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The Old Photograph

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Congress of the Rough Writers, Carrot Ranch, @Charli_Mills

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There it is. The old photograph. The one that makes you pause.

Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.

R&R on Lockhart Street by TN Kerr

He finished his drink and beckoned to Meihui.
“You want another, Danny?” she smiled.
“No, baby, I’m gonna go home. I’ll see you later.”
She rose up on her toes, and leaned over the bar
to give him a quick kiss on the lips.
He dropped
a handful of coloured bills on the bar.
She pushed them back and quickly moved away.
Outside, standing on the pavement in the light rain
Dan snapped a quick shot of a fire engine
Lights flashing.
Now, fifty years later,
it was the closest thing to a photo of her that he had.

🥕🥕🥕

It’s Enough by Michael Fishman

My grandmother was a beautiful woman.

She left young, I never knew her, but I was introduced to her by those who did.

She played saxophone in an all-girl’s band. She knitted and told jokes that made people blush. She was a sister to two, a mother to one and a friend to many. She was a wife to a husband who didn’t have enough years to love her.

I have questions and no one to ask so I look at the old photograph I carry.

She’s holding me.
She’s smiling.
It’s enough.
My grandmother is a beautiful woman.

🥕🥕🥕

Symbols by Hugh W. Roberts

“Have there been any other gay people in your family, Richard?” asked Adrian as he put the old photograph down.

“Have a look at the photo again. I think it’ll answer your question. Tea?”

Nodding his head, Adrian studied the photo again. “The older man is hot. Who is he?”

“My great-grandfather. Mum said my grandmother took the photo in Poland in 1939.”

“Why does he have a star and what looks like a triangle on his shirt?”

If that photo were in colour, you’d see a pink triangle. But the family have never wanted to talk about it.”

🥕🥕🥕

Living Forever by Padmini Krishnan

Cherie looked at the old photo of college students, decorating her wall. He was the one on the corner. He had refused what she had asked and was now a flower vase in her showcase. Each vase symbolized the mood, color and character of the person, thus keeping them alive forever. Her collection had kept growing and she intended to add more.

“Cherie, did you dust the mantelpiece?” her madam called out.

“I will do it right away, madam,” replied Cherie, rushing over to the living room.

Madam had her collection of bouquets too. The ones that never withered.

🥕🥕🥕

Photographs and Stories by Norah Colvin

Nothing would dampen Megan’s curiosity. The slightest hand or foothold was irresistible. If none existed, she made one.

Mary gasped. Megan was atop bucket, on stool, on chair, on table, stretching for a box on the top shelf. Mary didn’t breathe as, in slow motion, Megan swiped the box and tumbled in a mess of wood and plastic. Mary, in fast-forward, grabbed arms and legs before she hit; but the box bounced, spewing its contents across the floor.
Megan plucked out an old photograph.

“Who’s dat, Mum?”

Mary trembled. Could it be her? The one in his poem? Who?

🥕🥕🥕

The Old Photograph by Anita Dawes

Photos, snap shots of time
You hold the past in your hand
Old memories flood in
The thing with old photos is
They slip between the floor boards
Multiplying, boxes under beds
On top of wardrobes,
To be forgotten
Until the day, your granddaughter
shouts out, Gran, who is this?
That’s your grandfather.
Now you are worried
Is he in the box or the wardrobe?
Your fist love, the one you never forget
The one that would upset the apple cart
Wrong name on the birth certificate
Would bring up too many questions.
How to tell the truth now?

🥕🥕🥕

An Old Photograph (Part I) by Nancy Brady

In this family photograph, Dad was probably nine or ten. When I said him I liked the knickers, he told me he hated wearing them. According to him, his mother didn’t want him to grow up. Long pants were a sign of being a young man and keeping him in knickers kept him a little boy.

Personally, I think she was more pragmatic than that; she could cut down her older son’s pants when he outgrew them, converting them, saving money. I couldn’t argue with him since I wasn’t there. Besides, he was my father and I loved him.

🥕🥕🥕

An Old Photograph (Part II) by Nancy Brady

In this family photograph, Dad was probably nine or ten. When I said him I liked the knickers, he told me he hated wearing them. According to him, his mother didn’t want him to grow up. Long pants were a sign of being a young man and keeping him in knickers kept him a little boy.

