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Today's Story by John Hayes

I walk to her side. Her hand moves, grasps mine. Together we stare into an endless depth of blackness.

Focus and Shoot

“Is that a real mountain, Dad?” My eight-year-old son demands to know.

“It looks more like a very steep hill to me.” I focus my camera and shoot a treacherous path that twists upward before us.

Below us, a cataract smashes against rocks. I focus and shoot. A light spray touches me.

“I wanted to see a mountain,” he says. Disappointment covers his face.

“You may be right. I think it is a mountain. But a small one.”

“Can we climb?”

“It’s too steep,” I say.


“I don’t have any wind for a climb. You know that.”

“I’ll climb just a little way up, okay?”

“Okay, just to that first bush on your right. I’ll watch.”

“I’ll go to the second bush, okay? It’s hardly any farther.”

“Okay, but no more.” Happy, he scampers upward.

My wife screams at me, “Get your daughter away from that crater.”

A hundred feet away my daughter stands quietly at the edge of a voluminous hollow. Instinctively, I focus my camera and shoot. But it’s a wide angel lens. I want a close up. I switch to my telephoto lens and bracket a series of shots as I walk toward her.

“What are you doing?” my wife shouts. I focus and capture her hardened mouth.

Spellbound, eyes focused inside the pit my daughter waits. I walk to her side. Her hand moves, grasps mine. Together we stare into an endless depth of blackness.

My wife yells, “Get her away from there.”

My daughter leads me to a spot where water bubbles from soft earth.

“It’s awesome,” she says.

“Yes,” I agree.

“Like soap bubbles from a bubble pipe.”

“Not quite that awesome,” I say.

My wife yells, “Look at your son.”

I look. He is stuck far up the slope and off its path. He can’t get down. I bracket shots as I walk to the path. I pause. My son waits. I take my first step, then my second. Time does not pass. Space does not exist. I am off the path, by his side. I take his hand. Walk with him to the path.

“Go down,” I say. “Not up.”

Secure. He races down. I collapse, my heart pounds. I gasp for breath. I will die here. I can never get down. I am too far up. The decline too treacherous.

My heart beat slows. My breath comes easier. I weigh my single option and cautiously stumble along the path. Rock and dirt tremble beneath my feet. I trip, scrape my hands on cutting rock and brambles.

My wife yells, “Hurry up. It’s not like we have all day.”

I reach for my telephoto lens. From here I can capture strands of her wind blown hair.


John is a sculptor who once appeared as a scurvy-looking corpse on Homicide. Now he gives poetry readings, acts and directs in community theatre.


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