Everyday the old man would walk from his townhouse condo to his car carrying a brown leather case and a plastic grocery store bag. In the summer the old lady across the street would sit on the balcony and watch. In the winter she saw him from her living room window. She wondered what he could possibly have in the bag and what he did on his outings.
She and her neighbors knew little of the old man. But suspected that he was a retired executive of some kind. No one had ever been in his house, so no one knew that the second bedroom of the condo had been converted to a darkroom.
They did know that the post office made regular pickups at his condo. There had even been some discussion within the condo's governing board about discussing it with him. After all, they didn't want anyone running a business from the complex. It was one of those absolute no, nos. They decided that since no one ever came to visit him, the post office pickups almost daily could be overlooked. The same postman delivered the mail so it didn't really create any extra traffic.
A couple of the widows had spoken with the old man now and then, but he had little to say. They all knew that he shopped in the local market near the complex. Also that he bought fresh vegetable from the farmer's market. The distinctive yellow plastic bags from the farmer's market often went inside his condo. They just as often came out with him on his almost daily outings.
It was to be a typical day for Edgar Taft. Edgar was a closet photographer. No he didn't make pictures of, or in his closet. He just didn't let it be known. Edgar knew the owners association would stop him from working from his condo. He could not allow that, Edgar had nowhere else to go.
Edgar drove his beat up old Dodge from the parking lot, then he turned it toward a small park about a mile from his home. The mile was about as far as he dared to drive. Any more and the odds began to increase for him to be involved in some kind of accident. You see Edgar's mind tended to wander.
Edgar found the park empty as he did most mornings. People didn't seem to make it to the park until later in the day. Sometimes he would find a play school using the facilities but not so often that he had to be concerned by their loud voices.
Edgar moved along the wooden bridge to a shaded picnic table. Once he arrived he placed the yellow plastic bag and the leather satchel onto the tabletop. He sat for a long moment catching his breath. It seemed to take longer each day to get his mind open.
Edgar liked that particular picnic table for a reason. Behind it grew a very large tree. The tree made a natural background for anything he chose to photograph on the tabletop. The gray of the tree bark complimented the gray of the tabletop. It was in fact the ideal setting for Edgar's work.
That morning from his plastic bag Edgar removed a tin can with the top still attached at one spot. The can had been opened with the kind of opener that cut it in jagged edges. The can's label, made on his ink jet printer, was plain white with large black letter stating the contents of the can to be WHOLE TOMATOES.
Beside the can Edgar placed a fork with one bent tine, a wax paper covered stack of saltine crackers, and a green pepper. It was most likely that week's ugliest pepper at the farmers market. Then from his light weight jacket pocket, he removed a crystal wine glass.
For the next half hour he studied the arrangement. He made changes every few minutes. the changes were minor but nonetheless he made them very carefully. He seemed to be thinking and then second guessing himself.
Edgar finally removed a large camera from his leather satchel. He also removed several pieces of Mahogany colored wood. The pieces screwed together making a very strange looking holder for the camera. After the camera was assembled, Edgar began rearranging the items on the table yet again.
It was almost 90 minutes after he arrived in the park when Edgar finally slipped a film holder into the camera. He slowly and methodically measured the light and adjusted the camera's lens. When he finally snapped the picture it was anti climatic. It was like the period at the end of a sentence. Maybe it would be one day.
Edgar returned home that morning to develop his one negative. Part of Edgar's mystique, if there was such a thing, was the very low number of images he made. Also his age and health issues added to his popularity. Everyone in the gallery business knew there wouldn't be many more prints arriving in the mail.
In a far corner of his 2nd bedroom, turned darkroom, sat a four foot cabinet. The cabinet was made for him by his son in law. On top of the rough cabinet sat a large black box. It was a table top changing room. The front door dropped forward to allow easy access to the two compartments. The front compartment was his work space, the rear was for the storage of paper and film.
Edgar slipped a long thin tube into the work space. It was followed by the single negative holder. Edgar was careful. He knew that he was clumsy and forgetful. He also knew that if the negative wasn't any good, he would have the rest of the day off to watch the all day news channels. That was a truly depressing thought and a great motivator.
