Picture This


Kelly, one of the girls from the photography club, dropped her bony ass in a chair across from me one late afternoon that early spring, when the sun was warm without being hot, and the air was soft and the breeze gentle. Late April, maybe? I don’t know anymore, but the day was pleasant, I know that, and the school was mostly empty by then. I had no life, so I stayed to go over my shots for the day. Mom and Dad wouldn’t see me obsessing then. Anyway, she fell on her cheeks into the hard plastic injection-molded seat on the other side of the antique folding table that served as a desk in the closet serving as an office for the club, and it made a sound that left me wondering how she didn’t break her tail bone. Kelly is Grim Reaper thin, and the knobs of her joints bulge out against her skin. She’s nice enough, I guess, but all I wanted to do was search my pics for that familiar, haunting darkness in the background, that tell-tale silhouette, portend of doom.

Kelly watched me working, watched me ignore her, but didn’t get it, I guess, because she spoke to me. Kelly’s one of those people that ends all her sentences with a question mark, and it gets old fast.

“So, are you, like, gonna be shooting the track meet Saturday?” She had her legs crossed at the knee, and bounced the top one up and down. I figured she had to burn about ten thousand calories a day, because she’s a nervous little twitch and that’s got to be why she’s so damned skinny. She’s like a stick figure on speed.

“I don’t know. Maybe. You want to do it instead?”

“Well, I was thinking about it, ‘cause, y’know, like, Mike’s gonna be running and stuff?”

“Uh-huh.”

“So, I sorta want to, you know, like, talk to him after and maybe hang out, you know?”

“Right.”

“Is that, y’know, cool? With you? I mean, I know it’s a big deal, so, if you wanna do it yourself, y’know, I’m cool with that? But, like, I’m gonna be there anyway, so I thought maybe I’d help out and stuff?”

I looked up at her even though I didn’t want to. She was trying to be nice, and I knew I was sort of the campus ghost-girl who never got over the murder of her best friend. People pitied me until they decided it was too much trouble, then they disliked me. The photography club people were different, though. They liked me, for some reason. I never got close to anyone again — not after Shan — but they always invited me to parties and get-togethers, to eat lunch with them, things like that. But Kelly wasn’t like other shutter-bugs. She was in it for the jocks. She hopped from jock to jock like most girls change clothes, one for each season, leaving a string of whispered stories and a bad reputation as a slut behind her. I couldn’t figure out who’d want to screw her. You could hurt yourself on those bones, I’d think.

But she was being nice. Her face, chiseled and prim, perfect complexion, long lashes and emerald eyes, never met mine. She adjusted a camera in her lap instead, her hands running over the switches and casing with absent preoccupation. I didn’t get a bad vibe from her, but I never got close enough to people to get a “vibe” in the first place. I regarded her a moment before going back to scanning my shots.

“If you want, that’s fine with me. As long as we get enough shots of all the events, not just the ones Mike’s in.”

Her hands stopped and folded in her lap. “Are you serious? Really? You’d let me do it, even though it’s, like, the states and everything?”

“Sure, why wouldn’t I?”

“I don’t know, I thought you would, y’know, rather be the one to do it and everything? ‘Cause it’s important and stuff?”

“If you do a good job, and get all the shots for the yearbook and paper, I don’t see what difference it makes who takes them, do you?”

She sniffed, looked back at her bony hands, her long, skeletal fingers dancing over everything around them, playing with a class ring on her finger, spinning it while her leg bounced, bounced, bounced. She looked back at me.

“Thanks. You know? I mean … that’s, like, really nice of you.”

“Just make sure you get the shots, Kelly. That’s all I can say — get shots of everything, not just Mike.”

“You think …?” She stopped her protest mid-sentence. “All right. I will.”

I noted the seriousness in her tone and looked up. Her earnest eyes locked on mine. I nodded, and gave her the best smile I had in me. It wasn’t great, but she took it.

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