Think & Write #110

Photo Finish

The car careened around the corner, darting around various cars.  The air conditioner was on full blast and some easy listening music was playing.  While this was happening, a series of flashes came from the car.

“Just a few more,” Elliot whispered as he was approaching a stop light.

Click. Click.  A few more flashes came from the car.

Elliot glanced at his watch and sighed.  This was going to be just like last time.  He could already envision it.

The light turned green and Elliot pounded his foot onto the accelerator.  He took the wheel in one hand while taking pictures with the other.  He aimed with his right hand to try to get the shots as straight as possible.

Elliot finally arrived at the magazine publisher.  He pushed on the button to take another picture.  Nothing happened.

He then inspected the camera and noticed that his memory card was full.

How could the card be full already?  It was only empty last night!  Elliot unzipped a pouch to reveal a Ziploc bag containing a small pile of memory cards.  They were all in cases, each holding two gigabytes.  The cards were also color-coded, with round stickers that indicated the card’s status.  Green for empty and red for full.

Elliot reached into the pouch and pulled out the stickers.  He peeled off the green sticker off the case and replaced it with a red sticker.  He then put a new card into the camera and ran into the building.

This is going to happen again!  Elliot felt a lump in his throat.  He darted through the hallway.  He almost dropped his camera, but quickly grasped it.  He entered the room, dreading what would happen next.

“Stevens, you’re late again!”  The words pierced right through Elliot.

Elliot looked at his boss and sighed.  “I…I have the pictures.”

The boss shook his head and sipped some coffee.  “That’s nice, Stevens.  But you’re still late.  It’s important that you show up on time so that the order of things can be maintained.”

“Yes, Mr. Pellbrant…” Elliot nodded, adjusting his glasses.

“Order is very important for things here to run like clockwork,” Mr. Pellbrant continued.  “When you show up late, you disrupt that order and you hold up the work for the editors.  You understand that it’s crunch time, and that the magazine will go to print tomorrow morning.  This makes your punctuality all the more important.

“You know, Stevens, that on any normal circumstance, I would fire you.  However, this magazine cannot afford to lose someone as talented as you are.  You are one of the best photographers that our magazine has.

“Just listen, Stevens.  The tardiness has to stop.  Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes,” Elliot gulped.  “C-crystal clear…Mr. Pellbrant.”

The boss dismissed Elliot to give him time to work on his proofs to give to the photo editors.

Who begins to show up late for work like this?  It was never like this before. Elliot printed off a few proofs and stacked them on his desk.

Elliot turned on his camera and pointed it at his face.  Click. Click.  The sound was pleasant.  The click.  The flash.  It was the perfect combination.  The art of capturing time and confining it in a box was truly splendid.

Elliot sat down his camera and worked on some more proofs.  Beaches.  Piers.  Downtown.  All the shots were there.  He finished the proofs and handed them to the editors.  The editors selected the pictures they liked.  Elliot then transferred those pictures to the magazine’s server.

The work was done.  There was a sunset in the distance, which prompted Elliot to pull out his camera.  All the angles were captured, and the camera was put away.

The car merged onto the interstate.  Elliot captured a shot of the interstate sign.  It was the main artery of traffic that ran through the state: The 5.

Elliot turned up the radio.  It was still playing easy listening music.  He was still driving and taking pictures.

Suddenly, a dark object appeared in the distance.  It looked like a car, sitting in the middle of the road.

Elliot applied his brakes.  UUUURRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!  The car stopped just inches from the busted car.

Elliot grabbed his camera and shot a whole bunch of pictures.  There was glass missing from the windshield.  The whole car was mangled like a wad of paper.

Several cars stopped behind Elliot’s car and a few sounded their horns.  How did this happen?  What caused the incident?  Elliot could not figure it out.

Elliot then looked up and saw a broken guardrail on the over pass just above him.  He snapped a few more pictures of what he saw.

In moments, Elliot heard sirens and more horns honking.  There was no pileup.  No fender-bender. No collision.  Just one red Toyota Camry, lying on the California interstate, damaged beyond recognition.