In Edgar's condo each of the bedrooms had its own bath. One of the bathrooms also had a hallway entrance. Edgar slept in the room attached to the shared bathroom. He converted the other one to a lab. It was meant to be a darkroom but had gotten itself converted to a den of mixed technologies.
After a short half hour Edgar knew that he had a negative. He also know that he had about an hour before he would be required to do anything else to it.
Edgar fixed himself a glass of vile tasting instant iced tea, then went to sit on the balcony while the negative washed and dried.
After lunch Taft removed the dry negative from its safety pin holder. He laid it carefully onto the bed of his scanner. After scanning the negative he placed it into a thick cardboard holder, then put it aside.
He worked on the scanned image for almost an hour. He worked a while, sat back drank coffee, then worked a while longer. After 48 minutes exactly he knew what he wanted from the negative. He ran a plain paper ink jet print from the image on his computer, then he deleted the image.
He folded the newly printed page, then placed it and the negative, which rested inside its cover, into a pre addressed 5x7 envelope provided by the lab. The forty eight minutes had simply been so that the lab would know exactly how he wanted their scan to me made. He had worked with that lab often enough to know that it would be just as he wanted.
The only reason he developed his own film was to make that single preliminary scan, and to make sure his custom developer was used on the negative. He wanted the proper amount of contrast and grain in the final print. To do that his negative had to look just right, then be scanned just right. Taft's mailman came late in the afternoon, so it wasn't a problem to get his negative out that day. Since the day was clear and sunny Taft attached the envelope to the outgoing mail holder on his mail box. If it had been rainy, he would have taken the envelope to the post office. A lost or damaged negative was the thing Edgar feared most.
With a successful shoot under his belt, Edgar turned his attention to his drawing board. He removed the muslin cloth which covered the table top and the 9x12 black and white ink jet print. Anyone looking at the print would have needed a moment or two in order to determine it's makeup. It was hard to make the mental adjustment, since the print was black and white but on watercolor paper. It was soft and the lines were broken by the heavy grain of the paper.
Edgar stood over the board, coffee cup in hand, for a long time. Even though he knew exactly what he would be doing, he stood making plans line by line. Making a plan of attack suitable for any general, of any army in the world.
Edgar hated his cordless phone... Well only when it rang and he couldn't find it. That evening he found it on the sofa under last night's shirt. Edgar had a habit of removing articles of clothing and leaving them where ever he was at the time.
"Hello," he said into the tiny phone.
"Hey Edgar how you doing." The voice belonged to his son in law Michael.
"I'm fine Mike, no need to call the Lawyers just yet." Michael laughed along with Edgar. It was a joke they both participated in. Michael freely admitted that he wanted Edgar's camera collection. To Edgar it was obvious that Michael did not want to display it. He pretended to believed Michael wanted it for that reason.
"Good, I still owe him for that last false alarm." The laughter was genuine. It was also at Edgar's expense. Cindy had called three times but couldn't get an answer. She panicked first, then called the paramedics. It was a simple case of the cordless phone being off its charge too long. The next day Michael was forced to buy and attach a corded phone to the upstairs extension.
"You need one phone that works," Cindy had demanded.
Edgar just shook his head. Edgar looked at the storage cabinet Michael had built him. Inside what looked like a second home entertainment center rested all Edgar's unused negative and disks. Edgar could not possibly finish a print everyday, but he shot a picture. The storage cabinet had one large drawer filled with 4x5 negative which had been scanned but not printed. Another drawer held the cd's which had also not been used. Inside three four inch thick and twenty eight inch square drawers rested about fifty prints that had been produced but not shipped to any gallery. They were Edgar Taft's 401k.
Michael had insisted on building the storage cabinet after Cindy explained the potential value of those items. It would be even more after Edgar passed to his reward or lack there of. The large cabinet doors were about two inches thick and filled with some fire retardant material. The sidewalls, back, top and bottom were constructed the same. Over Michael and Cindy's objections the doors stayed open most of the time.
