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Nat Lipstadt Jul 2013
Why I Always Carry Tissues

To My Children:

I'm laughing at myself,
As I am prone to do because
Why I Always Carry Tissues
Is the title of a poem
I write for you.

There is a story here,
Of parenting, and responsibilties
That transcends yourself, defines me,
Vis-a-vis you,
then and there, and maybe now.

When you were small,
I took you by the hand,
The cement canyons, trails & rivers
of West Eighty Six Street,
Together, we would ford.

Periodically, as Fathers are prone to do,
Your hand, from my hand,
I would release
So you could fall down,
All on your own.

It bemused me that I could see
Three or four paces ahead of thee
Exactly which crack,
Upon which you would trip,
And come crying back to me.

Back-to-me.
That was then.
And now,
Yes, no more,
Back-to-me.

But I always had tissues
to dry your eyes
And no surprise,
I still do,
Always will.

These days, they,
more likely used to dry mine,
As I have forded that Styxy river,
When crossed, you spend more of the day,
Liking Back more,
Then looking ahead.

No matter, by right and tradition,
It is still my mission, that
when you need, when you bleed,
as I know you surely shall,
These pocket tissues will be there
Ready, willing and able, fully capable,
of snatching away your tears.

When you need,
When you bleed,
And you surely shall,
These pockets of mine,
Of tissue made,
Are waiting for your tears,
And you, to fill them,
For without them,
Their raison d'etre is unfulfilled.


These used tissues are my history book,
Re the art of loving, and the arch-i-texture of life,
Of tears and hearts,
And concrete spills,
That need knees to be complete.

That is why you will find me, without fail,
Ready, willing and able, holding my
White Badge of Courage at the ready,
Waiting patiently, for my mission to be redeemed,
Missions known as parenting schemes.

The scheme is clear, even if
my tissues you no longer request,
You will let your own babies
fall n' fail, then take their tears
Put them in your pocket,
keep them forever wet,
Like my memories of you
the ones I cherish best...

Perhaps a tradition
We will start,
Unsightly bulges in our pocket rear,
Where we will store our packet of saver-saviors
Removers of our dear one's fears.

If we are truly wise
Those tissued memories
We will keep,
Die among them contented,
Knee-scraped deep
When tears fall...



2008
1. Written in 2008, updated today 7/2013, adding a word here and there.
2. When I wrote this, there were no more babies in my life; now the next generation, a new set of boo-boos
3. Yes, I still, always have tissues on me someplace,
a habit started over thirty years ago,
when my children where toddlers.
4. The poem I love the best.
Gandy Lamb Feb 2019
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
The repetition symbolizes the cycle of life.
Sarah Kersey Aug 2015
Over the course of my unavoidably finite life I have always looked for the best in people
I believe that every human being has a soul
I believe that deep down within all of us
Beneath our silver hearts and our metal lungs lie good intentions
We stray from these as time passes
Time, an irrelevant concept at the most
Has made us all fools
We agonize over the number of minutes we are wasting as our lives drag on
Throwing away seconds like used tissues
Throwing away people like used tissues
Throwing away our lives like used tissues

We wreck everything around us
Concern is a forgotten custom
We would do anything to forget
We are all very quick to judge

We treat everything as disposable and recklessly dive into the unknown for the chance of excitement
But as an unavoidable result,
We wreck everything around us
There are men walking the streets with shoes tied to their backs whistling a tune about a man ******* ******* and getting money
This man doesn’t have a dime to his name and the last time he made love to a woman she screamed in disgust when she saw the disease he picked up from another man when he was 17 and ******
There are women waiting in the shadows of the alleys, waiting for their prey to come along and take them for a spin just for a Benjamin Franklin or two
This woman was taught that *** was a way to survive and that Benjamin Franklin could save anything, since that was all her dad sent her in the mail, as if that was an okay way to make up for leaving
There are teenage boys staring down at green leaves crumbled into nothing and white candied sugar that doesn’t taste so sweet
This Harvard bound boy just threw it all away because the pressure became just a bit too much and the only escape that was left was in the form of artificial highs that will destroy his brain until he’s as useless as a used tissue
There are teenage girls who are downing a bottle of coconut *** and getting on the road to go home so they can take their AP exam the following morning
This broken hearted girl who was just trying to forget her ex by swallowing the taste of Hawaii just killed another man in a head on collision
We wreck our lives for the pure possibility of enjoyment
We are all just looking for ways to forget and make up for all these lost moments that don’t even exist
A moment is never truly lost because it ceases to exists
Yet we forget this all in the thrill of it

Time is just a sugar coated limit on our lives that we fret over in order to worry about something
But maybe what we should be worrying about is the boy snorting coke in the bathroom
Not only should we be worried about his inhalation of the fast white lady,
But we should also be concerned over the circumstances surrounding him
He’s got scars on his wrists that he’s gained from war
Not Vietnam or Iraq but the war in his mind
But maybe we should be worrying about the girl selling herself on the street
She’s got eyes like fire but there’s burn marks slashed across her back from her “mother” shoving her onto the hot burning stove when her daddy left as a way to get out her anger
But maybe we should be worrying about the man with the shoes on his back
The disease that girl avoided will **** him in a matter of months and he hasn’t spoken to his mother in 10 years
She’s about to lose her only son to the ground because of some stupid party and some washed up drunk boy just looking for a good time without any concerns or protection
Or maybe we should worry about the teenage girl whose sitting in the jail cell drunk off her *** and being charged with vehicle manslaughter
Her ex is now lying under a white sheet, dead as can be, all because she was stupid enough to try to get amnesia from a bottle of forbidden poison

We would do anything to forget
We **** up our lives for the pure chance of amnesia
We all just want our innocence back
That teenage girl would love to forget how she lost her virginity to a boy who didn’t love her
But now she’s wearing black at a funeral staring at the face of a man she truly did love with her hands trapped in handcuffs behind her back
The man with the shoes would love to forget how he was once a straight-A student destined to be the next Steve Jobs
But all because of some frivolous party and the sleeping he did in his health class freshman year, he’s given up on the possibility of love and companionship and he’ll be rotting in the ground next to his father by the age of 34
The teenage boy would love to forget what it’s like to live with a beast in your mind with a red name tag stamped with the title ‘depression’
But instead he’s slashing his wrists in the bathroom as his blood splatters across the remaining ******* that lines the basin of the sink
The woman would love to forget the story of her accidental conception
But instead she hides in the alleys looking like a replica of her dad and just a little too much like the woman at the post office he got a bit too friendly with
We drown ourselves in the possibilities of falling into this idealistic dream world laced with melatonin and codeine as our brain collapses in on itself and our memories float away
This is the dream
Yet we cannot grasp it

