27 comments

Drama Contemporary Holiday

You used to take pictures of the women you slept with. Every one of them had a forgettable face and some name that was on the first pages of dictionaries. They were always foggy-eyed when they woke up, whispering through unpainted lips and gathering their bag. 

The pictures were taken on your Polaroid camera. Those were the ones that came in muted colors and lived at the drugstore. Teenagers used them but you were twenty-seven. The film was expensive but the pictures were worth it. After they rolled out of the camera, you pasted them in the scrapbook your aunt gave you years ago. Then you’d scribble the date and revisit the memory when feeling like nobody loved you. 

On the first few pages of the book, there were insignificant dates. Delicate women, sitting cross-legged on your bed, knotting their fingers into their shoe laces. They all wore ugly variations of the same red sweater and army green boots. Their names you can’t remember but that’s a good thing because it was only for that one night. 

Some of them thought it was to last. One girl inquired about meeting each other’s families. It was around Thanksgiving then, and you laughed and thought about your father. A tight-lipped man that hosted the holiday parties and clapped you on the back in front of his work friends. That girl did not last and you both knew it when you planted a final kiss on her cheek. 

Your father is not proud of you. He is a man with an aging wife and two sons. One of them is gay and he does not approve. The other photographed the women he shared a laugh and drink with at the local bar, rather than attending business school with an unironed suit. Not much to love but he finds a way. 

You think you’re still invited to the parties because you changed your career and tell good stories. You tell stories of those candlelit nights gone wrong and earn chuckles from bald men. You father chuckled only for the sake of it and is thankful you now photograph nature instead. 

Nature is overrated, you think. Your thoughts are confirmed when you’re in the middle of a forest with your iphone camera, not the Polaroid, taking pictures of a frozen deer. You wonder if it’s dead because breath doesn’t puff out of its lips like it does for you. Its wide-open, brown eyes are what you focus on. 

The squirrels are vexing and give you a headache. It’s light out with beams of sunlight tearing through the leaves, but still you’re unimpressed. Where were all the opportunities to take photos of the Aurora Borealis or capture the coral reef off the coast of Australia? Perhaps the problem was that you didn’t live in Alaska and you weren’t a professional diver with a lovely, chipped accent. 

Tonight is the Thanksgiving dinner. Your father will be expecting breathtaking photos of nature and delightful stories of your ignorant mistakes. You’re only one year older, twenty-eight, but there are so many stories. And the older, richer men like them with the most detail. In your mind there’s those red sweaters and laces that never tie, but those are personal. You’ll never tell those and only stick with the retellings of broad-shouldered ones. 

You type ‘beautiful pictures of nature’ into the search bar and find a few pictures that look like they could’ve been taken by you. The printer is on and has ink so you print them out, one by one, and add the photo of the dead deer’s eyes just for fun. 

Then you get ready. A striped red tie, a collared shirt, and so much hair gel weaving throughout your hair. It feels greasy and looks black with hints of grey. You’re only twenty-eight, not sixty. 

With a sigh you sweep the photos into a little briefcase that you own. It’s brown and soft on the outside. Pleather, fake leather, is what you think it is covered with. You rarely use it and when you do, it’s empty and busy impressing the business men you find on the street. You also slide your scrapbook and Polaroid camera into it, trying to give it no thought whatsoever. 

Soon it’s time to leave. You check your watch and realize you’re already late. Your pocket is spacious, a sign that your car keys are missing. Mumbling a string of curse words that would surprise even your father, you decide to call an Uber instead. 

Once you arrive at the party, you already know it’s going to be a bad night. Your mother greets you first, kissing every square inch of your forehead and insisting you taste the dry turkey and lumpy mash potatoes. 

There are a lot of people listening when you tell her you don’t want to spoil your dinner. One of them is your brother. He wears a purple suit with ungelled hair. He asks with bouncing eyebrows about your love life. You want to show him the photo of the dead deer and say something snarky about that’s how his love life looks at the moment. Your brother busies himself with clicking glasses with any guest who stumbles by. 

