leaving and suddenly, so much like her, independent and thoughtful, she had suggested that she pay her share of the bill, and he had smiled at her raising his eyebrows, an amazing glow of charm, he had himself felt, flowing through his face and then had said,” let me, I will pay, I really want to,” and she had smiled back. He had felt mature .

It was his second date that he had kissed Martha, the first time. It was  in her porch, a goodnight kiss. His heart was racing as fast as it  probably could have, thumping against his ribs, and he had felt like it would burst open his chest. she had smiled afterwards and had shyly ran inside her house. His face was burning red, hot.

  He was smiling in the picture alongside his mom.

This one was of his son and his wife. It was a plain picture, just the two of them trying hard to  bring about a smile in their faces at some occasion perhaps. They just divorced after a nasty battle in the court.

He headed down to the garden, clutching a shiny wooden stick to support his old legs. There were flowers in his garden, tulips, roses that were blue and red. Forty years on that he had bought this cottage and he had never quite paid attention to the tulips and the roses, nor the sparkling water that flowed near the cottage in form of a river, battling its way through rocks, and pebbles, white and black with green, slimy layer of mosses on their surfaces. There were grasshoppers in the garden that sang a song along with the birds chirping far from the forest, a song he knew he could possibly have never heard and yet after all said and done, to his amazement the music felt very familiar to his ears. And for some strange, unknown reason, his old lips stretched wide forming a smile, that brought the wrinkles in his face close together, and somewhere deep, down his heart he felt that he was happy. He went near the tulips and the marigolds and took a deep, long breath putting his nose close to the flowers that were swinging softly along with the soft breeze of the evening. The fresh air filled his lungs, mixed scantly with the sweet smell of the flowers,  intoxicating his senses, and he felt his blood rushing inside him, energizing his body. He was delighted , and felt new as the blooming flowers in his garden.

He started to come to the garden more often, specially in the evenings. He played the piano all day trying to learn and compose at the same time. He read all the newspapers, sometimes which contained his own pictures related to the company. The papers were already comparing him and charlie as the CEO of the company, writing how his son has been able to make everything grow, on the “strong foundations that the father had set”.

He still remembers the time the company had started. His father had  told to him about his dream of a huge construction company that would belong to the family and had said, with eyes that were to some extent pleading and yet at the same time were as cold and hard as rock, that he expected his son to live up to the expectations he had for him. 

He had never liked business, the negotiations, the fake smiles that had to be put through to please the clients, the deceits, the selfishness of it, made him sick. But he said that he would not fall to do a single thing that would be required to shape the dream into life and his eyes were warm, determined and surrendered. He had worked like a horse and slowly as time had passed he changed. He didn’t know how, but now he would always smile before a potential client almost naturally, although somewhere inside ,he knew he wasn’t at all happy, just a painful plain emptiness existed inside his skin and flesh . But then slowly he had gotten better in negotiations, and he knew what was profitable and there wasn’t any other man in the city who could outbid him, who could take away a deal that he was interested in. He was at the top, and he knew he was the best. He loved every idea of his that succeeded, every of his thoughts that was always right. He loved the money and power he had, and he loved to win.  Sometimes a thought just out of nowhere would flash into his mind, that this wasn’t him and that he wasn’t happy, that this was not what he wanted. He thus tried to remind himself that this wasn’t his true self, this really wasn’t the same person who loved nature and people, who didn’t care of money, but just loved the simplicity of life. He would remind to himself that this was someone he had never known inside him, taking over as the surface of his mind and body, but it seemed that this cover he thought he was wearing was now too strong an element of his own self, that had put aside what he thought he was. And then of course, what else could a man ask for? He had money, power, a family, and people who loved and respected him and he had fulfilled his father’s dreams, and although his father was long dead, he knew he must be very proud of his son.  so he dismissed this thought recognizing it as  the result of stress and tension in his mind,  and as a thought that probably crossed every man’s mind sometimes, no matter how successful or happy he is.

 

 After his retirement, people had flocked into his house, most of whom were his business associates, and friends from his social circles, to visit him, wanting to know his plans of his retirement, joking around on how fast he had grown old and all that sort of things. He went to play golf with his friends and talked to them about the city, life and new business ventures that he would later suggest his son about. Slowly people were less visiting him, and as time passed, with the exception of some journalists coming to take his interview, there were none who came inside the deserted house  and he had felt a kind of relief. Thereafter,  he didn’t go to play golf and eventually he decided to move to the country cottage. 

