Some Publicity

Submitted by Iona Cottle to Contest #14 in response to: It's about a photographer, who is a rookie.... view prompt

It was a sunny day, and sunny days were not good for photography.

Well, of course, they were pretty ideal for taking photos, but the problem that Mattie was having was that sunny days brought everyone else out as well, which made it hard to get any shots that didn’t have people lurking in the background. That, and they had a habit of scaring the birds away, which made it fairly pointless for him to even be here.

It was almost midday, and he’d gotten maybe a dozen decent pictures of the ducks and swans, but now the crowds were out in full, along with the ice-cream van, and Mattie was debating whether he should just give up and go home. If this wasn’t the only chance he was going to get to do some photography this month he’d have given up long ago, but every other weekend he was booked, and work left him with little energy after a shift to get anything done, let alone load up his bag and go hunting.

“Stupid competition deadline,” he muttered under his breath. As usual it wasn’t the deadline’s fault though- he’d had months to try and find the perfect picture for the Amateur Avian Photography Competition, but life kept getting in the way. Now he just had today, and the stupid crowds kept clogging up his view.

If only he had a car. Then he could drive out to the middle of nowhere, and not get disturbed at all. But for that he needed more money, and he was trying to get some through his photography. For that though he needed exposure, or a competition win, but for that he needed a car… it was a vicious circle, and one that he’d been stuck in for years now.

A female chaffinch landed on a branch just above him, and Mattie slowly brought his camera up to take aim. Nothing super impressive no, but a good low angle shot, maybe with the sun filtering through the trees-

Down by the pond some children laughed, and the chaffinch dashed away out of sight.

With a heavy heart and an audible groan Mattie thudded his head against his camera. “Why? Come on, just give me a break, will ya?”

Another hour he decided, and if he hadn’t gotten anything by then he’d go home and sulk. With the added kick that he wouldn't have to endure this too much longer he took up his sentry position again, camera poised and his senses alert. All he needed was something to land in his little outcrop of trees, and his one free day of the month wouldn’t be wasted.

The hour presented its fair share of the usual park joys. A couple came over and tried to get romantic under a nearby tree, until Mattie coughed loudly and they ran away embarrassed. Then a group of teens came and started jeering at him, calling him all sorts of unpleasant names. When he waved his bird identification book at them, they didn’t stop the abuse, but it did at least take on a more savoury, if predictable, tone. At last they got bored and wondered off, but Mattie’s self-esteem was at rock bottom by then.

The hour ticked over, and Mattie decided to cut his losses. As he stood up and stretched he started composing his next blog post, a rant about how the public kept messing things up, and urging wanna-be photographers to take their driving tests as soon as they could.

A picture. Every post needs a picture. It added a little depth to it, and besides, he was trying to become a photographer. The three people who followed him could at the very least see what he was capable of.

Photographing crowds was hard though, and he wanted to make sure that no-one was identifiable, less they try and sue him or whatever. Which meant a wide shot, perhaps focusing on the sky instead? Yeah, go with the carpet of heads, to show how many people there were.

He lined up the shot, clicked the shutter, and was done for the day.

It was only on his way out the park that he realised he had a tail. A man was following him, frowning and just generally giving off bad vibes. It was the sort of man that Mattie would cross the street to avoid, except that he was now dogging Mattie every turn. When Mattie tried to speed up the man took it as his cue.

“Oi! Oi you! What were you doing?”

Other people turned to stare, and Mattie knew that if he ran it would only make the situation worse, but that didn’t stop him from shaking when turned around.

“Wha-” was all he could manage before the man caught up and jabbed him in the chest.

“What were you doing?”

“Bi-birdwatching.” He knew he shouldn’t be embarrassed by his hobby, but over the years so many people had taken the mickey out of him for it that he couldn’t help it.

The answer caught the man off guard though. “What?”

“Birdwatching. I take pictures of them-” As if it needed explaining any more Mattie started pulling out his book again- careful to keep his camera hidden, just in case this guy tried to make a lunge for it. The man on the other hand had lost all interest though.

“Whatever,” he said and stalked off again, as if Mattie had been the one to start the conversation.

All Mattie could do was blink after him, then hurry home before the man changed his mind.

Late that evening, when the wasted day was almost out of mind, and the conversation with the random stranger had been shoved away, filed away to be an anecdote later on, Mattie was flicking through the TV, trying to find something else to watch. The afternoon had consisted of two films and half a series- always a good way to forget his crumbling dreams- and now he was wondering whether to be a grown-up and get some sleep or to just keep binging.

The news pinged up, and he figured he should probably at least vaguely know what was happening in the world. The first few items were major global events- a diplomatic visit, a diplomatic screw up, the usual- before it went on to local news.

“The manhunt for a thief who stole several thousand pounds worth of jewellery is still underway this evening,” the reporter read. “Police lost sight of the suspect not far from the scene, and are now appealing for any witnesses who may have seen him to come forward.”

This was followed by a photofit of the suspect, and Mattie choked on the last of his beer that he’d been trying to down.

It was a perfect image of the man who’d accosted him earlier.

Mattie dug his camera out from where he’d left it dumped by the door and pulled up the last photo he’d taken that day. Sure enough, with some zooming in, he could make out the thief, hurrying across the park.

“Well you won’t win any photos,” Mattie said the picture, “but you’re not completely useless after all.”

Not an entirely wasted day after all. After all, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

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2 likes 2 comments

18:19 Nov 14, 2019

This story is wonderful! I thoroughly enjoyed reading from beginning to end. The end had an unexpected plot twist that was paired perfectly with the story. Overall great story!

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17:06 Nov 14, 2019

This was enjoyable from start to finish. His frustration was very relatable, and every creative who's ever waited for a muse can identify with it! :D And the end was really satisfying. Fun read!

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