Close
Exit

Polaroid #45

45Back in the 80’s my wife and I ran the purest coke organization, I mean we owned the whole city. It all started back in college she was much older than I but I didn’t care, she was young with perfectly bleach-blond hair. My best bud Ken introduced me to her while we were on the beach in California on spring beak. As she approached me and Ken with Ken’s girlfriend, Cindy, she waved and said “Hello, I’ve never met you before…”and then Ken said, “Oh Bell this is my best bud Jack.” “Jack this is Cindy’s best friend Bell.”
“My name is Isabell but Bell for short.” “You could call me either or.” And I said “My name is jack but you could call me Jack.”
She was the only one besides myself to laugh at my corny joke and at that moment I knew I had to have her. She was a flight girl who accommodated people on their flights to and from their destination. See we were the perfect combination; Ken introduced me into dealing coke. If it wasn’t for him I’d be nowhere. She would fly to my connect and bring everything back and she was happy about it, never discouraged me. What Bell didn’t tell me is that she had a tumor on her brain. 2 years later she had passed from lung cancer and I ended up in jail. So you see this picture is about the best thing that ever happened in my life. Thank you Bell.

Story by Shavon Thomas

Polaroid #41

41Bruce is seventy years old man with a neat shirt and creaseless pants. Bruce lost his wife three years ago. Since his wife died, he has had no joy in his life. He lost his smile. For three years, he has spent the rest of his life with books and daily tv shows. In these days, he is into a hobby that he can do by himself. It might sound silly, but finding small mistakes in his surroundings has become his hobby for last four months. The first mistake that he has found was a typo in local newspaper. There was an article about a bald boy who tries to be a monk, but a poor journalist spelled a word “bald” as “bold”. That was the beginning. He started searching for all the mistakes. From his room to kitchen, he made his cozy house as the world of mistakes. In this world, Bruce was the only one who can fix all the problems. It was all great until he found the worst mistake of God in his body. Bruce has been losing his hair since he tried the new hair dye product. His hair was rapidly falling out then in twenty days he became a half bald. While he was suffering from his hair loss, his grandson Jamie visited him. Combing his grandson’s hair, Bruce finds out another mistake of God in his grandson’s body. Bruce discover a circular empty spot in his grandsons hair. Even though the empty part in Jamie’s hair was covered with other hairs, the spot was very empty so it was visible just by slightly picking up other hairs.

Story by Joohye Park

Polaroid #109

109She’s been here before. Her deep eyes tell the stories of countless others that have stepped on this Earth more than once. A past life? Perhaps. But she’s different. She’s sure. She’s confident. She knows who she is. An identity is a tough thing to find nowadays. Because we all think we are individuals, but in a world run by social media and a technological boom, it’s hard to be our own “individuals”. Individual, what does that even mean? She knows. She knows exactly who she is, her wants, needs, desires, past, present, and journey. She’ll never know her future, just like the rest of us. A slight grin that demonstrates how she’s the one. She knows what it takes to become her own person. She’s been knocked down and she’s picked herself back up. She’s failed, but ultimately succeeded. Who is she? The American Dream? She’s a symbol. Of what? She’s not young, yet not so old. Her soul is ancient, she’s seen things more than once. She’s cried, she’s laughed, and she’s smiled. She’s made things. She’s torn things apart. She’s a medium. The perfect balance between good and bad. Not neutral. She’s special. Everyone is content with her. Content? She doesn’t have enemies nor does she have allies. She’s a loner. She is kept to herself and she knows it. She doesn’t do it for show, she truly feels alone. She didn’t take this picture, not did she ask for it to be taken. It was chance that the person with this camera took this picture. Perfect time, perfect place. Yeah, she’s special.

Story by Brian Petterman

Polaroid #68

68I was seven years old when I saw Daffodil for the first time. Daffodil was too much to describe in a few words. Or in a poem. She was the ocean.

I met her when she moved to our building, to floor below mine. For me, she was selling flowers, dreams and smiles. The shop she owned was beside my school. I used to stop there every day, twice a day. In the morning she used to give me a candy, a piece of cake, or a flower. I didn’t like the flowers, but I never told her. After school she was available for me, and in her lunch break. A blackboard, coloured chalks and her dreams. Her dreams were artwork. Breathless drawings. Unreproducible scenarios. Vivid still in my mind. I still remember the first time I was there, she said to me, “Hi Fred, tell me the first thing you have in mind.” I was surprised, and also hungry. I said, “An apple!” She slowly started to draw lines that had no meaning at all. Chaotic. After few days those lines took shape. An image. She drew me eating an apple in our street. I still remember the details: a drop of apple juice beside my lip. Every one or two weeks she approached me with other requests. I remember helicopters, lizards, the pond with the ducks, cats and dogs, pine trees and starships. I spent so much time challenging her with my 7 years old dreams. For an entire year. Just for one year.

One day she gave me a camera. She didn’t speak that much. I felt a bit offended. She just told me to come in the garden in the evening. I left.

It was her adieu. She was gone. Forever. I was scared to ask her where. Why. How. I made her that picture while people were eating food.
When I was eight I took my very first Polaroid. And my last.

Story by Alessandro Rabitti

Polaroid #123

123Strange to say, but we spent most of our childhood at this dry cleaners. Your family owned it, and after school we’d walk straight there without ever discussing it. Dutifully finishing our homework in the back and then chasing each other through the rotating racks of clothes, feeling the thin plastic covers kiss our foreheads. Later, when we were fledgling teenagers, hoping we could get high for cheap just breathing in all those chemical solvents.

When you turned seventeen your dad put you behind the counter; he had lost his magical ability to match clothing to people, and in any event he could no longer match names to faces. Devastating in his line of business. People thought the job would make you dangerous, that extra cash would turn you wild, moreso than you already were. Only I knew that all the money went straight to your family, that you never touched a dime of it.

I used to bring you food in the afternoons, a care package to tide you over at the moment when the day turned and hours of customer service made you wretched. On one of these days, I saw you outside yelling at a regular for shorting you five dollars. He pulled a polaroid camera out, softly saying that he was a photographer, that he’d take a photo of you – when I walked up, your friend – and that while this wasn’t five dollars, maybe, today, it would be enough.

Your face softened a bit, and you agreed. I knew you were thinking we had no photos of us at the place that dominated our daily existence even more than our homes. We both tried to look casual, but it’s clear I took a sip of soda just as he pressed the button. Years later, after I moved away and you got cancer, I was back in the neighborhood and found your daughter at the counter. Just above her head, taped right next to the framed dollar bill from your parent’s first sale, was this photograph.

Story by Nina Sudhakar

Polaroid #128

128Three seats back and one to the left. When we had the class last period the sun would shine in and reflect off her curls, making them a richer gold.
Sometimes on the way home I’d see her out my rearview mirror, walking on the sidewalk and smoking a cigarette. I wanted to ask if she needed a ride, but I guess I just never did. Even in the winter, there she’d be, walking home and smoking a cigarette.
I can’t tell you why I was so intrigued by this girl. I can’t tell you why I never talked to her. I can tell you it wasn’t simply because I was male and she was female. There was something about her mannerisms. Something about the way her ears stuck out from behind those curls.
We had this creative writing project once where the teacher took all of our pictures. She mixed them all up and we had to pick out one and write about positive features of the person in the picture. It was a bit of a writing assignment and a bit of a confidence workshop. I had to write about a boy Carl and his lovely red hair. We had to keep the pictures of ourselves to remember our self worth.
A couple days later I saw something on the ground outside the school. I hardly believed it when I saw her squinty eyes looking back at me, and those ears sticking out from behind those curls. I took the picture home with me, deciding I’d return it to her the next day. Of course I couldn’t and I didn’t.
A month went by and I heard the news. It led to school assemblies and public speakers, informing us of the signs and statistics we already knew.
On my drive home I couldn’t get myself to glance back. When I got home I took the picture from my drawer and hung it in my rearview mirror. It was nice to see her face. I had only ever seen her from three seats back and one to the left.

Story by Jamie Groele

Polaroid #8

8Since Bill passed I’ve found myself in this position a lot, I come in here ten times a day, then I realize there’s nothing to do. I don’t eat much, he ate like a horse.

He had the rest of the house but this room was mine, he almost never came in here, but now that he’s gone it feels so empty. I still buy enough food each week to feed an army, but it just goes bad, or I give it away.

The kids came by a lot in those first few weeks and this room was as busy as it’d ever been, but people have lives they’ve got to get on with I guess, I suppose I do too.

I’ll sell this place soon, find somewhere with a smaller kitchen.

Story by Asa Perlman

Polaroid #157

1578:50PM…8:53…8:55, oh my God, five more minutes and she’ll be up! I’ll just sit here and wait for her. Wake up Amanda, its time to go to the park. Oh finally, the alarm!  I almost thought that it would never ring. She is getting up! Now she’s going to bathroom, this will take about 3 minutes, and then… then we will go to the park! There she is, she is coming towards me; “Good morning Cooper, you know what day it is? Today we’ll meet our new neighbors!” What neighbors, Amanda, we are going to park today, don’t you remember?
“You better behave well, when they come! Now lets go and make some waffles”
Waffles, what waffles; what about the park Amanda? But its fine, I’ll wait just for a little longer. 10 minutes… 15 minutes… 30 minutes…45 minutes… almost an hour…. It’s the doorbell!
“Oh they are here, Cooper! Stand up and meet them properly!”
– “Hello, Samantha and John!”
– “Hi, Amanda! Such a lovely apartment!”
– “Oh thank you very much! So nice of you. This is Cooper, my dog”
– “Oh, hi Cooper, you are such a lovely little boy!”
– “Why won’t you take off your coats and sit down with us and enjoy some     homemade waffles!”
What a joy! Two strangers eating delicious meal and I’m sitting here, with my fake smile, flicking my tail around just to create an impression that I love everything that is happening right now.
“I Just bought this new Polaroid camera and I can’t wait to try it out, John, can you please take a picture of me with Cooper? Cooper sit down here! Can’t you see a person is taking a photograph!” Oh not a photograph, I hate photographs! “Cooper open your mouth and hold your favorite toy, you look adorable when you have that toy in your mouth!” Okay Cooper, just pretend that you feel great, smile with that dumb face with a toy in your mouth as if you are the happiest dog on earth! “1,2,3… Done! Here comes your picture…”

Story by Giorgi Shengelaia

Polaroid #119

119Mr. Miyazaki was an odd and interesting man. He liked to rent books from his local library and never return them, instead reading in his den while listening to the radio give a low, static-y hum. It was calming to him, it sounded like the rain. Mr. Miyazaki rarely had visitors, and that was just the way he liked it. Wearing sunglasses inside and sitting in his favorite chair (it was a small, wooden stool) in his basement, he rolled fresh cigarettes with American dollar bills. He blamed America for the world’s problems, and burned their currency in between his lips in protest.

One year ago, Mr. Miyazaki won the local lottery in his town and was awarded a grand sum of $25,000. The first thing Mr. Miyazaki did with his money was hire an assassin to kill the drunk driver that murdered his wife, Kozue, as they were walking home together from seeing a play in the theatre. The car jumped the curb and pinned Kozue to a brick wall, just missing Miyazaki. The driver managed to scramble out of the car, running away as Mr. Miyazaki tended to his wife’s mangled and crushed body. There was nothing he could do but sit there, stone faced, as the police covered Kozue with a garbage bag and carried her away.

The assassin had done his job, spearing the drunk driver while he was home playing with his children, or so he thought. The assassin was sloppy. He had missed the correct house by one number, and instead had killed the leader of a Japanese street gang. The silence in Mr. Miyazaki’s house was suddenly disturbed. Five men stormed into his basement, with all of their guns pointed at his face. He looked up from his desk, and continued to roll his dollar-bill cigarette. He said nothing, cracking a slight smile as if he were expecting them. Under the table, Mr. Miyazaki’s foot pushed and made a slight click. The men disappeared, and Miyazaki glanced at the crossed out names on his piece of paper.

Story by Evan

Polaroid #97

97Two young men died in a Miami club this past Friday. The Miami PD’s official statement declared the cause of death as a currently unnamed club drug that has managed to find its way into the Miami nightlife scene masquerading as ecstasy or speed. As the 8th and 9th deaths from this new substance in the past month, it would appear southern Florida has the beginnings of an epidemic on its hands. This man you see here is Gilbuerto Gacha. He owns over 16 hectares of Colombian jungle and a hotel on E 1st St. He is on several United States Government watch lists including those of us at the DEA and the CIA. It is suspected he has the hands of several of the city’s largest drug organizations in his pocket.  His involvement in the local narcotics scene is recent, initially acting simply as a supplier. However informants have led us to believe that he is polluting the product that he supplies. His hotel has recently received a 12 year supply of soap bars from an undisclosed supplier in China. We have reason to believe the soap is merely acting as a mode of transport for between 2 and 3 tons of unrestricted research chemicals he has been cutting his supplies with for additional profit. With deaths up from last months total of 4 and no concrete way to trace the origins of the drugs used by the victims, Gacha may soon prove to be one of the larger rats the city of Miami will have to exterminate.

Story by Mark Khoury

Polaroid #96

96Abuelita Aurora. She radiated warmth with her smile and her eyes bled compassion. Those who knew her in her youth would say that she was chatty and witty; her jokes were sharp as a knife and kept everyone on the edge of their seats. Now, even if she kept her jokes short and concise, she was funny nonetheless; one would not think that a woman her age would say such scandalous jokes at times. Our great aunts and uncles (whether directly related by blood or friendship) would say how her positivity and warmth were the secret remedy to whatever they needed. As a young woman, she worked as a nurse and volunteered during war time to lend her healing hands to help those in need.
After a heart attack on a quiet Tuesday morning, all of her grandchildren visited more frequently than ever. She was quieter than before but the flame burned bright. Her smile illuminated our lives. Even in the dark days of forgetfulness, our Aurorita was bright. She would mix up Luisa’s name with Laura, or Aura with Angela, or forget who was who. It got worse after, though. She would frantically look for her nurse uniform to go to work or even ask everyone in the room where her husband was. Even in her own house she would ask me or her other grandchildren if they could take her home before the sky went dark. Since I was the youngest grandchild, I would spend more time with her and sleep in her bed to keep her safe from wandering. I grew up eating her meals and graduated to make her some of my own. In moments of lucidity, she would get my name right and smile. I can still feel her warmth on my skin, years after of her departure, and her smile even when there wasn’t a reason to do so.

Story by Maria Lysandra Hernandez

Polaroid #65

65Hélène est une rêveuse. Elle se décrit comme étant une femme de marin. Elle passe des heures à attendre, assise sur le bord de son canapé, du matin au soir et du soir au matin. Une horloge inhumaine qui tourne autour de son corps devenu roc.
L’odeur des bottes restées humides emplie son petit déjeuner. Le froissement du ciré annonce la dernière tartine et le goût du café se pose sur le baiser à la médaille de Santa Clara.
Sa vie se déroule dans ce temps maritime. Ces yeux sont cernés par tant de regards. La petite voile titubante devient floue dans ses allers et venues, épuisée par tous ces frissons, signes du risque du non retour. Des cliquetis rythment ses pas, elle chasse les nuages, voile le soleil, aplanie les mouvements de marées.

Les jours et les nuits, dans ce jeu de cache cache, structurent sa solitude. Son secret, bijou solitaire.
Une question revient par vagues: Ses yeux vont ils un jour se noyer dans les flots? Elle n’ose pas les fermer de peur de rater le retour de son amour.

Story by Lefrere Sylvie

Polaroid #128

128I remember Audrey ripped that rusty old Polaroid camera away from me. She was annoyed with me incessant photo king, so she did it right back at me. I understood her at that moment. I don’t really like it when people take pictures of me either. I kinda like this one, though. I was happy that summer, blissfully unaware of all the shit that was gonna hit the fan that school year.

His name was Drew, and I was in love with him. I remember he used to tease me a lot in class and I’d tease him right back. We started going out shortly after. He was like two years older and an incredibly bad influence, but I don’t care what anyone said. He was my precious Drew. Sure, he cheated on me, repeatedly, and he stole cash from my wallet, from time to time, but I just couldn’t bring myself to end it with him. Something about being around him made me feel special, feel alive.