 It was in the cottage, sitting alone in his bed he felt that he was missing something. His heart was in anguish, and it throbbed in pain. He felt as if all his life he had done nothing, and he knew that now no matter how hard he tries he will now never get his life back. This thought scared him, his heart sank, and he always felt lost when it crossed his mind.

Sometimes he would cry, thinking of his life, sitting in the rocking chair near his bed, tears rolling down his cheeks, almost out of his control.

He tried to live to the fullest of what he had left in his hand, but he knew that his time was running out. 

 

 He read every novel stacked in the shelves of the library, from philosophy to fiction and also biographies. He watched movies, buying every comedies he could get his hands on, laughing alone in his room, where he knew nobody was watching him and where he knew that he was really happy. Every now and then he looked at Martha’s picture, for after their divorce these pictures were only what remained of her, with fresh memories in his mind of their days back in high school and of the times she had helped him stand up when he had no more strength left inside him, no more desire to move forward, and of the  times when she had worked day in and out caring for the family, joining it together and helping him with the business.

It was a time when they had worked together building the company, and the family, immediately after his father’s untimely death . he doesn’t quite know what had started the differences between them. one morning she had just out of thin air said that she wanted a divorce. He tried to convince her, asked her for the reason, but she had just stayed quiet. He even at one point had asked her if she had fallen in love with someone else, but he himself knew it wasn’t the reason.

There was a knock on the door, and the cook entered.

“sir,….I was wondering if I could take the day off tomorrow, Julia is insisting on going to the carnival in the town.”

The cook was a stout man, in his mid-forties, slightly fat for his small height, but his face was always bright, and a smile almost always decorated it. He had been in the job quite recently, for before his retirement the cottage had never quite required a cook.

 “ sure, sure, Herbert, and also take a bit of this.” He replied taking some money out of his wallet lying in the top drawer of the table beside his bed.

 

“oh…..” he said a little hesitant.

“oh!, common Herbert now don’t deny a little money from the old man, it’s just a token of gratitude for the wonderful food you cook for me.”

“thank you, sir, you are much too kind.  The dinner is ready and I have cooked your favorite, fried fish and rice.”

 

ah, bribing me!, are you?”

the  cook gave him a bright smile, a little shyness painted across his round face, and then went downstairs. He looked at the cook’s little house, thorough the window, just at the far side of the cottage. It was a small, wooden house, just three rooms, but quite enough for him, his wife and his little daughter, Julia. During his days at the cottage, sometimes while strolling around the garden, he went to their house, mostly after much request from his wife. It was a happy family, and his wife made wonderful tea. his daughter Julia, would always come to sit on his lap whenever he was in their house. She had inherited the smile of her father, which combined with the innocence of her face, made her look very sweet, and so she was. Herbert often took them out, to the town or for small walks around. Julia hung to her father as they moved and sometimes he took her up in his hands high up in the air and kissed at her red little cheeks.

 He sighed, and went downstairs towards the dining room. When passing through the wooden stairs, he again glanced at the pictures in the wall. Charlie’s little face, hovered around his mind. Once at the age of eight or nine, Charlie had been very ill. He was then out of the country, closing an important deal with a client. The phone had rung in his hotel room ,late night and Martha, sobbing, with slight gasps for air, had told him about the illness. The deal was to close late, the next day, and he had flown back, immediately after the business was over. Charlie had, by then, quite recovered, but Martha didn’t speak to him for days. He looked at his food in the plate, and then went back to his room, without touching it.

