Corina Fiore’s Picture Choice: 2
Title: The Photo
Natalie shuffled through the volumes on her grandmothers shelf. Her grandmother was quite the bibliofile. Hundreds of books lined her shelves: some worn from love, some pristine first editions, some aged and yellowed.
Navigating the shelves brought back so many happy memories. Natalie recalled sitting at her Grammie Ruth’s feet, her lilting, dynamic voice reading a classic tale. Natalie’s relationship with her grandmother was built on those reading sessions, the love for the written word, the life connections found in the stories. They shared their own stories over tea, talked about how they could relate to characters, and how they might react differently. They often spoke in quotes that somehow captured the exact essence of the moment, whether it was funny, sad, poignant, celebratory, or insightful. It seemed only right that, as Natalie held her hand in her dying moments, Grammie Ruth whispered a final quote in Natalie’s ear. It was a quote from Dante’s Inferno, a text they had spent hours and hours on together.
“Midway on our life’s journey, I found myself. In dark woods, the right road lost.”
She took her last breath, and died. That last dying utterance caused Natalie much turmoil. What had she meant?
When Natalie came across Dante’s Inferno on the shelf, the draw was too powerful. Natalie pulled the book from the shelf, its leather soft and supple. The top and bottom of the spine was curled under and worn. She held the book close to her chest as she crossed the room. She grabbed an embroidered pillow and a knitted afgan off the chair. It still smelled like Grammie Ruth. She sat down on the couch, legs curled to the side, propped up on the pillow and covered herself in the blanket. Natalie felt safe, warm. She took a deep breath and cracked open the book. An old photograph fell into her lap.
It was a black and white photo of an old farm-type house. An old car resided in the driveway. The roof of the garage sagged. Linens hung on a line in the garage. Nine windows graced the front of the house. Most of them had the shades drawn. However, there were two windows on the upper floor that had the curtains drawn. A figure was shadowed in one of the windows but Natalie could not quite make it out.
She turned the photograph over. The words, “Never forget. Summer 1952.” were inscribed on the back in red ink. She turned to the page opened before her, the page the photo fell from. There was a single underlined passage in the same red ink.
“And after he laid his hand on mine,
With joyful mien, whence I was comforted,
He led me in among the secret things.
There sighs, complaints, and ululations loud
Resounded through the air without a star,
Whence I, at the beginning, wept thereat.”
Natalie blinked hard, and turned back to the photo. There was a story here, one that Grammie Ruth in her dying moments asked her to explore with that quote. Grammie Ruth never quoted something unless she wanted Natalie to think long and hard on it. She knew Natalie would turn to this text. She knew Natalie would find the photo. She knew Natalie would find the underlined passage. It was a message. But a message about what?
Natalie was curious and her curiosity always won out. On this day, she started her investigation into what Grammie Ruth meant with these clues. Little did she know how far this investigation would take her, the stories it would reveal. This one simple photograph and passage were about to change Natalie’s life forever.
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Corina Fiore is passionate about learning and considers herself an education advocate. She currently writes textbooks and voice-overs for science software. When not blogging to evoke change in educational policies and women’s rights issues, she trains for her black belt.