The photo

Category A: Highly Commended (2020) Monash Short Story Writing Competition

Author: Pippa Wilhelmsen

Title: The photo


Alice Lee clattered down the ricky stairs that lead down to her basement.  Today she felt especially lonely, she missed her husband Felix, greatly. She was not sure what drew her down here, to her dark and dingy basement.  In the dark Alice fumbled for the chain, when she felt it's cold, hard steel she pulled it,  light flooded the room.  What she saw were some things that might have looked like trash to any passers by but they were all treasures to her for instance the blue and white china pot was a gift from her father a long time ago.  But that wasn’t what caught her attention, it was a briefcase which sat beneath the window that no matter how many times Alice threw soapy water at it, it never became clean.  The briefcase was grey-brownish with a thick layer of dust,  when Alice brushed her fingers over it she could see it’s handsome colour.  “Ahh Choo!” went Alice as she blew it “way too much dust and grime down here for a 74 year old” she muttered grumpily under her breath.  Alice Lee felt the familiar leather belt that was tied around the case because it’s rusty lock did not function properly any longer. “Creak” went the briecase’s hinges as Alice slowly opened the lid.  Then her eyes lit up from behind round wire spectacles as she saw it.

‘July 12th, 3065’ read the bottom of a grainy photograph in what looked like faded blue ink - Alice looked intently at the photo, she was transported to a glitchy freeze frame that materialized in front of her with a click.  Before Alice, was a woman in a shiny raincoat with mousey hair, sparkling eyes and a splash of freckles.  The woman was tightly holding the hand of a small girl, Alice.  Alice’s mother, Dorothy Shearson who was lovingly gazing at the delightful little Alice who was pointing at something she hadn’t seen for many years, because of universal warming.  Salmon and trout were joyfully swimming among the clouds.  Tears rolled down Alice’s cheeks, photos of her mother or rain fish always triggered fond memories. 

Alice quickly pressed the button to exit out of the old technology device.  She grabbed the photo holding it tightly against her knitted cardigan.

Clack went her old Polaroid, she took the photo that had just popped out of the bottom of the camera.  Alice grabbed her pen and drew some fish on the modern day, hazy, polluted sky.  Alice Lee knew that people today were feverishly working to stop the universal warming.  They would bring back “the fish” she wrote one word at the bottom of the photo.


 Epilogue - years later


Grace Lee looked at the photo that her Grandma had taken.  She always enjoyed looking at the differences between the old rain fish from yesteryear and the species that had evolved in modern times.  Grace looked at the word that was scribbled along the bottom of the photo …’Hope’.