Shutter Button

Shutter Button
By: Anonymous

It’s five-thirty AM, and I’m sitting in a musty station waiting for a train. Nobody else is awake, save for a few irritable, busy individuals, and nobody talks. When the train rushes into the station, we file our way in and sit in weighted silence, some lulled by the movement of the train and others too preoccupied to notice. I fall asleep on the train. Nobody bothers to wake me.
Work presents nothing out of the ordinary: mothers towing screaming children, people presenting me with twenty-dollar bills for a three-dollar purchase, customers angrily demanding to speak with my manager. When I clock out, I take my time walking back to the train station, hoping that the fresh air will do something to revitalize me. I reach the smog-scented tunnels more quickly than I would’ve liked, feeling anything but revitalized.
That night, after the realization that I’ve forgotten yet again to go grocery shopping, I collapse on the couch, turn on the TV, and fall asleep with my phone clutched in my hand, ready to wake up once more and restart the cycle.

The only time I feel truly alive is when I’m on the streets with my camera in hand, wielding it like a knight would a sword, ready to capture what the world has to offer me. Not having anybody with whom to occupy my time, I instead turn to photography as my outlet, the only thing keeping me sane. On one such day, I’m wandering through a rundown neighborhood, my messenger bag slung over one shoulder and my finger lightly resting on my camera’s shutter button. A flash of color catches my eye from a flower box outside a little faded house that seems to be empty. In fact, I’d guess it was abandoned if the garden weren’t so impeccably kept.
Unable to stop myself, I meander closer to the house, fascinated by the bright red-and-pink roses in the flower box. I bend over, raising my camera to my face, and barely have time to snap a photo before I hear a voice, strong but quiet, carrying on the breeze.

“Hello.”
I don’t even flinch, completely unused to being acknowledged, dismissing this as a greeting meant for somebody else. I’ve changed my angle for another shot when I hear the voice again, slightly more insistent.
“Hello, you there,” it calls out. “You, over there in my roses.”
I jerk upright, startled, before I lay eyes on a tiny wisp of a woman, likely weighing less than ninety pounds and looking so wizened I wonder if she’ll collapse on the spot. I glance from her to my hands, still holding my camera over her flower box, and stumble back, stammering apologies.
“I-I didn’t… I didn’t realize…” I raise my hands up, unsure whether I’m surrendering or trying to protect myself.
“Oh,” she says with a little closed-lip smile. “It’s quite alright. I just wondered… are you from the newspaper?”
I can’t help but laugh at this odd question.

“No,” I reply. “I noticed your flowers, and I think they’re beautiful.”
“Would you like to come inside?” she asks. “It’s cold out. I could make us some tea?”
I open my mouth to decline, unaccustomed to small talk and unsure whether I even trust this woman yet, but the hopeful glint in her smile-crinkled eyes crumbles my concerns like dry leaves. She must be lonely, I realize. Lonely like I am.

I follow her into her house, noting my surroundings as I go. Everything is covered in a fine layer of dust, from the doily-clad end tables to the framed pictures on the walls. The woman glides into the kitchen and fills up a tea kettle in the rusty sink, setting it on the electric stove to
boil.
“If you’re not with the newspaper,” she says, going into the cabinet and fishing out a few tea bags, “why were you taking pictures in my yard?”
“I’m really sorry,” I apologize, guilt twisting my stomach. “I didn’t mean -”
She waves her hand dismissively.
“Don’t apologize,” she shrugs. “I just wondered. I haven’t seen a nice camera like that in a long time… there was one at my wedding, did you know that?”
“I, um, didn’t know that,” I reply. “And, yeah… this camera belonged to my grandfather.
He gave it to me before he died.”

“Hm,” she murmurs.
The room is filled with the whistling of the tea kettle as she pours steaming water into two floral teacups and presses one into my hand. I don’t know what to do as she leads me into her living room and sits me down in a plush blue armchair. She crosses her ankles and leans forwards, sipping her tea, and begins to talk.
When she starts, she doesn’t stop. She tells me her whole life story, from her childhood in New Orleans to her husband’s experience in Vietnam. I expect to be bored senseless by this lengthy conversation, but I find myself clinging to every word as though what she was speaking about had happened to me. I suppose, in a way, we both needed this.
A few hours pass, and the shroud of night begins to fall around us. I pick up my teacup, its contents long past cold, and stand up, stretching out the crick in my back.
“Thank you for the tea,” I smile, handing her the cup. She gives me a small smirk.
“Thank you for your time,” she replies, taking it and setting it on the kitchen counter.

