A Picture’s Worth More Than You Know (Story #37)

The homeless man started dancing as soon as Daniel got to the corner.  His arms flapped and his head bopped to a rhythm of his own making that only he could hear. Daniel didn’t pay much attention.  The homeless guy was a smelly-but-safe kind of crazy not a pull-a-gun-and-kill-you kind.  Soon enough, Daniel lost the strangeness of the homeless man’s dance to the busyness of the street, but then seconds before the light turned in his favor, the homeless man danced his way off the curb and into the intersection where a young woman who just got her license was speeding up, trying to make it before yellow turned to red.  It, as it turned out, was a mess of congealed flesh and metal coupled with an eruption of paper spewing forth from the broken duffle bag the homeless man had been clutching under his right arm.

Daniel did not see the accident.  He’d shut his eyes right before the accident, but he still felt the whizz of the unbathed body being thrown forward.  When he opened his eyes, all that was left of the homeless man were the photos strewn on the street. Normally, Daniel would have ignored these and moved on.  But among twenty or so photos of men and women—all strangers to Daniel—was a picture of himself.

He bent down and picked the photo up.  It was definitely him, he decided, though he couldn’t remember when it had been taken.  When he got home and showed the picture to his girlfriend, she tried to assure him he shouldn’t worry about it.  The picture obviously wasn’t him—just someone who looked a lot like him.  It was the only logical explanation.  She said this and then backtracked when Daniel pointed out that the man in the picture was wearing the same black leather jacket she’d given him the year before.  “He also has my mole,” he said pointing to his cheek.  “I didn’t know you had a mole?” she said, almost as if she were rethinking their relationship now that she’d found out this new secret about him.  “I’ve always had a beard,” Daniel said.  “as long as I’ve known you, at least.  “Well, see, this guy doesn’t have a beard.  So it can’t be you,” Daniel’s girlfriend said, pleased with her line of argument.   “You know that’s ridiculous, right?”  “Just trying to help,” his girlfriend said.

Later that day, Daniel walked back to the corner where the accident had been.  There were no photos anywhere, no sign that anything unusual had happened.  But across the street from where he was standing, Daniel saw a young man who looked a lot like him when he was younger.  The young man started dancing almost immediately after Daniel noticed him, almost as if he were on cue.  And he moved just like the homeless guy, the same flapping of his arms and the bopping head.

A truck entered the intersection just then.  Daniel closed his eyes trying not to look at what he knew was coming.  The truck blew its horn and then there was the squealing of brakes.  When Daniel opened his eyes, the truck driver had gotten down from his cab and was holding his head in his hands.  And all around him was paper blowing in the wind like birds whose wings had been clipped.

Daniel walked around to the far-side of the truck and found a man looking at some of the photos that had landed close to the curb.  He sat next to the man and looked down at the photos.  “Is yours there?” the man asked.  “Yeah.  That one,” Daniel said pointing at a picture of a boy holding a soccer ball and smiling.  “You were a cute kid,” the man said.  “You should get it now while you still can.  The cops are going to get here soon and then you won’t get it back.”  “How do they get our photos?” Daniel asked.  “Who knows? I’ve been following these guys for years, and they always get their hands on them.”  “What?” Daniel asked.  “Really? You don’t know?” the man looked up at Daniel, a mix of surprise and disgust.  “I thought everyone knew.  They sell them.”  “What?” “Your memories,” the man said.

Off in the distance, Daniel heard the sirens coming closer.  “Take it and get out of here,” the man said, still looking through the remaining photos—picking each one up and inspecting it.  “If they catch you with one, they won’t be happy.”

Daniel picked the photo up and walked home.  He didn’t say anything to his girlfriend when she asked him about his day, but he asked her to take his picture a few times that night.

The next morning, while walking to the bank to put his pictures in a safe deposit box, Daniel was shot down by a neighbor who heard his girlfriend asking Daniel to say cheese the night before.  The picture was stolen and recovered a month after that when the neighbor was robbed and murdered by someone greedier still.

We can’t blame these thieves. Times are tough for everyone.

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Tags: , , , , , , ,

Categories: fiction

Author:the circular runner

g. martinez cabrera currently lives in San Francisco with his lovely and talented wife. He holds degrees from Columbia and from the Harvard Divinity School where he spent three years thinking about lofty things. Since then, he tries to write some lofty and some not-so-lofty things down so others can see how lofty he sometimes is. When he’s not writing or spending time with said wife, he tortures young people with learning. He blogs at www.circularrunning.wordpress.com and Tumbls at www.circularrunning.tumblr.com

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