We are all very quick to judge
We are all self-absorbed beings who form opinions on these four humans who are built of the same skin and bones as us
Yet we don’t take a second to look just a little bit deeper
The woman you considered a ******* whose been abused and beaten by a mother that’s not even her own?
She has a college degree and won three spelling bees when she was 12 years old
She can spell the word promiscuous faster than you can breathe out
She’s got flower crowns wilting in her closet that contain rotting lilies from her wedding bouquet
Her husband left her just like her dad did
The teenage boy, who you considered an emo, suicidal, washed up ******* addict?
He volunteers at the hospital and tries to help other kids suffering from the same disease that plagues his mind, even though he can’t help himself
He listens to only country music and sometimes when he picks his sister up from ballet recitals, they sing it together, extra loud with all the windows down
The man you judged as a homeless, lonely, STD-ridden loser?
He’s got thousands and thousands of dollars he pays to a nurse each week to take care of the mother he hasn’t spoken to in 10 years
He grew up on nothing, with only shoes on his back, and made himself into something
He made himself into a millionaire over a silly idea that resembled Facebook
And now he’s resorted back to his childhood ways in order to keep a woman healthy that kicked him out of the house when she found out he was bisexual
The girl who you considered some ******, blonde, drunk idiot who just killed her ex by pure accident?
She’s a natural brunette and she only dyed her hair because her ex told her it would make her pretty
Her self-esteem is so low it lies in the core of the earth, burning in hell, where she believes she’s going to end up because she lost her virginity before marriage
She’s got a purity ring resting in the threads of her carpet and a ****** wrapper in the trash laced with regret
She fell in love with somebody who treated her like she thought of herself, and she let him take the only part of her she had pride in because she believed he loved her

But now the woman with the flower crowns hiding in the alley has become a victim of **** because of some ******* who wasn’t carrying a Benjamin Franklin or a ******
But now the boy with a love for Luke Bryan is lying on the bathroom floor of some high school party in a pool of his own blood, slipping into oblivion
But now the man supporting his mother is in the hospital because of a disease in his genitals
But now the teenage girl is in prison for life

These are all just stories of imaginary people
Yet it all feels deathly real
Take us back to our youth
Take us to a land of the forgotten
Becca Lansman May 2017
Give it back.
I did not build myself from paper mache only to wooed by a man undeserving of everything that makes me powerful.
I know I should not cry.
God—I know I should not ******* cry.
You are undeserving of the ocean that swells inside me— I will not spill for you.
I will not let you lick up the salt.
You have taken enough. Built this storm inside my chest only for it wrap itself around my lungs.
To the **** boy that stole my heart and threw it in the garbage as if it was leftovers: I am still searching through plastic bottles and used tissues.  
Trying to dust myself off
but i am still  the **** of your sick joke. The ***** newspaper. Yesterdays comic.
“Just another *** that wants your ****.” They scoff. As if I am nothing more than a carcass.

Burn me to ashes. Dust to dust.

Hollow me out. Chop off my *******. **** everything beautiful out of me until I am a shell of a woman. Sticking pins and needles in myself to keep from falling apart.
Wipe your feet on me. Twirl my hair in your fingers. Grab my ***. Anything. This is your world. Choke the feminist right out of me.

I’ll scream your name.

To the **** boy that stole my heart: I hope you fall in love with a powerful woman.  A woman who demands the respect I never could.
Nat Lipstadt Aug 2018
<>
The Instigation:
Edmund  Black, commenting on “weary weighted,”

I agree with Kim; This is poetry at its best :)“

<•>

both of you shush!

there is no “better” in poetry

mine yours theirs, alive or not,

just gasps tears and blood
whimsical smiles and isles
cuts and burns of pained revelations,
hidden in fog,
that words try to delete away,
through the shrouded mists of
human tissues,
unconstrained by the
bounded shape
of the human cell,
our first, our own
self-imposed jail

tissue, too,
baby soft, or,
purple beating majestic bruised blotches
by those weaklings whose
kindness never
fully developed;  
or old man mine whose
skin cells erodes, so poems and light
weary weighted, lightly flake off
for your “betterment”
mostly tho for worse

good humans all await,
in patientce lightly hidden,
residents of dark sunspots
in the glaring existence exposer
of the unlit lighthouse whose time will come

they get it

how we get there unimportant

get there

GET THERE

get there
that is the poetic
mission critical

no path best or style preferred-
no compare just, but,
any path that
lifts and elevates,
to the commonplace


the common place

where all costarred, universal,
where common is the temple mount
of highest praise, holy smoke rising,

a place that
that discloses and closes,
is scribed/described honestly as
a connective,
which is the simplest
successive

call my poems,
blessedly common!

that an honorable,
so gladly accepted
and
so much more meaning-full
than merely best or better



for that,
I’d gladly weep,
for no praise
ever been
bettered





8/2/18 406pm
on the jitney to my isle
the instigation: Edmund black › “weary weighted, I agree with Kim .... This is poetry at its best :)“
Nat Lipstadt Nov 2013
She brings me morning coffee and tissues
(Tissues, ostensibly a coaster)
for she knowing.

Poetry,
I am writing,
needing then,
to wipe up
the spilling
tears.


PostScript:
Which of the mysteries within this poem
need answers?
All or None.
Olivia Kent Jan 2014
AAAtishoo!
Quick, please pass me a tissue.

Ran out of toilet roll.
Quick, please pass me a tissue.

A wet face dripping as tears drizzle.
Quick, please pass me a tissue.

Make up smudged in need of wiping.
Quick, please pass me a tissue.

Burned skin severely, in need a graft.
Quick, please pass me a tissue.

Human beings made of varying tissues.
Various colours.

Make me some tissues.
Not the ones from a box.