It was in Jenny’s basement when I lost it. Jenny yelled at me, “Ana wake up!” I remember her face hovering over mine in slow motion with a tunnelled effect in her voice. I couldn’t understand why everything felt so urgent. I wish I could have moved in that moment, but I couldn’t. It was as if my head wanted to spring up and run away, but my body wouldn’t let it. I woke up in the hospital three hours later. Drew was in jail.

I look so innocent here, though. I wish I had that again.

Story by Susana Obando

Polaroid #151

151A photograph’s a funny thing. Never cared for ‘em myself. Don’t trust ‘em. Personally, photographs have always reminded me of those damned traveling salesmen who parked their over-waxed cars in my driveway every month or so (this was before the Internet). Real slimy bastards, and I mean that in every sense of the word – smooth talkers, but genuine scoundrels who combed their hair with black shoe polish so thick you could see the sheen glinting even in the pitch black. That’s right, just like those fellas, a photograph is always hiding something. It only ever shows a moment for what you want it to be, not what it was. But Rona, she loved ‘em. Toted a damn Polaroid everywhere we went, never even let it out of her sight. I remember one time we were driving cross-country to Fresno, and when we were three hours out she realized she’d forgotten the camera and she made me turn around.

Rona. She was part of the reason I hated photographs so much in the first place. That thing I said about them not showing the truth – well, that was especially true when it came to Rona. Film never captured her quite right. I don’t know why, exactly – I think it’s just a matter of some things can’t be put on paper. But I do know that photographs never did Rona justice, and that hurt me as deeply as though it were a stab wound to the gut. In life, she was vital. Her teeth weren’t straight, but her smile could’ve lit up a goddamn sewer. She moved with a strange kind of grace – and she was always moving. Couldn’t get her to sit still, not once, ever. She was an angel. God, I hate clichés, but I don’t know what else to call her. She was an angel. She was the light of my goddamn life, but you’d never know it from lookin’ at a picture. And that’s what really killed me, that no one on the outside would ever understand how beautiful, how wonderful, how truly remarkable my Rona was.
What’s that? Oh, yeah, right. This picture was taken about, uh, six weeks before I saw her last, I think. Yeah, we were at some hotel in Milwaukee – the Yellow Dog Inn, or something like that. We were going to see Paul Simon. We traveled a lot. Her daughter came with us, and Rona had wanted a nice picture of the two of us. I remember her lamenting how the pictures turned out, how distracted she looked. But I kept ‘em all. Two months later, she busted both my kneecaps with a ball-peen hammer, stole my Harley, and rode off with some guy named Victor. Like I said, a photograph’s a funny thing.

Story by N. Bartlett

Polaroid #89

89God I’d give anything for her to look at me that way just one more time. She was exquisite, the definition of wild, perfect and all mine. We were meant to be, I felt it, she felt it, everyone around us felt it. The first time I saw her, my heart started racing like it wanted to jump out of my chest, I remember vividly, I got weak, I stuttered. I could barely speak and she just giggled, smiled that sweet honeysuckle smile, so gentle and quaint, innocent at first glance. It was a honeymoon the first few months, it was a dream and I never wanted to wake up.

Soon enough we moved in together, on a spur of the moment Saturday night/early morning decision, we eloped. For us, there was never a dull moment, and soon after she was pregnant. Those few months were the best months of our lives, I had never seen her so happy, as if she was a child. One sunny afternoon we were sitting on our porch when all of a sudden she let out a scream that still haunts me. She was in immeasurable pain, I rushed her to the emergency room as fast as physically possible, but we were too late, we lost the baby.

She was never the same. She lost the curiosity in her eyes, her lips turned down indefinitely and I don’t think I ever heard her laugh again. I was so worried for her, I tried everything to comfort her but she believed it was all her fault. She thought she killed her baby and she could never forgive herself. One night before dinner, I found her lying limp on our bed, her antidepressant medication bottle empty and the light of my life gone.

Story by Victoria Raschi

Polaroid #18

18Sucy came in without a knock and announced that May’s brother was outside. Jamie rose with her and walked her to the door. They hugged each other like they kissed the elders during Sunday service then bid each other goodbye. Jamie cut the light and lay in her bed making out the glitter in her ceiling. She lifted her hand and drew loops and turns into the ceiling. She dropped her hand to admire the curlicues in the air. They fell onto her lips like light rain. So fine. So fine. So so so-o-o-o. In song she turned to face the window peeking through the squint of the curtain. She looked into the cut of the sky behind the stretched roof tops and watched the clouds float by, counting them. She noticed pale shadows against the yellow light in the Robinson’s sitting room. They were dancing again, slow and close, like old love. Jamie sat up straight to watch them behind a daydream.

“You watchin’ that boy again?” Her daydream was interrupted by the checking voice of Sucy. She turned to see her sister standing at the door she knew she had closed. Jamie matched her tone. “Can I help you?”

“Your mama said go eat.”

“I’m not hungry.”

“Tell her yourself.” Jamie glared at the doorway. “You know he don’t want you,” she challenged. “He go with that girl Keasha…and Terri…and Sasha. He even mess wit that white girl Alex. You know he like white girls?” Jamie couldn’t think of anything to say. She cocked her head in a who-asked-you manner and snarled.

“I’m just sayin’,” Sucy responded before spinning about-face with the satisfaction of a willow in the wind. Jamie stood and marched to the door. She had half a mind to lock it but she knew better, and slammed it instead. Always comin’ in here, she thought plopping back onto the edge of her bed, and she never close my damn door. The shadows of her neighbors no longer danced and the clouds she counted floated far along. She laid down, thinking of things she could’ve said.

Story by Rodjyna Beauvile

Polaroid #6

6Rose and Jack have been married for over 50 years now, still gazing into each other’s eyes with that irreplaceable look of eternal love. The two have known each other pretty much their entire lives and were at a first name basis all of high school, but finally ended up dating during their Senior year. In short time, Rosie and Jack fell madly in the love and both knew it was everlasting, for they were more than best friends and partners; they were soul mates. They spent every moment they could with one another; never seeming to get enough. And they truly never could.
After attending Boston College together for four years, they decided upon moving to New York City, where they would set out to work for National Geographic magazine. Both had always aspired to be travel journalists, seeking to fulfill their passion for wanderlust. The lovely thing was Jack had was a skillful photographer, and Rose a lovely writer. The two worlds collided as the couple was granted the once in a lifetime opportunity to travel the world for National Geographic; capturing moments through Jack’s lens and writing about these priceless memories through Rose’s creative mind.
They set out to explore the world for quite some time, and were happier than ever. Their dream was finally achieved, and they couldn’t have been more content. Rose and Jack had always envisioned traveling the globe together, and having the ability to make a career out of their fondest passion was a sincere dream come true. The two spent time living in London (Jack’s birthplace), Paris, Rome, Brisbane, and one their favorite places; the tropical Maldives. Jack and Rose fell deeper in love with each moment, and continue to in present day.
In this photo, they are about 80 years old, celebrating their 50th year of marriage. Jack and Rose own a few houses across the world, where they love to spend their time, but decided to spend this special occasion in their London townhouse. Of course, Jack catered to Rose’s obsession with delicious food and cooked her favorite meal; roasted chicken and a multitude of vegetables. He set a magnificent table for two on the terrace, with globe lights twinkling across the sky and the spectacular city gleaming in the background. Rose and Jack truly enjoyed their night together, gazing into each other’s eyes as if it were the very first time they fell in love.

Story by Bella Edwards

Polaroid #129

129Elisa went mad for Polaroids. It started sometime around Christmas, after her parents finally caved and bought her one. From that morning on, she never left home without it. I would see her sometimes, after school, standing at the snow, camera in hand staring at a dead branch, positively still, impervious to the cold as if her and that branch were caught in a moment neither had the strength to break. It was odd. But then again, Elisa was a bit odd. Or perhaps odd moments emanated from her without her control.
Either way I was pretty much the only person she talked to. This fact would have hurt a weaker person, but not Elisa. She had no need for people. She only interacted with them when they promised to be her subjects. When they allowed her to point her plastic friend in their face. She took pleasure in trapping them in that white box. Often times, when I would meet up with her in her house to study, I would find her on her bed or at her desk analyzing her photos. She was enamored with each of them. It was the happiest I would ever see her. Each one was a little window into a moment that would never be seen again, she tried to explain, her face alight with pure elation. I nodded as if I understood her obsession, and not as if I was finally realizing that those Polaroids were the only way Elisa knew how to deal with the world. She was most comfortable holding it at a distance, in a small frame in the palm of her hand. It was all there. Millions of little worlds.

I’m not sure what happened to her. In this photo-obsessed era she might be finally enjoying the warmth of being part of the majority, busy collecting like-minded souls on Instagram, but I doubt it. She is probably still walking the streets with her Polaroid camera. It was, after all, the sense of touch she loved most of all. I don’t think she’d able to live without caressing her little worlds.

Story by Sonya Redi

Polaroid #135

135She called herself Princess Floating Feather. Her name was Denise. She claimed she was a Cherokee princess. She wanted desperately to be alternative, to be a free spirit. She was just a sweet white girl from the suburbs. For whatever reason that just wasn’t enough.

When she took up with Rudy her parents were concerned. “That boy’s no good,” her Mom warned. “He’ll get you in trouble.” “Mom,” she would sigh, “Rudy’s OK. I like him. He’s fun.” “He’s bad news, ” her Dad said. He had to say something, his wife was glaring at him from across the room. But he knew it was true.

Concerts became their thing. It was a fun summer. Freedom, music, booze, drugs, sex. Carefree, she told herself. It was exciting. She felt herself floating. She convinced herself she was in love.

Rudy moved in slowly. He started to exert pressure on her. She didn’t want to do some of the things he pushed her into. She was just a sweet white girl from the suburbs. When she resisted he pushed harder. Then the day came when he hit her. “I’m sorry. I love you. You know that,” he said. She was frightened but nodded her head yes and thought about how she would hide the bruises from her parents.

At the last concert Rudy was especially agitated. “There are some guys I want you to meet,” he said, “I want you to be nice to them.” She knew what that meant. She knew what she would be expected to do. She knew she had to escape, had to find a way out. “This will release me,” she said as she slid the needle into her vein. The rush swept over her. She felt herself floating. Like a feather. Just a sweet white girl from the suburbs. For whatever reason that just wasn’t enough.

Story by Steven Yancey

Polaroid #106

106He’d been staring through the kitchen curtain every now and again for days, threatening himself to do it, and today he did: Sunk down in the burgundy seat of the Buick and shut himself inside, fired her up and drove 14 long, sports-radio minutes on Route 9 to Shane’s U-Drive-It, right there at the northwest corner of Mulholland, and pulled in quick next to the spit-shined Minnie Winnie he’d been eyeing since Pamela up and left five Sundays ago with the Dachshund and hadn’t as much as called since.

He cut the motor and turned to look and its big pinstriped belly filled the window. A ‘78 model, he knew. Twenty-four foot, VCR included. Not a ding. He’d been thinking about the dog. The last thing she did before she skedaddled, besides shove her dry cleaning in the trunk and storm back inside to rip that lamp out of the wall, was scoop the dog off the lawn. She kicked up gravel on the way out and and yelled something and he bent his ear but it was God knows what. She didn’t even take the kibble, and now the house was filled with such a quiet that he kept hearing himself move.

Inside, Shane was running his mouth. He’d go back and lock up, put the Coors on ice, strip the bed and pack his laundry inside. Ask Danny to keep an eye out. Take it down the street and bring the tires up to 32 PSI. He drew all the air he could into his chest and let it go. He’d take the key down from the back doorframe, and that’s tough. Her mother would have tanned her hide.

“Must be my lucky day,” Shane said, and he pinned another picture to the pegboard with a big banner in permanent marker that said “Our Satisfied Customers!” He grabbed the camera off his desk, wagged his elbow toward the parking lot and bared some teeth. “Let’s do it, my man, looks like your number’s up.”

Story by J. Williams

Polaroid #155

155How many times?

“Gayle’s gonna do it. Jeez!” Marie started to laugh and it was catching.

“Nah, she ain’t.”

“Oh yeah. She’s gonna tell that fool to pay us our overtime. If I hear the phrase ‘it’ll be on the next pay check,’ one more time, I’m really gonna lose it. She’s gonna tell him right to his face. Prettiest sight I’ve seen in a long time. New managers. New ignoramuses, more like.” Joe aimed his left fist toward his right palm and missed.

Stacey started to giggle and Joe joined her. Their chant turned into nervous trills and a bunch of sad sack jokes began to flow out. Paul started it. “How many supervisors does it take to pull up to a loading dock? One. One to direct traffic.”

The thought of lone talkin’ to Mean Eddie was scary. The protest had started suddenly. After Sid had told them that he’d missed another appointment with the cardiac guy. Because of so-called overtime. Unpaid overtime. Mandatory damn time.

“Remember in July when Tim was sent home? That’s when Gayle started to heat up real bad.”

“Yup. She sure did.”

Gayle turned, “Go ahead, guys. Go on home. I don’t need no cheerleaders. When I come out, I’ll either be canned or I’ll carry on. We might not get our overtime but I’m damn well not gonna be scared anymore.”

“Are ya sure you don’t want some of us to come with you Gayle?”

“Thanks, but I’m dead sure. I might pull up stakes and head out to my sister’s and find something there. But you guys have gotta do something solid here to fight this bull. I can’t take it anymore. I’m probably outta here.”

She brushed Marie’s hand. Her fingers were clammy.

“Go ahead you guys. I’m gonna have a super respectful chat with Eddie. Make a formal request and all. Point out a few things. I’m real calm now. This is gonna be fine. Extra job skills, eh? Anger management training on the job. No courses needed.”

Her sideways glance was a smile they hadn’t seen in a long time.

Story by Sharon Roseman

Polaroid #23

23We were on a family trip to Florida and my mom had bought me a camera as a peace offering. I remember being depressed and ultra shitty because Vicki and Luna were going to spend the summer as counselors at Camp Kappenshaw, and I had to spend the summer visiting my grandparents a thousand miles away. I couldn’t spend my nights throwing myself at Mike Moreland, and the girls were going to laugh and joke about camp stories all through our senior year.

We were sitting outside the gate of Disney World and every time I took a picture I handed it to my mother to annoy her. “Here, look at this,” I’d say, handing her stupid pictures of trashcans, car bumpers, my feet. I wanted to show her how miserable I was, how awful it was to spend the summer before my senior year staying at my grandparents, and every time I handed the Polaroids to my mom she’d smile and nod and go, “Oh, Em, how lovely,” half mocking, half serious.

I was a terror on that trip. I shouted at my mom and called my grandad a fogey. I even took my brothers ice cream cone and threw it in the trash when my parents told us to get lost for a while.

So when I look at this photo I think about my mother then. I think about how nice she was, how terrible she must have thought I was. And I wish I knew what Polaroid I handed her. It was probably a curb or a ceiling or a water fountain. Those are the memories I shared with her. That’s what she thought I saw.

Story by Cameron Maynard

Polaroid #139

139CONSEQUENCES
Heh, Bobbie, put the camera down! Come on, I said put it down, your mother don’t like it. Tell him, Maggie, tell him how you don’t like it.
I don’t like it.
See, I told you she don’t like it. Now, put it down.
Your father don’t like it too.
Damn right, I don’t like it.
It’s an invasion.
An invasion that’s right! See how your mother talks now, see how your camera is invading, invading her, invading our space.
It’s a mealtime, Bobbie.
A mealtime, yes, it’s a mealtime!
And we want to eat.
You said it, Maggie. We want to eat, and we want to eat in peace and not have our picture taken.
Bobbie, please put the camera down.
Put it down or I’ll smash the goddamn thing!
Ron, don’t talk like that to Bobbie.
Woah, don’t start on me.
I’m not, but you shouldn’t make threats.
See what you’ve done, Bobbie? You and your camera has caused friction, turned your mother against me.
I’m not against you.
I know; it’s a figure of speech, Maggie.  Just like me saying I’d smash the camera.
You wouldn’t smash it?
No, but I’d like to.
Bobbie, your father is upset, put the camera down or I’ll smash it.
Ha! Good on you, Maggie. Your mother has balls, Bobbie. Balls!
I don’t have balls.
It’s a figure of  . . .
Speech?
Yes, a figure of speech. Now put the camera down or I can’t answer for the consequences.