 Personally, I think she was more pragmatic than that; she could cut down her older son’s pants when he outgrew them, converting them, saving money. I couldn’t argue with him since I wasn’t there. Besides, he was my father and I loved him

🥕🥕🥕

The Goldfish Bowl by Doug Jacquier

Courtesy of the pandemic and brain plaque, I can’t touch him anymore, not that he would know who I was anyway. All I can do is wave to him through the nursing home window and watch him wave back, like he does to everybody. His manners remain intact.

On his lap is an album of old photographs that he leafs through constantly. Whether the staff put it there in the hope of a spark or whether he clings to its importance without knowing why is anybody’s guess. To me, through the glass, he seems like a goldfish with Alzheimers.

🥕🥕🥕

Arrested Development by D. Avery

There was he and his brother, practically twins, astride their motorcycles, grinning widely. Ten years ago. Same old pictures; did any of them smile anymore?

“Will you ever update these photos?”

She ignored the edge in his voice.

“Your brother misses you.”

“Right.” But he went to his room.

“Hey, Bro. How about a picture of the two of us?”

The selfie showed his own face fuller but much the same, his hair thinning at the temples. His brother’s skin was tight and shiny, his open eyes vacant and unseeing. The breathing tube showed, the feeding tube did not.

🥕🥕🥕

Snap Judgements by Bill Engleson

Missed spring cleaning by a few months this year.
Other things on my mind, I guess.
Viruses!
Ageing!
Wine!
Stuff like that.
During the heat dome, my fried brain couldn’t handle much but I started pawing through a few boxes of dusty memorabilia.
Under duress.
“Just do it, “she’d admonished. “Your office is a pigsty.”
No argument from me.
Two boxes in, I found my old wallet.
1972 vintage.
Thought I’d thrown it out.
No money in it.
An unpaid speeding ticket.
Mick’s car.
Oops! Forgot to mention it, buddy.
And a snap of…what the hell was her name?

🥕🥕🥕

The Camera Never Lies by Anne Goodwin

Mary’s bedroom floor is awash with paper. She tucks a lock of russet hair behind her ear and plunges in.

Her therapist said her childhood memories didn’t sound happy. Mary wades through school reports and twentieth-century diaries for the evidence to prove her wrong.

A photograph of two girls in polka-dot dresses, seated with their mother on a tartan rug. Decades on, Mary hears the stream gurgling behind them, smells the meadowsweet, tastes the fairy cakes, feels the sun warm her face.

The woman cuddles the raven-haired daughter. Mary weeps for the redhead, beyond the reach of mother love.

🥕🥕🥕

The Scars by Deborah A. Bowman

I found the stained underside of the snapshot today. It was tucked in one of my Classic books…fitting. I don’t usually touch the Classics, but that volume called to me. I guess it’s time. I must be ready. Deep inhale. I turned it over.

My breath stopped. My heart ceased to beat. I crumbled to the floor, strangling tears, vomit. I’m not ready at all!

Vietnam, 49 years ago. There I stood. Woman Journalist in camouflage. My hands fell to trace the scars.

I rose, proudly clipping the crutches to my forearms. Yes, it had been worth it.

🥕🥕🥕

American Revolutionary War Cemetery by Carole Warren

My father and his brother volunteered. Proudly posing for the 1951 newspaper article, they dismantled the dilapidated cemetery wall. The ancient wall, built in 1887, needed to protect graves from being uprooted by local hogs. The new wall planned to safeguard a vintage burial ground with remains of Dutch pioneers along with heroes from early American wars. My grandfather trudged through blue-grey dust. Past the long-neglected graveyard for his daily shift at the local aluminum casting factory. Years later, I climbed. With cousins, I balanced atop the rebuilt wall and explored the colonial cemetery unaware of our historical connection.

🥕🥕🥕

How Important Is It? by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The attic is hot, dust motes knife-sharp and glittering in dim light through a window that wouldn’t budge in the humidity. She had to find that old photo, and prove her point. This rewriting of history to benefit Joseph had gone on far too long.

Sweating and breathless, she finds the box, the yearbook, and the incriminating photo. Lifting it to the window she stares hard at the image, the caption written beside it. Suddenly dizzy, she sinks to the floor.

Of course she was right. But she was also wrong. Dementia is an argument neither one could win

🥕🥕🥕

Mateo by Simon Prathap D

An old photograph, who is this?
Your great grand father.
What? impossible, I’ve just seen him yesterday, he told ummmm “Bola de miel Rosa”
Grandma smiled …..
What does that mean?
He is a “Mateo” , time traveller.
Mateo? time travelling?
Thank him when he comes to my funeral tomorrow.
(scoffs) arghhh, I’m not continuing this weird conversation.

next day…

Bola de miel Rosa he said
Are you my great grandpa?
Yes, SHE is your grandma.
I can’t believe! you both came alive?
You will too… Time travel is our gift.

