You’ve probably heard the saying, a picture is worth a 1000 words.
I belong to a writer’s group called the Southern Scribes, and it was this saying which led to our latest writing exercise. We submitted random images and selected one to write a 1000 words on. Much like The Perception Project I was involved in, (click here to read my post) we wanted to compare the stories to the image, and see which evoked the greatest response.
This was the image we selected.
We knew nothing about it. I literally came across it by typing something like ‘random photo’ into google.
An interesting note is that the image was part of an exhibition called ‘She Who Tells a Story’ and is part of a series called, ‘A Girl and Her Room’ by photographer Rania Matar.
At the time we knew nothing of the background surrounding the image, we were simply instructed to write 1000 words based off whatever the image said to us.
Here is my story.
Something was different. At seven years old, Logan wasn’t old enough to know what, but he could feel it. His mother smiled as he dragged his chair out from the table and sat, but it wasn’t her usual smile. It was too tight. Too forced. It was the smile she used when company came over unexpectedly. The one she used when someone told a joke she didn’t understand. When she smiled, really smiled, the corners of her eyes crinkled with lines that kissed her cheeks. That was how he knew something was different. There were no crinkles. Something was wrong.
“Elbows off the table,” his father said gruffly.
This was not different. This was something that Logan was used to. He removed his elbows and clasped his hands together before bowing his head. Then, it occurred to him one of the things that was different. Annabel. He opened one eye and peered at the faces around the table. His mother’s eyes were pressed tightly together, and the lines that were missing around them had found a home on her forehead. His father’s knuckles were white as he clasped his hands together, bowed his head, and cleared his throat. His little sister, Tammy, never closed her eyes during grace, and stared at him openly. He poked out his tongue, and she giggled. The wrinkles on his mother’s brow creased further.
He knew he shouldn’t speak, but he couldn’t help it. “Where’s Annabel?”
Of course, he knew where Annabel was, he had passed her on his way to the kitchen. She was sitting in her room, sunglasses on, feet propped against the windowsill, staring at nothing. He asked if she was coming down for dinner, but all he got in return was a rude gesture. One that Logan wasn’t allowed to do. One that he returned behind her back. He felt as though the teddy bear, sitting unloved on her bed, had frowned at him. But he was pretty confident that the bear wouldn’t tell.
“She’s not here,” his father said and looked over at his mother. Logan may have imagined it, but he was pretty sure he saw a tear on her cheek.
“But it’s dinner.”
Logan’s father didn’t answer. He didn’t need to, just a look was enough. Logan said no more.
Dinner time was family time. His father insisted on it. No one was allowed to miss dinner. Something must be very wrong for his father to allow her to sit in her room and stare at nothing rather than join the family. But he knew better than to ask questions. Especially when he looked up and saw the hardness in his father’s stare. He was warning Logan. Logan just wasn’t sure of what.
Sometimes he hated being so much younger than Annabel. He also hated being so much older than Tammy. He was too young to join in Annabel’s mischief, and although Tammy often begged him to join in hers, he preferred to sit on the bottom step and listen to his parents argue. He never knew exactly what it was about, he just knew it was never about him. Annabel was always in trouble, but even though Logan was well behaved, they never noticed. His parents often spoke in whispers where Annabel’s name was spoken harshly, and Tammy’s was spoken softly. His name wasn’t spoken at all.
Logan’s father cleared his throat again, and Logan bowed his head. His father never said grace out loud, each person was supposed to do that themselves. Once, Logan had been invited to a friend’s place for dinner. They held hands and thanked God for the food out loud. Logan liked this. He also liked it when the father asked everyone how their day was. Even Logan. At first Logan had stuttered. He didn’t know what to say. He was used to eating in silence, only stilted conversation between his father and mother allowed. But when he told them about calling his teacher, mother, they had laughed. He wished he could go back.
Tammy put a spoonful in her mouth and promptly spat it back out. “Yuk!”
“Tammy.” Logan’s father didn’t need to say any more. Tammy lifted the spoon back to her mouth and swallowed dutifully.
Logan still couldn’t understand why Annabel wasn’t made to come down for dinner. Maybe she was sick. He swallowed the nervous knot in his throat. “What’s wrong with Annabel?”
His mother smiled that too tight smile again. “Nothing is wrong. She’s just a little…” Her eyes flicked over to his father, and he saw sadness. “She’s just a little tired,” she said finally.
Logan knew she was lying. Annabel was often tired. When she crept home after staying out too late, she would sleep for hours, just a mass of matted hair and blurred makeup and heaped blankets. Sometimes it wasn’t until after lunch before she would appear. But that had never stopped his father from insisting she join them for dinner. Dinner was family time. Dinner was never missed.
Thinking about it made Logan mad. His hands balled into fists and the food in his mouth twisted into something hard and refused to be swallowed. “I wish I didn’t have to come to dinner.”
His father froze with his fork mid-air. Tears sprung to his mother’s eyes. Even Tammy stopped banging her spoon against her bowl. Logan never spoke back. Logan always did as he was told.
The silence was broken by his mother’s chair sliding back from the table. The sound of the wooden legs grating against the concrete floor hurt Logan’s head. His mother looked at the empty chair before walking out the door.
“Are you happy with yourself?” Logan’s father growled.
Logan looked at the peas on his plate. He chased one around with his fork, and then he plucked up some courage. Courage or stupidity, he wasn’t sure which. He wasn’t sure there was a difference. “I just want to know why Annabel isn’t here,” he muttered.
“She’s not hungry.”
What did you get from the image?
Did you see my story reflected in it?
As for which form evoked the greatest response, well, that really can’t be answered as it is different for each person. We all think differently. We all process information differently. We all have different experiences. What evokes a response in one person, may not in another.
As for me, I have always gravitated towards the written word. I am able to absorb it quickly. Words are attractive. That isn’t to say I don’t appreciate other forms of communication, on the contrary, each form has its appeal. Each message can be conveyed by various mediums. I think what we need to celebrate is that we have the choice of appreciation.