"By god," Edgar had remarked to himself on more than one occasion. "If they are so hot to have the damn doors closed, Michael should have but a counter weight to have them close by themselves."
"So Edgar you still want to go to that festival in Terrytown?"
"I've paid the fee, but I'm not sure. If you need to make other plans go ahead. I can find another way down there." Edgar did know a couple of people who would be more than happy to drive him to the festival.
"Not at all, Cindy just wanted to know if she should plan to take that Friday off."
"Well tell her not to do it. I don't want her losing any money on my account."
"Edgar you know it isn't like that. They just count on her being there unless she tells them a week in advance."
"Actually I had been planning to skip that festival. The attendance was down last year so I think I might just stay home and work."
"Yeah, you do enough with the gallery stuff. You don't need to do the festivals."
Edgar almost told him that it wasn't about the money, but he decided not to bother. Michael and Cindy had never understood that part of it.
"So, I should figure that you aren't going?"
"Yeah, do it that way Michael. Just figure I'm going to stay home and work." Edgar hated the part of his life that had limited his ability to do what he wanted. It made him feel like a cripple, which would come later.
Edgar agonized over the loss of his festival for about twenty minutes, then made a fresh pot of coffee. A total of half an hour passed before he sat down at his drawing table. The small, old fishing tackle box gave up the acrylic pigments, but only after a short game of hide and seek.
Twenty bottles of colored paint and one bottle of distilled water lined the smaller table beside the one with the slanted top. A three light bank of 60 watt bulbs burned behind and above Edgar. He found his paint stained mixing dish in the drawer. It was the kind they used to test drugs at the local pd. It had come from a police auction years before. The dish was like half an egg carton, but larger with many more dimples. It was also ceramic made before the days of disposable everything.
Edgar picked a bright red color of paint, then he watered it down to a consistency similar to water color. With a 000 sable brush he began the arduous task of tracing the lines of the rose. The rose would be bright red. He had laid the yellow rose, picked fresh from his rear yard, upon a Bible. He hoped that he could do the black and white print justice. He didn't feel that he ever did, but the colored prints sold much better than the pure black and white ones ever had. He had been told, more than once, at a festival that they had a 3D effect. There was a certain amount of depth from the different textures. There was the rough paper of the print itself, the strong lines of the photograph, then the elevated texture of the smooth paint on the surface. Acrylic though flat by nature was more solid looking than water color. Watercolor hinted at color and Acrylics were color. That's how he explained it when asked why he didn't just do the watercolor thing.
Edgar painted until 8 P.M. He might have continued had his daughter not called. Cindy was checking to make sure he ate his dinner. She wasn't concerned enough to invite him to her house, just enough to make an after dinner call to bother him. Edgar hung up the phone again biting his tongue. Life would have been so much more simple, if his wife had lived.
He looked back at the picture on his drawing table before covering it with the muslin. I can finish that tomorrow, he thought. The question then became where to send it, if he decided to send it out at all. It might well turn out to be one of his better pieces. Something about that bright rose on the black Bible with the gold leaf page edges was haunting. If he felt it, he was pretty sure others would to.
"Most likely some greeting card company would suck it up." he said aloud.
The thought of all that work to have it wind up on a greeting card would have been upsetting, if Taft had considered it great art. He didn't. He considered what he did poster art, most often without words, but nothing more than posters.
After dinner from the microwave, Taft sat in front of his average sized TV to watch the world news. If he had been a young man, he would have missed the news all together. Partly because he wouldn't have been interested, and partly because back then there were no 24 hour news networks. It was almost 9 PM when he found his way to the comfortably worn sofa.
After his allotted hour he came to the same conclusion that he did every night. The world was going to hell in hand basket. American soldiers were in harm's way again and the world all hated him personally. It seemed the more things changed, the more they remained the same. All of it had been exactly the same in his youth. Back then the world shared its hate between the US and the USSR. With only one giant, all the hate centered on the US. I didn't seem like a good place to be, if you were a proud American.