By ladylivvi1

© 2014 ladylivvi1 (All rights reserved)
Nat Lipstadt Oct 2013
October 2013

for Maria and Logan...

you need two hands, one foot.
count my years.
each finger, worth a decade.
each toe, well, a century...

birthdays.

point of inflection,
point of opportunity,
presents itself,
to rewrite history.

a second coat of paint,
gift-wrapped in weak excuses.
how I lied, how I ain't,
grimm-fated fairy tales
somebody created.

invisible suits of gold-cloth
worn to my party of
past rewrit and
future foretold.

one single thought,
memory,
seizes my heart,
as I fall to my knees.
cracks my temperate ease,
renders open the
woof and weave
of recycled deceptions,
causing all to be revealed
and ask,

what if the poetry ceases?

you know prostrate?
you taste grief?

have you not but
one pain,
one act,
one deed,
one memorization,
act of cowardice,
act of desertion,
mistake maden, taken,
for which
forgiveness
can never
be given,
be taken,
attained?

do, does, did.

let me then
win the birthday lottery,
let floods of relief from
daily chores, not drown me,
chauffeurs to drive,
masseurs to massage,
cooks to cook,
les delicious treats,
keep theologians, logicians
on retainer, if need
explanations.

none know, can provide,
still and yet, a
priestly sacred chord,
grants relief,
absolution,
song of hallelujah
the ache of
perpetuity worry,
that ancient pain,
grows fresher daily,
the loss of one,
of my body,
my primal knot
unreasonable,
everything should be
permitted to be untied,
on my birthday, no?

this day, these days
breathe through words,
molecules of vowels,
stem cells of consonants,
the fabric, the tissues of life,
veins are a dictionary
of corpuscles,
red blood cells are
nouns of nutrients.

this day, these days,
the infection of my soul
is tempered, kept at bay,
tamped down from the
full flowering
of white blood cells
of rhyme, verse.

what if the poetry ceases?

Though the bones creak,
the body they carry. resurrect
for morning, afternoon
and evening prayers.

thrice daily poetry I recite,
roses red, violets blue,
my marrow transfused.

though my prayers refused,
the poetry act immolates
the fringes of my disease,
for which the common cure
is not currently invented....

what if the poetry ceases?

but be assured, told
scientists hard at work,
on the
forgive n' forget drug.

meantime,
take a bubble bath in
rosemary and mint
trap some words,
tap some words into
your cell phone bone,
the poetry heat that
provides aspirin relief.

through this poem,
on one day annual,
I am relieved, relived
the muse is feted, sated,

gone for few moments
concerns, worries of
exposure today,
agnostic's foxhole of hell
is dis-remembered,
the gloss returns,
the faux dispatched,

ain't birthdays grand?

what if the poetry ceases?

what rhymes with
Sorrow?
mmmmm,
could it be
Morrow?

bath drains, rosemary and mint
odors dismissed, the  Argentine disparu,
the Spanish Medievalists,
the Neo-Raphaelites,
all gone,
didn't they have birthdays too?

didn't know
the Renaissance come
and go,
and nobody
tole ya?

please recall t'is the day
after my sweet city recorded my
naissance in the
Hospital of the Flowers
on Fifth Avenue.

the 'crats put the datum
in the bureau with the
night creams and
the statistics
as follows:

on this day + a few,
six or twenty decades ago +
a few centuries,
a question was born,
and an ache that is
sometimes relieved,
by a poem song.

though do not celebrate,
t'is a day to calibrate,
review, edit, tinker,
rewrite, often a stinker.

always one thought recycles:

what if the poetry ceases?

(how will I breathe?)
Notes: my birthday was a few weeks ago. One of a number poems I've written about birthdays.  This one was modified, but only slightly for Maria and Logan.
hello,
have you been
well?
i guess not,
for your attention
in my poem
could tell
sorry if this nurse
took so long
in finding
the perfect words
to cure
your soul
first,
strip your clothes
and
stand at the mirror
gaze at the
creature with
the foggy figure
there's
a sinkhole
in those eyes
and a temporary
stitch whenever
you would
smile
the collarbone
which hides,
suffocates from the
blanket of skin
with
sickening lies
it penetrated
and
corrupted your mind
ignored the
fact and just
romanticized
the beast
will **** you,
please
don't find
it ****
the chaos is screaming
later on
you'll be
empty
i know how
a reflection
cries
you lost yourself
you lost you
it's like
having a stray cat
beneath your
tissues
a wandering stranger
sails from
the memories
of truth
overflowing blood
choaked
your dilemmas
too
it mimicked the
fire of hell
in those
shoes
the greatest harm
you'll ever
cause you
but why a
nurse
and not a
doctor?
listen here,
you are your
fighter
the cure and the pain,
which decision
will define?
all i can
say is,
save yourself
from death,
because
it hasn't
deseved you yet
go ahead
and fight your
way to life
I suffered from these issues. And I don't have to wait to heal completely so i could serve my people.
Nat Lipstadt Sep 2019
https://artsofthought.com/2018/07/04/why-i-always-carry-tissues-2008-the-poem-i-love-the-best/

To My Children:

I’m laughing at myself,
As I am prone to do because
Why I Always Carry Tissues
Is the title of a poem
I write for you.

There is a story here,
Of parenting, and responsibilties
That transcends yourself, defines me,
Vis-a-vis you,
then and there, and maybe now.

When you were small,
I took you by the hand,
The cement canyons, trails & rivers
of West Eighty Six Street,
Together, we would ford.

Periodically, as Fathers are prone to do,
Your hand, from my hand,
I would release
So you could fall down,
All on your own.

It bemused me that I could see
Three or four paces ahead of thee
Exactly which crack,
Upon which you would trip,
And come crying back to me.

Back-to-me.
That was then.
And now,
Yes, no more,
Back-to-me.

But I always had tissues
to dry your eyes
And no surprise,
I still do,
Always will.

These days, they,
more likely used to dry mine,
As I have forded that Styxy river,
When crossed, you spend more of the day,
Liking Back more,
Then looking ahead.

No matter, by right and tradition,
It is still my mission, that
when you need, when you bleed,
as I know you surely shall,
These pocket tissues will be there
Ready, willing and able, fully capable,
of snatching away your tears.

When you need,
When you bleed,
And you surely shall,
These pockets of mine,
Of tissue made,
Are waiting for your tears,
And you, to fill them,
For without them,
Their raison d’etre is unfulfilled.

