FICTION

HALEY MASON

The Other Side of the Camera

Another day, the same beach. Here they come spraying the sand with their bare feet like bombs cratering the ground, all dressed in white like their first communion. I guess this is like a rite of passage, but one I never got to have. Maybe that's why I've turned out this way—with nothing. Maybe it's because I never got to dress up with mommy and daddy and brother and have my smiling mug photographed so we could hang it up in the living room only reserved for special company like everybody else. No, that's not it. It's just me. I'm the constant in the ever changing equation of my life.

"Well, hello there Matthias family. You look great, just great," I said with a smile, the corners of mouth struggling to hold the weight of my cheeks.

"Hey there, big man. What about you? Are you ready to get your picture taken, today?"

The little boy clung to his mother's white sundress, one brown eye studying me from behind his maternal curtain.

"Well, let's do this," said the dad. This obviously wasn't his idea. That pretty brunette wife of his got him convinced I'm sure. She looks like the kind who wouldn't want her living room to be missing this key fixture.

"Alright then," I said.

My lips threatened to give up their attempt at happiness. The sun shined brightly. The sweat was already starting to emerge from my forehead and creep down my lower back, and from the looks of old papa's armpits there, he was feeling it too.

"Okay, Matthias family how about you put your backs to the ocean with Mother on the left , and you, Mr. Matthias, on the right with Little Bit here in the middle. And use that drift wood for a prop, to sit on or put your foot on, if you want."

They shuffled into place, self consciously trying to position their bodies in what they thought was their best angle. A true smile came to my face watching the little display.

"Okay, yeah that's really nice," I said. I hunched my back, squinting into the camera.

The smell of its warm plastic mingled with the vinegar of the ocean. I felt a rush of nausea. The dad stood straight as an arrow even though I had clearly asked for him to bend in toward the rest of his family. Fathers—they're all the same. It's all about them. Them wanting to look like the big guy. Whatever. I pointed and shot, moving the little family into different positions while dampness seeped through my only good shirt.

"Oh, Mr. Lander," the mother said to me, smiling. The sun had only made her more beautiful, a faint blush shined on her bronzed skin.

I pulled the camera from my face, resting its weight against my hip.

"Yes, Ms. Matthias. What can I do for you?"

A smile pricked her face as she motioned with a dainty finger, "You look like you've got a black smudge there on your shirt. I thought I should tell you."

I looked at the front of my button-down. "Well thank you ma'am, but it doesn't matter. I'm not in the snapshot now am I?"

"Well, no," she said with a nervous laugh. "I guess you're not."

–e-