Taft was torn between bed and donuts. He suddenly had an overwhelming desire for Krispy Kreme donuts. Living alone with no one to stop him, he often indulged such silly ideas. He did that night as well.
It was just late enough for the most of the after dinner crowd to be off the roads, and early enough that the second shift factory workers were still in the plants. He made it most of the way to the donut shop before the tree leaped from the grass strip between the road and the sidewalk. How it got in front of his car, he had no idea.
Fortunately at night Edgar felt less than secure driving, so he drove slowly. At twenty five miles an hour the tree still buried itself in the grill, radiator, and fan housing of the Dodge. If the car had been several years younger, the damage would have been considered minimal. As it was the damage was enough to total the under valued, in Edgar's opinion, car.
A passer by with a cell phone called the police, who found Edgar seated in the car's passenger side. The passenger side was well off the street, while the driver's side blocked the curb lane. The police report said Edgar seemed confused and disoriented. Edgar said he was simply shocked to see that the tree had found it's way back onto the grassy strip. It had to be a vast left wing conspiracy.
It was unfortunate that the police felt he might have head trauma. He was disoriented and seemed unsteady so they called an ambulance. Edgar tried to tell them that he was just old, but they would have none of it. They sent him off to the hospital for evaluation. The hospital promptly called his daughter.
A few hours and several thousand dollars later, it was determined that Edgar was too old to be driving at night. At least they hadn't decided that he was too old to be driving period. He accepted the Doctor's advice with a sarcastic smile, if a smile can be sarcastic.
By the time they released him at 4 AM his daughter still hadn't arrived, so he called a cab. His daughter managed to call and wake him at 7 AM.
"I would have come to the hospital, but the nurse said you were just fine. I didn't want to wake the baby and Michael had to install some cabinets out of town this morning. He left very early."
"Don't worry I'm fine. It all worked out for the best." In his opinion it had. Since she had barely been inconvenienced, she didn't have any leverage at all. He learned again just how strained their relationship was. He said goodbye trying not to show his disappointment.
The worst thing going through Edgars mind as he lay on his bed trying to shut his mind down, was that he still wanted the donuts. That thought ran around his head as he drifted off to sleep for the second time that morning. All his other problems were just hurdles, but damn it he wanted those donuts.
Edgar's routine was shot, but he wasn't so senile that he couldn't adapt to the change. Instead of the park, he found the portable studio. He had Michael make it a couple of years before and then never used it. The thing they made was no more than two 24" by 24" pieces of 1/2 inch plywood trimmed out and hinged. A small brass chain allowed for the rear piece's tilt to be adjusted. The idea had been to take it to the park and sit it on a picnic table. With the adjustment feature the back could be moved to catch more or less light on the background. It was a pain, so seldom made it to the park, even when it was new.
He made his one shot that morning, it was his hospital bill laying on his empty money clip. It wasn't very artistic but would most likely find a buyer, if he ever got around to painting it.
After lunch Edgar found his nephew's phone number. Getting through to him was another matter. John's phone stayed busy most of the time. John was a ladies man of the first degree. He loved the ladies and from what Edgar had heard from his sister, most of them loved him right back.
"John this is your Uncle Edgar. You son are a hard man to catch."
"I've been here all morning Uncle Edgar."
"Yeah, well you should get call waiting or something."
"I have call waiting, but Uncle Edgar that was Jane Martin."
"Who the devil is Jane Martin?"
"She owns Martin Trucking Company."
"I thought it was owned by Simon Martin and his brother Everette."
"Was is right. It wasn't a pleasant divorce."
"John, you weren't the cause of it were you."
"No, but I know the girl who was. Simon likes younger women it seems. Jane's lawyer got it in front of a lady judge. So poor old Simon got the house in the country and Jane go the company."
"And now you have Jane?"
"Oh no, I'm just thinking about moving to Martin Trucking."
"I thought you were dealing in trucks now?"
"I am now and then. I'm still driving now an then as well." He paused a moment to see if I had anything else to say. Since I didn't he went on. "So what can I do for you."
"I need a favor kiddo."
"Uncle Edgar I'm 42 years old. No one in their right mind would call me that."