These used tissues are my history book,
Re the art of loving, and the arch-i-texture of life,
Of tears and hearts,
And concrete spills,
That need knees to be complete.

That is why you will find me, without fail,
Ready, willing and able, holding my
White Badge of Courage at the ready,
Waiting patiently, for my mission to be redeemed,
Missions known as parenting schemes.

The scheme is clear, even if
my tissues you no longer request,
You will let your own babies
fall n’ fail, then take their tears
Put them in your pocket,
keep them forever wet,
Like my memories of you
the ones I cherish best…

Perhaps a tradition
We will start,
Unsightly bulges in our pocket rear,
Where we will store our packet of saver-saviors
Removers of our dear one’s fears.

If we are truly wise
Those tissued memories
We will keep,
Die among them contented,
Knee-scraped deep
When tears fall…

©Nat Lipstadt 2008
https://artsofthought.com/2018/07/04/why-i-always-carry-tissues-2008-the-poem-i-love-the-best/
Nat Lipstadt May 2015
a woman, confident in her cuddling abilities...

that's all any man wants,
a woman, confident in her cuddling abilities,
who knows the when and why of differing
cuddling styles...

a woman, confident in her cuddling abilities,
who knows when to leave a man alone
alone in his man-mourning time,
distance needed,
letting his ex-rage dissipate or
watching his red and blue football
redefine ignominy...

a woman, confident in her cuddling abilities,
that when the man low whistles, eyes adrift,
she heartily agrees and is
reciprocity rewarded regularly
with hunk alerts of
"hey-check-him-out!"

that's all any man wants,
a woman, confident in her cuddling abilities,
a tigress in the bedroom
she asking, try this, I'll love it,
served with a desert demo of awkward afterward,
his less-than-perfect cuddling abilities

a woman, confident in her cuddling abilities,
who doesn't abhor partner silences,
comforting they are, in their own ways,
lying side by side, interrupted only by peccadillo body noises unexpected and
sheepish apologies and loving arm stroking

a woman, confident in her cuddling abilities,
who lets the man roar, top of voice,
when imprisoned in car,  
his voice, un enfant terrible,
performs with Creedence Clearwater
a sing-a-long in traffic, asking
"Have you ever seen the rain"
while amidst Israel-leaving-Egypt
Sunday beach traffic on the L.I.E.

a woman, confident in her cuddling abilities,
when it's pheromones  alternative mode day,
he celebrates Carole King day,
she demonstrates her cuddling abilities,
par excellence, with kisses and tissues

a woman, confident in her cuddling abilities...

a woman, plain confident in her abilities
no matter the situational status,
when confronted by
less-than-crazy-impetuous,
she smiling says "why not,"
when he proposes,
a movie and dinner in a fav haunt?
"plenty excellent enough" her answer,
spoke in a rising voice
full of unfeigned delight

a woman, confident in her cuddling abilities,
accepting the unexpected airport embrace
on a moving sidewalk, unexpected delays
with the aplomb of a well lived life's
long term sustainability perspective

when he kisses her hand for no reason,
while driving 75 miles per hour,
she only winces internally,
the other hand vise-grasping
the other door's handle,
who brushes hair wisps in a dark movie,
celebrating her Bathsheba Everdeen's
duality of strength and tenderness

a woman, confident in her cuddling abilities,
that when on second date he proposes
a non-exclusive relationship,
confident enough to high-five respond,
and laugh about it,
seven years on

a woman, confident in her cuddling abilities,
that when she reads it,
analyzing the oeuvre as
"too **** personal and
as usual
too **** long"



that's all any man wants,
a woman, confident in her
cuddling abilities
in everything...
even a little occasional criticism
Entirely fictional, of course.

L.I.E. is the Lomg Island Expressway, a/k/a, the longest parking lot in the world.
Red and blue football team, the NY Giants.
Bathsheba Everdeen from Hardy's "Far From the Madding Crowd."
Alternate song choice, the Eagkes "Take It Easy."

Inspired by this:
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/10/style/modern-love-tinder-swiping-right-but-staying-put.html?rref=collection%2Fcolumn%2Fmodern-love&contentCollection;=style&action;=click&module;=NextInCollection®ion;=Footer&pgtype;=article
ogdiddynash Jul 2018
helping the kids with homework


no one told you,
was part of the job description
paycheck earner a-ok,
gruff but tender lover,
knowing her special places,
building a tree swing,
a tree house safe and satisfactory,
one the neighbors envy

taking them to the hospital for
broken arms and chemotherapy,
part two of the non-routine but a very possible foreseeable,
going to school to give that principal a look
that will make him think twice before suspending
one of his for defending himself

you remember your daddy doing the same for you,
forgetting to repeat the tar and hiding that came later

the tucking in, the pretense ouch
when your end of day
scratchy beard ruffling the skin of babies,
carrying tissues in a toolbox,
never heard of, nevertheless done,
tho not a memory defining the future inclusive,
definitely a learning ability, a likeability

doing homework, nuh uh,
no way jose, don’t dare let them
know how you never got a gold star,
always sat in the back row, outta sight,
all day dreaming, chemistry rhymes with mystery,
and poetry is rhymes needing a big vocabulary
which means lots of words for a man who don’t talk much

ain’t exactly his strong suit

sure, heard of Shakespeare but never met him,
know where the on/off computer button hides,
the rest is up to them;
got no email address, but taught them sir and ma’am,
how to address humans with respect,

i’ll promise them anything
but not doing any homework,
unless it the kind that that makes

a home work
#homework
Kagami Nov 2013
Silent crackle, tingle,
The smell of a sticky must. Floating dust in
An abandoned attic, where the rats roam and the dead skeleton of a fish
Still lies in an empty bowl of moldy rocks and plastic plants.
Yet, despite the emptiness, a girl curls up in the corner, black
Running down her face as she weeps for the things she longs for most.
She looks out the *****, broken window at the cloudy sky and imagines it
Blue. The brightest of skies with only few hints of cirrus.
A blanket on the ground and the man she loves, nothing else in sight.
The expanse of green in her head is contrasted to the rotting floorboards she lays
On, dreaming. The steady beat of Boy in Static thrumming through her headset
As she struggles not to scream and jump, finishing the job on the window
From troubled teens years before. The sound reminds her of VHS tapes,
Press rewind, take a turn and start over. But she can't, when something has changed.
The boy she knew, looking down with his hood not up, but covering his face, shielding
Himself from her. She knew he had a ***** in his head, but she just looked away. He never answered anything she asked. He was unable.
But her heart still dropped, she smiled her best. An amazing actress, fooling everyone, makeup allergy keeping her eyes dry. She just read Huck Finn as though nothing was wrong.
Now she sits in her room, writing and shaking her head. This line is not right.
Her walls were full of color and poetry, but her mind kept wandering to that attic.