Really?
Stay Calm, time will come, and you will know.

🥕🥕🥕

Time Traveler by Reena Saxena

The black and white picture set a furore amongst believers in time travel.

One of the people in the crowd is holding a mobile phone in the last century. Was she a visitor from the future?

How come she was not identified as an alien, and continued to talk on the phone in the crowd?

Forensic experts get on the job. It turns out to be a doctored image.

Someone in the lab smiles, and pats a rectangular piece of fibre glass she carries in her bag. They don’t know yet…. Everything can be manipulated, including their forensic systems.

🥕🥕🥕

Nana’s Photos by Joanne Fisher

Sifting through archeological
layers of photographs –
at first encountering younger versions
of myself and siblings, going backwards
until I find a picture of Nana and Grandad
looking like Bonnie and Clyde

I never knew that side of her, I never
knew Grandad.
all I remember is him
sitting by the dining room table,
but was it real?
I learned of his death through
osmosis – one day I knew
he was gone, though I was never told

But here they are together still
in their twenties, looking at the camera
with a future ahead of them
as we all do.

🥕🥕🥕

My Great Grandfather’s Sister by Duane L Herrmann

She is looking up, staring: trying to see Amerika where her brother fled, never to see him again. She never knows the family he started, he never knows hers. She and he are old now, it’s been half a century.

Half a century more and the family will be again united with visits back and forth and new friendships. I cried with relief to be on that first return trip and have made many more, taking family with me. I hope our children can continue this union, but at least we know each other.

🥕🥕🥕

To Me by Annette Rochelle Aben

Chubby, sturdy little legs held her up the table where her parents had placed the birthday items. Such a display of love and affection. Of course, as she was new to all of this celebration, there was nothing in her mind to understand all the joy and excitement.

Flash forward more than sixty years. Tears now fill the eyes of the senior citizen looking at the old photograph. Knowing now, that her parents had little or no money, but they still managed to make that birthday special. Knowing now, what beautiful gifts birthdays have been. She makes a wish.

🥕🥕🥕

Imagining the Colors by JulesPaige

mulberries
now out of my reach
let birds feast

Maybe
Too the
Squirrel
Families

A friend tells me of her youth and shares photos in black and white of purple fingers and faces. The Mulberry tree in her yard wasn’t supposed to bear fruit, which is why her father planted it. Free sweets in the summer shade what more could a child want. All those happy siblings that shared hand me downs without complaining because that’s just the way it was. The love and support that poured continually made them all reach for the stars. That’s her parents’ success.

🥕🥕🥕

This Old Faded Photo by Donna Matthews

Surely, all families have their scandalous moments. My brother died in February under suspicious circumstances. Aside from the grief that generally remains just at the edge of consciousness, I feel this new rawness of soul I am unaccustomed to. I’m drawn to his image, especially this one I hold now. Four kids in the backyard. Why was this photo taken? There’s no one to give me the answer, the four of us too young. Oh, wait. Three of us now, but really just two, one is in prison and unavailable. Yes, my grief like this old faded photo. Melancholic.

🥕🥕🥕

The Old Photograph by Charli Mills

She found him in the 1979 yearbook. The bottom row. The old photo wasn’t vintage. Some would argue it was modern. He played football. Four years. He sat shirtless, his blonde hair long, wavy. The football team had fathers who’d served in Korea, grandfathers in WWII. A few had older brothers, younger uncles, or cousins who’d served in ‘Nam. The ones no one spoke of, or to. The dispersed ones. She thought the photograph ancient because he looked so young. So guiltless. So pre-Grenada. Head hits, concussive blasts, and one knee-shattering jump. He never wore his hair long again.

🥕🥕🥕

Old Photo by FloridaBorne

Back straight, a model’s figure, a stand-out next to her best friend, a cousin, her youngest brother, mother and maternal grandmother; my mother posed for a multi-generational photo somewhere between the Great Depression and World War II.

Her brother, who marched with Patton’s third army to Germany, never told anyone about the grueling experience.  Her best friend married a domineering Englishman who’d used her to enter the USA. My mother, at 29, married a wounded soul.

So much hope for reality to crush.  It seems that only the delusion of a brighter future pushes us forward into old age.

🥕🥕🥕

Elise by Saifun Hassam

Gwen was fascinated by her great-great-aunt Elise’s days as an Airforce service pilot in WWII. Elise died in 1993.