Story by Alan McCormick

Polaroid #82

82She had no idea I was going to break up with her that night. All she had to do was put her hands together in that silly manner, say “hoppety hop” and I would melt. She knew it. I never could resist my little bunny foo foo. I’m even not sure when we came up the name, sometime when were drunk or high surely. In any case, that night, I managed to resist. You’re too much for me, I said. I’m not ready. Or words that were similar in their meaning. I hate you, she replied. You are the worst thing that has ever happened to me. Those words are exact. I never forgot those. There were others, but I don’t want to think of them now. All I want is to live in this picture, when she was still happy with me. We had gone with Trisha to a diner after a party and for once we acted as if we loved each other. So much so, I almost believed it myself. Whenever I think of her now, I don’t so much miss her, but I miss that character she would childishly play, my little bunny foo foo.

Story by Sonya Redi

Polaroid #62

62Montreal winters used to get me down. Especially after Herb passed on. Cold that seeped through your bones into your soul. ‘Miami’, my hairdresser said. ‘Fly south. Join the snowbirds’. So I sold our house, cashed in Herb’s life insurance and bought a place. Nice little condo with a communal pool. Year round sun in an ice cream city. I play a bit of bridge, drink gin cocktails, read. And swim in the pool. That feeling of warmth and weightlessness, like being back in the womb.

You might think I’d avoid pools after what happened to Herb. Though things weren’t always easy between us. He had a temper on him. Used to drink, Canadian Club mostly, and sometimes he’d hit me. But he always said sorry. We never had children. Herb had no time for them. And I couldn’t get pregnant. That time he punched me in the stomach, they said might have had something to do with it.

Anyway, we had a pool in the back garden. Herb complained about its upkeep. Never liked swimming. One late autumn day, he was trying to clear leaves from the water. Lost his balance and fell in. It was frosty. Treacherous underfoot. Anyone could have slipped. Somehow, he became entangled with the pool cover. I saw the whole thing from the kitchen as I was pressing an ice pack to my temple. We’d had another row. About some younger floozy he’d been seeing. He said he was leaving. ‘You’re nothing but a dried-up old bitch, Margot,’ he yelled. And then he slapped me and stormed into the garden. I heard his cries and saw him thrashing. Water churning. The ice pack felt cool on my face. I turned away and went into the living room. Mixed myself a large gin cocktail. The police called it an accident. ‘So sorry for your loss, Mrs Beausoleil’.

I feel much calmer now, living here where the sun always shines. It’s been fifteen golden years. I’d heard the people who bought our house filled in the pool. Superstitious types. Something about a man drowning.

Story by Cath Slessor

Polaroid #164

164If I close my eyes I can still smell that damn horse. I think his name was Xavier or something like that. My mom knew a guy that worked down at the stables uptown, she worked in his wife’s office. I couldn’t really believe my eyes when the trailer pulled up in our driveway. It was a hot summer morning and I was in one of my moods because my mom decided to dress me and my little brother like twins. I wanted to wear my new speed racer tee we found at the thrift but noooo. My brother didn’t mind, always wanting to be like me. Anyways, right when that oversized truck pulled up, all that was forgotten. Through the open slits in the trail, Xavier looked right at me with one of his big, blinking brown eyes. when he walked out the whole world seem to stop. His legs prancing gracefully. I bet he knew all eyes were on him. He was the biggest thing I’d ever seen. his spots reminded of the horses the indians would ride in those John Wayne films my grandpa used to watch. Once I was on his back I felt like a king. of course, my brother had to join me up there but it didn’t even matter. I was on top of the world, looking down on all the adults like they’ve always  done to me. I felt powerful, connected to my glorious steed. I was hercules and he was my pegasus! So now, I own eight horses and every time I climb on their backs, those vivid emotions flood back through me and for a second, I am a child again.

Story by Mario Rodriguez

Polaroid #83

83There he lived.
Tangled in his dreams and blankets.
The greatest 7 years of my life.
My son. The son I’ve raised alone for 7 years, with pride. He’s made me whole. Ways I didn’t think were possible. He showed me what it is to be kind. By the time he learned to speak I learned tolerance and compassion. Everyone told me I couldn’t support him on my own, a boy requires a dad they said. Everybody mentioned my age as if being 16 made me any less capable. Sure I didn’t have a degree or a million dollars but when did love stop being enough. We’re okay without a degree, and a million dollars. The diner pays enough, and our apartment is the place we call home. He has his own room furnished, and scattered with trinkets. He eats 3 healthy meals,and snacks during the day. He’s bathed and well-outfitted every day. He’s happy and loved.
Yes, I sleep on the sofa and skip meals here and there. No, I have not bought a new outfit in four years or had a day off in 6. I’d give everything to see my boy grin. I’d give everything to hear his giggle all day long. When I go to work I make sure he knows I’ll be back and that he will be missed and loved all day long even when he’s sleeping. When I can’t sleep I lay next to him and just listen to him breathing. I haven’t been good my whole life, I’ve haven’t always made the best choices. But never would I give up these moments to go back and be prom queen instead of having my son, instead of enjoying the greatest 7 years of my life.
Tangled in his dreams and blankets.
There he lived.

Story by Denielle M. 

Polaroid #55

55That’s my grandson, Luke, standing by the car. He’s holding a postcard of some building he saw on vacation, he’s always collecting pictures of buildings. He wanted the license plate in the picture because it’s my car and my name and he thinks I’m really famous.

Unless you grew up in the Bay area, you probably don’t recognize the name Eddie Hart. People from around here still remember it. I played baseball for the San Francisco Giants for nine years, 1959-1968. We weren’t a powerhouse team, but in 1962 we managed it make it to the World Series. It was a great experience except we lost the final game to those damn Yankees.

I always played left field, Willie Mays was over in center. Willie was something else. He overshadowed everybody but I like to think I wasn’t too bad. In fact, one year, 1966, I even went to the All-Star game.

I don’t want to get too carried away here. I wasn’t Hall of Fame material like Willie, but I had a good solid career and followed my active playing days with a few years of coaching before retiring from the game for good.

I want to get back to Luke because he’s the point of all this. He idolizes me, always telling his friends about how great I am, showing them my gloves and scrapbooks. He says he wants to play baseball, too, and be just like me. Of course that’s a compliment, but I hope he stops and thinks about it.

“You can be anything you want” isn’t entirely true but I tell him to act as though it is. You want to play ball? Go ahead and be the best damn player you can be. You want to teach, be a doctor, be in the movies? Go ahead and follow that star.

But I also said, Don’t forget about those all those pictures of buildings you’ve got in your bedroom–buildings of every size and shape. Must be a reason you like collecting them and drawing them. Might be worth thinking about.

Story by Will Conway

Polaroid #63

63Hard to Tell

Four of Clubs, she was a doozy. What nerve, to come to that barbecue and pretend she didn’t know who I was. Harry’s fourth. Although it was hard to tell, thinking backwards. We were 27 then. I figured he hadn’t cheated on me except that once with his ex before our wedding, and twice afterwards with those women from work.

I always waited for Harry to come home late, tell his lies. Played solitaire to Fred Astaire dancing, Gordon Lightfoot singing, Judy Collins. Dressed to the nines. My stubbornness grew as the years went by. Sure, I confronted him a few times but he told lies without blinking. Faster than the youngsters. Than my dad. Smiled and groaned about his work, about Dan keeping him longer for a beer, about anything that came to mind. Maybe he spent the rides home thinking up lies since our standoff was to be expected. I’d be up. I’d look great. Dressed just like he might have taken me out that night.

Number nine. She had rubbed me the wrong way ever since Sunday School days. I almost left him then. But didn’t. Habits and no pension. What a sinner Harry was.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“Hi Mary! Are you in your room? I got you some fresh peaches.”

Man, that Gary is persistent. Here he is at the door again. He sure is sweet, though. Bringing fruit from the outdoor market. Maybe I should go and sit with him at lunch one day. It’s been hard to be here in this new place without my old routines.

“Mary, you look fabulous. You just don’t let life get you down, eh?”

Story by Sharon Roseman

Polaroid #165

165This was it. My favorite photo. The last actual photo of me and Alyssa. The love of my life. I know that most people would jump me for burning this photo. But sometimes, letting go is a great way to start over. Just because I’m burning and getting rid of my favorite photo for good, doesn’t mean that I’ll forget her.

She is etched… Engraved, into my mind, heart, and soul. My sweet, sweet Alyssa. Burning this will ease the constant pain and hurt I am in. She didn’t deserve to be shot. She didn’t deserve to die. Damn, it would’ve made me feel better if I was shot too. At least I would know that my baby is alive and well.

My love, my one, true, passionate, beautiful, one and only love, has been taken away from me. Just because of her skin. “America is a free country.” Everyone says and believes that. Then, why do people use and abuse the freedom and power they are given just to take the lives of colored, innocent people? The world is corrupt. It is full of corrupt people.

I feel like my heart has been ripped out of my body and torn into pieces. Pain is all I feel, but… I feel power and strength as well. What has happened to me has given me a voice. Not only for my people. But for Alyssa. My love. I’ll meet your there Love. Wait for me. I’ll be there before you know it.

Story by Indigo M. 

Polaroid #117

117If any of my other ex-husbands asked me over for a cookout and I’d tell them to go suck an egg. But Harry’s different. Underneath it all I always thought he was a half-decent guy so I went. Besides, it was his birthday. Well, smack my fanny and call me Sweetheart, it was an eye-opener.

He’d bought a trailer in a place called “Sunset Acres.” Not a bad spot as those things go. There was a nice little crowd gathered–some of his retirement buddies, a few couples from the neighborhood. I found him standing by the grill. Once my jaw stopped dropping I made him pose for this picture. Had to get the red shorts-and-shirt combo topped off with that big ol’ cowboy hat.

But this was Harry? Old conservative Harry who wore a grey suit and white shirt every day of his life, who trudged off to his accounting office like a drone? I’m watching him at the grill with that open shirt showing a little chest hair and I’m thinking . . . Really? This is the same guy who, when I’d give him the side-eye and drop a hint about heading for the sack would start talking about differential revenues or straight-line methods of amortization.

I was still reeling from these changes when the door to his trailer swung open and out stepped his new wife. At that point I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a sweet young thing from the titty bar down the road. Instead, it was a nice looking woman our own age. Slender with a good tan. She walked over to Harry, gave him a peck on the cheek, then joined a group of their friends in the backyard. I watched her hold court, regaling them with jokes that prompted loud, raucous laughter.

Harry was my first husband and I had two more after him, each one worst than the last. I took another bite of my burger and wished to hell I’d stuck with Harry.

Story by Will Conway

Polaroid #116

116The Open Stool

“You want to know how it happened”? I smile, “well then, here it goes”.
. . .
That night seemed like the usual, filling beers, wiping the bar, and entertaining customers. The neon sign out front reflected in the window, its flash, hypnotic. If the sign read OPEN then the place was packed. The bar always smelled like a mixture of alcohol, cigarette smoke, and a small hint of vanilla from the candle in the back. That night the sound of laughter was overwhelming, and paper Christmas trees were strewn across the room in green, red, and yellow. A jolly snowman danced on the silent television behind me.
You wouldn’t have expected a bar to be that crowded on Christmas Eve, but that place was different. An open bar stool in there was like a winning lottery ticket. I heard the sound of the bells above the door ring signaling someone’s entrance. “Open bar seat” I laugh under my breath as the girl next to Marcus (a regular) stood up to leave. I reached below the bar and pulled out another stack of coasters and sat them on the counter. An empty glass from the other end of the bar slid at me, I pushed the beer nozzle down over the glass and looked up at the before empty seat. That was when I made eye contact with the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Her green eyes glimmered and her white smile sparkled when she looked back at me. Suddenly, I felt my wet shirt and realized that I had missed the glass and was soaked with beer. I saw her mouth drop open, and she tried not to giggle as she took the napkins sitting next to her and attempted to dry me.
. . .
“She had been cleaning up my messes ever since.” I look down with a smile at my child gathered on the floor. “And that is how I met your mother.”

Story by Danielle Schumaker

Polaroid #114

114Some Kinds of Silence

Zelda pulled her shoulders back. She could remember her mother’s fingers digging into them, correcting Zelda’s posture. Saidie would hang on like she was the grey matted cat Letty leaning against the sofa, stretching her back legs. Or like cousin Mikey who pulled Zelda down from behind once, filling her nostrils with chlorine.

It seems like Saidie had always been so much shorter than her. By the time Zelda was 14, Saidie would tell her off every evening before supper. Every frustrating thing that had happened during the day would be squeezed into complaints. Saidie’s raspy voice would float upward, her cracked, crooked hands hacking through the kitchen air. Doing nothing to dissipate the grease smells or to stop the pots from boiling into the crack between the stove and the counter. Zelda tried to avoid sit-downs at the kitchen table. She would wait until Saidie said “For God’s sake, what are you doing. Set the table! We need to eat now.” One time, only one time, she made the mistake of responding to the onslaught before Saidie was done. Saidie’s left hand had wobbled, her neck had strained as she poked her chin higher, and she pulled at Zelda’s right arm and told her to sit. The barrage had stopped but Zelda felt more nauseous than ever.

Today, Zelda tried to look dignified. Her arms were tanned from working in the garden but her hats protected her face. After all these years, she could hear her mother’s admonishments. She needed to look pretty. She needed to smile but not grin. She needed to pause before she saw Saidie’s now wandering eyes. She would sit at the table. She would wait for an onslaught. She would hold her head steady and think about the sadness of some kinds of silence. She would gauge but not respond. She would wait. Smile but not grin.

Story by Sharon Roseman

Polaroid # 156

156It had been a year since the last time that I see my parents living so far apart it seems as though the only time I can make it to see my parents is at Christmastime. I look forward to this time of year a chance to catch up with family and friends, and of course my mother’s cooking. Every year at Christmas my mother spares no expense creating the eating extravaganza, turkey, ham, and all the trimmings.
It is good to be back home for a while looking around at this old house it brings back the memories of years gone by. I couldn’t help but notice that not too many things have changed in this house my parents had left it in the same condition as when I grew up, I suppose they keep it this way to remember the past in their own way.
The night of the Christmas celebration was very enduring, family and friends telling old stores most of them have been told several times before, but with new embellishments here and there. Most of the family have showed up except for those that had past along in the last few years, and the ones that had prior invites with other family members.
Then the best part of the evening commences my mother’s cooking, I guess every son or daughter believe their mother to be the best cooks in the world, I am no exception to this rule. I look forward to this part of the evening the mouthwatering smells the colors from the displays fills the census, and recalls memories from the past.
Once again the celebration is over relatives depart the last of the leftovers are gone it’s time for the long plane trip back home. As I leave thinking back to the celebration I hope there is more of them to come. That my parents health will hold, and we will make another happy reunion the next year.

Story by Dennis Endresen

Polaroid #42

42THAT BEARD
You son-of-a-bitch, you grew that beard. You said you would, and you did. There, I expect you’re pleased about it too. You look pleased anyway. I always preferred you clean-shaven (but you knew that, didn’t you?). I expect you think you’re channelling John Huston or Ernest Hemmingway, a maverick silver fox with a wise sprouting Moses bush under your chin? A lived in beard that shouts ‘experience!’ A beard of ages, right? Wrong! You look like a well-groomed small town classics lecturer coming up to retirement. Retire the beard I say! It’s a statement and the statement isn’t worth making. Shave it off, come back to me, and all will be forgiven. I’ll pluck the stubble, rub moisturiser into the pores and slap your cheeks with Old Spice. You left a bottle on the bathroom shelf; it won’t have gone off yet. Then we can go dancing like old times. I won’t ask where you’ve been but I want you to hold me like you mean it. I want you close. I want your breath on my neck, but if a whisker scratches me, I’ll claw your back. Like you used to like me doing, deep and slow.

