Washington College's Student Literary and Arts Journal

Burning Polaroid

Simon waited on the hood of his car on the third floor of the parking garage of the mall that was two counties over from where his wife lay sleeping. It was almost midnight. Simon smoked a cigarette. His wife hated cigarettes. He only smoked them when he was out of the house. He would roll down the window when driving back home and let the air blow-dry him clean.

The source arrived in an old Cadillac. At least, Simon thought it was a Cadillac. He didn’t know much about cars. It just seemed like the right word. The source exited the car. The source was a man. He was old, but not elderly. He was short, but not squat. He was balding, but not hairless. The source hobbled over from his car. Simon stubbed out his cigarette on the ground. The source gave Simon the pictures and Simon gave the source five thousand dollars. They shook hands. The source went back into his car. The source left. Simon waved as he drove off. He looked at the pictures.

Picture 1: A man undid his belt.

Picture 2: A woman exited the bathroom.

Picture 3: Fellatio.

Picture 4: Some other sex act.

Picture 5: A cat.

Picture 6: A penis.

Simon didn’t know what to think of the pictures. He felt for a moment that maybe he should be shocked or maybe even upset. He decided to think about how he should feel on the ride home. He put the pictures in the glovebox. He drove home. He listened to “Sweet Home Alabama” the whole ride back. It reminded him of his brother.

Simon got back. He parked in the street. The garage door was loud. He did not want it to wake up his wife. Or the dog. Or the son who was home from college for the night because he was avoiding seeing his ex-girlfriend on campus. He opened the door slowly. The light was on. His wife was in the living room. She was smoking. The window was down. Simon didn’t say anything. She looked angry, so she was smoking. It happened. From time to time. She asked Simon where he had been. Simon said that he had been out. Simon’s wife accused him of sleeping around. This was not the truth. Simon said this was not the truth. She tossed the cigarette outside into the bushes. Simon said she shouldn’t do that because there was a drought and the plants were dry and that she could cause a forest fire. Simon’s wife didn’t care about forest fires. She asked Simon where he had been, again. Simon said he had been meeting a source for a story. Simon’s wife didn’t believe this. She asked for proof. Simon said he didn’t want to show her. Simon’s wife was getting loud. She asked for proof again. Simon didn’t want to wake the dog. Or the son who was home from college for the night because he was avoiding seeing his ex-girlfriend on campus. Simon showed his wife the pictures. Simon’s wife was quiet for a second. She asked if the people in the picture were who she thought they were. Simon said that yes, they were. Simon’s wife was quiet. She reached for another cigarette. She laughed. She told Simon to go to bed. Simon went to bed.

Simon’s wife had trouble focusing on the road the next day on the way to work. When Simon had been sleeping, she had taken another look at the pictures. She felt like she was part of something secret and important. It reminded her of the games she would play with her neighbor when she was a small thing living in the woods just outside of Pittsburgh. Her neighbor would pretend to be her secret wife. She would bring her flowers and they would smile at each other. No kissing though. That was against the rules. Simon’s wife thought about the pictures more at work. Her coworker remarked that she looked distracted. Simon’s wife lied and said she was okay. Simon’s wife’s coworker was not convinced. She could tell when her coworkers were upset. According to a man in the office, she had a success rate of 65% when predicting divorces and interoffice relationships. She asked again what was the matter. Simon’s wife told Simon’s wife’s coworker about the photos. She whispered quietly so that no one could hear. Simon’s wife’s coworker did not believe her at first, but Simon’s wife insisted that the photos were real. She made sure to mention the cat. It was important, she felt. The cat added humanity.

That afternoon, Simon’s wife’s coworker called her husband, who was currently in Las Vegas for a business meeting. She told him about the photos that Simon’s wife had seen and that there was a cat involved in sexual activity. Simon’s wife’s coworker’s husband was also skeptical about the contents of the photo, but Simon’s wife’s coworker insisted that the photos were genuine. She said she had seen them herself. The cat was there. It saw the whole thing. She lied. Simon’s wife’s coworker’s husband called an acquaintance of his who worked for a newspaper based out of Washington, D.C.