Elise was a test pilot, an instructor, flying planes from the factory to the Airforce base. Gwen treasured one photo, 1943: four young women, in Airforce pilot uniforms, standing in front of an Airforce bomber.

Elise was grief-stricken when her son Lester, a pilot, was killed in Vietnam. Great-niece Samira, a pilot, died in Iraq.

Gwen, a “bush” pilot, now teaches aeronautical engineering. Her pilot experience became a critical link for emergencies during the pandemic. Gwen treasures that old photo.

🥕🥕🥕

Dream Photography by Rebecca Glaessner

“You ready?”
“System calibrated?”
“Got it all, now sleep and let the magic happen-“
“What about colour tracking, covered all wavelengths? D’you double check?”
“Me and four others-“
“And the pixels. Did they max out? Fifteen-hundred?”
“Last ten runs, crystal clear.”
“Shadows? Freckles? Strands of hair?”
“Like Da Vinci. We got this. Relax.”
“Okay… Make sure you wake me once it’s rendered. As soon as!”
“Promise. Now keep him in mind and let yourself sleep.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Is… it done? Uhnf- lemme see. He- looks…”
“Just like you.”
“Get this through to facial recog, now-“
“Already done. We’ll find your brother.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Debt Of History by Geoff Le Pard

‘You a moment, Logan?’
‘No.’
‘You don’t know what I want.’
‘Let’s keep it that way.’
‘Yeah. Anyway, who’s that?’
‘Is that our leaving photo?’
‘Yep. I can’t remember who that boy is. Next to Snitch Peters.’
‘Gullible Poon.’
‘Not Gully. The other side.’
‘Kentish Gishpaster?’
‘No, that’s Kentish.’
‘Is it? I thought Kentish had one leg shorter that the other.’
‘He did, didn’t he? Always going in circles. No, the one with the squint. He set fire to Simple Sims pubes during double chemistry.’
‘Happy days. Why do you want to know?’
‘He still owes me a pound.’

🥕🥕🥕

Ev’ry Story Tells a Picture by D. Avery

“Pal, how kin ya be Carrot Ranch’s historian? Ya ain’t even got any old photos.”
“It’s livin’ history. Things is jist how they is at ever moment.”
“Folks wanna see how things was.”
“Folks kin read the archives.”
“A picture’s worth a thousand words.”
“Thet’d be 901 words too many.”
“Yer prob’ly ‘barasssed ta show yer mug.”
“We’re fictional characters Kid. Folks see us as they see us.”
“Fiction, ey?
Hey look here’s a old photo a you! An’ there in the background… Bigfoot!”
“Kid, ya cain’t be makin’ stuff up.”
“Sure I kin, 99 words at a time.”

🥕🥕🥕


25 Comments

  1. floridaborne says:

    An assortment of stories that are intriguiging.

    Hmmmm….everyone’s old photos but mine.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      I only grabbed two old photos, Joelle. One I knew I had permission for and the other I realized I didn’t so I stopped there. Not enough time to get copyrights. If you want me to add yours I’d be more than happy to with your permission!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. tnkerr says:

    Good stuff here!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Marlapaige says:

    Wow… these were all magnificent. Everytime I came up with an idea for a story, the next one was it! Everything has been covered and beautifully. Thank you for putting them all togther like this

    Liked by 1 person

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thanks! Arranging the collection is my favorite part. I love to see all the different responses. Even if three writers shared an idea, they execute the story differently. Some perspectives I never would have considered. Some stories flow together like one answers another, and other stories are in stark contrast. I call it literary anthropology. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Excellent collection of snappy shots at recovering the past (and the passed). Well done to all!

    Liked by 5 people

  5. […] Submissions now closed. Read the full collection here. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Taking photos has become a simple, everyday act now. It’s been an adventure to explore the different perspectives everyone shared. I thoroughly enjoyed this collection. It emanated emotions from all angles. Fabulous stories all!

    Liked by 5 people

  7. I must have forgotten to add my piece of flash, so I hope you don’t mind me adding it here, Charli?

    Symbols #flashfiction

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Awesome collection again!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What a great collection of photos and memories. Well done to all. ~nan

    Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      I hope you don’t mind that I grabbed your photo, Nan. I realized I didn’t ask permission and I can remove it. I was thinking artistically at that moment because your stories pair so well with it.

      Like

  10. Wow! What variety and creativity! I loved reading them all!

    Like

  11. suespitulnik says:

    So many interesting old photos. Thanks for sharing everyone.

    Like

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