Story by Alan McCormick

Polaroid #91

91Oh my God, I remember that photo. That must be thirty years old, at least. We were all crammed into Aunt Edith’s flat for the weekend. I hated that place. No air conditioning, too small to move around, no place to go, only some ballgame on TV. Still, family is family. And there they sit. We called them the Four Horsewomen of the Apocalypse. Well, not to their faces, although Mom found out. I think she thought it was funny. Aunt Edith wouldn’t have. She would have boxed your ears and bitten her knuckle at you. But, Mom was the baby. God knows what bossing she put up with growing up. She claims she never got anything new, nothing that was wholly hers, until she and Dad married and moved away. Neenaw looked just like them, or rather, they looked just like her. Solid. Trying to be feminine but built like dock workers. Competitive to a fault. They elevated bickering and cruel remarks to a high art. But if you joined in or expressed a derogatory opinion about one to any of the others you could expect to get smacked down. That was their game. That’s me in the photo cube. I doubt it always sat in the middle of the table. I’m sure Aunt Edith put it there to goad Mom – “see, Shelly, I love your kids. Here they are on the table.” B.S.. Can I tell you how grateful I am that I take after Dad.

Story by Steven Yancey

Polaroid #143

143This is Momma at her graduation ceremony, at least that’s what she called it. There weren’t any caps or gowns or tasseled hats, but she did her best to dress for the occasion. Before this, Momma had been in prison. She went in when she was a little girl and never came out. Her room inside the prison was small and her cell didn’t have any windows. It had a big iron door no one could open–she could push on one side while someone pulled on the other and still that door wouldn’t budge. I guess it had just rusted in place so there was nothing anyone could do, and there Momma stayed until about six months ago.

Momma went to prison she was seven or eight years old. She was walking down the street and two dogs, all she could say later was that they were big and brown, ran out of an alley and attacked her like she was some criminal. No one heard her screaming, at least no one came, and by the time those dogs were done, Momma was bleeding from head to toe. When she finally got out of the hospital she had a lot of scars and from that day on she couldn’t look at a dog, even a picture of one, without screaming. If she heard one barking down the street, even if she was safe inside, she’d do the same thing.

Momma rarely left the house and might have stayed in her prison forever if it wasn’t for this lady shrink who persuaded her to try a desensitization program. After she taught Momma some relaxation techniques, she started with sounds and then pictures. It wasn’t easy but Momma was determined and kept at it. Then, after a long time, she actually saw a dog, then patted a dog, then took a little one for a walk.

On this final day, she walked a whole gang of dogs and kept looking at them to make sure she wasn’t dreaming.

Story by Will Conway

Polariod #129

129Kathy remembers all the summers she spent idly, exploring one fleeting hobby or another. Kathy and her mother lived in a rural area, with Kathy’s grandparents. Her father had died in a car accident a few years ago and so Kathy and her mother moved a few miles out of town to stay with her dead father’s parents. They ended up never leaving.

Kathy’s grandparents were respected members of the community. Her grandfather was a County Legislator in the 1970’s, and then later, after he retired, his wife won his seat. Kathy’s grandmother was the first woman to ever hold elected office in their county, and Kathy’s mom seemed really proud of her it. Kathy’s grandmother encouraged her granddaughter to have interests, and to pursue her interests.

Kathy spent a good part of one whole summer at an astronomy camp. Her grandparents drove her over 100 miles to a university, where she would stay for two weeks learning about stars and planets and how to use a telescope.

At that camp, Kathy met a girl who would later become her first lover during college. They had stayed in touch all through middle and high school, writing letters and picking out summer camps they could attend together. A couple times, they even got to spend weekends with each other, at one or another’s house. Kathy’s mom hated driving but her grandmother thought it was good for her to get out a little, and they often took turns driving.

One summer, when Kathy entered the 11th grade, her grandmother stopped wanting to go on the drives. She retired as a County Legislator the following year, right before Kathy left for college. Her grandmother was not able to make the drive to the university to see her granddaughter off. She ended up dying during Kathy’s second year of school, right after she and her girlfriend had broken up. Kathy sat on her bed in her room and thought back to astronomy camp, to all those stars and planets and the things that would end up outlasting her and everyone she ever knew.

Story by Cara Long Corra

Polaroid #109

109“Smile,” he snarled through clenched teeth.

I never understood why these pictures were so important to him. Maybe he wanted to freeze the moments I looked happy in to try to justify his mistreatment of me in all of the others. I cried every day. He had ruined me.

He was 32. I was 18. “Legal,” he always said when I told him he was a pedophile and a pervert.

I was still a child when I met him, at least in all the ways that counted. I only wanted the attention, not the psychosis that followed. I never, ever loved him. And he most certainly did not love me despite his effort to convince me that he did.

It was six o’clock, which meant I was three minutes late for dinner preparation. I had to hurry. Late for prep meant late for the meal, which meant his bath wouldn’t be drawn on time, and I wouldn’t be ready for the excruciating evening on time, either.

Holy shit, I hated when he did that. It was his fault I was late, but even fifteen seconds off schedule meant I wouldn’t get to eat tomorrow.

He said he punished me because he loved me. He was cruel in attempt to teach me the way young ladies should behave. I’m pretty sure though, he was just waiting for me to take off just so he could find me, and end me.

It was eight o’clock. Maybe he didn’t notice I was behind schedule?

He walked in with a big, cynical grin on his face. He definitely remembered.

Story by Kendra Penningroth

Polaroid #148

148What We Sacrifice

“Oh, look here, here we are on New Year’s Eve,” she said, holding up the faded Polaroid. “Your grandpa and I had a good time that night. He was a hell of a dancer.”

I glanced up at her from my phone. “Really? He didn’t seem like the dancing type.”

She set the picture gently on top of the others that were fanned out around her in a circle on the floor and curled her wrinkled hands over each other in her lap. She looked like a giant centerpiece meant for the dining room table.

“Can I see it?”

She handed it to me.“Who wrote the caption? Why is there a question mark after ‘lovely couple’?”

“I think the host was too drunk to remember our names.”

I handed it back.

“Your grandpa was a good man. He worked hard.” she said, rubbing her thumb over the caption. “We had some hard times. We made sacrifices.”

“Well, you made sacrifices,” I replied, then immediately felt the urge to take it back. “I just mean, you dropped out of art school for him, right? That’s what mom told me. That you were about to graduate, and he wouldn’t wait for you, so you left with him.”

“Sometimes you have to take a chance and hope for the best,” she said, a hint of sadness hanging from the edges of her words now.

“And then you came here? To Ohio? And started the family?”

“Yes, we did. Nine kids in all. Nine.”

“That’s a lot of kids, Grandma.”

“Yes, it is.”

I looked at her hands, the hands that had painted the only picture she took with her when she left California with my grandpa, the one that hung on my bedroom wall, the one I had discovered and stolen from piles of clutter meant for a yard sale.

She looked at the Polaroid then buried it under the others. “But he was a hell of a dancer,” she said again and began sorting through another box of pictures.

Story by Robin Littell

Polaroid #154

154“Back when we was growin’ up we’d catch 12 pounders all the time.”

“You’d catch 12 pound Bluegills, Grandpa?”

“No, we only caught Northern Pike back then.”

“In your pond?”

“No, up on the ‘ole lake.”

“Lake Erie?”

“Lake Chautauqua.”

“Where’s that?”

“Up north, kiddo.”

“Gotcha. Who are those other guys in the picture?”

“This was your uncle Charlie. He’s on the left.”

“Do I know him?”

“No, he died before you was born.”

“Who’s next to him?”

“That’s my ‘ole bud from the lake, Louis. He’s long gone.”

“Oh, okay. And that’s you? In the hat?”

“That’s what it says.”

“Who’s the guy in the white?”

“My uncle. His name was James.”

“Was he nice?”

“He was real nice. He used to give us kids beer all the time.”

“Then who was he? In the vest?”

“Oh, that was Clarence. He joined the Marines a year or so after that.”

“So who were you writing that to?”

“Your Gramma Doris.”

“Why? Did she forget what you looked like?”

“I was just teasin’ her. She said I’d come home all tan, and she wouldn’t recognize me.”

“Why did they spell Kiefer weird?”

“Everyone spelled it differently back then. Only your Gramma would get her panties in a twist.”

“You didn’t get mad?”

“Nope, people knew what they meant when they spelled it.”

“Were you married to Gramma Doris then?”

“No, this was the summer of ’79. I asked her to marry me just a month or somethin’ later.”

“When did you have Daddy?”

“He was our honeymoon gift.”

Story by Allison B. Kiefer

Polaroid #148

148Lovely Couple? Sure, why not? He was great fun, always cutting up. He had been a bomber pilot during the war. A man of action. And she was ‘just the sweetest thing’. Linda wrote that on the photo after we left their house New Year’s Day. Christmas was good but we stayed too long. I think they were glad to see us go. Not really, maybe, but at least they could get back into their routines. He palled around with his buddies and took the dog for a walk – any excuse to be ‘someplace else’. She sat alone a lot. She didn’t really care too much for TV. She couldn’t hear it very well and he complained if it was too loud. “Makes the dog nervous,” he said. She had taught herself to crochet but no one really wanted the doilies she made. Not even her. But it was something to do. She loved that crazy light fixture. She mentioned she would like a new lamp and we gave it to her one Christmas as a joke. “Mom, this is your booger prize,” Dad told her when we put the box in her lap. She had him hang it in a place of pride. “I think of you all when I see it”, she said. We never knew if that was good or bad. We didn’t know he had a little something on the side until the funeral and “she” showed up. Grandmother knew. She had known for years. She was gracious to the lady. We stayed out of it. Even Dad. “I gave him a lot”, she said, “but not everything he wanted. Why should I deny him a little happiness?” Relationships find their level.

Lovely Couple? Sure, why not?

Story by Steven Yancey

Polaroid #51

51The night this picture was taken was the last time I saw Joseph.

I was 17, on my way to graduatin’ high school. Joseph was 20; he was waitin’ around in this small town for me. When I graduated, we was gettin’ married and leavin’ this town.

We was at the little diner in town, announcin’ our engagement. Our friends Louis and Lucy was congratulatin’ us, helpin’ us plan out the next few years of our life together.

We sat at the table, laughin’ and havin’ a good time. Benny, the bartender, brought over our usual beers and set them down.

“Can I have a soda tonight, Benny?” I asked.

Joseph winked at me and squeezed my knee.

“So next is a house and then…. A baby,” Lucy said with a giggle. We all laughed, especially me and Joseph. If only they knew.

Hours later, I was gettin’ tired, and Lucy offered to walk me home. Joseph kissed my forehead, and held me close to him.

I was halfway out the door when I heard the shocked “Hey!”

I turned just in time to see Joseph, runnin’ at a white man at the bar. The white man was holdin’ a gun.

“Joseph!” I screamed.

I ran toward him, but Lucy had a firm grip on my arm.

A gunshot went off. My ears rang, my vision went black. My voice was hoarse when Lucy finally got me to the street.

“Joseph! Where is he?!” I screamed.

Louis came out of the diner.

“Louis, where’s Joseph?” Louis looked at me, his face pale.

I heard the sirens before I saw the cop cars. They surrounded the diner. A group had formed, all forcing me back, not lettin’ me inside.

Then they wheeled him out. One bloody, white sheet coverin’ him.

One bullet wound to the head. My world stopped.

I never married after that, but I raised our son on my own. In the town his daddy grew up in, the town we found love in.

One bullet wound to the head, on the happiest day of our lives.

Story by Autumn Campbell

Polaroid #44

44

This was a long time ago.  Before I left the Florida backwater where I was born.  Before I had a baby.  Look at me, a baby myself.  What a mess. And then that screaming, wide-eyed baby Ralph when I was 16 years old. I called him after the boy I thought was his father.  That’s not what I told anyone at the time, but to this day I believe the kid’s father was Ralph Debaux. Handsome Ralph.  The starter for my high school’s rival football team.  Good old Ralph.

It doesn’t do me any good to think about those days, that place.  I’m where I belong now. I built my life in Miami from nothing.  Waitress, bar maid, hostess.  No matter where I was I watched and I listened to women who came here from up north.  The way they spoke, how they walked, how they dressed.  Emulating.  I emulated them.  I slept with their husbands. I got presents, nice clothes and jewelry.  I did that until I didn’t have to do it anymore.  I knew I was smart.  All I had to do was look the part.  I’ll never forget how nervous I was when I interviewed for the front desk job at the Fontainebleau.  My print cotton shift with a pastel cardigan buttoned at the top, compliments of an affair with an engineer down from New York for a conference.  Ballet slippers.  Nails short and clean.  I could have stepped out of a Lilli Pulitzer catalogue.  Not that I knew who she was.  

Oh how I loved to work and it was noticed.  Soon enough I was front desk supervisor, then front office manager.  I put myself on a path and I didn’t let anything distract me.  Not anything. Now here I am, General Manager of the Fontainebleau.  I have a corner office with a spectacular view of Miami Beach, The shoreline, the yachts, the lights from clubs and hotels.   

Look at this picture.  This was a very long time ago.  I don’t even know this girl.

Story by T. Giordano

Polaroid #30

30July 29th 1995

Still on holiday. Day was okay. I got a present from mum, The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing. ‘I read it when I was your age’ kind of thing. My brother said why do I not get anything and my dad says have you said thank you to your mum. Mum says she’s really glad she’s got this for me. I say thank you.

I laid in bed this morning. I wasn’t doing anything. I was lying in bed, that’s all I was doing. I was looking at the curtains, graciously blowing in the wind. The light linen curtains flirting with my bedroom walls. I was looking at the ceiling, I was looking at the fan. I was contemplating the reminiscences of past summers in this room, sleeping restful sleeps sometimes, smelling those smells of growing laurel-leaves and vines, hearing the wind against the glass windows, listening to the morning birds, thinking about those people who can identify birds, thinking they’re the same people who know what trees are called, or where the wind comes from.

When mum asked what were you doing in that room I said I was reading and I lied.

Later on today I will get my hair cut. I just need little trim, really. I’ve got a magazine with a photo of a girl in it and I’m going to ask for the same hair as her. And later in the week I’ll ask mum if I can get my nails done. Maybe bubblegum pink? That’s like a light pink.

Story by Anna Lounguine

Polaroid #98

98“Before we eat I wanna tell ya’ll something.”

Forks full of turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing were halfway to people’s mouths. Everyone set them down, not wanting to disrespect their elder.

“I can’t think of the right words to describe how blessed I am to have each and every one of you in this family. God must’ve smiled down on your Gramma and me when he blessed us with all of ya’ll. I guess I just wanted to thank ya’ll for being the amazing people you are and tell ya how much I love you.”

Pops sat back down, tears dangerously close from spilling over his lids while the adults wiped at their checks. My cousins and I were anxious to eat, not truly appreciating the words or the emotion of the moment.

“We’ll, don’t just look at me, dig in!”

And with that, Thanksgiving was back on track. Forks and knives worked and scratched against the stark white china. Dishes passed from hand to hand for seconds and then for thirds. My cousin spilled his drink, and my aunt scolded him. The women helped Gramma with the dishes and leftovers while we kids explored the small patch of woods behind the house. My sister had just gotten a camera and was running around snapping photos of everyone, and that’s when this picture was taken.

I wish the sadness on Pops’ face was as clear to us that day as it is looking at this picture. Maybe we could have stopped him, or maybe the phone call early the next morning wouldn’t have been so shocking. The shrill, nonstop rings of the telephone woke me up.

“Hello?” I said groggily, my voice not betraying who had picked up.

Aunt Nicole was on the other end, and she had just talked to Aunt Jackie, who had just talked to Gramma. The family phone tree was on fire, disrupting the silence of the night.

“Pops is gone. He took his life.”