"Who said I was in my right mind. Which leads me to the favor. I wrecked the Dodge that you got for me."
"I didn't get you that piece of crap. You did that all on your own."
"You got me into the auto auction."
"Unk that auction is open to the public now. You don't need me to get in."
"Okay, then I need a ride out there."
"That I can do. How about I just drop you off. I know you. You will buy something."
"That's fine. I have to have a car you are right about that."
That's how Edgar Taft came to be at the automobile auction early on a Saturday morning. John left him with his cell phone number. Edgar and John both knew the odds were Edgar wouldn't be calling.
Edgar had two thousand dollars in $100 dollar bills in his pocket. John had stopped at the bank on the way to the auto auction. It was a bitch to get that much money from the teller machine, but he had managed it. He expected a call on Monday morning asking if he was okay. He had never made a withdrawal for more than $100 before.
Edgar walked around looking at the small sedans. He for sure didn't want anything larger than the Dodge. Even smaller would be better. He toyed with the idea of a mini van then discarded it. The idea of camping at the festivals popped in his head. Then he realized that a motel smelling of curry was his idea of roughing it.
Edgar narrowed it down to another Dodge and a small Chevy. Just as he was about to go inside, to await the two cars crossing the block, he saw a small yellow convertible being parked by one of the auction company's drivers. The convertible was tiny compared to either of the cars on his short list. Just for something to do, he walked down to the convertible.
He found that it was an orphan. It was a Geo metro. The Geo line was an ill fated attempt by general motors to get into the mini car line. The little beast was automatic transmission and it started on the first try. It didn't seem to be smoking and the radiator wasn't filled with rust. The oil looked clean and sterile. The turn signals seemed to work. The odometer had 130,000 on it. Even so the car felt tight. He struggled with the top and found it wasn't completely in rags.
Edgar was working himself into a sever case of second childhood senility. He made himself a promise. If the convertible came up before he had bought another car, and if it went for under a thousand dollars, he would buy it. He figured that he had enough ifs built in so that God could stop him.
The convertible came up first of the three and he bought it for $950. Edgar paid the casher after a half hour wait. He had his tags from the dodge. A tow truck driver had brought it to him. As payment he signed the junk over to the tow/salvage company.
Edgar was pleasantly surprised to find the little car drove well. The brakes and the electrical system seemed to work as well as the engine and transmission. The air conditioner did not work, but hell he told himself, it's a convertible.
After he pumped gas into the car he put the top down. It was another struggle but I was doable, even for an old man. He loved the feel of the open car, he also loved the attention he got from driving it. Edgar knew better than to joy ride. The tree incident was still fresh in his mind. He did make the minor detour to the krispy kreme for donuts.
"Richmond Technical College, good morning," the bored female voice came from the phone. It was early Monday morning the woman had a right to sound bored.
"Good morning, is Dr. Sikes in?" Edgar tried to sound even more cheerful than he really was. If he had succeeded, he might sound like a the village idiot. He already had breakfast and even driven his new convertible to the park for his morning shot. That morning he shot a withered apple. He had no hope that the shot would be usable, even so the drive in the little convertible wiped away any feelings that might have turned to depression on a normal day.
"This is Doctor Sikes," the strong male voice said as a greeting.
"Bob, this is Edgar Taft."
"Damn Edgar I thought you were dead." It was his standard greeting since the two of them seldom spoke. It wasn't from lack of friendship, or respect. It was simply that they traveled in different circles since Edgar's wife died.
"No I just don't get out any more. So how's Sarah?"
"Sarah is Sarah. How is your daughter?"
"Better these days," Edgar replied. There might have been five people in the whole world who would have understood the remark. Bob Sikes was one of them.
"Yeah, kids make you crazy."
"And now you have a thousand of them," Edgar said it with a small laugh.
"Yeah, so Edgar what in the world can I do for you."
