He goes back, tinkers again, then
stands in front of it, closer, and gazes straight into the lens.
What does this face show?
The old kist whirrs, ticks, stops.
Find out in the dark room, maybe!
He returns to the boxes.
On top, under a lid, out of its envelope, is a
negative of a dirty toy machine gun lying on the backseat of an abandoned
Lamb stares at it a moment. How did this get
here ... Then, remembering something, he abruptly goes back to
the very first box, the one with his earliest photographs in it, leaning
in its ancient cardboard dilapidation against the attic wall, and
starts rummaging through it.
At last he finds what he's looking for,
picks it out, and draws into the light. It is an old yellowing thing,
of a middle-aged couple -- the man flat-faced, meaty, a Finn, in a
shirt, the woman taller, a Scot, unnaturally skinny,
in a shirtwaist dress, with exactingly coiffed jet-black hair (black
in the negative; her real hair was sandy blond) and eyes that glared.
Seen from the waist up, the couple stares at him, surreal black against
black. His parents.
In the background is a garden seen vaguely through
a door. The heads are dead center in the photograph.
Too self-conscious. I said, don't smile -- not
look like they're at a funeral!
Incompetent photograph ...
The smell of that shirt.
William Lamb looks at his father's face and the
shirt whose smell he suddenly remembers so keenly. The face
that was so open, warm and laughing when outside home with friends
and company, then would shut tight as glue as soon as he walked in
the front door, except for the regular lashings out in irritation