Story by Madison M. Haggerty

Polaroid #104

104Blame it on Holden Caulfield.  Or Jack Kerouac.  Or maybe you could blame it on the fact that no one gave a damn about me until I ran away.  Whatever the case, three days ago, I came to the decision that my old life just wasn’t doing it for me.  Stuffing a backpack with a few changes of clothes, my toothbrush, some food, my “life savings,” and my copies of “Catcher in the Rye” and “On the Road,” I left home and decided I’d start life anew as a wanderer.  Though I look pretty small for my age, I could take care of myself.  Unfortunately, in those few days, I didn’t manage to make it very far, mostly because I realized no one was really willing to let a kid hitchhike with them.  Then, about a half hour ago, the local authorities and my parents finally managed to catch up with me.  They found me in a hotel lobby a mere three counties away.  Of course, my family made a big show of looking relieved.  My mom was crying and wouldn’t stop hugging me.  My dad, in an impassioned frenzy, snapped this photo “as a reminder,” he put it, that I’d learned my lesson.  Now, as I sulk in the backseat of my dad’s car, watching the glow of the streetlights pass outside the window, they’re as silent as statues.  But mark my words, I’m already planning my next escape.  And this time, I’ll be sure that they won’t ever find me.

Story by Chester Sakamoto

Polaroid #136

136I shuffle through the pile of photographs on my desk trying to decide which I want to pin to my dorm wall. A small square picture catches my eyes. I blink as the tears immediately fill my eyes and I am lost in a familiar memory.

My twin Sarah and I were only fourteen. We were at our brother’s 21st birthday party, and mom let us have one of the margaritas sitting in tulip shaped glasses on the smooth black table cloth. I remembered the stem feeling cool against my sweaty hands. I looked excitedly at Sarah and she had the same wide eyed expression of glee on her face. We immediately set off to find our cousin Rebecca, the only one we knew who had a camera.

“Please take a picture of us,” Sarah begged, as she threw Rebecca a bright smile. Rebecca agreed because no one could say no to Sarah’s bright blue eyes and contagious smile. Sarah draped her arm around my shoulder and clinked her glass against mine. I squinted in the sun and Rebecca counted to three and pressed down on the shutter. Sarah skipped over to grab the photograph.

“So we don’t forget,” she whispered and then spun away balancing the glass in her hand.

And I wouldn’t. Not ever.

Two months later I was gathered with the same family and friends but we weren’t smiling or holding sweet pink drinks. Instead of sticky sweet juice on my lips, I tasted the saltiness of tears. Sarah had died only days before in a car accident involving a school bus and her boyfriend’s old ford pickup. She died on impact, her slender body twisted and broken, her blond hair that so resembled mine, matted with blood. And that bright smile that changed lives was broken. Like my heart.

I add the picture to the small pile on my right and brush my hand against the tears drying on my face.

Story by Katie L. Kline

Polaroid #52

52I took her picture just as the policeman appeared at the door (she’d wanted me to record her new dress and the special celebration dinner). At first, Jun couldn’t understand him. Her English isn’t very good and the policeman was talking too fast. I translated it into Japanese for her. It wasn’t good news–her husband had been very seriously hurt in a traffic accident and was now at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center. He tried to reassure her it was one of San Francisco’s best.

Evidentially, Takashi had been walking home along Geary Boulevard when it happened. From what they were able to reconstruct, a three-year-old boy suddenly broke away from his mother and rushed into traffic. Takashi ran into the street to try and save him. He managed to push the boy to safety but was hit by a speeding taxi. The policeman said she should come to the hospital–right away.

In that one moment I saw Jun’s world change. For her whole life she had been a proper housewife–cooking good meals, keeping an immaculate house and dressing well. Their comfortable existence lacked only one thing–a child. They had been trying for several years to have one and that was the happy news she was planning to tell him over dinner. She found out she was pregnant.

Now, however, an avalanche of worries buried that wonderful news. Questions raced through her mind: How badly hurt was Takashi? Was he going to die? Who would run their store on 12th Avenue? How would they survive financially? And, what about the baby?

She had always taken pride in being obedient to her husband. In fact, her name meant “Obey.” Takashi was a serious man who took charge of everything, but what if he wasn’t there? She quickly turned off the stove and put on her coat. As she closed the door she wondered what it would be like if there was no one to obey but herself.

Story by Will Conway and Run Juan Huang

Polaroid #118

118There he stands in front of the sign. Smug. Mayor of Podunk. Mr. Big in Smallsville. Always dressed like he was going to a funeral. Got to make a good image, he said. “Thank You. Come Back Soon” the sign says. He designed it. He had it built. Talked someone into donating it. Why pay if you can get someone to give it to you. Think of the impression it will make and business it will bring he told them. Arm twisting. Coercion, but subtle. Smarmy, I thought, with that red heart and frou-frou lettering. And those cheap porch posts from the lumber store. He had one placed at each edge of town. Get ’em coming and going, he said. He didn’t mean it; not really. Well, maybe if you were a nice white family with well-behaved kids and you kept your grass mowed and your dog didn’t bark too loud and you were conservative and Protestant. Even better if you were Pentecostal. Otherwise, not so much. Maybe nothing overt, no real harassment or hassle. But if you knew him you knew it was there. The cops knew what he expected. They knew what would happen if they didn’t follow the rules. Still, in his mind, appearance was most important. He believed his own stories. The fact that his children avoided him and his grandchildren were afraid of him and he yelled at his wife and called her worthless were side issues. Don’t talk about it to anyone or you’ll really get it. Wide berth. “Come Back Soon” the sign says. I made it out, Granddaddy. No, I won’t.

Story by Steven Yancey

Polaroid #21

21Betty’s mother took this photo. It was before she died in that tragic car accident; before her father got a job at the Portland General Electric Company; before people started conjecturing about her mother’s affair with one of her students, a 17-year old boy who attended her literature class, forcing them to move to another city.

Her mother took that picture of us at the end of the summer that our families spent together in Fort Bragg. We used to hang out in their backyard pool: me, my big sister Lucy, Betty, her younger brother Matthew, and Jillian and Ross, our neighbours.

That year Betty was so proud of graduating junior school; she was one year older than me and I always looked up to her. That summer she taught me that there was something more about being a girl; she helped me understand the changes that our bodies were going through. I wasn’t so sure about that though. I still liked playing with the boys more than dressing up like a grown-up and talking about them all the time. I thought it was quite boring actually, but, hey, if it’s what being a woman means…  

That evening Matthew, Betty’s brother, couldn’t stop staring at Jillian; he was fascinated by her white smile and dark, frizzy hair. I remember I was very jealous at that time. I loved to play with them in the pool, but sometimes I started to feel a little bit awkward around them. Ross was too young to notice her sister’s connection to Matthew or to arouse my interest in a similar way.

Anyway, that was one of the reasons I was so interested in Betty’s attitude about being a woman, to rush into a new world made of desires, looks and rules and… It made me feel like I was up to something more important than Matthew’s friendship, like I didn’t need it anymore.

Betty and I were best friends at that time. We were sharing absolutely everything that summer. Like when she told me about her crush on J., the boy working at the diner near the beach. Or when I confessed to her that I was terrified of having my first period while swimming in the pool.

So, when she started crying that evening I was startled; I couldn’t understand why she was suddenly so sad. Then, she told me that her family was moving to Portland. She couldn’t wait to go to the new school in Sacramento, but her family had to move to Oregon instead, due to her mother’s transfer to a local public school.

I was so shocked by that news that I almost forgot that we were going out with J and his friend Paul that night… I couldn’t think about anything else, like the world just disappeared. And I didn’t even notice the warm flow between my legs, as a sharp pain broke through my lower guts…

Story by Marzia Matarese

Polaroid #35

35Wally was a good man. But really, what did we know.

During our third and final summer on duty, our last summer before college, Matt and I got to know Villa Mae’s newest and most visible tenant. Wally was the complex’s very own meet and greet service, which annoyed some but was appreciated by most.  Every morning he’d find his perch atop the stoop of Building D with his already lukewarm coffee, saluting those 8-5’ers with his famous “get paid” battle cry, and welcoming them home hours later while enjoying a Black & Mild, his favorite evening snack.

Wally didn’t have a job, like the others. But he kept himself busy, and took great pride in his work, assuming the role of our boss.

“Fellazz, the hall light in C is out. Go grab the ladder.”

“Fellazz, that railing outside F is wobblin’ and Ms. Debbie is gonna have herself a fit if it’s not fixed. Grab me my gear.”

“Fellazz, grab those brooms and get these butts outta the walkway. The twins like playin’ through here.”

The guy worked us harder than our real boss did, and when we’d make that point to him, he’d come back with the usual “Wally knows best.”  It became an endearing catch phrase used by everyone around Villa Mae, and Wally took it as a token of respect.  He didn’t have family; at least he never spoke of one, and the rumor mill buzzed about his troubles with a bookie in Detroit.  But whatever his past was, he was oblivious to it.  We liked it that way.

On our last day on the job, Wally met us in the leasing office with a pack of Black & Milds.  Before lighting up, we snapped this picture.

“Fellazz, grab that lighter and don’t sweat. This place is in good hands.  Now go get paid.”

Story by Brian Beirne

Polaroid #106

106This is Bill McGovern. Bill grew up in a small town in Oklahoma. He lived in a small, one story house with a little yard and a chicken coop. His parents, Wendy and Paul, never left the town, and therefore, Bill didn’t either. He went to school and had a pretty normal childhood. The thing about Bill was that he was always on his bike. Wherever he went into the town, Bill was always moving, either to the local ice cream shop or school playground. His view of the world never really stretched beyond his little town, though. It was his senior year of high school when he went on a school field trip to the local library. He was assigned a project on ancient Egypt, so while pulling out a book about the pyramids, a little rugged, blank-covered book fell out from behind. He opened it and saw pictures of all different places around the world with their locations written in messy handwriting below. Bill never thought places like this existed. His eyes widened with amazement, as he had never seen such beautiful images before. After that, Bill was inspired to go out and find these places. After graduation, he bought an RV and started traveling across the country. Much like when he was on his bike, he never stopped moving. It was his passion to travel endlessly. Since then, Bill has been from coast to coast multiple times, constantly discovering new, hidden places filled with so much beauty. This photo was taken on the side of the road in Colorado by his best friend whom he had met on a previous trip.

Story by Quinn Murphy

Polaroid #83

83The little angel sleeps so soundly, never knowing I am here. His mind is off to wonderland as his body stays with me. His skin is young and flawless. His hair is so soft and smooth. Some nights, I take pictures. Sometimes, I cut some bits of his hair to add to the collection. He never knows I am here.

The little angel reminds me of the last one I saw. She was not as quiet. Always making a fuss. What a mess she was, like a broken toy. I had to put her away. I do not like broken toys. But this one, not a sound in his sleep. Almost like he is dead; a beautiful little corpse. So tiny and fragile angels are. It fills me with pleasure just being so close to one. I could almost touch him, but I would not want to ruin his sleep. Sleep is vital.

The sunlight is already pouring into the windows. The windows his parents never lock. I never did like parents. Thinking they are the boss, parents should just rot away in a small corner never to be seen again. Luckily, his did not put up much of a fight. They never knew I was there. That is the beauty of sleep. You never know what is happening around you while your mind drifts away. You only realize it before it is too late, but the pain is still there. The pain never goes away. It sure is a quiet morning.

Has it been eight hours already? The little angel still rests in peace. I could stand here for eternity, but eventually all little angels wake up. Why could they not sleep forever? Why must I always help them? Well, I do not mind. I do not mind at all. It is time for one last picture.

Good morning.

My little.

Angel.

Story by Idil Evren

Polaroid #161

161I sat at a picnic table at an annual summer cookout posing for a picture while smiling and holding a beer, a sight that is often seen around the world as the two go hand in hand. I was thinking about all the different cookouts I hosted over my many summers. I knew that there were more cookouts in the past then there will be in the future, but I was happy. I was holding my beer up in an offer of cheers to all the people who see this picture and enjoy reflecting on the easy days of summer, when the weather is just right and the friends and family are happy. I have made many memories at my cookouts in the past, like when I threw the game winning touchdown pass in the annual football game, or when the grill wouldn’t work so we had to order pizza, or the time when my son proposed to his girlfriend right before all the desserts were presented. I have seen many bad days and good days outside of the cookout, but the cookout is the one day of the year where I get to sit down and reflect on everything that has happened. January 1st is not the day that marks my new year; the day of the cookout takes its place. So cheers to all the summer cookouts we’ve had, and heres to many more because the memories are endless.

Story by Maxwell DeLuca

Polaroid #86

86I remember this day as if it were yesterday. It was my family’s first car- a Ford Branco 1968. Ever since this car has entered my life, I have had a fascination with cars. The car in fact is mine today, 16 years later. Everything happened in that car. I went on fishing trips with my dad in there, hunting trips, and just regular road trips. This picture was taken when my dad first bought the car. I was so excited to get to ride in the passenger seat with him. I knew that new adventures were coming our way. That day, he took he fishing for the first time, and I caught my first snook ever. I wish there was a photograph of that fish I caught. We drove all to the west coast of Florida, where my dad grew up. That is where we truly connected and bonded. He taught me about his childhood and showed me where he grew up. There is something about that car that brings back all the good memories I had as a kid. I practically lived in that car. Once it was passed down to me, I couldn’t believe it. That car was my life. I drove to school in that car, drove my wife to our first date in that car, and even took her to the hospital to deliver our first born in that car. I will never sell this car, it will stay in our family forever, just like the memories.

Story by Angelica Bourland

Polaroid #63

63“Mommmmm, Nana won again!”

Teddy grasped for the folds on his mom’s dress.

“Oh, I’m sure Nana is just lucky,” she said, shooting a scolding glare towards me when Teddy wasn’t looking.

I laughed. A sweet lavender aroma was present in the room, even with the window ajar. A cool spring breeze crept in.

I couldn’t tell them. I’d been keeping it a secret for thirty-two years now. What would they do if they found out their 79-year-old grandma counted cards for a living? It wasn’t worth the risk.

“You want to know the trick?”

*       *       *

A powerful flash brought me back to reality.

“Jesus Tony, are you trying to give me a heart attack?”

He chuckled as he waited for the white card to slide out of the front.

“You know I’ve always hated that thing,” I sighed. “Why not just live in the now?”

I rearranged the cards that had been flipped from my jackass partner scaring me. Tomorrow was the big day, and we didn’t need anything, especially not him, messing it up.

There is no “right” way to count cards. Some people have huge teams, like that one M.I.T. team that got busted. They had a good thing going until they got caught and jeopardized their careers. Too many people can make things too complicated. That’s why it’s just Tony and me. Sure, it may take longer, but we’re in no rush.

I always felt more comfortable practicing my counting the night before. It’s all gone well before, but something about tomorrow was different. I tried telling myself it was the regular drill. No one would think anything of us, we’re just an old retired couple coming to have a good time.

But that burning sensation in my stomach was very prominent. This was, after all, the biggest and most heavily guarded casino in North America, and we’re just going to waltz in and cheat the system?

“Remember to not let your nerves ruin your composure,” Tony said. “It’s just another day”.

And that’s what I told myself. It’s just another day.

Story by Daniel Thomson

Polaroid #120

120Peter Pan Night

Oh that was quite a night. Memories are faint, but I have to say this story is for as few ears as possible, especially not for our parents’, right sis?

So let’s see where to start. Well, the people who were there, those are some life long friends, college friends, high school buddies. So ya, I know, this picture leaves us with a lasting memory of my enactment of my time in Peter Pan. Oh, it was in 8th grade, my moment to shine when I had all the ladies wanting to talk to me, cause theatre was cooler than sports. All right, maybe not, but it did make me a fun person to party with. I always knew how to put on a show and entertain people till the early morning.

Well, sis, I know you passed out quite early on in the evening, so just to refresh your mind, you wouldn’t stop talking to me about wanting to hook up with my best friend, so I made sure that you had the chance, though you fucked it up by drinking too much too fast, but you did still manage to make a nice impression on him. Let’s just say you still went to bed with him, except he was much too kind and slept on the floor beside your bed since, well, it was a single bed from when you were 16, and yes, mom and dad do not need to know about that, cause you remember how they were about us having people over through high school. So hope this allows you to relive that moment as much as possible. Maybe next time pay more attention to my performance and less on the bottles and cans on the counter.

Story by Timothee

Polaroid #131

131I remember this day perfectly. I was 7 years old and it was my Uncle Steve’s birthday. Mama and I decided we were going to throw him a surprise party. Uncle Steve didn’t have many friends, so it was just going to be family.

Mama went out to get the cake so she left me in charge of putting up the balloons.

I was so excited, I felt like I was throwing the party all by myself.