Edgar had called Bob Sikes because Richmond Technical Community College, also called RTCC, had one of the best photography courses in the Southeast USA. Since Bob had taken over, it had gone from purely technical to technical and artistic. Bob had needed help and support to make the change. Edgar and his wife had been early supporters. Edgar had donated a couple of his antique cameras to the school's museum. Bob had also promoted the hell out of the school. He did it to make sure the local artist and patrons knew who they were and what they were doing.
"Bob are you doing a display at the Williamsburg thing."
"You mean arts on the river walk?"
"Yes that one."
"Not a chance," Bob replied. The place is to free wheeling for us. That's not your kind of crowd Edgar. Surely you aren't going down there."
"Actually I am if I can find a driver. You know my doctors will have a fit, if I drive that far alone."
"And you would tell them?"
"No, but the highway patrol might." Edgar went on to explain about the tree with legs.
"That sounds like you need to stop driving at night." Bob Sikes paused a minute then went on, "Edgar let me get back to you on this. I don't really have a lot of close contact with the students these days. I can ask around."
"Thanks Bob, don't make a high priority. If you don't come up with someone, I'll just skip this festival." It was pretty much the end of the meaningful conversation. The end came with a simple, "Goodbye" and a promise to call more often.
Bob never did call back. Instead Edgar got a call the next day from someone calling herself Tammy Smith. Yes it sounded like an alias to him as well. She claimed to be a student in the adult education department. She had seen my note on the schools computer system.
"I'm sorry Tammy, I don't know anything about a note." I was just a little bewildered. I had a feeling Bob had placed an Advertisement of some kind in my name. It was hardly how I wanted it to happen.
"It says here to contact you about a job helping you with a festival June 5th."
"I need some help alright but I didn't put any note on the computer. I think Bob Sikes might have."
"Dr Sikes the head of the art department?" she asked a little in awe.
"Yes, I told him I needed some help setting up the show at Williamsburg."
"You mean the 'Arts on River Walk' festival?"
"That's the one, but it isn't really a job. I was hoping to find a student who would like to show with me. One who wouldn't mind doing the driving and give me a hand with the booth."
"I'll pick up all the expenses but I'm afraid only an art student would be interested."
"My major is art with a minor in industrial design. If you will have me, I would be thrilled to be your assistant."
"Can you put together a show on short notice?" I asked it not really caring as long as she wasn't some kind of serial killer.
"Oh yes, I have a few things. I can knuckle down and make a few more."
"You do know River Walk is a two day show?"
"Yes I know. It won't be a problem. I'll leave the kids with my husband."
"He isn't going to mind you taking off with me. The fact that I am old and harmless might not matter to him."
"He doesn't really have anything to say about it. He and I are divorced."
"I would like to meet you but as far as I'm concerned you sound fine."
"Could I ask why I sound fine." She seemed a little skeptical all of a sudden.
"You have kids so you are stable. You aren't showing the same kind of art that I am showing, so you won't be competition Most important of all, you haven't demanded money."
"I expect a booth at that show is a hundred dollars or more. The trip down and the motel will be expensive I think. I get to see how real people react to my designs. I think that is more than payment enough. How about we meet for lunch one day. I work during the day so it will be hard. We could do it this Saturday, if you don't mind the kids being along."
"Name the time and place." Edgar suggested in his kindliest voice.
They struck a deal for a fast food restaurant at noon on the next Saturday. She didn't live in his little town, so the restaurant was about half way between. Edgar called Bob Sikes office and had the secretary stop the advertisement. I would be off the site in an hour she assured him.
The week neither flew by nor did it drag. It went along at a steady pace based on Edgar's normal schedule. He made negatives, and painted on his pictures.
As was usually the case, more pictures went into the storage cabinet than got mailed off to a gallery. Some of them, after much thought and study, got tossed into the shredder. When he rejected a print, it was for a fault he found in the composition. Everything else could be corrected by reprinting or repainting.
When an image was rejected the print and the negative both were shredded. Edgar was extremely fortunate, in that he didn't need to produce a large number of prints. The price of his prints was based as much on his limited production number, as on his limited talent. Edgar was a fad and he knew it. If he suddenly lost favor with the public, his cabinet of prints would be worthless. He did everything he could to prevent that from coming to pass.