I come back the next day, and the next, and the next, always remembering to bring my camera.
One day, I catch her staring fondly at it, mindlessly running a hand absently through her hair. I glance from her smile to my camera to a picture hanging on the wall of her, years younger, her hair done up and her makeup flawless, and it all begins to click in my head.

“Would… you like it if I took your picture?”
She glances up at me.
“Would you mind?”
“Not at all.”

The sun is shining down on her face, her rich, dark skin velvety in the soft light. I’ve carefully dethorned five roses and wound them through her hair, framing her face with color and bringing out the caramel browns in her eyes. I haven’t known her for long, but the surge of joy I feel as I frame up the picture is unlike anything I’ve felt before. She looks utterly serene, perched on a bench in her garden, white chiffon fluttering around her like angels’ wings.

I press the shutter button, hearing the distinctive click of a photo being taken. She doesn’t move, instead readjusting the tilt of her head and patting a curl in her hair.
She doesn’t ask to see the photos, even when taking them becomes our common pastime.
She’s always ready for me when I arrive, her hair styled in whatever way she sees fit, not wearing much makeup but glowing nonetheless.
I never told her, but I’ve pasted all the photos we’ve taken into an album – I couldn’t stand leaving them in a drawer to collect dust. The very first page houses the radiant image of
her in the sunlight, framed with petals. The second holds a softer photo, one of her standing in
the kitchen with fragrant steam curling up from the mug she’s cradling in cupped hands. Each photo features that same look on her face, though. That look of pure elegance, of muted joy. The look that elevates her from a woman to a goddess. As I flip through the pages of the album, that divine elegance remains. In the photo where she’s perched in a wheelchair, hands folded in her lap. In the photo where she’s propped up in a hospital bed, combing what little remains of her hair. In the photo where a cannula is resting lightly on her cheekbones and her eyes are barely open, that look remains on her face. Although I think about her nearly every day, I never visit, always unsure what to say.
One day, though – the same day I stumbled upon her flower box all those years ago – I finally decide to make the trip. Kneeling beside her, I gently place the book on the grass, propping it open to the very first page – the first picture I ever took of her.
“I know it’s been a while,” I say, the autumn wind whistling through my hair. “I’m sorry I didn’t come to talk sooner, but I’ve had this album on my mantel for a few years now, and I figured you should have it.” I pat the ground fondly. “I thought you might want to see how
beautiful you are.”
As I turn to walk away, I’m almost convinced that I can hear her voice, carrying on the breeze, thanking me.
“You’re welcome,” I smile. “Thank you too.”

Caged

Caged
By: Anonymous

I was born in this cage, a prison of cold dark metal. My first, and all my memories have been of this cage. However, why was I born in this cage? What took me from my home? From it I can see a window, opened just a crack. Everyday I watch through this window. I see others like me but without a cage. They fly through the air carried by the wind. But I can’t fly, I can’t be carried by the wind. The cage is too small for me to fly. I want to fly carried by the wind. I want to be rid of this cage. 

This thing takes care of me. It has no feathers like mine and is much larger than me. The thing spends lots of time with me and sometimes shows me other things that look like it. It loves me, and I love it but still it keeps me in my cage. I wonder why something that loves me would keep me bound forever. Only to show me off to its friends, but when it shows me off it still doesn’t let me fly or let its friends know I can fly. I believe it is embarrassed by my ability to fly. Maybe I shouldn’t be able to fly and I should listen to the thing because I am supposed to walk. However, today I have a choice. While the thing was giving me my breakfast before it left to go wherever it disappears during the day. It left my cage door ajar in its usual hurry. I have the chance to be free from the cage. I can fly with the others like me. I can show the thing that I was always meant to fly.

Doubt fills my head. I have never been outside of my cage. Anxiety starts to set in, and I begin to panic. I have always wanted to leave this cage but now that I have the chance I can’t make the decision. Will the others like me judge me for not knowing how to fly as well as them? Will they mock me for being born in this cage, and what if flying is wrong? The thing doesn’t fly and neither do its friends. I love the thing that takes care of me, and I want it to love me, but I wonder if it will no longer love me if I leave my cage and fly? Will it try to put me back in my cage if it sees me? Will it no longer speak to me if I fly out of my cage? If I go there are many “what ifs”, but if I stay I will be forever haunted by my lack of courage. With my head filled with worry and panic about what lies beyond my cage. I fly out.