She was there again. Blankly staring at her star charm anklet. A simple blue ribbon.
And the throbbing of her heartbeat through that one spot on her thumb,
That pressure point that hurts more than anything. But one thing could be worse.
Being left. Just like the broken rocking horse in the corner and the baby's cradle
Lined with blue silk that was shoved into a box. That baby is probably dead. Just like all
Of the others who lived there, burned by the fire. Goose flesh raises, prickly
Hairs on her legs from a week of no shaving. Scratch. Scratch. Scratch. Bleed.
Change the song. Bleed Like Me. Perfect. She draws on the peeling walls, two hundred
Years of wallpaper and lead paint, chalk barely leaving a mark. She sketches a masterpiece.
A child that she wishes she could have. Impossibly too young, but still...
A daughter she could raise better than her mother raised her. A chance to do something right.
More than the mechanic life she has lead, empty and useless.
Confused and pathetic. Like the broken grandfather clock that ticks backwards.
Three, two, one.
Ding-****, ****-ding. Grandfather never taught me anything. He was not a wise man.
He was a fool. Knew too much and too little, no room to know what was right.
She let another raindrop escape and suddenly it began to pour. Lightning crashes as a glass
Slipper collides with the picture drawn of her dream. Thunder as she releases a
Bloodcurdling scream. "Why!?"
Why her? The pain in her back is unbearable. She slouches too much, and her eyes burn.
She is not Cinderella; her ball gown does not glitter.
Piano is her least favorite instrument, but it somehow gets to her. Small hammers
Striking her heart strings, low notes reminding her of his voice and the soft, feminine
Voices radiating, remind her of when she was young... Immortal. She has aged since then.
Too quickly. Her entire life has been a masquerade ball. Unskilled idiots dancing
Around her and stepping on her toes. Shouldering her in the stomach,
Breaking her ribs. Beats of music guide her skilled toes, swerve around falling raindrops that
Her own eyes emit. And she crashes through the floor of that dismal attic. Broken free,
But she is still trapped. The walls are charred down here.

But the walls are not painted black. They were once a mint color, green and cheerful, healthy.
Until a psychopath lit a match.
"I didn't mean to do it." It was all in her head. The house.
She set it aflame.

She sits in her room, writing and shaking her head. This line is not right.
Her walls were full of color and poetry. It isn't worth it to stare. Nothing will change.
She is still just a girl in a glass box, being stared at and judged. Trapped and ridiculed because her eyes bleed and bless the onlookers with bad luck. It's amazing the things
That people don't know. Drifting deeper into a pit of endless darkness. A candle won't
Live down here. No oxygen to let it breathe. But one lit self portrait hangs in the air.
Years ago, drawn in pencil. Symbolic, it wants to be erased. To die.
And the ******* the page is wearing a mask. The girl in the parchment is me.
Medium length hair and a tear painted, permanent. A Parasite. Capitalized for its meaning.

A demon is running through me, singeing
My tissues, blisters on the insides of my bones. Swelled up, show through
My skin. Waves on a shore. But I am not a beach. A ***** maybe...
Still, I hate it. The hate killed whatever flowers I had left planted in my mind.
Tainted me with the horrible visions of a tear streaked face of paper mâché.
She was the one in the attic. Her whole persona
Wilted and ashen, grey. A silent movie might mask it; the hurt, I mean.
The grey lines on the screen hiding the bags under her eyes and the redness of her nose,
Get rid of the twinkling shards of glass frozen on her cheek from crying in the dead of winter.
Slip up once, and everything goes to hell. Well, I must have slipped years before I was born.
Few smiles are left on this dismal timeline. And I shall use them wisely. But, for now,
I think I will just weep, sleep forever and hope that you don't give up on me and pull the plug.
I am still here somewhere, just dormant. Please wake me up. Get me out of this charred cabin,
This glass box. Pull me out of my warped sense of everything, teach me again what
Love feels like. I have forgotten amidst everything that I have felt and remembered.
There is no more room for things to be learned. Only for things to be repaired.
I will give you a hammer. Come inside and fix me; that ***** in your head couldn't have taken your knowledge away. You are the only one that knows.

Use this never ending lightning and bring your bride to life.
Big Virge Mar 2017
I ... REALLY LOVE ... *** ...
ESPECIALLY with ... My New girlfriend ... !!!

I Love ... women ...
but really can't be doing ....
with ... Arguments ... !!!

That's why ... My ... " Pen " ...
is my ... New girlfriend ...

We make ... " Love " ...
and Love the touch ...
of pen to page ....

When we ... Engage ...
It feels just like ...
A ... ****** High ...

NO ... NOT That Way ... !!!
You've got a ... SICK BRAIN ... !!!!!

There's Nothing ... quite like
**** ... Feminine Thighs ... !!!
but ... after *** ...
and ... Cigarettes ...

Some girls give ... STRESS ...
to their ... boyfriends ... !!! ...

That's why I like ...
to ... sit and write ...

Because ........

I Don't get stressed ...
by my ... New Girlfriend ...

Her name ... is ... " Pen " ...

NOT ... Penny ...
or ... Penelope ... !!!

Should I ...
say it again ... ?

My ... " Pen " ... is now
My New ... girlfriend ...
and YES ... we have ...
INCREDIBLE ... *** ... !!!!!!

The kind of ***
WITHOUT ... the stress ...
of ...... *** ......
or other types of ... STD's ... !!!!!

*** like this ...
is ... TRULY ... Bliss ... !!!

NO Condoms ...
and NO ... Colons ... !!!!!!!!!

Except ... for those ...
that fit in ... Prose ...

So ... NO ******* ...
and NO ... Mistakes ... !!!