His drawer of unpainted negative was both large and filling quickly. Edgar had figured to shoot the drawer full and maybe start on a second before he was forced to stop driving. He was honest enough with himself to know that he couldn't keep up the driving forever.
His balance was going fast, as was his ability to juggle the many details of driving. On an Interstate highway, Edgar tended to lose track of traffic around him. His eyes constantly darted at his mirrors just to keep some kind of image in his mind. The 3D map, which most people constantly update while driving in traffic, Edgar had no control over. His 'fresh' map might be one from ten minutes or two minutes. Edgar just couldn't remember which it was.
In other words Edgar was quickly becoming a hazard to himself. Equally important to him, Edgar was becoming a hazard to the family of four driving along beside him. Someday soon Edgar might become the man you didn't want to meet head on while crossing a two lane bridge.
Since the darkness made it worse, and he had already had his accident with the tree, Edgar had decided to never drive at night again. He began to make his plans accordingly. When the sun started down, Edgar had to have whatever he planned to consume that evening, already in the house. No more midnight trips to the donut shop for him.
Since his drawer was full, Edgar decided to begin a series of pictures. The idea was one that had floated around in his brain for many months. Edgar often visited the farmer's market, held once a week in the rear corner of the city hall parking lot. He always arrived early. When he made that shopping choices, he liked to be alone. He not only liked to get a preview of the produce, but he also liked to check out the vendors.
Edgar had an unquenchable thirst for details. He felt, rightly or wrongly, that it made him a better artist, if he understood the subject. He had made images of the vendors erecting their tables, then placing their wares on them. One morning he had noted a farmer picking over his basket of potatoes. The potatoes he culled had buds on them.
The image of an ugly potato going into a plastic bag, to wind up as fertilizer most likely, fascinated Edgar. As with a lot of his ideas it slipped from his mind but not into oblivion. Edgar resurrected it that morning.
He drove to the grocery store where he shopped for his meager rations. Since Edgar had no illusions about cooking, one store was as good as another in his mind. He chose a medium sized supermarket near his home for all his grocery needs.
"Good morning Mr. Taft," the blonde clerk said in greeting him.
"Hi there how are you?" he asked hoping she would say fine and he could be on his way. It happened just as he expected. Edgar bought one potato. It was what he went into the store to buy and it was what he bought. The thought of doing real grocery shopping never entered his mind. Why should it? After all it wasn't Sunday morning.
Back home Edgar made his one exposure of the day... A single potato on a white background. He had no idea what he would do with it. He did know he planned to make one exposure per day of that potato for a while.
He spent about ten seconds that day wondering what Tammy Smith would be like. He would have to suffer with her company for a couple of days, but no more. He could do that, after all he had spent an entire day with his daughter once.
The days marched on toward Saturday and his meeting with Tammy Smith. His curiosity grew, since he hadn't asked her near enough questions. Still it was only a two days trip how much did he really need to know. He shook his head, trying to clear if of the distraction.
Edgar had a thought the night before. He spent an hour over his coffee trying to dredge enough of the memory up to act on it. He couldn't pull the bit of meat from the chicken soup his mind was becoming. It might come back to him and it might not. Probably some great ideas had come and gone that very same way.
On day two Edgar found that his potato had not changed in any significant way. He left it in the window, then turned his mind toward the day's shoot. The one day, one shot rule had come about to keep his mind active after his wife, of many years, passed away. With her death, his life had changed completely and not for the better.
It was a shame that after all the years of struggling, she hadn't lived to see his minor success. His slight success was probably more about his circumstances, than his dubious talent. Not only was it well known in the arts community that Edgar was ill, and in serious danger of losing his mind, but also that he produced just a few prints. His low production was partly his illness, but also to some degree his lack of interest in accumulating wealth.
Edgar's life style suited him, he saw no need in improving his basic needs. His food was more than adequate, his house was warm and dry, and how many pairs of cotton twill slacks did a man need. Edgars life was basic, but basic on a comfortable scale.