Too Cold to Leave Home 

Too Cold to Leave Home
By: Jillian Buswell

It’s usually pretty easy to describe the weather, especially with all of the words we have. Hot, warm, cool, temperate, cold, but the past few years it’s been hard to describe. One day it’s a nice cool autumn day and the next it’s blazing like mid summer. Winters always feel too warm, spring and fall can never make up their minds. I felt like it would be like this forever and when winter rolled around I expected it to be different.

I picked up the heavy bag of bird food and took it outside. I could hear the sounds of  birds chirping from on top of my roof and fence, just waiting for me to fill their feeder. I looked up at them, cardinals, sparrows, finches, robins, even a few starlings hiding in nearby trees. 

“Birds shouldn’t still be around here in December,” a voice made me jump, I turned to see my grandma sitting on a chair with a book in her hands, “They all should be flyin’ down to their beach houses Florida.”

I shrugged, “It’s still warm, they probably think it’s still autumn.”

I filled up the bird feeder with the food, it was a mixed assortment of seeds that we bought at our local supermarket. The moment I hung the feeder back up and took a few steps back, a group of small brown sparrows flocked to the small wooden feeder. It was the kind that was like a plate or a box that was cut in half, the birds would stand on the sides (or in the middle but I always thought of them as being a bit snobbish) and eat the food that would lay in the center.  

I met my grandma by her chair, her book was now closed and on her lap, her eyes fixed on the birds. 

She smiled up at me “would you be a dear and make me some tea?” 

I walked back inside and into the kitchen, the christmas decorations were hung up in the living room and I could hear the tv playing the news from where I stood. 

“Good morning everyone,” said the man on the tv, “Today is a lovely Saturday morning, it will stay around 70 degrees today. It’s been a pretty warm winter so far but it might not stay this way for long.”

My head shot up, I had been waiting to hear those words for the past month.

“Next week we are predicting very low temperatures, around 40 to 20 even maybe some snowfall on Wednesday or Thursday, just in time for christmas, and now back to traffic.”

I bolted back outside, almost forgetting about the hot tea in my hand.

“Grandma!” I exclaimed, “The weatherman said it’s gonna snow next week!”

Grandma just sighed, “they say that every year and it never does.”

I groaned “Come on grandma, have a little faith this year. One year they’ve gotta be right and maybe it’s this year. 

Grandma smiled, “you’ve always been more hopeful than me, I guess we’ll see.”

It was Wednesday morning, I lay in my bed, blinking the sleep out of my eyes. I looked towards my window to see a soft white glow shining through. I jumped up to see a thick layer of snow covering the ground outside. I jumped out of my bed and ran downstairs.

“Grandma!” I exclaimed, “it snowed!”

Grandma was already sitting on the couch in front of the t.v. watching the news.

“I know,” she smiled, “now why don’t you feed the birds, they should be hungry.”

I grabbed the bag of bird food and headed outside. I looked up and saw all of the birds sitting on top of my roof and fence, anxiously waiting for me to fill up their feeder. I felt a pang of sadness for them, it must be so cold for them and they didn’t even have a house like me. 

When I hung their feeder back up they all flocked to it, hardly waiting for me to leave. I watched the snowflakes fall onto their feathers and seeds. I felt like I could stand there and watch them all day, but the cold soon became too much for me to handle and I went inside.

I found my grandma sitting on her chair, watching the birds through a window.

“My don’t they fly south now?” I asked .

“Well it’s too cold, they would probably freeze on their way there,” she explained, not even taking her eyes off of the foggy window. “We just have to make sure they are well fed until spring.”

Just after she spoke a group of starlings came and scared away the smaller birds.

“All of the birds?” I asked as I watched the starlings eat happily as the smaller birds watched from nearby trees.

“All of them,” she replied.

The day felt long, yet short. I spent it watching the feeder and making sure it didn’t fill up with too much snow and making sure the smaller birds were getting enough food. A part of me felt like I wasted my day, but the other knew I had nothing better to do. 

As the sun began setting setting, I made my final trip to the feeder before I went to sleep. As I filled up the feeder I looked around, there were no birds on my roof or fence. 

They all probably went back to their nests, I thought. But as I hung up the feeder I noticed a motionless shape lying in the snow. I bent down, using only the light that came from my house to see it.

It was a small sparrow cold and alone on the snowy ground. I covered my hand with my sleeve and gently tapped it. It was silent but I felt like something was still there. 

I ran inside to get my grandmother. If it  was too cold for them to fly south, then I would make it warmer.