Helping us to ... avoid ...
Long Term ... Headaches ... !!!

But ... EVEN If ...
by chance ... they do ...

Trust in this ... !!!

They're just ... " Removed " ...
Without ... tissues ... !!!

Or ... with trips ...
to ... " THOSE " ... Clinics ... !!!!!

If ... During ...
or ... because of ... *** ...
We make a ... Mistake ...

NO ... Pregnancy tests ... !!!
or ... Arguments ...

Our friend ... " Tipp-Ex " ...
is our ... " Best Mate " ...
Just like ... THAT ...
Mistake ... ERASED ... !!!!!!!!!!

I'm telling you ... Straight ...
Our *** is ... GREAT ... !!! ...

I think that ... Pen's ...
My New ... " Soulmate " ... !!!!!

She's ... " Tall and slim " ...
and at a ... " Whim " ...
Can change the colour ...
of her ... Skin ...

And ............... If I think ...
She's a bit .... " TOO BIG " ... !!!

She Doesn't ... fume ...
if she gets ... Ditched ...
for ... Another Pen ...
I choose to ... " Pick " ...

This simply is ...
The way of things ...
in our ... *** Relationship ...

" IT'S ... ONLY *** ! "

is what she says .........

but makes sure that ...
it's NEVER ... Bad ...
when she's attached ...
to my ... " Notepad " ... !!!!!!

She's ... QUALITY ... man ... !!!!!
and i'm ... SO GLAD ...
that she ... " Found Me " ...
Through ... " Poetry " ...

She told me ....

" Virge, I love your rap ... !!! "

but then ... Of course ...
I answered back ...

"Come on now Pen,
It's not just rap !
Don't get it confused
like certain crews !
This is something
Beautiful !
What we do,
leaves people moved,
just like you,
whenever you choose,
to *** it up,
in my front room !!!"

She simply said,

"Big Virge that's true !
How about this view ?
Your way with words
makes our love work !"

I'm ... Telling You ...... !!!

She's a ... SPECIAL ... girl ...
who makes me feel ...
On ... TOP OF THE WORLD ... !!!!!

She loves me with ...
Her heart ... FREELY ... !!!!!

and chooses to ....
Just .... let me be ........

Until it's time ...
to just ... recline ...
and let our souls ...
Make Love ... through scrolls ...

It's MORE THAN ... *** ...
when this .... Unfolds ......................

NO GIRL ... provides ...
Such ... " Loving " ... vibes ...
WITHOUT ... " Conditions " ...

That's ... THE CRIME ... !!!!!

Whenever I write ...
It's a ... JOYOUS ... Ride ... !!!

Even when ...
My Anger ... finds ...
A place within ....

" Poetic " ... lines ...

But ... EVEN ... then ...
" My Pen " ... Still Shines ... !!!!!

and let's me know ...

" Hey Virge it's fine
I'll Love You til',
the day you die !"

She is ..."  My LIGHT " ...
and my ... SUNSHINE ... !!!!!
and is ... " The Love " ...
that ... FILLS ... My Life ... !!!!!!

When I just .......... sit ...........
and HOLD ........ " My Pen " .......

She ALWAYS sends ...
My brain ... these scripts ...
that ... in the end ...
are ... Celestial Gifts ... !!!!!!!!!!

Negative ... or ... Positive
The balance reached ....

REJECTS ... needless
........... Vanity .........

but Welcomes ... MORE ...
.......... Humility ..........

That;s why ... The *** ...
is ... SO **** GOOD ... !!!!!

because ... My Pen ....
will NOT BE .... " Pulled " ...
Away from ... ME ...
for Cars ... Babies ...
or .... BIG MONEY .... !!!

She just ... " LOVES ME " ...
Through ... " Poetry " ...

Like My Mother ...
did ... DAILY ...

From ... UP ABOVE ...
These days ... My Mum's ...
STILL LOVING ... Me ...
Through ... " My Pen " ...

UNCONDITIONALLY ... !!!!!!

So ... NO WOMEN ...
NO ... Arguments ...

Just .....

Me and ... " My Pen " ...
as .... " ****** Friends " ...

Until ... I FIND ...
within ... " This World " ...

A Truly ... **** ...
SPECIAL Girl ...

Who ... in the end ...
when we're in ... Bed ...

Makes me ... " Feel " ...
just like ... " My Pen " ...

and makes these words ...
run through ... " My Head " ...

Because of her ... WOW ...

I Really ... Love *** ... !!!!!!!!!
As far from *** as you could imagine, but my love for this art is expressed in this piece
My mother never appeared in public
without lipstick. If we were going out,
I’d have to wait by the door until
she painted her lips and turned
from the hallway mirror,
put on her gloves and picked up her purse,
opening the purse to see
if she’d remembered tissues.

After lunch in a restaurant
she might ask,
"Do I need lipstick?"
If I said yes,
she would discretely turn
and refresh her faded lips.
Opening the black and gold canister,
she’d peer in a round compact
as if she were looking into another world.
Then she’d touch her lips to a tissue.

Whenever I went searching
in her coat pocket or purse
for coins or candy
I’d find, crumpled,
those small white tissues
covered with bloodred kisses.
I’d slip them into to my pocket,
along with the stones and feathers
I thought, back then, I’d keep.
Stephen Katona Aug 2014
There's a yellow green gas,
You can't see in your glass.
Sometimes you can tell,
It's there by the smell.
It does a great job removing bacteria,
Like Diphtheria,
Or even Listeria.

But what do you think,
Happens to the chlorine in your drink?
I don't want to alarm,
But there's a chance it might harm.
It protects at a price,
Attacking our bacteria that are nice,
And I'm sure it excels,
At killing your own cells,
Forcing new ones to grow,
When a mistake could cause woe.
Some studies have found it an enhancer,
Of bladder and bowel cancer.

Whether old or young,
Do you want it in your lung?
You have the power,
To remove it from your shower.
It's rather grim,
To have to breathe it when you swim.
You're more likely to wheeze,
Or sneeze.

Do you think it will please,
Your inflammatory bowel disease?
Perhaps it's the key,
To why there's Crohns and UC.
Do you think that your skin,
Might become a little thin,
And be filled with dread,
As it starts to turn red.
Can you not feel,
How it's harder to heal?
It makes our tissues grow old,
From what I've been told.
Our cells can only divide,
A few times before they're stupified.

