Phillip walked along the meandering paths that traversed the gardens of his grandparents’ country property. His camera, a cheap model, bounced on his chest in time with his steps. It had been a constant presence throughout the summer, and he felt odd without its comforting weight around his neck.
Everyone else was back at the house, but he’d slipped away from the extended gathering of cousins, uncles, and aunts. He wanted to be alone, to capture something before it vanished.
He’d seen something unusual the day before and wanted to find it again. Phillip was walking alongside a hedge near one of the formal gardens, trying to work out how he could ask his father for a new camera. One of his uncles had said that there were photography classes at the school he was starting at next term, and this had captured his attention. For the first time, he’d felt that it mightn’t be such a bad thing to go away, to leave his mother and sisters behind.
A sudden movement to the left halted his progress. All summer he’d been trying to photograph a bird in flight. There were many of them around the property, but getting close enough to get a decent picture was a challenge. Phillip held the camera, his finger on the shutter button. To get film processed cost a week’s allowance, plus there was the cost of a new roll of film. He’d learned the hard way to take it slowly and now spent more time framing the shot. He’d set himself a challenge to make one roll of film last for the holidays. There were three days left, and three shots left on the roll.
Instinctively, he froze as he heard the voices. The summer had been spent playing endless games with his cousins, including hide-and-seek. He crouched, making himself small and still against the hedge. A familiar chuckle reached his ears and he relaxed. It was Uncle Max. A favourite among the cousins, Uncle Max was always coming up with interesting games for the children. He was about to spring out and surprise Uncle Max when he realised that he wasn’t alone. Phillip stayed where he was and breathed as quietly as he could.
Uncle Max was walking along the other side of the hedge. There was a man with him, but Phillip didn’t recognise him. There were many visitors to the property, and Phillip had been despatched with the younger children when there were special dinners and dancing. They’d all clamoured for a glimpse of the adults passing through the hallway and into the dining room, but the man with Uncle Max didn’t seem familiar at all. They were walking slowly, heads bent, voices interwoven. Phillip watched as they stopped. Uncle Max reached out and cupped the man’s face with his hand. The men leaned towards each other. Phillip’s finger slipped. Click. He looked down, disappointed to have wasted a shot. It would show the ground, or maybe his foot.
When he glanced up, the men were standing apart, looking around. Phillip scrabbled towards the trees on the outskirts. He continued until the trees thickened about him. Then he ran.
Occasionally, I have a story idea that arrives via a dream. The challenge is to get the essence of it down before it fades. Do dreams provide writing inspiration for you?
I’m participating in this blogging challenge for the month of January, which supports starting the year on the “write” track. You can find out more about the challenge, join in and read other posts here.
Photo: old cameras at Kandos Museum, NSW