And now of course he owned a convertible for the first time in his life. Being 63 years of age, the car was a bit of a joke to those who saw him in it, but he really didn't care at all. The open car reminded him of his youth in some ways. He had never owned a convertible, but still it was part of his lost youth anyway. The feeling of freedom, that even the small, under powered convertible gave him was a bit disconcerting every time he got in the car.
That morning instead of being the first person in the park, Edgar waited until the sun was high enough to make driving the yellow convertible a pleasant experience. He still had no idea what he would shoot as he drove from the parking lot. He knew that he could always find something while walking around the park. His bits of time caught on film, and then posters, were as popular as his still life shots. Still, he liked to have some ideas in mind before he left home.
At a stoplight Edgar found himself beside a rusty pickup truck. The truck was adorned with ladder racks on the rear bed, also a large aluminum tool tied to the top of the rack. The little magnetic sign on the truck's door read, 'Do it right alum Siding'. All that Edgar took in, but it was the highly tanned blond hair young driver drinking a can of soda that struck Edar. No Edgar hadn't become interested in men, at least not in THAT way. The image pulled something from his decaying mind. He remembered working for his dad as a youth. The memory was sitting on a saw horse drinking RC Cola and eating chocolate Moon Pies. Yes it was a cliche, but it was also true. A shared memory like that is what makes a cliche.
Edgar turned into the next strip mall with a grocery store and began his search. A search that took him to three stores before he found what he wanted. He couldn't find the cola in a bottle at all. It had to be a can of RC and a moon pie. Not quite right, but it would do. One day he might find the bottle at a yard sale or antique store.
When Edgar woke on the Thursday before he met Tammy Smith, it was raining as if God was going to do it again. Edgar drank coffee while trying to decide if he wanted to make a picture that day or not. In the end, his promise to himself won out.
He searched the house over for something to shoot. He just couldn't find anything that sparked his imagination. The first pot of coffee was running low when he noticed two things in his small, enclosed rear yard.
The first thing he noticed was that the rose bush he had brought from his real home, had one single rose left on it. It looked close to the end of its life span. He wanted to do something with it before it was gone.
The second thing he noticed was that the grounds crew forgot to trim his bushes inside the privacy fence. Most of the owners complained about there shrubs being hacked on, so he guessed that the grounds crew left the plants inside the fence to the homeowners. Edgar didn't mind. The bush was about to get a haircut.
Edgar dashed out into the rain to trim the bush and cut the single rose. He was soaked when he finished but the rain had somehow refreshed him as well. He laid all the wet plant trimmings and the rose on the day's newspaper while he took his morning shower.
The vase was one his daughter had sent after his wife died. It had been filled with cut flowers. The kind his wife had loved so much. He kept the vase because it reminded him of both the women in his life. He didn't expound on that memory. instead he just moved on to fill the vase. He filled it with long green shoots from the bush and then the single rose low in the vase. He expected it to be a dramatic shot. Or maybe a complete bust, one never really knew which till he printed it. It was the true joy of the craft. It was also Edgar's daily battle, to find enough of his brain still working to make something of beauty. If not of beauty then at least appealing.
Some days he won, some days he lost, but he always fought the fight.
Taft was beginning to get really nervous. Meeting the woman that he would most likely be sharing a couple of days with made him antsy. One more day and he would know if it was to be a great adventure or a chore. He had day dreams of it going both ways. Everything for romantic kisses to a knife wielding Glenn Close ran through his mind.
He was adventurous and willing to take a chance, but he did wonder if possibly the decision to find a driver had been a foolish one. Still she was taking art courses at the college. She had a family, even if it was just children. The children were a positive, but the ex husband was a negative. There was some reason that he was an ex.
Edgar knew that he was just making himself crazy, so he tried to get his mind off his minor dilemma. He concentrated on Friday's image. The sun had finally come out, but the grass was still sparkling with drops from last night's rain. He chose to avoid the grassy park one more day.
When he checked the potato, he found it beginning to shrivel but not nearly ready for his next shot of it. He had eleven cans of R C cola in his refrig, but he had no idea that he could ever use them in a shot again.
It seemed to be a good day for concrete of some kind.