I, as a young child, loved parties! All the gifts, and all the attention I want, a day completely dedicated to me. I thought my Uncle Steve would feel the same way. He was turning 40 that day.

Mom finally came back with the cake, white on white, his favorite. Soon after, my grandma and grandpa showed up and then my three crazy aunts and finally Uncle Steve’s wife. She told him she had to stop by the house to pick up an old recipe from grandma. Uncle Steve knows grandma can talk your ear off so he decided to stay in the car.

His wife came in and said she couldn’t get him out of the car, no matter what she tried. So grandpa went out and told him they could have a smoke while the girls talked if he came in. Uncle Steve could never turn down a smoke, so he groaned and got out of the car.

When he walked through the door we all yelled, “Surprise!”

Uncle Steve looked like a ghost had taken over his body. He said nothing for a few seconds but those seconds felt like minutes. Finally he said, “What the hell? You know I hate surprises!”

He slammed the front door and went back to his car.

That was the last time we ever threw a surprise party.

Story by Kyla Wenzel

Polaroid #157

157My parents were really busy when I was little, so I had to go to stay with different relatives from time to time. I would like to go to all of their houses except for my grandma’s. Every time I went to her house, her dog Bailey would bark at me harshly and pretend that he was about to bite me. My grandma loved Bailey so much that she would not stop him but gave him a doll to stop him from barking at strangers. She never yelled at him. Bailey was really smart, but it was not the only reason why my grandma loved him. On a summer evening, my grandma took him out and they were walking in a park. She saw two dogs without owners fighting with each other and she wanted to stop them. Normally, Grandma was a dog person, and even stranger dogs liked her. She had no idea one of the dogs was going to bite her on the calf. That dog almost bit the flesh from her leg. Bailey was furious, he ran to that big dog and fought with him. But other people called the ambulance and separated the two dogs.

Bailey was really frustrated while Grandma was recovering. He just stayed in his little house without eating or drinking. He also refused to go out with my grandpa. Grandma said he felt guilty because he did not protect her. On the fourth day after the incident, Grandma decided to take him out to prove that she was fine. Surprisingly, they  met that dog who bit Grandma the previous day. Bailey became aggressive and he rushed to the dog and fought him. He was so fast that Grandma could not hold the leash. Bailey was brave that day. Even though that dog was huge, he bit almost half of his ear off. Later that day, Bailey came home and ate a huge meal, feeling he had completed his mission.

Story by Lan Yang

Polaroid #93

93Wow… look at that smile.

Never has there ever been a better “before” photo. This was before his arms turned to bruised messes and his cheeks sunk in. Oh, how I miss that full, full face. He looks happy, right? Healthy, at minimum.

Had I known this winter would be our last, I would have made more time. I would have reminded him that I loved him, that mom and dad loved him, that he did not have to head to New York to chase his crazy dream of becoming a magician. He could have stayed right here, with me, where it was safe.

Maybe if I had stopped harping on him for two seconds. If I had just let him make his own choices or create his own life, he would have called me. Had he known that my love was not dependent on his success, he would have called.

Addicts relapse all the time, but he had never been addicted to drugs before. He obsessed over sports and things with wheels, sometimes women, but heroin? How could we have known?

I cannot imagine him with a lighter and a spoon… I had never even seen him sit still before. Someone must have helped him. He found someone who did not judge his decisions, who probably made him feel more adequate than I ever had, and they killed him.

I spend a lot of time trying to remember the last day he was still him. I want so badly to remember the last time I told him I loved him. Nobody really knows when he started using, but I will never forget the day he stopped.

February 17, 1989. RIP, brother.

Story by Kendra Penningroth

Polaroid #58

58The power went out, and I was home alone. It was the first time anything like that had ever happened to me. I froze; it was completely dark everywhere. The building had gone silent. Time seemed to hold its breath.

Then a noise in the hallway, a shamble. Then another. And now at my door. Which, I was suddenly sure, was unlocked (which was silly, it was always locked). I took three steps right into the end table. The lamp fell and shattered.

You said something then, but I couldn’t make it out. “What,” I said.

“Are. You. All. Right,” you said, in a whisper I could hear right through the door.

“Who’s there?”

“Julie. From next door. Let me in,” you whispered.

I fumbled in the dark with the bolts and the chain.

You slipped in and I shut and locked it again. “Don’t go any farther,” I said.

“Okay.”

“Broken glass.”

“Oh,” you said. ”I didn’t want to stay there by myself…”

“I’m glad you didn’t,” I said. It kind of slipped out. Julie, I was thinking. Her name is Julie. “I’m here by myself too.”

“I know. Do you have any candles?”

“No.”

“Okay then.” You lit a match and held it up between us. It was the first time I’d really seen your face.

The match burned down, and you dropped it, stepped on it.

“Wait, can you do that again?” I said. I backed up, and groped on the shelf for Mom’s camera.

I could feel you waiting in the dark.

“Okay, now do it again.”

You lit the match, and again there you were, all bright eyes and smoky shadow. I pressed the shutter button – and obliterated everything, all the magic, the mystery. I had forgotten about the flash.

You and I, Julie – we didn’t think much of that photo. We had so many “better” ones. I’m not sure when we lost track of it, probably when you died. You arranged for it to be found? How did you know I needed to see you this way again, full circle, so full of life?

Story by Kayelle Eklund

Polaroid #14

14I took this picture of Grandma. She was a sport and great fun. At least I thought so. Everyone called her Babs. Her name was Barbara. She didn’t like “Grandma” so Babs seemed to be an acceptable alternate when all the grandkids started coming along. She loved to travel. Grandpa used to joke that if you gave her five minutes notice, drove by the house slowly and left the back window down she’d throw her suitcase in and jump in after it. She always winced a little when he pulled that one out but he never wanted to go anywhere. “Someone has to feed the dogs,” he’d say. “You’re just cheap and a fuddy-duddy,” she’d throw back at him.

This was the trip we took to Six Gun Territory. I don’t think it’s there anymore. Newer, fancier, flashier, more expensive places have taken it’s place. Mom always seemed a little put out when Grandma tagged along. I never knew if it was because she felt like Grandma was in the way, or if she was just jealous because Dad would pay attention to her. Grandma did snore, and she had that constant cough. It was probably just habit. “Drainage,” she’d say, then clear her throat. When she was with us we usually got adjoining suites. Babs and the kids in one room, Mom and Dad next door. Maybe that made the trip more expensive. She always agreed to help pay but Dad would never let her. “Double holiday for me,” he’d say, and grin. Mom always turned red at that one.

I was sick this day. Babs agreed to stay in with me so the others wouldn’t miss their fun. It was a long, hot drive from Chicago to Central Florida. Anything that slowed down the pace or got us off our itinerary was a signal for Mom to do her little rant.

“You’re going to get in trouble if you use up all those Polaroids,” Grandma would say every third picture. I didn’t care. I bought the film; it was mine to waste. But, how can a captured moment be wasteful? I’m happy to still have this picture. I wish we still had Babs.

Story by Steven Yancey

Polaroid #30

30The sun had slowed to an amber glow, tucked behind the arthritic crab apple tree, where underneath, my father’s girlfriend tinied herself on the sticky plastic lounging chair. In her hands, she held the paperback of Fredrick Forsyth’s The Devil’s Alternative. Lauren and I immersed ourselves in pretend, our dashing shadows peering into the groundhog’s hole or digging moats in the dirt and filling them with water to create small pools to send the oak leaves adrift. A silver radio reproducing the tinny voice of Michael Jackson was propped next to a strong smelling purple drink and a spray bottle of water, which Barbara used to mist herself at ten minute intervals, her skin growing darker in the August heat.

I remember hearing her one day, on a day with air as thick and sordid as this one, couple with my father, his arm stiffly around her shoulder. They smiled plastic smiles, and he looked at me and Lauren, whose hair was as light and wispy as her mother’s standing there.

“What would you think if one day you had baby sister?” His voice lilted with enthusiasm, but I detected an almost indecipherable crack on the last word.  I was seven, but I remember the way my eyes got small like slivers as I thought about this and stood grounded in silence.

“No!” shouted Lauren, her stomps echoing off the unpainted walls where an air conditioner framed by oozing yellow insulation surged to life.

There was embarrassed, polite laughter from the two of them as I pushed through the screen door, its open flap letting a fly buzz through.

We never heard anymore about baby sisters. I wonder what ever happened to that idea, to that construction of future family, to that bunch of cells glowing in her belly.

Story by Erin Beirne

Polaroid #105

105These Eyes

These eyes are a blessing and a curse. People on the street will walk by me and say things like: “nice eyes.” Just like that and then they will keep walking.

I get a lot of interest from men because of these eyes. Some will tell me, “nice eyes,” but I’ll be in the dairy section or somewhere where the guy can’t just keep walking. I smile and sometimes I say, “thanks,” and sometimes we keep talking and they ask for my number and I give it to them and they call and they take me out and we have dinner. I’ll wear a business casual blouse or if they seem artsy, a baggy sweater. But they just stare and stare into my eyes and I know they’re doing it. And they always tell me again, and sometimes again that, “nice eyes.”

Sometimes we go out again and maybe once or twice after. They’ll think that cuz my eyes are like so amazing that the rest of me will just be even more amazing. But there is no way I can keep up with the expectation that the rest of me will match my eyes. So when the rest of me is not special and amazing and is just regular…or even if I was above average that wouldn’t be enough.

So it’s a curse, too, really. And I can’t see them unless I look in a mirror, so my eyes give out a lot of pleasure but I don’t get a lot in return. I just have these eyes to live up to and now I don’t even try because I used to and I know that it’s just impossible.

Story by Zac Locke

Polaroid #13


13ALL THE RAGE

I just don’t like it, Sonny.

Come on, they’re all the rage.

I can’t explain it; maybe it’s the electricity.

It can’t electrocute you, Val.

I know that but it’s macabre all the same.

I spent two hundred dollars.

I didn’t ask you to.

To make you comfortable and feel like a princess!

Well, it’s not comfortable and you shouldn’t have.

And you’re no princess, that’s for sure.

Thank you.

Don’t thank me.

Come on, stop sulking.

Why?

Sonny, you sit in it and you’ll see.

It was for you.

Please, just try.

To please you?

Yes, to please me.

Okay, but just this once, then it’s going back  . . .

What do you think?

It’s okay, it’s comfortable.

What about when I flick this switch?

Then I don’t like it.

Because?

Because it feels wrong.

So, we agree?

I suppose so, but it is all the rage.

So is herpes.

Hah, I know what you’re saying.

You’ll get your money back?

Tomorrow, when I return it.

Great, and don’t come back with anything else fancy.

Like a hot tub?

Forget the hot tub.

They’re all the rage.

I’d never plug it in.

Nah, that would be stupid.

Story by Alan McCormick

Polaroid #102

102Checking herself in the mirror. Valerie straightened her dress—it was two-years-old, but still practical for the rare social occasion. Exhausted from work and running errands, she hadn’t had much time to change but she tried to look the best she could.

Roy had called two days ago. He was flying in for business and wanted to take her out for a night on the town. This afternoon she had made arrangements. Her hotel manager allowed her to book a room for the night at a discount price. She got it just in case Roy wanted to spend the night with her.

They had met two months before. Broad-shouldered and tall, Roy was a bit burly for a businessman. But he had a kind laugh, full-bellied like Santa Claus, to go with a checkerboard smile. She didn’t understand why Roy asked her out after bumping into her in a hallway. Perhaps he felt sorry for causing her to drop the towels she had been carrying. Whatever the reason, he took her out to Larry’s Grill that evening. He held her hand and said that although his job took him everywhere, he only wanted to be in the restaurant with her. The firmness of Roy’s hands reminded Valerie of her late husband, dead five years; their strength comforted her. But something didn’t feel right, which was why Valerie wouldn’t let him kiss her goodnight on that first date.

Glancing away from the mirror, she checked the clock. Roy would arrive in fifteen minutes. The room was a mess. Turning on the television for background noise, she cleaned as a new episode of Match Game ’78 aired.

She collected her personal effects into her purse, smoothed out the bed comforter, and folded the newspaper before placing in on the night stand. Soon after the knock, there was a shuffling noise. She opened the door on Roy standing outside, hands slipping his wedding band into a coat pocket.

Story by Sean Woodard

Polaroid #86

86“Dad, what does FORD mean?”

“It’s a car brand.”

“Oh. Are we keeping this car, Dad?”

“For now. We’re fixing it as a favour for Mr Kachinsky.”

“How am I gonna fix it if I can’t even reach it? How am I gonna do anything if I can’t even reach anything? Glen Ramsay said that his cousin was born so small they had to dress her in dolls’ clothes and she only grew five inches her whole life. How many inches will I grow my whole life?”

“That depends on how many vegetables you eat.”

“But when I eat vegetables I just poop them out again. That won’t help me grow. That won’t help me do anything. Besides, don’t you think the vegetables would prefer to be eaten by someone who really likes them?”

“I don’t think the vegetables care particularly who eats them.”

“What about the car, will the car care who drives it? Maybe once you drive it, it won’t ever want to go back to Mr Kachinsky, seeing as he smells of cigarettes and canned corn and all, and then we’ll have to keep it and I’ll be able to drive around in it which will make me seem really tall. No one will know how small I am in a car this big.”

“It’s true that things aren’t always as they seem, but equally your height doesn’t tell anyone anything about you, either. Take this car, looks big, right? But it won’t match a hundred other smaller cars for speed. You understand?”

“No.”

“Why don’t you just smile for the picture?”

“So you’re saying, even though something may seem to be one thing it could really be something else?”

“Yes, exactly.”

“So even though I seem to be Robbie J. Trenton of 5 Highview Crescent, Kollowar…I could really be Robbie J. Trenton, youngest Jedi Master of the galaxy?”

“Well…I suppose.”

“Dad?”

“Yes?”

“If I get a new hermit crab, can I call him Ford?”

“The hermit crab matter is not up for debate right now.”

“Oh, okay.”

“Now smile for the picture.”

“Okay, Dad.”

Story by Izzy Savulescu

Polaroid #39

39“Dear Natasha,

Writing is the only way out so here’s a picture worth at least a thousand words. I will likely be in this cage for the rest of my life, but hopefully this picture says that “I’m strong.” My life is as disposable to them as this polaroid.

My cell mate an old Puerto Rican man named Chico snapped this shot for me. He’s like a father to me.  He told me that writing everything down is the only way I won’t lose it all. You know you really gotta watch ya back in here. And ya ass. Please write back.

Holding it down, until we meet again. Conjugal visits aren’t a myth, ya heard?

–Todd”

Natasha cried over the short note, and wrote “Love ya always” on the bottom of the polaroid. Then she pinned it on the wall next to a picture of them at the county fair, where she was holding a stuffed animal that Todd had won for shooting five yellow, rubber ducks in a row. Little did she know it was just practice.

A couple days later, Natasha’s mother went into her room to gather the laundry. She noticed the polaroid on the wall and it filled her with unspeakable fury. She snatched it down and poked four holes into his chest with a pencil that laid on Natasha’s desk. It was the same number of holes that had killed her 9 year-old son, Natasha’s little brother–the most recent victim, an innocent bystander, of a gang-related shooting by Todd’s infamous crew.

Story by Karissa Lang

Polaroid #108

108Me: What do you love most about life?

You: Sex.

Me: Are you saying that because we just did it?

You: *laughs*

Me: What is something you couldn’t give up?

You: Sex!

Me: What about being an artist? Photography?

You: What would YOU rather give up, sex or photography?

Me: Oh, fuck… I feel like I should say photography. A part of me would just die, if I had to give up making art, but I don’t know if I could live without sex.

You: I need sex.

Me: I need you.

Story by Allison DeBritz

Polaroid #14

14Daisy never wore shoes. She didn’t wear them when we met in college, and she didn’t wear them the day this picture was taken. She was in her sister’s living room that day, flipping through an old magazine. I remember she liked the magazine a lot because I could hear her making that humming noise all the time, she was always making a little humming noise when she read something she thought was interesting. I took the picture because somewhere in my old bones I felt like everything was going to be okay for the last time, that something bad was about to happen.