You call your father Benjamin when you’re alone but tonight you call him Father. Standing with him, beside his friends feels wrong in every kind of way. 

When he asks about the pictures, you know just by seeing your reflection in his green eyes that there’s blush powdered onto your cheeks. Your voice cracks but you stick your hand in the briefcase and pull out every photo except the deer one. When you show them to your father and his friends they smile and nod and pretend their money is going to protect nature. 

After dinner of lies that you’re allergic to potatoes and turkey and green salads, you think of your parents and how hard it must be to keep a straight face when around their sons. You are a failure and everyone at this party knows it. 

Finding your father upstairs, sitting on his bed, staring into the fireplace, you know something is wrong. He’s in the same position that all the women were when you snapped the photo. And it gives you an idea. 

You carefully set your briefcase on the bed next to him and take the Polaroid camera out. You step silently in front of your father. He wears a blue suit and only prickles of a mustache. Your finger hovers over the shutter button. But you can’t do it. 

“I know it is hard for you, Benjamin.” you say, gulping and turning to look into fire as well. “I am sorry for being an unworthy son.” 

Your father is shaking with rage and old age, but his lips press tightly together. Finally, he rises to his feet and wipes his forehead. “You are wrong. I love you and I always have.” The words are forced. You don’t say anything back. With one long swing of his arm, he knocks the briefcase off the bed. It spills onto the floor and the dead deer photo lays on top of the mess. Then he marches out. 

It is now you know what you have to do. You bend to gather your photos and scrapbook, thinking about the incredulous thing your father said, but you pause. Instead, you leave the mess, take the scrapbook, and step towards the fire. 

There are some considerations. And then you throw the book into the fire. 

The last thing you see before the flames devour it is a photo of a girl and a name. Mary Ann. You wrote the name. You weren’t supposed to. It wasn’t supposed to last but it did, sitting on your shoulders and tugging at your hair. You promised yourself it wouldn’t scar but here you are, scarred and crying.

November 22, 2020 17:37

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27 comments

Scout Tahoe
20:58 Nov 22, 2020

Thanks for reading. Should I change the ending? Rename it? This needs a lot of critique and I'm willing to listen. :)

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Tyler Runde
22:02 Nov 22, 2020

Hmm. I felt like I didn't understand the ending. Why did he take his father's picture? My interpretation of the Polaroids is that he wanted to know that he was capable of getting others to give him love, but he wasn't willing to give them love in return. So when he encounters his father sitting on the bed, looking very much like the women in all of those photographs, and chooses to take his picture it feels very insensitive and cruel. Because, following with my interpretation, it's like he's saying that he wants his dad to love him, but h...

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Scout Tahoe
22:43 Nov 22, 2020

That is a very accurate interpretation, Tyler. Thank you so much for reading. He took his fathers picture because of exactly what you said. I’m glad you understood what I was trying to get at.

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Tyler Runde
23:19 Nov 22, 2020

That raises a different question. How has this character come to appreciate his family by the end of this story? He burns the scrapbook, but that acts more as an admission of how he's wronged others in the past. It's no indication that he'll change his ways. I guess that's the part I didn't understand.

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Scout Tahoe
23:33 Nov 22, 2020

Thank you so much for asking me these questions. I was thinking he appreciated his family by the end because he did not the love the father and the father did not love him when he was a child. He didn't care back then but he does now. That is why he burns the scrapbook. He wants his father to love him so he's trying to start over. Is there any way to make this clearer in the story?

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Tyler Runde
00:28 Nov 23, 2020

Does he not love his father? Does his father not love him? Are these things true? I definitely got a sense that, growing up, he felt like his father didn't love him, and that he was able to make himself believe throughout the years that he didn't care. Though now that he's an adult he realizes that he does want his father's love. While reading through this story I thought the direction it would go is that by the end he would learn that, while his dad doesn't like how he's chosen to live his life, he does love him. If I were writing ...