With asthma and chlorine on a map,
You can see they overlap.
Sadly in the West,
Not everyone has guessed,
That there may be a link,
With the gas in our drink.

“But!”, I hear you cry,
“Without it people will die.”
Let go of your dread,
We can use something instead.
The answer is well known,
It's called 'ozone'.
Made from pure water,
It's gone when it reaches my daughter,
Unlike chlorine it's life is brief,
What a relief.

There's many a city,
That make it with electricity,
Splitting water into hydrogen,
And best of all, oxygen!
For ozone is made from O2,
Yes, it's true!
Imagine if you had,
Water with nothing they add.
Already there's Paris and Nice in France,
Where people can dance.
San Diego and Los Angeles in the USA,
Have water that's ok.
And Osaka in Japan,
Now use this plan.
But you don't have to be rich,
To make the switch.
Ask a clever committee,
To stop chlorine in your city.
See if you can arrange,
To have your water change.

I hear you shout,
“Can 'I' get this chlorine out?”
If you leave water in a jug overnight,
What's left will be slight.
Boiling will send it away in the air,
So there's no need to despair.
You can also remove it with a filter,
Or a water distiller.

To learn more have a look,
At 'Question Chlorine' on facebook.
The following are studies that have been done looking at potential links between chlorine and various diseases. They can be found with a simple google search.
1. The association of drinking water source and chlorination by-products with cancer incidence among postmenopausal women in Iowa: a prospective cohort study.
2. Chlorination, chlorination by-products, and cancer: a meta-analysis.
3. Drinking Water Source and Chlorination Byproducts II. Risk of Colon and ****** Cancers.
4. Case-Control Study of Colon and ****** Cancers and Chlorination By-Products in Treated Water
5. Meta-analysis of studies on individual consumption of chlorinated drinking water and bladder cancer
6. Infant swimming in chlorinated pools and the risks of bronchiolitis, asthma and allergy. 
7.Attendance at chlorinated indoor pools and risk of asthma in adult recreational swimmers. 
In 2009, I asked the world to carry out more research looking at the safety of chlorine in the Journal of Medical Hypotheses in an article called:
Step aside tobacco, chlorine could be man's next great carcinogen.
Isabella Lopez Dec 2011
I remember breaking down that barrier.
A Berlin wall, of sorts,
That haunts every friendship.
On one side,
There are pleasantries.
There is “How are you?”
Who shares an apartment with “It’s been too long dear”,
Who lives across the street from “I have so much homework!”
And down the hall from “We ought to see a movie this weekend”.
On the other side, there are feelings.
Not the simple kind.
Not the kind that can be expressed at a locker,
Before homeroom,
Or over a cup of coffee.
The kind that are ugly.
The ones with rough edges,
That will ***** your hand,
If you hold them the wrong way.
The ones that sit alone in dark corners,
Because no one wants to claim ownership.

It’s a thrilling moment to break down.
Falling to the ground, you cry,
You wail,
And you blabber out every feeling you’ve ever felt,
No longer able to hold them inside.
I remember when I broke down for the first time.
Like a citizen of West Berlin,
I took a sledge hammer to the wall.
With each word, chunks of concrete disintegrated,
Into crumpled tissues,
And tear-stained pillow cases.
The last word hung in the air.
Inhaling deeply,
Freedom filled my lungs.

I held my breath.

I saw shining lights,
Glimmering stars,
And vibrant smiles.

I knew that behind me,
You saw rusted steel,
Broken glass,
And graffiti.

It wasn’t too late,
I could run away.
Run away and never look back.
And re-build that wall with every stride.
If you didn’t want to cross that threshold,
Between shining stars and broken walls,
Between singing joyously and sitting silently,
Between happiness and heart-ache.
I would not force you.

“Dearie.” You said, arms outstretched.
“Come here.”
neha Dec 2016
seconds, minutes, hours, days

spent hoping it was just a phase

as his parents sent him to a church where they'd say

"son, you better pray the gay away"

surely this "God" had far more important issues

than a boy in a closet with a handful of tissues

surely this "hell" was a place for far worse people

than a boy forced to confess his sins under a church steeple
Madisen Kuhn Aug 2013
I feel invisible
Yet you claim(ed) I am the air you breathe
And perhaps like air I am always present,
But presently forgotten

The heaviness of your hush is crushing me with empty blows
This silence leads me to wander down a path cloaked in a heavy mist
That whispers harsh truths such as:
Our hopeless, fictitious, drawn out infatuation is like
A library book that was checked out last March
You underlined and doggie-paged the first few chapters
And then left it on your shelf to collect dust all of April and May

I foolishly kept begging you to finish the book
Read the last sentence
Take time to skim over the epilogue
Please
Find your way to the back cover

I foolishly ignored your “I can’t”s

And now it’s late August and our love is long overdue,
In the opposite sense of what the phrase typically means

I write with angry lead because
I am too stubborn to admit I just filled a trash bin with tissues
And that the cuffed sleeves of my flannel
Are damp like grass’s morning dew

I have so much more to say,
Although I cannot find the words
To say anything more than



You should’ve written.

Because two weeks of nothing
Was enough for me to realize that you are just a passing breeze
Seldom present, presently becoming something of the past.
KUSHAL HAZRA Mar 2014
SUN RISES HER UP WITH ITS BRIGHT AMBASSADORS OF MORNING.
                        SHE STRETCHES HER PETALS SLOWLY
AND GREETS HERSELF IN NAKED FEET WITH A BLOOM OF JOY.

YELLOW TINGLED LIKE A WATERFALL GLITTERING IN SUNLIGHT.
                      TISSUES KEEP THEMSELVES BUSY,
SERVE HAPPINESS TO THE MAGMATIC BEAUTY OF EACH ERA.

SHE HAS HER OWN UNIVERSE WITH THE SOUL MATE SHE LOVES.
                        TOIL CONSUMED ALL OIL INSIDE HER,
RELAXATION BRING PLEASURE AFTER A DAY’S JOURNEY OF A DOVE.

