Flash Fiction Friday #5
All summer, I’ll be posting a flash story every Friday. Today’s is a contemporary piece set in my home city of Seattle.
Inspired by Mark Hirschman, who suggested “camera, 5 p.m., matte silver.”
Richard had no friends. He had a lovely craftsman triplex in Seattle, where he was starting his life over. But the problem with starting over was that you had no friends. You had hobbies and online contract work instead.
So every day when five o’clock rolled around, he walked the most popular dog parks in the city and pretended not to mind their inevitable wet musk. He ambled next to bike lanes and sat on benches, all alone but surrounded by the after-work crowd.
This particular day, he scuffed his feet on the pedestrian path at Green Lake. It was overcast, as many days were, and the light reflected off the water to turn the world a matte silver. Not just the lake, but the trees and the usually-plain-gray cement path. His medium-wash jeans seemed pewter, and his Jersey-boy cognac wingtips had gone greyscale with dust and light.
It was all very romantic, like a gothic windswept moor. Except that it was a mid-city lake, intended for dogs and skateboards and fun.
A bright red point-and-shoot camera lay forgotten on a bench. The wooden bench itself was a darker matte silver, weather-worn planks tarnished with the infamous rain. At its base, gray-green moss tried and failed to climb the rusting iron legs. But the camera was shiny and bright, like a summer cherry or a woman’s freshly applied lipstick.
It couldn’t have been sitting there for long, but Richard was, as usual, ambling alone and couldn’t spot its potential owner. This area of the lake was deserted. Further down the path, he could hear a child chattering at its mother, and he knew there was a boat rental shop coming up on his left.
Just here, just now, he was all alone with the romantic silver landscape… and the shiny camera.
Richard sat beside the point-and-shoot, seat of his pants going cold, and checked the playback to see whether he could find the owner’s name and phone number. Surely, the person would want the camera returned.
He scrolled through close-ups of grass blades, fuzzy pictures of hands, and a slew of lakeside photos that were maybe meant to be stitched into a panoramic. At nearly the beginning of the photo stream was a shot of a piece of paper. But the image didn’t read a name and number for ease of return.
Instead it said, This is community art. Please take a few photos of anything that strikes your fancy.
So Richard did. He muddied his shoes to shimmy along the lake’s shore for an intimate photo of some geese necking. He caught up to the child he’d earlier heard and got both mother and daughter to pose beside their stroller; one of the girl’s shoes was missing and her sock was soaking through. His own feet chilled in sympathy.
Richard spied a hipster with take-away coffee coming closer—the perfect specimen in skinny jeans, ironic flannel shirt, beanie hat, and thick glasses—and crouched in some squishy weeds to wait. This subcultural paragon deserved the ultimate arty shot, backlit against the setting sun which valiantly set the clouds to a nearly sterling brightness.
When he could smell the fair-trade coffee, sweetened with almond milk and raw sugar, Richard snapped a flurry of shots. One of them had to turn out.
“Hey!” The hip coffee drinker didn’t quite shriek; he was too laid back for that. “That’s my camera.”
Is he going to call the police? Richard clutched the camera in his chapped hands, then forced himself to relax them. “You’ve got some great photos on here.” He can’t be mad; this is what he said he wanted. Still, Richard’s breath seared the inside of his nose with the quick-intake cold.
“Yeah? Can I take a look?”
The pair repaired to the Peet’s—from whence the hipster had acquired his tribal-emblemed to-go cup only moments before—so they could both sip and chat about the interesting moments captured on virtual film. For an hour, they discussed lighting methods and framing techniques.
“You should come to my art installation on Thursday. We’ll get drinks after,” said Sean—formerly known as the hipster. “It’s in Pioneer Square. There’s a bunch of people like us there.”
And that was how Richard made his first friend in his reinvented life. All because of art and a shared camera.
Click the links below to read the previous weeks’ stories.