Picture Perfect 36

Dan was surprised to see his mother come into the Depot. It had been some years since she had visited the site. The last time was the grand reopening of the renovated store. She was wearing a well-tailored, two-piece jacket and skirt in a pale mauve, darker mauve shoes and a small pillbox hat with a bit of veiling. 

She looked around, picked up a few cameras and peered through them. Outside of her apartment she looked smaller.  

“Mom! What brings you here?” Daniel hugged her. “Still sporting the Jackie look I see.” She hadn’t dressed up like this even for the opening of the FairVista location. He glad to see her looking so well. After his Dad’s death she spent a year of not caring about much. It almost took an intervention to get her to go a hairdresser.

“The place is well-organized.” She kissed him on the cheek. “It looks prosperous.”

“So do you.” Sandy said.

“You remember Sandy.” Dan said.

“Of course.” She kissed Sandy on the cheek. “You’ve lost some weight.”

“This is Ushio Tanaka.”

“Yes, we met at Linda’s wedding. The solar man?” 

“Solar?” Dan said. “Oh right! I forgot our foray into solar energy. Panels were too bulky and the profits too low.”

“But we still have some on the roof, right boss. Good to see you Mrs. James.” Ushio nodded to her.

“Care to show me around.” she asked Daniel.

“Sure. We haven’t made many changes here since you were here last. We’ll go up the back way.” Daniel lead her through to the back of the shop.

“Smells good back here.”

“That’s the Carafe.”

“I’m surprised any of you are so thin with such an enticing smell.” She opened the back door. “We used to have a little garden back here.”

“Yeah, but now that’s where we keep the city garbage bins till we put them in the lane way.”

She stepped back into the building. “I can remember you stomping up and down these stairs to go to school. I see you are still locking your bike to that railing.”

She went up the the next landing. “On rainy days I could hang laundry back here. See there’s one of the hooks for the line still here.”

Dan opened the door to his office. “This is where I do my own work. The RCMP stuff.”

She walked in and glanced around. “A man’s office.”

“The workshop is upstairs.”

She followed him up.

“Your bedroom was in the corner.”

“It’s still there. We kept it and the bathroom.”

She looked at the equipment, computer stations and projectors, magnifiers.

“It’s like a space ship, isn’t it.” She walked to the window overlooking the street. “Yes, you’ve done your Dad proud. He was sure he lost you to the law. That’s what he called it ‘the law.’”

“It was more like the Goddamned law if I remember correctly.”

“Right. Linda tells me you found some old photos of Richard’s.”

“The family stuff? Loads of Christmas stuff of us kids, that I barely remembered. A few old super 8’s as well. I’ve had them all digitized and burned to cd. I can get a copy for you. But I must warm you your hair-do’s go through some very drastic changes.”


“I was always trying look up to date.” His mother laughed. “Betty at the salon would say ‘what next’ as if it were a challenge.”

“We always knew when you’d had it done too. The smell of the spray was hard to miss.”

“I needed it to keep the hair hard. I’d love to see those old movies but Linda said you showed her some …. nudies?” She coughed lightly.

“I did.”

“I want them destroyed.”

“Huh?” She had said destroyed so casually Dan wasn’t sure if had heard her correctly.

“I thought I’d found them all. When you father passed I away, I found every one I could and got rid of them. Negatives and all. I was sure he would have wanted it that way.”

“You did what?”

“He thought I didn’t know but I knew from the start. Developing pictures late at night, telling me it was a rush order, but it was easy to find out what was going on.”

“How long had it been going on?” Dan asked.

“I don’t want to discuss it any further Daniel. I just want those photos. I want them all destroyed. I thought I had found them all. I went through everything here, at the house. He had them hidden in the little attic. A big box of them.”

“Were they all Dad’s work.”

“I didn’t care. I put them through the shredder, burned them. Bleached the negatives. It was sick. Taking them was sick. Publishing them was sick.”

“Publishing them?”

“There were magazine he’d sell them to. I’d see the cheques. He said it was his nature pictures for calendars. I believed him but a copy of one came in the mail. I saw it. I knew. He didn’t even try to deny it. He was proud. He said they were art.” She took a deep breath. “They were smut.”

