Saturday Short: Photographs for Sale

There was an old box of photographs for sale, shoved between a rusting lamp (it was not worth the $10 price tag tied around its base) and a pale violet vase (which was worth much more than its $5 price scrawled on a bright orange sticker), on the table of a vendor at the weekly, Saturday jumble sale that Suzanna had not seen before. The photographs caught her eye. Or, perhaps more precisely, the lurid green box they were stuffed in caught her eye. It was the kind of green she hadn’t seen since she bought that cheap, neon green chair for a few bucks to furnish her overpriced, but cheapest she could find, apartment in grad school. A fleeting smile played across her face. By the time she was done with her degree, the chair was held together with packing tape and prayers. It had been surprisingly comfortable though, or perhaps she had simply been younger. Probably a bit of both.

She knew she had been standing too long looking at the box, lost in her memories, when the vendor’s voice caused her to jump.

“A buck a piece or 6 for 5,” he said. His voice sounded as old as the photos looked. Scratchy like a misused record.

“A bit steep,” Suzanna replied as she touched the edge of the first photograph in the box. The corner was broken off and the boy in the photo looked like he was leering at the photographer. It sent a shiver down her neck.

The vendor did not argue with her assessment and did not try to hurry her along. There was no one else trying to look through his wares.

Suzanna continued to flip through the photographs, as if it were a compulsion. None of them were particularly well-composed. Some were blurred to the point she wasn’t sure what or who the subject was. And yet, she felt as if she had to look at each one, as if there was a secret for her, hidden in one of them. She just had to figure out which.

“I haven’t seen you here before.”

“No, I suppose you haven’t,” he said, but did not comment further. It was odd, usually the vendors talked so fast and so long that she could barely get in a counter-offer for bargaining.

When her index finger touched the third to the last photo in the box, it felt like a shock of static electricity bolted into her hand. She pulled the photo out of the box and handed the man a dollar without a word. He didn’t say thank you or goodbye as she walked away in a haze, people having to sidestep her as Suzanna seemed unaware of anything but the photo she held.

“You’ve got to get rid of that box,” said a voice behind the vendor.

He did not turn around. “Why?”

“It’s not right to make them see their futures. It’s not our job.”

The man chuckled. “I don’t give them their future. I only show them their past.”

“That’s not how she’ll see it. You know that.”

“That is not my problem.” He held up the dollar before disappearing it into a fold in his sleeve. “I believe I am now winning our bet.”

There was a snort in reply. “Not for long. Tomorrow it’s my turn.”

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