ROUND about this time every year I find myself trapped in an easy chair looking at somebody’s vacation photographs. I wouldn’t mind if I could get my hands on the whole stack and go over them at my own pace, stopping to look at all the girls with nice legs and doing a double-shuffle when I come to rocks, buildings and uncles.
But this guy deals them out one at a time, with a running commentary. As there are five rolls of eight pictures I have to think up forty different things to say. “This is a picture of the cottage,” he says.
“Nice place,” I say, reaching for the rest.
But the guy’s too fast for me. He goes into contortions behind my back, pointing at the picture from the other side.
“Over here is the porch we used to sit on every night. You can’t see the lake. It’s way over here.” He points to a spot about fifteen feet away toward the kitchen. I look toward the kitchen and try to imagine a lake there. He hands me another picture.
“Now here’s Marge standing on a rock.”
“Nice and clear,” I say.
“She didn't even know I was taking it. We’d just got back from a swim.” “Mmm.”
“Now here’s one just of Marge.” “Uhuh.”
“Here’s one just of the rock.” “How do you get to this place?” Ï say, trying to change the subject.
“It’s almost impossible, absolutely wild.” He hands me another one. “Here’s one we took the Sunday before we left. It was a dull day, so nothing came out.”
“Nice shade of black, though.”
“You can just see the point if you look close.”
I put my nose on the thing.
“If you could see our cottage it would be over here.” He points fifteen feet in the other direction toward the radio.
I look blankly toward the radio.
“Here’s another one
of Marge. You can’t see her because she’s behind the rock.”
“What kind of a rock is it?”
“Don’t know. The north country’s full of them. Here’s one of Marge from the other side.”
“Got her right in the middle, eh?” This type of person often has a wife who talks tandem with him.
“It’s a pretty little cottage,” he says. “Has a colored roof.”
“Blue,” his wife explains.
“We were going to have it green—” but we decided there were too many green ones already—”
“— so I got some blue paint—”
“eight cans. He looked like an orange squeezer—”
“— and I began to mix them—” “You’d have died.”
I’m nearly dead already looking from cme to the other with a fixed smile, like a tennis fan full of opium, until my collar has begun to scrape my neck raw.
The whole trouble with vacation pictures, of course, is that their charm is dependent on associations that are hard to impart to a stranger between seasons. A bunch of people sitting on a veranda, with one of the men wearing a woman’s hat and pretending he is praying, might be funny when everyone is dog-tired, sunburned and listening to the sound of gulls and the splash of whisky on ice, but the memory should be stored away with the old fishing tackle and tennis rackets: to try to preserve it in black and white, on a piece of paper 2 x 3, and to spring it on a stranger in the fall, does something to the guy in the woman’s hat that should only happen to a small-mouthed black bass.
“This is Gert I was telling you about,” somebody says. “Had us in stitches.”
I look at Gert. Gert looks at me. All I can think of about Gert is that she shouldn’t wear those shorts.
If you ask me, these pictures should be buried in some old diningroom drawer, or under that rock Marge is always standing on. if
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