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Zilla Babbitt
15:35 Nov 23, 2020

What a creepy first sentence. Honestly I dislike the narrator, but I think that was your intention. I love the ending. I love that last line. That last line might give you another shortlist, or a win. I like that you're working on your style. You've changed it somewhat and it's gotten better. This sentence, though, is different. In a bad way. "The squirrels are vexing and allow a headache to pinch your forehead." This could just be me but I don't like that sentence. "The squirrels are vexing and give you a headache" is moderately better....

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Scout Tahoe
15:49 Nov 23, 2020

Thank you so much, Zilla. :) Yes, even I myself did not like the narrator and haha I had to spend an hour writing about him! I'll change the sentence because I can see how that can be a bad one. Thanks again.

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Sjan Evardsson
23:40 Dec 02, 2020

This is perhaps, the best use of second-person narration I've read. It's usually intrusive and off-putting, but the prose flowed so smoothly that by the third paragraph I was no longer aware of it. I had to go back and re-read to assure myself that it didn't switch from second-person to third-person. There's a huge amount of subtext. It leaves it to the reader to decide how the protagonist will move forward from there, but offers a glimmer of hope: the fact that he admits to himself that his past does hurt. Stay safe and keep writing!

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Scout Tahoe
00:24 Dec 03, 2020

Thank you. I’m glad you liked my second person. I myself don’t think this particular story was a good example, but thanks none the less. Stay safe too—I also received your story for critique circle and I’ll be stopping by soon. :)

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Rhondalise Mitza
05:09 Nov 29, 2020

SCOUT. This is progress and I love it so much! You're blossoming as an amazing author and writer and I love it even if this story was weird! Good on you for listening to advice and doing... this. It's awesome. You're awesome. Keep up this work and man, who knows the places you'll go? <3 much love, Rhonny

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Scout Tahoe
05:22 Nov 29, 2020

Rhonda! We haven’t talked in a while and I’m so glad you’re on Reedsy. It didn’t seem like you were on a lot. Can’t wait to check out your new story. And thank you for the comment. :) <3

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The Cold Ice
04:45 Nov 24, 2020

Wonderful poem.Keep writing. Would you mind reading my story “Leaf me alone “

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Maya W.
01:41 Nov 24, 2020

Hey Scout! Wow, amazing. Just splendid writing. I don't know what else to say. I guess all I can say is that it reminds me of an episode of How I Met Your Mother, but more emotional. Keep it up!

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Scout Tahoe
04:00 Nov 24, 2020

Thank you, Maya. What's How I Met Your Mother?

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Maya W.
13:50 Nov 24, 2020

Oh, it's a sitcom, lol.

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Scout Tahoe
14:09 Nov 24, 2020

Oh, ha. :)

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Ru .
21:27 Nov 23, 2020

You really captured the essence of a tattered family here. I legitimately have no critique. It's complicated, knotted, twisty and ugly and I love it. Life isn't beauty all the the time and there's dark feelings too, so thanks for unveiling the sugarcoated wrapper to show what turmoil may lie beneath.

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Scout Tahoe
22:12 Nov 23, 2020

Thank you so much, Ru. :)

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Hi Scout, I loved the details. It all seemed real but I agree with Tyler. Great work! Also do read my story I just posted and tell me what you think!

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Scout Tahoe
22:44 Nov 22, 2020

Thank you! I’m busy nowadays so I’ll get there when possible. :)

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Llind Kam
06:44 Dec 04, 2020

I liked how you use the second person POV. After reading the story, I felt like I knew the narrator and his unhappy childhood yet he still remains a mystery to me. Honestly I do not like the guy, maybe the indifference he suffered growing up had a much deeper impact

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Scout Tahoe
15:00 Dec 04, 2020

Thank you for reading and analyzing. :)

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