Johnny America


Death in Silverprint


When I look at the pho­to­graph, I
don’t re­mem­ber much. I re­mem­ber De­lores want­ed us to paint our cheeks. I think
I may have been the one to think of the red ar­rows. But there we stand. I am
smok­ing the cig­a­rette and De­lores is hold­ing the bot­tle of De­war’s Scotch We
look ca­su­al, as if on­ly slight­ly in­ter­est­ed in the pho­tog­ra­ph­er. I don’t
re­mem­ber a cow skull sit­ting in the yard. The win­dow cur­tains are pulled aside
as if some­one were watch­ing from in­side the cab­in. I don’t re­mem­ber the second
pho­to­graph at all. I don’t re­mem­ber mak­ing a kissy face at the cam­era or
hold­ing the bot­tle up to De­lores’ mouth. I don’t re­mem­ber the car in the
park­ing lot. For some rea­son most of that af­ter­noon is blocked out. I don’t
in­tend to find out why ei­ther. Maybe some­thing bad hap­pened. Maybe Delores
re­mem­bers but you can’t ask her be­cause she’s dead. I heard she killed herself.
Maybe she was haunt­ed by some­thing. I don’t know. I doubt it. I don’t know why
peo­ple are com­ing around ask­ing me about these pho­tos. The past is the past

I stop the WAVE File that Jim­my has
emailed me. I feel un­com­fort­able sit­ting on the train by myself.

I have no rea­son to feel this way.
The train is­n’t crowd­ed. There are two women in their six­ties sit­ting a couple
of seats in front of me and I don’t want to think of what I have just listened
to, so I con­cen­trate on their con­ver­sa­tion in­stead. One of them is laugh­ing in
a bois­ter­ous way that makes me em­bar­rassed. I have no rea­son to feel this way.
Why can’t a per­son be hap­py? Why can’t a per­son ex­press jovi­al­i­ty on public
trans­porta­tion? I close my eyes. I lis­ten to the sound of their laugh­ter and
some­how the laugh­ter morphs in­to a vi­sion. In it

I am danc­ing with a man I can’t
rec­og­nize. He is laugh­ing and I can smell the gel in his hair. He has his hands
on my waist. He is say­ing my name of over and over, but it is­n’t my name.

“Lin­nie,” he says.


I strug­gle against him but he has
put a hand be­hind my head. I can’t turn away from him. He has this in­tense look
and I want so bad­ly to fig­ure out why his eyes have changed color.

But now I am back on the train and I
still hear the women laugh­ing. I stand up and walk to­wards the snack car for a

At the apart­ment I am scald­ing some
ar­ti­choke soup. My mind is on the pho­tos. Jim­my is tex­ting me from his favorite
Pub down­town, Lucky Jacks.

What did you think of the interview?

In­stead of sleep­ing with my arm
around his back like I used to, I now slept cradling the pho­tos near my neck, a
fear that some­one might steal them in the night. They are be­com­ing my most
prized possession.

He helps me re­search them on our
days off from work. I start look­ing at the back of the pho­tos try­ing to when
the pho­tos were tak­en. The back is stamped with Kodak/Velox pa­per but there is
no date. I start thumb­ing through the Beck­ett book, try­ing to look for names and
dates, some­thing I had nev­er thought to do. I find it on the in­side binding.
The first name is Lin­nie and a last name I can’t pro­nounce with an address
writ­ten in cur­sive on the first page.

I get sleepy while watch­ing a
tele­vi­sion pro­gram about the plague. I turn on the lap­top and lis­ten to the
in­ter­view again… I am so ob­sessed with hear­ing her de­scribe what was
hap­pen­ing the day of the pho­to­graph, what was go­ing on in her head They are
just ghosts star­ing at us and dar­ing us to guess about their lives.

I look hard at the pho­tographs. I
try to fig­ure out which one is Lin­nie and which one is De­lores. In my head they
be­come like Thel­ma and Louise. Maybe they are es­cap­ing pover­ty or bad marriages
or ad­dic­tions. But are they es­cap­ing some­thing or just hav­ing a good time?
There is some­thing des­per­ate in their pos­tures. Al­most as if they are forcing
them­selves to have a good time. It is then that my imag­i­nary nar­ra­tive changes
Are they sis­ters? Are they them­selves lovers? I fall asleep won­der­ing why they
chose to paint the ar­row on their cheeks. I get chills on my arms. I guess they
re­al­ly were like Thel­ma and Louise. One of them was anyway.

I text him back.

How in the world did you find this?

Jim­my texts me again 15 minutes
lat­er and tells me to check my email. It is a link to a un­solved murders
web­site. I see Lin­nie’s name with the odd Ger­man sur­name in stark black
let­ter­ing. Above it is the name of the vic­tim. Her name is De­lores. Lin­nie is
list­ed as the last per­son to have had con­tact with De­lores. They found her body
near Green Lake Park.

The cause of death was list­ed as
un­known but be­cause of the cir­cum­stances De­lores’s fam­i­ly thought she had
prob­a­bly been mur­dered. The in­ter­view was from the web­site. Some­one from
De­lores’ Fam­i­ly had long ago tried to con­tact Lin­nie but she was­n’t interested
in re­hash­ing the past. She ob­vi­ous­ly felt it was­n’t her problem.

I wa­ter the plants, and make a
half-heart­ed at­tempt at sweeping.

I met Jim­my at the book­shop where I
found the pho­tographs. We were brows­ing in the same section.

We both spot­ted the book at the same
time. A rare copy of Samuel Beck­et­t’s Whoro­scope. It was two-hun­dred dollars
and I splurged, con­vinc­ing my­self it was an ex­trav­a­gant Birth­day present. We
struck up a con­ver­sa­tion and be­fore I knew it we had made a date to have coffee
the next day. At the reg­is­ter I no­ticed the pho­tos sort of fall out of page 15
and I tucked them back care­ful­ly, not ful­ly re­al­iz­ing what I had found.

Jim­my comes in late from the bar and
wants us to get in­to the hot tub. We change and get in and he reach­es over and
pulls my hand in­to his trunks. I get out of the hot tub and go in­side to get
my­self a glass of wine. He fol­lows me in­side, and tries to pull me over to the
couch. I re­sist at first but then he has my swim­suit off and he’s do­ing things
to me and I still can’t stop think­ing about the photos.

The next morn­ing he has writ­ten a
note on the bath­room mir­ror with shav­ing cream.

She reads Moses and says her love is

He has writ­ten me a line from
Beck­et­t’s book.

The dreams and vi­sions con­tin­ue on
and off for weeks. Most­ly al­ways night­mares involving

A woman cry­ing and a man pleading
with her and then the woman looks at me and I see hor­ror in her eyes.

I feel con­sumed by the photos,
ob­sessed even. My own life not seem­ing to mat­ter anymore.

I lay the pic­tures flat on the
cof­fee ta­ble and go in­to the kitchen to fix my­self some coffee.

When I come back I spill some on the
cor­ner of the pho­to and curse my­self for be­ing so clumsy.


I am in love. I am sud­den­ly seized
with the urge to get the pic­tures out of my head for­ev­er. I walk over to my
purse and take out the Ed Hardy lighter and walk out­side to the porch. The
pho­to starts to quiver be­fore I snap the lighter. When it’s white edge meets
the flame it burns slow­ly at first, then faster. I watch as first Lin­nie and
then De­lores and the bot­tle be­tween them dis­ap­pears in­to brown, and then
fi­nal­ly, black.

Filed under Fiction on December 2nd, 2011

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