Simon’s wife’s coworker’s husband’s acquaintance who worked for a newspaper in Washington, D.C., asked Simon’s wife’s coworker’s husband for verification regarding the details of the location. Simon’s wife’s coworker’s husband apologized and said that he did not have any specific details beyond an anonymous tip. Simon’s wife’s coworker’s husband’s acquaintance who worked for a newspaper in Washington, D.C., hung up and Simon’s wife’s coworker’s husband returned to doing lines of cocaine off the stomach of a stripper, who wore her hair in a black and red pony tail and liked to call him “daddy.” Simon’s wife’s coworker’s husband’s acquaintance who worked for a newspaper in Washington, D.C., contacted his editor regarding the possible lead they had for a potential story. They made sure to mention the cat.

Simon woke up the next day and made himself a cup of coffee. He sat on the porch and sipped at the edges of the steam and watched cars go by. He remembered when his dad would do this with him when he was young. They would stay out even when it rained so, they could watch the thunder. Simon’s wife joined him on the porch. She reached for his hand because she felt guilty. Simon grabbed her hand. They sat for a moment. Simon’s wife told him what she did. Simon laughed. Simon’s wife told him what she did. Simon laughed. Simon’s wife told him what she did. Simon cried.

Simon’s source was tailing a man who wore a red leather jacket when he got the call. Simon told him that the secret was out. They knew about the photos. Even the cat. Especially the cat. Simon’s source stopped following the man who wore the red leather jacket and bought a plane ticket to Indonesia.

At work, Simon avoided calling his client all morning. Simon’s wife had taken their son out for a bonding day which he didn’t want. Simon thumbed through the channels on the television if only to catch glimpses from CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, WQSTEF, News News News, and the local cable channel. Staying too long on the channels made him uncomfortable. So he flipped up and down a few dozen times. The man in the pictures was in a bad spot. He was having sex with animals, the report said. The woman wasn’t mentioned. It was just a rumor now. Word got out somehow. The pictures hadn’t. The one man on CNN who looked like a starving owl made lots of angry faces and tried not to dwell too much on the rumors.

Simon got the phone call from his client that evening. His wife was still out. The client on the phone asked if he had the pictures. Simon nodded. Then he remembered he was on the phone and his client couldn’t see. He said yes. The client asked Simon to get rid of the photos. Maybe they could squash the rumors now and prevent further damage. Simon said that was probably the best idea. The client asked if it was true, what the news was saying about the cat. Simon said he didn’t think so, but he couldn’t say for sure. The employer cried. Simon cried too. Simon asked if the client wanted to see the photos before he disposed of them. The client shook her head. Then she remembered that Simon couldn’t see this and said no.

Simon drove home. On the radio the man in the picture made a promise to the public that the rumors were false. He was not involved in feline fornication. He had two missed calls. One from his wife. One from a newspaper based out of D.C. He ignored both. He made a fire in the fireplace. He took the photos and tossed them in one at time like he was dealing cards. He watched the faces, fur, and genitalia blacken and twist and form together into some sort of crumbling polaroid mess. Simon was still watching when his wife returned. She came and stood next to him and took his hand in hers. Simon watched the fire for a while. His wife went to bed without him.

Simon stepped outside and lit a cigarette. Simon called his brother. He asked his brother if he was okay. His brother said yes. Simon told him mentioning the cat fucking on the radio was probably a bad idea. His brother said yes, he was probably right. Simon told him he had seen the pictures. Simon’s brother didn’t ask how. Simon said the pictures were the first time he had seen his brother’s penis since he walked in on him pleasuring himself in middle school. Simon’s brother laughed and then stopped and breathed into the phone for some time. Simon asked how his brother’s wife was. His brother said she wasn’t talking to him. Simon wasn’t surprised. His brother sounded tired. Simon was too. He told him they’d get lunch tomorrow. His brother said yes and that he would clear his schedule. Simon suggested the place with the crab cakes that Oprah Winfrey had really liked. Simon’s brother said that was okay and that he’d talk to his people. Simon said goodbye and hung up.

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