When you’re old, you start to prepare yourself to die. You wait for the fall or the cough that will send you to the hospital. You are fragile. That doesn’t make it any less hard, though. It wasn’t even a week later when she had the stroke. She fought hard to stay alive, but after a long fight, I let her go. I held this picture close after that, Daisy wearing white, like an angel, her shoes off the way she always liked them. I still keep the picture next to our bed. Sometimes, late at night, I can even hear her humming.

Polaroid #3

'083Mallory was thirteen. In fact, she had just turned thirteen the week before. She had spent the entire week since campaigning to get her mother to allow her to babysit. “I will only charge two dollars an hour and that’s for both boys,” she said to her mother, as she sat in front of the mirror applying her makeup. “And the boys listen to me,” she reminded her. Just then, as if to help Mallory make her point, Chucky ran in yelling that Howie was hitting him.

Mallory took him by the shoulders and led him back downstairs. Jackie, Mallory’s mother, could hear her talking to the boys. A few minutes later, Mallory came bounding back into the room. “Howie was hitting him. I took a dollar out of his bank and put it in a jar in the kitchen. I said that any time they hit each other, I was going to take a dollar and put it in the jar. I told them we would send all that money they wasted to poor kids.” Jackie laughed. “Alright Mallory,” she said. “You’re hired.”

The boys were mostly good for Mallory. She made them do their homework after school and she made them help clean the house. They could play after all that was done. Chucky complained the most and did the least, but still, he pitched in.

That summer, Mallory watched the boys a lot during the day. Her mom got a new boyfriend and he came over on the weekends. They would ride out to the beach in his car. Mallory would always open her window all the way and turn her face into the warm, salty breeze. Chucky would sometimes hold her hair back for her.

One day, the five of them built a giant sand castle. It turned out so good that no one wanted to leave it. Jackie was mad at herself for forgetting the camera at home. But they did take one picture of that day. It was of the boys, Chucky and Howie, sitting on the roof of the car in their driveway after they got home from the beach. On the back of the photo, Jackie had written “Sand Castles.” This is Mallory’s favorite memory, the one she plays over and over again.

Story by Cara Long Corra

Polaroid #125

125He was surprisingly calm when we last kissed the night as he got in his truck bound for South Dakota. I was to stay back to take care of the house and our pooch, Stinky, in Duncan, Oklahoma while he was contracted to work an unknown amount of months in the oil industry.

He called almost every night as he told me about the rigs and some of the men. He told me he was alone though and pursued his old love of facial hair. He sweet talked me every night to sleep always ending the conversation with “Scott, I love you babe, sweet dreams.”

I kept the calendar intact and 108 days later he returned, at night, just like when he left. Stinky was the first to know he was home as he rumbled down the drive coating the leafless trees in a dusty blanket.

I had gotten the voicemail the prior morning and was aware he was coming home, “Babe, I’m leavin here in a couple hours…. They abruptly told a couple of us to leave, as much as I want to be pissed it doesn’t matter cause I can’t fuckin wait to see you. Are you and Stinky gonna be home tomorrow afternoon cause I am going to drive all night if I have to so I can make it home tomorrow…. and don’t be worried, I really am not mad; you are all I can think about!” I listened to the message several times throughout the days and had just finished listening to it again when Stinky began yelpin. I ran out the front door to see that same lovely truck and that sweet smile appear as the door jarred open.

We connected as Stinky jumped up on Brad beggin for attention too. He grabbed a stick and chunked it as Stinky took off into the trees. We kissed more and went inside. I watched him as he ate the leftovers, his mustache was so hot and he looked damn fine.

“Alright, I miss that bed, and I miss you in that bed, let’s go to sleep, no more phone calls now.” He laid there unbuckled, both of us in full bliss, and I couldn’t help but take this. He was home!

Story by Chris Moody

Polaroid #94

94These are my next door neighbors, Betty and Glenn Thornton. I’ve haven’t met them yet–we just moved in a week ago–but I already know a lot about them. Glenn is a retired engineer from an airplane assembly plant. I think he worked on landing gears or stabilizers. He spends most of his day outside cutting the grass, fussing with the shrubbery, sweeping the garage–anything to keep himself occupied until he spies another person. I’ve been warned: don’t let Glenn get you in a conversation or you’ll be there all day. You’ll hear how airplanes are constructed down to the last rivet, then he’ll move on to his military career. He was in the Army’s 27th Infantry Division and saw some bloody action in the Battle of Saipan in June 1944. When he finishes mopping up the Japanese, he moves on to what it was like growing up in Kansas during the depression. I guess it’s like a newsreel run backwards.

Betty, on the other hand, is as quiet as a church mouse. Living with Glenn I suppose that’s to be expected. Years back she did modeling–of hands. Her slender hands would display bracelets and rings, watches, nail polish that sort of thing. Evidently, she used to wear white cotton gloves around the house all day keeping her well-moisturized hands in perfect shape for the next photo shoot.

If you’re wondering how I know all this, it’s courtesy of our neighbors on the other side–Tanya and Bruce. They’ve been over every day welcoming us and giving us the lowdown on the neighborhood. They’re our age and already Bruce is planning barbecues and nights out for dinner. He’s the take charge type and a bit of a know-it-all.

This Saturday I’m going to wander outside and let myself get lassoed by Glenn. My hunch is that Bruce doesn’t have it right. I figure anyone who’s grown up in hard times, survived combat on the other side of the world and then lived an honest hard-working life is worth listening to.

Story by Will Conway

Polaroid #3

'083It’s late July and the house is quiet and stuffy. Every window in the small house is opened, but the air is still thick and smells slightly of dust in such a way that is familiar to the home and somewhat comforting. The evening sun seeps through the windows and a gentle breeze brushes the curtains. I watch the clock that hangs on the faded kitchen wall above the sink, and a bead of sweat follows my spine down my back. The little hand lands on the six and and I bound up the stairs towards my little brothers room. I knock on his door before turning the knob and poking my head in. He’s sitting on his bed reading a book. I interrupt to tell him that it’s six o’clock as I do every evening.

Together, we race down the creme carpeted stairs clutching that railing in case our bodies can’t keep up with our fluttering feet. My brother reaches for the keys to the car and I push open the screen door that leads to the drive way. He opens the driver’s side door and slides the key into the ignition starting the engine, climbing back out after turning the radio on. He sets the dial to a station playing The Beatles which my mother likes.

We climb the hood of the the car and I fold my legs pulling the child onto my lap. His small legs stick to mine from the perspiration of us both but I don’t mind and neither does he. We sit on the roof of the car slightly swaying in unison to the music. We sit like this together, me and my brother, every evening waiting for my father to return from work.             

My brother is wearing his chuck Taylor’s and an old jersey. My father and him play basketball in the driveway with the old hoop nailed to the garage. It’s his favorite and if he’s finished his homework, they’ll play for hours. My favorite are these evenings. All day I look forward to sitting with my brother for a few minutes in silence beneath the crackling radio. I can feel his heartbeat on mine, occasionally synchronizing with the music, or speeding up slightly when our father’s car rounds the corner. Sometimes he traces shapes on my legs with his small fingers or fiddles with my shoelaces. He’s quite small and struggles to sit still for very long, but he remains patient while we wait. For our father he’d wait a lifetime.

Story by Makayla Minnes

Polaroid #108

108“Where did you find that”, Dad asked when I showed him the old polaroid.

“It was in a box of stuff, mostly pictures, that we got when we cleared out Grandma’s house”, I said. I teased him about being a show off stud muffin and he smiled.

“Your mother took that”, he said. “We were staying in the back bedroom at Grandma’s and we were on our way to the lake for the day. Grandma kept you because you were too small to tag along. Truthfully we wanted to party with our friends and didn’t want a kid to slow us down. How many times have I wished you had been with us, or that we had just not gone. Things might have been very different.”

“So this was taken the day Mom died?”, I asked, incredulous that this photo was a memento of that day.

“Yes”, he said, “we were fooling around and she took it before we left. I guess Grandma found it and tucked it away.”

I thought about all the stuff we had hauled out of Grandma’s house, some we kept but most we threw away. No telling what stories and secrets were lost.

Trying to lighten the mood he said “not bad, huh?”

“Yeah, not bad. Maybe a little chunky”, I said, trying to smile. “And that moustache. What were you thinking, Don Juan?”

“Zorro. I remember she laughed and said I looked like Zorro.”

“Maybe. Chunky Zorro. I doubt he had a tattoo.”

“Another decision I should have thought longer about”, he said.

Story by Steven Yancey

Polaroid #50

50Marlene grew up in Ridgetop, just outside of Nashville, Tennessee.  Ridgetop was a small town where the air was laced with booze and the men even more so. Marlene proudly called this shabby town her home but, then again, she didn’t really have much to compare it to. 

In her early 20s, Marlene felt the life in Ridgetop was becoming too claustrophobic. The locals became strangers and the blazing Tennessee sun became suffocating. If she weren’t prone to patience, she would’ve run. Instead, Marlene vowed that when she made $4000 she would leave Ridgetop. She had a bad case of California Dreamin’ and longed for the excitement in L.A and the red-tile roofs in Santa Barbara. 

She got a job as a waitress at Bob and Duke’s, a shabby bar that made her clothes reek of cigarettes and bad decisions. At first, she stumbled with pouring shots of Jack and opening sticky bottles of Bud, but as she took more shifts, the nights became less intimidating and became more mundane. She began learning the names and orders of the regulars. Johnny liked a double whiskey sour with two lemons and Carter liked a warm beer with a shot of bourbon on the side. Carter was a strapping, young country boy with a charming smile and a crude sense of humour. Marlene had too many dreams of her own to pay Carter much attention but she didn’t mind calling him her boyfriend. 

On May 1, 1985, 3 years after her first day and long after earning $4000, Bob and Duke’s awarded her with employee of the month. Marlene wasn’t too surprised with this as she was the only one who showed up to her shifts on time. With her prestigious award came a bottle of SoCo and a photo on the wall behind the bar. The bottle of SoCo was done within the week, but the photo stayed up on the wall. 

Twenty years later, Marlene still lives in Ridgetop. You can sometimes find her at Bob and Duke’s staring at that same photo of her behind the bar, still dreaming of California. 

Story by Izzy Ahrbeck

Polaroid #136

136I wanted to prove that I’d moved on like I’d promised. I wanted to prove that I was having a grand old time— the time of my life— and there hardly seemed a better way to do it. What screamed independence better than a drink with my roommate, even though I was still just twenty? What exuded confidence more than a red dress with a plunging neckline? Or how about that background? Palm trees, sun… Our ghostly Seattle skin hadn’t an idea what to do with itself.

Teddy wanted proof, so I got him proof.

You’ll never believe this, he’d written last time, but I’m getting the tan of my life. The beaches here are incredible, and I’ve eaten the best burgers I’ve tasted in Saigon.

So much for being in the army and getting shot at and eaten alive by swarms of Malaria-infested mosquitoes. His letters sounded like travel ads or postcards from a Hawaiian vacation. I almost felt bad for missing and pitying him.

Almost.

My only regret was that I wouldn’t see the look on his face when he opened his next letter and accompanying Polaroid. I was disappointed that I’d miss out on his reaction to my long hair and red dress, and the look on his face when maybe, just maybe, he’d regret breaking it off a few days before his deployment. I regretted that I’d be thousands of miles away beginning a new semester when he’d think, if just for a second, that being “just friends” never suited us. I regretted that Teddy had always been too proud to admit when he had made a mistake.

And the fact that the guy holding the camera up to his face was with me.

Story by Christin Peter

Polaroid #3

'083That’s me: Henry. And behind me is my sister Annie.

That was us the summer of ‘65, posing on the hood of mom and dad’s car. We were going to go on a road trip to the Grand Canyon. We’ve never been outside the state of Missouri, and our parents have been saving up for months before we had enough money to go. Our dad loaded up the car as my sister and I ran around him in circles, way too excited about the trip to do anything else. Once our mom huddled us into the car did we finally drive off, watching trees and houses zoom by. We sang songs and played I Spy as we drove on and on, laughing and making funny faces at the cars next to us. Mom was reading a book, her feet hanging out the window, while dad hummed a tune under his breath as he drove. Every now and again my dad would flick his eyes to us through the rearview mirror, to make sure that we haven’t disappeared. Annie and I would bounce in our seats, hoping that the sweeping landscape of the Grand Canyon would appear around the corner, but it never came.

This photo was taken 50 years ago, and that was the last time I ever saw my family. My mom was smiling back at me when an oncoming truck hit us. All I could remember was that the sky was raining of glass, and that we were flying.

I’ve bean dead for 50 years, but this is all I can remember.

Story by Sydney Druckman

Polaroid #19

19My grandson took that picture two years ago. I had 30 days sober.  He said “grandma, let’s take a picture to celebrate”. The cactus was his idea.  He loves that damn plant. Says it hears him thinking that’s why it grows so big. “It’s big because we live in Florida” I always try to tell him but he doesn’t listen. As soon as the picture appears he shouts “we’ll think it to mom!  Maybe she’ll come back if she knows you’re not drinking!”  “Use your inside voice Ralph!” I yell, even though we’re outside.  “Why you gotta talk so loud all the time?”  He’s my own flesh and blood so I can say it.  He’s weird.  He gives me the willies.  I take a bottle out of the cupboard and there he is silent as a DT vision, his head leaning forward on his fat little neck, eyes not even blinking.  “What the hell are you looking at?” I scream.  “I’m thinking my thoughts to you, grandma” he says.  “What am I thinking?”  “I don’t know! But I’m thinking I’m going to give you a whack with the first thing I lay my hands on if you don’t stop starting like that, and that you should start talking instead of staring, and when you do talk you shouldn’t talk so god damned loud!”  

That stare was the first thing I saw when I came to after falling down the back stairs the last time I drank.  Tears streaming down his cheeks, snot running from his nose.  It hurt me to think of a twelve-year old lifting his grandma off the concrete. “I’m gonna stop drinking, Ralph,” I told him.  And there went the waterworks again.  “I knew you heard my thoughts grandma,” he pressed his snotty face into my shoulder.  “I knew you’d listen!”  What could I do?  I’m two years sober now.  And I still catch him staring at that picture like he’s thinking Gloria, his no good mother will hear him and come back to us.  It breaks my heart. What’s gonna happen to him when I’m gone?

Story by T. Giordano

Polaroid #45

45I remember meeting her at the bar on 8th street. The “Kat’s In The Bag” bar, they specialized in tropical fruity martinis. She didn’t drink, so she ordered a virgin Shirley Temple. “Extra Cherries”. She had blonde hair so ashy and white that it was almost grey. Her eyes reminded me of blue jays, and her lips were plump like vineyard red wine grapes. She had a delicate touch, and her face looked well rested. Before the date though, I had just got off work from doing maintenance on the new Hospital in Jefferson county. My eyes look as if they’re being dragged down by the weights of my forgotten responsibilities, but she was there and she made me happy and that was all that made me happy at the time. She was something out of a movie and I felt like a mere peasant in her presence, but she loved me after a while. After this date we sat in my car on highway 70 listening to Elvis’ “Jailhouse Rock”. She grabbed the hairbrush out of her purse and song her little bird lungs out until she was strawberry pink from her forehead to her cheeks. I remember watching her, she reminded me of a little kid. She seemed to never run out of energy, and she was always optimistic. Being around her gave me energy, and gave me hope for a better life. After spending 4 years with her after this date, I decided to ask her dad for permission to marry her. Of course he was hesitant, just because she was his little girl. But when I took her back to the “Kat’s In The Bag” and proposed to her, she was ecstatic and she enthusiastically screamed “Yes!”. The bartender took our picture, and we left to go to Vegas to celebrate. It was a good day, to say the least.

Story by Brittany Swanger

Polaroid #95

95He saw long stalks of corn formatted squarely atop the Tennessean plains. They flickered only a few feet from the window of his old Electra, and the slim rays of sunshine caught his eye, reminding him of the unimaginable days following April of 1930.

Following the Crash, his father’s grocery went out of the business, forcing him and his family to secede their quaint Tennessee life to the winds of Chicago, picking up laborious jobs from Top Hats and bartering with other dirty faces for soap on the street corners (of which he cunningly good at). It wasn’t so much the gnawing awareness of his own poverty that bothered him; his family was poor enough in Tennessee.