The emergency squad pulled the driver out of the busted vehicle.  The person was an old man, covered in blood.  They felt around for a pulse.

“This one’s dead,” A man from the squad said.

Elliot stood there, taking pictures of them carrying the old man into an EMS unit.  One of the men looked back at Elliot and frowned.

“Do you mind?” The man sighed.  “This man just died!  All you can do is just stand there and take pictures.  Do you have a press pass?”

“No I don’t,” Elliot told him.  “I just shoot pictures for a magazine.”

The man shook his head. “Then I would appreciate it if you didn’t take anymore pictures.  Have you any sympathy?”

“I’m sorry.  I just find this quite exciting.”

The man shook his head and joined the rest of the emergency squad.

Elliot got back in his car and followed the police, who was directing traffic around the accident scene.  He shot a few more pictures before the scene was out of view.

Elliot arrived at home and parked his car.  He still couldn’t figure out why an old man would drive over the guardrail.  Was he senile or getting too old to drive?

Elliot opened the door.  The wife stood there in the living room, frowning.

“Where were you, Elliot?” She sighed.  “I was starting to get worried.”

Elliot adjusted his glasses and stared at her. “There was an accident.”

“An accident? Was anyone hurt?”

“This old man died.  Come and take a look.”

Elliot turned on his camera and showed her all the pictures of the accident.

The wife looked at Elliot.  He could see the tears beginning to form in her eyes.  “This was on Interstate 5?”

“Yes it was.”

Elliot picked up his camera and took some pictures.

The wife looked right at Elliot’s camera.  “What are you doing?”

“I am just taking some more pictures.”

“Pictures,” she scowled.  “That’s all you care about.  You could care less about that man or anyone.”

“It’s just another moment.”

“That’s the problem, Elliot.  To you, everything is a moment!  How about reflecting on any of them for once?”

“I must get another angle over here and…”

“Are you listening to me?  Put that stupid camera down and listen to me!”

“I am listening to you!” Elliot shouted.  “It’s just that these moments only last for a short time!”

The wife shook her head.  “You know what?  Just take your damn moments and get out of here!  This is one of the last moments you will be seeing me!”

The wife ran into the bedroom sobbing and slammed the door.

Elliot let out a deep sigh.  Bridget…  Why did I do this to her?

He knew that the house did not belong to him.  Bridget bought this house.  It was her third year of practicing medicine.  Elliot, on the other hand, could not pay the bills with his job alone.

Elliot entered one of the bathrooms and took a shower.  He then plopped down on the couch and fell asleep.

Elliot woke up and glanced at his watch.  7:15. Great.  I’m 15 minutes late!

He scooped up his camera and bolted out the door.  He took a few pictures of the house and sped off in the car.

The car zoomed down the interstate.  The air conditioning was on full blast and the radio was playing easy listening music.  With the magazine coming out today, lost time had to be made up.

Elliot merged over to the lane on his right and took some more pictures.  Elliot heard a honk in the distance, and suddenly noticed a car approaching him fast from behind.

The driver behind him started to apply the brakes, but it was too late.  Elliot did the only thing that he could do at the last minute.  He swung the steering wheel to the right, hoping to avoid him.

Instead, the car rolled against the guardrail, overlooking a complex system of interchanges.  The guardrail snapped and the car rolled off the overpass.

At that moment, everything became a blur to Elliot.  He remembered his 10th birthday.  The gift was a camera and some film.  He remembered the joy he had when he first received that camera.  He went all over the neighborhood, taking pictures of everything that he could.

Elliot now understood why that old man died.  It was a moment.  Life is a moment.  You live and then die. It is not long.

Elliot thought of his wife one more time.  Oh, how he wanted to kiss her!  The sweet embrace and the blessing of another moment was all he needed right now.  He just wanted to say sorry…

The car plummeted toward the busy freeway below.

“I’m sorry,” Elliot sobbed.

Elliot let go of his camera.  The car smashed into the freeway.  The engine exploded and the car blew up.  The flash from the explosion could be seen in the distance as one drove through the California interstate.

______

©2004  K. L. Walker

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