 

One evening he went for a small ride in his car to the town, and around the outskirts of the city. He was humming an old  song under his breath, of which the driver faintly heard and looked behind, almost as if to check again whom he was driving. People passing by the  slow moving luxury sedan would sometimes try to peek inside imagining a successful man sitting in the back, smoking an imported cigar perhaps, with the other hand holding a glass of sparkling wine made with  the handpicked grapes of the grapevines from the hills of the southern France. He would imagine their disappointment at seeing an old man, with his depressing, sad eyes instead. He told the driver to stop the car upon reaching a cliff. He got out, filling his lungs with fresh air of the evening and slowly moved towards the edge of the cliff, battling with his stick, the soft wind that flowed right through him. once he tried not to use the stick for walking, almost with a strong inner desire to run fast against that wind, ripping it apart, like a hungry cheetah in the wild chasing its prey, like the time he used to run when he was young. But his old body nearly fell on the rocky ground, seeing which his driver came to the rescue, but he refused any help telling that he was okay and moved ahead with his slender stick directing him. he stayed at the edge of the cliff for  five minutes or so and thereafter returned to his cottage, silently observing the scenes that he passed. He went straight to the mini bar across the dining room, and poured for himself a strong whiskey. There on the wall of the bar, amongst many others were the same pictures as in the wall of the staircase, only here they were inside neatly carved wooden frames.

charlie entered, holding a black leather bag in his hand, when he was about to take the third glass.

“where had you been dad?, I called a few hours ago, and you turned your cell off as well. Are you drinking? You know….”

“how are you charlie?”

“i….i am fine”

“how is Linda?, you talking to her?”

“no, I…..I, don’t know, she is asking for the sole custody.”

What have you decided then?”

“I don’t know. What do you think I should do?”

He didn’t speak. There was a long silence that followed of which he took advantage to gulp down his throat, the third one.

“you know you shouldn’t drink at this age, dad.”

He didn’t reply to this suggestion, but poured down another glass for himself, like a small kid enjoying doing what he has been told not to do. he felt like he was a rebel, he imagined for a split second that the lean, tall, man sitting beside him was his father telling him not to drink, as a response to which he proudly sipped some more. He loved the sensation of disobeying, the sense of doing whatever he liked, as if he didn’t care.

“what do you want ?”

Charles stared blankly at his father for a moment, a  little taken aback at such a sudden switch of subject, and then he looked at the whiskey, and then recalled the flat toned question he had just asked, trying to make sense of what he wanted to say in the question.

“are you okay father, what’s bothering you?”

“ how is business?, is everything growing on the strong foundations I had set?” he asked charlie, taking another swing at the whiskey. He laughed at this question himself.

“what’s the matter pa?”

 slowly tears ran down his face, battling against the wrinkles of his old weary face.

It was as if something had burst upon inside him, something heavy had fallen inside him, and it felt that this must be the end. so he cried. He felt guilty that he had just hurt Charlie, so he cried. He put his head down holding the glass in his hand, and sobbed, with a low sound escaping his throat.

“dad,…..dad is it about mom,?”

Martha floated around him, her face bright and beautiful. It had been so many years he hadn’t touched that face, so many years that he hadn’t felt the beauty of her. His fingers were today dying , absent and dry, and he felt now, in the end, that he was missing so much of what he never lived for, so much what he had never seen, and it would now never come back. He felt wasted.

He wanted his life back. Deep down he had always loved his family but he felt so incomplete within  for the fact that he could never show it to them. It was all for the company that he had dedicated his life, but the purpose of his life felt so empty.

 

He stood up stumbling and reached out for the photographs on the wall. He took them off the wall and started smashing them against the floor with an enormous amount of energy. Charlie grabbed him by his arms trying to stop.

But he kept smashing them. The small pieces of shattered glasses  flew in the air finally settling down on the wooden floor. At last he crumbled on the floor his body resting on the pieces of glass spread across it.. The maids, workers, and the butler all stood at the door, staring silently at the scene. Charlie with the help of some of the servants helped his father to bed, and called a doctor, but it was already too late. His father had taken his last breath over the shattered pieces of glass on the floor, his hand resting on the photographs. Charlie called his mom and some of his dad’s close friends, searching for words as to what he should tell them, his mind wandering into complete blankness.

 

 he returned to the bar downstairs, and took a sip or two of the whiskey. Charlie looked at the photographs, that lied on the floor, with tears rolling down his eyes. There he was, must be 8 or 9  with his father and mother, smiling at the camera. His father was also smiling at the camera, with a charm that almost sometimes felt unreal. Somewhere inside his eyes, it was as if he was living for the occasion at which the photograph was taken, as if he was smiling for the people who surrounded him.

He then looked at his own photograph with Linda, and felt how closely he resembled his father.

THE END.


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