It was how he missed the Irish girl who’d come in his Father’s grocery every Thursday. She would saunter in with a quarter for milk, and a nickel for her dark chocolate Hershey bar. He remembered the insignificant details because, well, they weren’t insignificant to him. She always wore a scarlet dress, with re-sewn lace white collar fastened up to the nape of her neck, paired with a old tinker of a watch. It didn’t tell the time, nor was it supposed to she always said.

“Why doesn’t it work?” He finally asked her.

“Time doesn’t stop ever, does it?”

“I s’pose not.”

“And the watch’s job is to tell time, right?”

“That seems to be the case.” He let out a stifled chuckle, unaware of whether or not it was an actual question.

“So the watch has an impossible goal of keeping time forever. His job will never end, no matter how many times he’s repaired. I gave him an early retirement. Now he just rests on my arm stress free.” She confidently announced to him.

He still thought it would be nice to know the time.

Story by Jacob Bridgman

Polaroid #158

158You turn off the light and snuggle into bed, closing your eyes. Your eyes open to check the time, only to see the bright red numbers on your alarm clock reading a slightly different time than before. You turn back over, and the cycle repeats itself for a few hours.

“Fuck it,” you say under your breath when the alarm reads 3:05. You turn on your lamp and begin digging through the drawer on your nightstand, hoping you’d come across some leftover sleeping pills.

Your hand grazes something smooth and flat. You pull it out of the drawer only to find that it’s an old photo of Marcus. You stare in awe at the Polaroid image. His bright blonde hair was neatly combed to the side and he was sitting on a bright red tricycle. You remember getting it for him for his birthday that year, and he was so excited to finally get to ride it up and down the walkway.

A smile crosses your lips as the memory replays in your head. It was a different time back then. You were happily married and full of life. You felt like you could take on the world.

The day your husband left was the day everything changed.

You became reserved, refusing to leave the house and talk to anyone. You began smoking again, a habit you had dropped once you had Marcus. You had many jobs over the years after your husband walked away, all of them minimum wage, but none of them stuck. You hadn’t realized how much you needed him.

Marcus was ten when it happened and didn’t really know how to process it at the time. By thirteen, Marcus began rebelling. He started smoking and drinking and his perfect grades began to drop. His only interests seemed to be playing violent video games and getting high to block out the world. Now, at sixteen, he only really talks to you when he needs something.

You toss the photo back into the drawer. You wanted nothing more than to go back to those days.

Story by Emma Glasgow

Polaroid #95

95

That was the closest expression he had to smiling.

I don’t really know what made him so bitter, but he was. He hated the way my family talked, and drank, and laughed. He hated that I was a liberal with a foul mouth. He hated that the dogs always jumped on him when he came in the door, especially when his back hurt.

But he loved that I was a writer, even more so, a photographer. He wanted to take me places with him, and I will never get rid of this remorse for not making the time. Later, I said that weekend. We could go see the trees that only he knew about so I could take a picture, and win an award–if you ask him.

I should have known that chesty cough and constant wheezing was bound to catch him one day. That pipe sat perfectly in the right corner of his mouth. He was always smoking.

We only ever spoke when he was smoking, I think I was too much for him to handle without something to take the edge off. He often lectured me about the words young ladies shouldn’t say, and why Democrats are ruining America. No matter the topic he always asked me as I walked away: “What are little girls good for anyways?”

Because in my eighteen years its all I’ve ever known about my grandfather, I’d reply: “Warmin’ Papa’s heart.”

And there it was…the almost-smile.

Story by Kendra Penningroth

Polaroid #107

107It was four days after the funeral and Dad had sat me down, or rather I had sat Dad down, to finally take the lid off the dusty photo box.  We got to this one, and Dad froze.  He smiled, a smile I had not seen in a long time, a smile so heavy as if it was carrying a thousand memories.

As he studied the photograph, I studied his face, and in his twinkling eyes I could see the magic of Carmen.

Her colorful soul that transcended from her colorful dress and her infectious spirit had affected Dad’s face, and through simply an image I realized that Carmen was a rare gem in this world.  I noticed that my otherwise impassive father felt prompted to capture her beauty, and I envisioned my grinning Dad behind the camera, a grin that matched that of Carmen.  

In the same way Dad had been affected by the charm of Carmen, I too suddenly became overwhelmed.  Understandably so, this was the first time I saw the woman whose name became my middle name, and I felt this responsibility to make people feel the way that Carmen made Dad feel.  

Dad looked over at me for the first time since he came across this photograph, and he spoke slowly but with intent.  “This is the photograph that should have been shown at her funeral.”

I wish I could’ve been at the funeral, because I feel like I know Carmen, in a way.  And I wish I could have gotten up there and told this story, because it shows the magic of Carmen, a magic that has so much life contained in it that it cannot die.

Story by Caroline Fortuna

Polaroid #62

62

My wife, you don’t have to buy her jewelry, nothing like that. My wife loves when I take photographs of her. This is in Morrocco I think. My wife, she likes for me to photograph her when she is in water. My wife, she is simple. My wife, when we went to Morrocco, she said it was one of the best holidays we’d had together. And I agreed – it was sunny and lovely. My wife bought a velvetish swimsuit in Morrocco, with patterns of blue and green butterflies. My wife said it was one of her favourite swimsuits when we got back home. As we were unpacking she said you know I really like that photograph you took of me in the water. And I agreed it was a lovely photograph. And later I gave it to her and I wrote a little note behind it too. My wife, she’s happy. When we got back from Morrocco, my wife, she decided to buy tagines and spices. She said she wanted to start cooking new things. She said, my wife, do you like lamb Andrew, I’d like to cook some lamb for you. So I said I like lamb and I don’t really know whether I do or not. My wife, she bought a little cookbook with new recipies in it. It’s got some really nice oriental patterns on it. She sits on the sofa and she puts her glasses on. They’re scaled in hues of green and blue. She sits by the lamp. My wife, she places the book between her thighs, and she licks her finger before she flicks pages. And when she’s picked one she likes she slips the photograph in, as if it was a bookmark. This way, she says, I see it all the time.

Story by Anna Lounguine

Polaroid # 74

74I always knew you as Chester… Though I don’t know why anyone called you that even to this day. I found out when I was much older and you had moved away that your actual name was Irvine. I still call you Chester though, there is some intrinsic entertainment in just saying that name – and you were an entertainer! Regaling my father with stories that I seldom took meaning from; but I still laughed along when the moment was right. We would come over and have a look at all the different tasks you had on the go in your garage/wood working shop that was across the alley from us. And Chester I could never formulate the proper way of saying to you that you performed each arduous and intricate task with such a deft hand that it was awe inspiring, I still hope someday to possess that passion and skill.

It was probably about 20 years ago now that you came over with a birthday gift that you crafted for me. It performed magic! A rectangular device that you put a $2 Canadian bill inside for me behind one elastic fabric strap that was set across the middle of the contraption and on the opposite and empty side there were two straps across the top and bottom.  The outside glimmered green with some kind of laminated foil which added to the magic as I would open and close it end to end twice over and the $2 bill would some how jump over to the opposite side. With some shame I admit that I still don’t understand how it works. Even more shamefully I confess that I squandered $2 on candy about a month later and never replaced it. Though in a box of keepsakes I still have that magical wooden teleportation device so it’s not too late.

Thank you Chester, you were a good neighbor.

Story by Mark den Biesen

Polaroid #109

109Renny accompanied her grandmother to the Class of ‘90 Mooresville High School reunion as an unexpected plus one, a particularly bothersome reminder to a woman named Panda who had herself twenty-five years prior proved the unexpected plus one in the marriage of Renny’s then teenage parents bound together by the matrimonial rush of impending childbirth.

Panda was a silly nickname bestowed in the days of the woman’s youth when her inky black hair fringed about what resulted in the whitest face in north Alabama due to her nervous preoccupation with application of the palest of pale powder dabbed from an cheap drugstore compact in vain attempt to conceal the ever present dark circles purpling the thin tissue beneath her eyes. Her hair was now as white as her face gone wooly soft causing Panda to look more lamblike in her later years, but Renny knew underlying coiled the rattlesnake of the girl who stood across the street from the church the day Renny’s parents married, professing she would get her man back come hell or high water, which she indeed accomplished a mere year and a half from the moment rings were exchanged.

Renny was scuttled away into the protective throes of a well meaning yet secret keeping extended family and never learned the circumstances surrounding her birth until years later, a distant memory sleeved within the pages of the 1990 MHS yearbook. Her mother’s hasty remarriage and move to Florida proved the perfect convenience for Panda to erase one child with two of her own.  As time swept by and death claimed Renny’s mother before age forty, Panda reinvented herself as the once spurned girlfriend who selflessly closed the door on the past to pick up the pieces of a young man devastated by divorce. Panda had masked the past as well as she did her snow white face, that is until Renny herself decided it was high time to reintroduce herself to her father at the twenty-fifth Mooresville High class reunion on the arm of her seventy-year-old grandmother.

Story by Sheree Shatsky

Polaroid #87

87When you had me pose in front of our new house, I was happy and alive. Number one six eight, one hundred and sixty eight. The black numbers stood behind me attached as proudly as I to the corrugated white metal. The sun shone brightly that day and I squinted at the camera, at you, in my pale red dress.

Those numbers haunt me now. 168 more than half a year, longer than unemployment checks roll in, more than a monthly mortgage payment, but less than a lifetime. When we were first together, all I wanted to do was lie in bed with you. Later, after several years in the house, we scrambled to wake the children up for school on time. You went to work with a tie draped over you like a lei. I stayed behind pounding away at the keyboard, hoping for jobs to manifest in front of me.

One day, he came to the door. I didn’t recognize him, not at first. We stood with the screen door between us.

“Can I help you?” I asked.

He looked me up and down. I remembered then that I had not changed out of my pyjamas. I stood my ground in front of this stranger.

“I have to ask you to leave, miss.” He glanced down at the black folder he carried with him. “I am afraid the bank owns the house now.”

I thought about you, about all the days you scooted out the door in your suit and hanging tie, always doing your best to get the children to school. I hadn’t known we were playing a game of charades.

“You have until the end of the day to pack,” he said, looking me in the eye.

This was the most important piece of information he needed to convey. Time, his time, my time, the house’s time, all of us would expire at the stroke of dusk. I wanted him to turn away, to disappear, but all he did was stand, staring.

Story by Erin Armstrong

Polaroid #65

65She was so pretty when she was young. The boys would stop dead on the sidewalk and stare. I’d be so proud to have her arm wrapped around mine, her head held high and her hair flowing in the summer breeze. You would never know from the photo but she had the most beautiful flowing locks back then. It all seems so damn long ago. A different time. A time of innocence.

When I came back everything had changed. The war changed everything. What they did to us out there. How could anyone ever understand? Your Grandmother really tried. She said all the right things.

But honestly? She never saw that look of hate in their eyes. The things they did. Dear God. Boys no older than you are now. It was easy for us to take our hurt out on our loved ones. Too easy.

You would have been about four or five months old when I took this. You’re indirectly in the picture,. Funny huh? Grandma is looking at your Mother, holding you in her arms. They made an effort that day. A real effort not to fight. Your Grandmother was old fashioned. She thought your Mom was out of control; letting different boys walk her home each night.

We never knew your Father, but then you know that.

Your Grandmother and I raised you. Your Mother ended up moving away; she went up state. At the time I blamed her. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Christmas 1977. It was before your Mother left. She had been to a concert the night before. She was hungover. Your Grandmother was asking her how she got home. I’m glad her black eye isn’t visible.

Regret and repentance. I do try nowadays. Since your Grandmother passed away I quit the booze and started going to church again. Maybe some day I’ll actually see you again. I often wonder what you are doing with your life. I wish I had an address to send this to son.  I miss you.

Your Grandfather.

Story by Steve Ward

Polaroid #92

92Anytime we walk into a store with hats, you put one on me. Not just any hat, but a big, floppy hat with a Saturn-like rim that droops over my eyes, or pushes my bangs into my line of vision. I know they look ridiculous because they feel ridiculous, but they make you laugh. Sometimes I think that’s the only reason I tolerate it.

But today, we weren’t at a store. We were at your parents’ place, pulling out the decorations for your brother’s graduation party. I’d never met your parents before and anticipated the surprise opening of the front door while you rummaged through their hall closet, mumbling that what you were looking for was in there somewhere. While you pushed aside wreaths, plastic eggs, and Styrofoam pumpkins, I glanced from door to clock, preparing myself for a moment I’d never be ready for. The time tensely ticked by, and suddenly your cursing turned to laughter.

“What is it?” I asked, looking at you only long enough to see you rise to your feet. The moment I looked back to the door, you’d put a hat on my head, a lightweight hat that didn’t flop over my eyes.

I reached up to touch it, hoping to identify the type of hat by touch. First you smiled, and then you laughed, and I envisioned a dunce cone or reindeer antlers. The top felt like straw, but as I pulled it off, you protested.

“No, don’t take it off!” You were still chuckling. “It looks cute on you.”

Then you were telling me to wait.

You disappeared for only a minute, returning with your clunky Polaroid camera and telling me to smile. Normally, I would be annoyed—you can’t destroy a Polaroid picture, after all—but you were having such fun, and your smile was contagious.

The flash went off, and while I waited for the spots to clear from my vision, you stuck the print in your pocket to warm. At last the image developed, and right as you pulled it from your pocket, your parents opened the front door.

Story by Christian Peter

Polaroid #109

109Why is he taking my picture? I don’t want my picture taken. I smile anyway; it’s an instinct, I guess. I should leave. I should go back to my friends at the beach. They may be wondering where I went. It isn’t nice to keep them waiting, especially when I told them I was just walking back to the house to go to the bathroom. I don’t know…he seems nice enough. And he looked so sad, I just want to help him. But this isn’t what he asked about. How will him taking my picture help him find his lost dog?

“For posterity’s sake” he says as he shakes out the picture,

I look around the small room. It’s a few blocks from our beach house. Cozy, without being cramped. I want him to stop looking at me like that.

“Do you have a picture of Archie that we could put on fliers?” I ask

“That’s a good idea! See? I knew you could help me. Here, come with me and we can look for a good picture. I’m sure I have one in here somewhere.”

I follow him into another room. This one is small and dark. Gone is the lived in feel and seashell décor. Instead it smells bad. Like mold and rot and death.

“This is where you keep pictures?” I ask, inching forward, my hand over my nose and mouth

“Yup, right in here” He says as he grabs my arm “Right this way”

I hear the door slam behind us.

Story by Sam Kaufman

POLAROID #161

161The grandkids were begging for a picture all afternoon so, OK, I finally gave in–but said only take one. I’ve never liked cameras. My son has put up with my odd behavior his whole life so he just shooed the kids away and took it.

Then the kids said, “What did you do for a living, Grandpa?” They asked this because all their friends have grandpas who were policemen, teachers, baseball players, even astronauts. They laughed when I told them I was a professional checkers player and did they want to play a game. They agreed but I could see they had hoped for a more exciting answer like being an undercover agent for the CIA. Anyway, I brought out my checker board and set it up and we spent the next hour having fun as I taught them basic strategy and showed some of my tricky moves.

The reason they didn’t hear me say CIA is because I can’t tell anyone, even now. My son grew up with the checkers story and believed it until he didn’t. Eventually, he stopped asking which was fine with me. What was I supposed to say–Oh, all those big checkers tournaments in Cleveland, Toronto, Los Angeles and Miami were really assignments in Bolivia, Chile, Angola and Iran? I don’t think so.

As for what I did on those missions, let me just say I am one helluva shot. My favorite sniper rifle was the Barrett .50 Cal. It’s a real beast, 50” long and 25 pounds. It has a 32” barrel and can drop someone from a mile and a half. They never see it coming. Just pull the trigger and it’s Goodnight Irene.

Anyway, all that’s behind me now because I’ve retired. Technically, the Shop can still contact me if the situation warrants, but they never do. So I get to just relax and enjoy my grandchildren.

Wait a minute . . . who’s that guy in the parking lot, the one in the sunglasses talking up his sleeve? And that plain blue sedan. Aw, come on guys, I’m retired!

Story by Will Conway

Go top