art by Shane M. Gavin
by Lou Antonelli
He hefted the handgun up and down in his palm. It felt very heavy and solid. What was it the man in the gun store said just a minute ago? "This will provide excellent self-protection."
"More like self-destruction," he thought as sat behind the steering wheel. He closed his eyes and contemplated his suicide.
"I wonder where I'm going? I hope God forgives me."
He opened his eyes, and something across the parking lot caught his eye. He squinted. "Is that what I think it is?"
There was a little booth in a small traffic island. It had a yellow pagoda-style roof with letters that read: "Kodak Film".
"I haven't seen one of those in at least 30 years," he thought. Without another thought, he put the car in drive and began across the parking lot.
Everyone still used film when he was in high school, back in the '70s when he was dating. That's when he met Diane.
"More like she trapped me," he thought. She was nice to him--very nice--but even then he knew she was high maintenance. And the maintenance fees only got higher and higher over the years.
His first girlfriend had been Amy, but she came from a poor working-class family--and he wanted to go places. Diane's family had money and was well-connected. He married Diane. That's why a handgun lay on the seat beside him and he planned to kill himself.
Her push for money was relentless, but he had been able to keep up for 35 years. Then the Recession started, and he began to falsify transactions. He had gotten away with it for a few years, but the auditors seized his computer yesterday.
Last night he told Diane what he had done. She laughed at him and left him. That morning he hopped into the hybrid and drove to the gun store. "There's no way I'll survive prison," he thought.
He pulled up to the median. "My God, it is an old Kodak booth."
It read "Fotomat" on the ends of the short roof. Beneath it read "Film--Developing--Flash Bulbs."
On the long side, beneath the words "Kodak Film" stacked one atop the other, it read: "One Day Photo Finishing."
The booth looked clean and its colors were bright. He saw the window slide open and a man waved him forward. He pulled the car up.
The man inside smiled at him. "You finally came to pick up your photos, Mr. DeRidder!"
Jake DeRidder looked at him, stunned. "How do you know my name? What photos?"
The man reached behind himself and pulled an envelope from an otherwise empty rack. He read the envelope. "Jake DeRidder--Class of 1976, Senior Class Picnic."
DeRidder shuddered as he remembered. That was the last time he saw Amy. He dumped her for Diane the next week. And yes, he never picked up the photos.
DeRidder furrowed his brow. "Wait, why are you still here? I thought all these booths closed years ago."
The man reached out with the envelope. "We couldn't close until all the photos were picked up."
He leaned out. "Here, take these. No charge--I'm glad to be outta here." The man nodded and smiled.
DeRidder reached out, took the envelope, and squeezed it. It was real. He dropped it onto his lap and pulled out at least three-dozen photos.
"I didn't take that many photos that day," he muttered. He looked up.
The man and the booth were gone.
He was sitting in his car all alone in an empty area of the parking lot. He looked down quickly to see if the photos were still there. They were.
The first dozen were the ones he took at the senior picnic. Amy under a tree. Amy on the beach. Amy at the picnic table.
He kept flipping through the photos. There was one of Amy--at the college with him? Another one showed them eating at the college diner. More smiling scenes.
There they were at the altar in church--being married. "Oh, my God!" he thought as he flipped through the photos. "This is the life I could have had!"
Through the photos--as happens with dying men--his life flashed before his eyes, but it was the life he should have had. The birth of their first son. Then their sweet baby girl. Their lovely house. Another son. Kids on bicycles. And on and on.
He began to cry.