“Calm down Mom.” The more she spoke the more he knew he wasn’t going to let these pictures be destroyed. He didn’t think they were art but now they were a part of his father he never knew.

“You shouldn’t have gone digging into those things.” she said. “It never does any good to dig into the past.”

“I wasn’t digging for anything. I was looking for those pictures of me and Timmy, remember. Because of that TV show. The other pictures had been stuck to the bottom of one of the bins.”

“I guess I sound like some old judgmental biddy.”

“No one is going to see them now anyway.”

“Your sister did.”

“That was to find out if she know anything more than I did about them. She reminded me about Kodak Fun Club.”

“You know about that too?” she sat in one of the arm chairs in front of his desk. “I really hoped all the would disappear once he had died. I never wanted you kids to know about this.”

“It was bit of a surprise. But it’s really no big deal. Not by today’s standards, anyway. It was more unexpected than anything else.”

“Can I see them?”

He took out the few he had shown Linda. She glanced at them, shook her and then tore them in half.

“Mom!” He didn’t move fast enough to stop her.

“Are there any more?”

“No! That was all.” He was glad he hadn’t handed her the originals.

“I hope so. It was hell knowing about it all these years. Kept it a secret. He assured me he never, you know, did more than take the pictures.”

“Yeah.”

“I didn’t know he was selling them to magazines. I was the one mailing them and never knew.. It was to some studio in Montreal. They would somehow get them to the States.”

Daniel remained silent. She knew a lot more about this business than he would have expected.

“He said they were selling copies of his prints. Those pictures of lighthouses, storms. He was good at that. I didn’t know it was …”

“He kept it hidden alright.”

“He assured me he wasn’t … ”

“What?”

“That he wasn’t going to do anymore. When we moved here after him getting caught.”

“What! Caught doing what?”

“Taking those pictures. He wasn’t charged or anything. That’s when we left. He was afraid. No one else, but me, was ever to know.”

“And the models. They know.”

“Right. I don’t think they knew what he was doing with our photos.”

“Our?”

“My God I didn’t mean to …” she began to weep.

“You posed for him?” The image of his mother in stockings, garter, bra and wild a whip left him breathless.

“It was all sort of fun at first. We were just fooling around and he said it would be for his eyes only. They were nothing. Not like this. Bathing suit shots, me drying myself after a bath. But when I found out about Montreal I said no more. No! No! No! I felt like a tramp. I saw the magazine with my photos in it. There. It made me sick.”

“You were in one of those magazines?”

“It wasn’t like you think. I was never … naked … never.”

Dan didn’t know how to calm her. A hug seemed out of place, insufficient.

“He was a good husband. He was good to you children. Always. That’s why I stayed. I loved him. He wanted us to stay together. So when I said move, we moved.”

“I’m beginning to understand.”

“And with those children going missing. It scared him. Sacred me too.”

“It was that weekend in Stellarton that he got found out by someone?”

“Yes. Someone called the RCMP and they went to where they were taking those pictures. You know a lot of his work was with children, school kids, they said they’d ruin that for him if he stayed. I warned him that it would happen. That he’d get caught.”

“Who called?”

“They wouldn’t tell him.”

“It was you, wasn’t it?”

“Me! No.”

Dan believed her. 

“Now you know why these pictures. All of them. Have to be destroyed. I don’t want his memory ruined.”

“Don’t worry, it won’t be.”

She stood and hugged him, her tears wetting his cheek. “I knew you’d understand.”

He didn’t want to tell her how hard he found it to understand. Keeping secrets for so long puzzled him.

“I best be on my way. If you find any more of these please promise you’ll destroy them.”

“I will Mom. I will.”

He walked down the stairs with her and hailed a cab for her to get home. If she hadn’t been so distraught he would have asked her about her signing on the Cuppa’s agreement. Another time.

“She seemed a little upset.” Sandy said as he went back into the Depot.

“The old homestead got to her.”

“That’s right I forget your family lived here at one time. It has changed a lot.”

“Yes. Nothing stays the same. Even the past can get a renovation.”

“Good thing we have pictures. They never change.”

“I don’t know about that. They don’t change but I’ve found what we see in them does.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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