Picture Perfect 12

The next day Dan was grateful for a routine morning at James Family Photographers. The the unusual activity the past couple of days had tempted him to take a day off to collect his thoughts about Timmy, Cyrtys and his sister’s Cuppa threat. He dropped into the Classic for a bagel and coffee to take up to his office. 

“Quiet morning for you too?” He asked Jill as he waited for his bagel to toast.

“Yeah. The Institute doesn’t take a morning break Thursday. I wonder how those students feel when they get off the street car to to see their Toronto campus for the first time.” Jill said. 

“I know. When I think of a campus I imagine something like U of T not a two floors in a ten story office complex.” Dan nodded. “Sorry about the Cuppa people.”

“These things happen. But I’ve always said your sister is a piece of work. The whole atmosphere here has changed since you opened up the other location.”

“In a good way?”

“Oh, yes. Very good. I don’t envy Cuppa. She used to come in here and no matter how busy we were she’d just push in front of the line up. She’d claim she was picking up an order she’d texted us.”

“She does know how to get her way. Most of the time. Not this time though.”

Coffee and bagel in hand he stepped into the shop. “Ushio, I’ll be up in the archives for awhile. If you need me.”

He went thought store to the back stairway. It always brought back memories of when they had lived her. He always expected to see his first bike locked to the landing on the second floor along with garbage he frequently forgot to take out. On really humid days he could still smell the steamed cabbage his mother was so fond of. Today he could smell coffee and baked goods coming from the basement ovens of the Classic.

Once he had finished his bagel he went into the archives storage and pulled out the two bins for 1984. All he had taken when he retrieved the Timmy photos were from the month they had moved. Maybe there was something in the other files that would shed some light on what was going on in the months before.

Linda had said the move was talked about at Christmas so he also took the bins for the previous year. Each year had been split into two bins – regardless of how little there was in one half.

His father had kept meticulous records of his travels – hotels, motels, school he’d worked for, endless receipts for restaurants, gas, even for clothes bought for them when they were kids.

Much of that had been discarded before his Dad had died. Receipts were for tax purposes. But his Dad’s daily appointment books were there, in those he recorded, expenses, mileage and sometimes incidents.

His Dad opted to only keep family or other personal photographs. Most of the commercial stuff, that wasn’t in the business’s portfolio, was discarded. Dan sometimes wished they had kept some of those early wedding photos though to compare them with what was being done now.

He shook the contents out of the envelop in the Dec 83 folder. Like most of them there were glassine envelopes of negatives, lots of developed photos in back and white, in colour, even a super eight. Did they have a projector? There was always the Stedman Transferer. When had they used that last? There had been a brisk business for awhile in transferring old home movies to VHS. Did they even have a VHS player on the premises?

He used his cell to call the store. “Ushio can we transfer Super 8 to digital? …. I see …. come up the third I have a little project for you.”

It was possible but it wasn’t a one-step operation as he had hoped. 

He flipped through his father’s record books but saw nothing that jumped out to him. Entires were in both his father’s and mother’s handwriting. She had been the main receptionist when the store first opened. 

Weddings. parties. Business banquets. One of his Dad’s specialities was a super wide lens that could take a picture of an entire ballroom of tables. The camera was huge and took two men to move and set up. Maybe it was time to haul that out of storage and set up in the store to contraat it with todays tiny digitals cameras.

There was soft knock at the door. Dan realized he hadn’t unlocked the storage door.

“Sorry Ushio. Got so involved I forget.”

“You have top secrets today?” 

“Nothing like that.” he gave Ushio the super 8 reel.

Ushio unspooled the first few feet and held it up to the light.

“Very clear. Being in the dark was good for it. I can have this ready in a couple of hours. Anything else.” He reached for the other pictures.

“No, not yet. I may get some of these scanned later though. I’m sure Linda will be thrilled to see her acne pictures.”

Ushio stood awkwardly at the door.

“Is there anything else?”

“I was wondering   ….”

“Yes. You want a raise?”
“Oh no nothing like that. The school across the way …”


“They ask if I might teach sometimes.”


“Yes! Equipment repair. That sort of thing.”

“You want to leave here to work for them?”

“Oh, no. It would be part time. Two nights a week.”

“You don’t need my permission to dot hat.”

“They have no facility there. It would be here. In the shop downstairs.”

“Oh! Let me think about it.” Was the building zoned for that sort of use he wondered. It had to be as they did camera workshops often.

Once Ushio left he want back the assortment of items from the bin. Why had his Dad held on to these paper napkins? Some party that only he could remember. Dan opened one of them up and there was a red lipstick kiss in the middle of it. Hmm. 

The Shoreline Diner was printed in one corner in letters sticking in the sand. They had eaten there a few times for special occasions. He recalled standing at the huge plate glass windows that overlooked the Atlantic. One night there had be an amazing storm and he saw a boat’s lights bobbing up and down.

He had emptied the bin of all the various folders, envelopes and photos. As far as he could tell there wasn’t anything unexpected in the appointment books. Nothing that explained the decision to move.

He put the contents back in order. As he lifted it to move to the next box an envelop flapped from the bottom. The gum of the flap had adhered it there and gravity had pulled it free.

On the front of it ‘04/79 – 07/83’ was scribbled. He couldn’t tell whose handwriting it was though. He pushed the sides in to open it enough to see what was in it. More photographs and negatives. He cautiously tipped it so the contents slid out into the pool of light on the desk.

He couldn’t believe this eyes. The top picture was a black and white shot of a woman in bra and panties buttoning her seamed nylons into a garter belt. Her back was to the camera so her buttocks were the focus. Her face was turned but not enough for him to see who she was. He recognized the chair she had her left foot on as one from his Dad’s studio.

He turned the photo over to see the next one. It was the same woman, in the same clothes, back still to the camera, head partly turned, standing wide legged, her hands on her ass as if about to spread the cheeks.

On the back of the the photo he had turned over was a hand drawn circle with an x through it. He’d seen that symbol before. He took one of the record books out of the bin and flipped though it till he came to day with that mark on it. Was that the day the pictures were taken?

Gingerly he went to the next picture. The same woman, the same chair, the same back to the camera only this time there was man on his knees, leaned over the chair. No face visible. Boxer shorts, shoes and socks on. The woman was wielding a cat-of-nine-tails aimed at the man’s ass. In the next several pictures the whip went from hitting the man’s ass to being brought back and down to his ass.

Dan squirmed uneasily in his chair. He got up and went to the window rubbing his eyes to relive the strain of peering at the photos. This wasn’t the fun family Christmas memories he expected to find.

Had his Dad rented out the studio space for these? He couldn’t have taken them himself. Could he?

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