SHE THANKED THE ANCIENT FATHER FOR THIS WONDERFUL WORLD.
                                     BEFORE ANOTHER SUNRISE,
SUNFLOWER SLEEPS ANOTHER NIGHT AND LIVES ANOTHER DREAM.
Nadia May 2019
The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

If tomorrow is a big day with many things to do, here is your warning:
Read this book before bed and you’ll be reading it well into the morning

Esme, or My, is kind and clever, endlessly loyal and terrible at deceit
Khai is a complicated genius, steadfast and achingly, unknowingly sweet

Esme is determined to find a better life for the family she temporarily left behind
Khai is earning future freedom from set ups his mom can’t help but mastermind

A few scenes might make you blush - brilliant and perfect for this story
Bring lots of tissues, no reading on transit - this book is an absolute glory
I never remember to review books before all of the details are long forgotten (sadly it does not take long) so I'm making an effort. Bonus, it's more fun to review with a poem
Ish Bautista Nov 2012
Perhaps your body is composed of thousands of stars.
Limitless  constellations make up your fingertips
your eyelashes
and the curvatures in your ears.

Galaxies are interwoven under your skin and how you glow.
You glow like the moon in the sky when it is at its brightest.
When nothing compares to the sight of the moon and the tiny specks in the sky are just insignificant floating circles.

Your hair flows like the Nile River.
Boundless, pristine water overflowing at my fingertips.
You are more than the ocean; you are all the bodies of water in the earth combined.

You are the last drop of coffee in my old, vintage, mauve red mug.
The last caffeine induced sip that flows through my oesophagus with a relinquishing taste of sweetness.
You are the sweet nectar that hummingbirds look for in flowers and when they can't find flowers with a taste that will satisfy them, they settle on trees.

You are the trees that produce oxygen, and the branches of the trees that tower over me like a netted blanket.
You are the cotton blanket keeping me warm on windy or rainy days because it doesn't snow in the Philippines.
But if you were snow, I would gather you in a plastic container and keep you in my ice compartment so you wouldn't melt.
You make me feel like I'm melting.
Like every possible emotion i possess flows out of me like vapor.

And you are the smoke that forms after you've blown the flame of a candle; you gently float in the air surrounding the space where the flame used to be.

You are the compacted tissues in my chest; you fill the void I once had.
You comprise my veins, my arteries and vesicles; you are a vessel of euphoric elation.
You are my utopia.
You are.
PoserPersona Jan 2019
Lips curling towards blue hues
bestow scintillant cut pearls
which bite cardiac tissues
like fur companions nip hands

The physical sensation
lacks pleasure in a vacuum
yet the conveyed affections
grip the fabrics of being

How those star gazers lift, too,
and cradle a future, thus
beckoning mine towards you
with no ending in sight.
As with the setting sun,
night begins when she’s away
Jared Eli Dec 2012
Tissues for your issues
Wipe your tears away
Though today is dark and dreary
It's tomorrow's yesterday
Connor Reid Apr 2014
A duality of elan vital, two people
Spectres of emotion
Intertwined by a fuselage of bruised skin & tendon
Tissues become orbital, gushing towards grafts
Helixes of snot, **** and lymph
Boy & girl
As they embrace the animating principle and eachother, they fuse
A one piece tapestry adorned seamless with no hem, beginning or end
Always was, always is
Patiently turning to liquid as their being unzips
Lying figures of runny makeup and genetic *****
Quintessence, a texture of synaptic potential
Corpus Callosum
An entirety of self, lost in imbued disintegration
Theory of mind, looped & bound
I will water the thought
Roots envisaged in dystopian amygdala
Piercing data packets with a frost-like intensity
Forgetting our obsolescence moments ago
A neuron dipped in nylon
Theta waves and the non-euclidean crux of dissociation
Ghosts in the machine, your macro god
The sympathies of fractional distillation
Digitised/assimilated unto the nanosphere
Cold hands and brass backs galvanised in oscillated tears
Commodified, sold out and bought
Stretching, from purple, white and black
slowly losing its colour, amorphous in shape
brushed across a smudge, ambiguously chromatic
Monetised flesh god
An eternity bathed in starlight
Cutting an incision in the sky to allow entropy
Divided dimensions of energy
Fleeting and intangible
No longer a delirium of seperation
All semantics become light
As a rusted vehicle passes overhead
And all the worlds questions fade out of existence
Flutters of red tape and foregone growth of practice
Sinew flayed, integrated towards information
Our minds shared
In circuits and resistors
Photons and electrons
We radiate
Farah Hizoune Apr 2014
I had hoped to find on this trip to Morocco, like countless great ones before me, the scent of my youth, to create the volumes of my own tale. To find beauty in the colors of my heritage, to reinvent all that I am and all that I am destined to be. The joy of knowing that some of the greatest writers, artists, musicians, poets, have found solace, inspiration and true peace in the country I am blessed to call my home is unmatched. I wanted to be able to hold the sunshine in my soul, the world in my mind and the fateful nonchalance of destiny in my heart.

From what little I saw of Paris from the aisle seat on the relatively small Airbus 370 was magical. It was a glimmering and sparklingly beautiful city that filled me with a nostalgia that was not my own, but of the stories I'd read set in 1941 Paris. I pictured Henry Miller and Anais Nin meeting there in secret along le Rue de Provence. The fear that I held within when I stepped through customs into le Royaume du Maroc was smothering. There has to be a word for the fear of new beginnings, the fear of your heritage.. But as soon as I was out of the airport and in the back seat of my fathers rented Dansia, driving down the scenic coastal highway, I found my relief.

The relief came from the overbearingly-beautiful smell of honeysuckle and jasmine, with slight undertones of burning *******. It hit me and I no longer felt that overpowering fear. I started gulping for air, this time not because of a panic attack, but for memories sake. I never wanted to forget that smell. It smelled like my childhood, something long dormant, suddenly released. All of the places that I had ever tried to fit into and this was the closest to perfection. The beauty of the beggars, the commotion of the families of six packed tightly into the back of a speeding fruit truck, the droves of young punks taking over the sidewalks, they all brought me instant comfort.

The drive from Sale to Harhoura was, to put it lightly, riche. They were modernizing my roots with bypasses and tunnels built underneath of centuries-old, roman-built fortresses. New sidewalks and high dollar condominiums built on the edge of a brand new, man-made medina. The water was occupied by artesian fishing boats and the frail, brown men who powered them for measly pay or a days meal. My father was uncovering all of the wonders of his country in a booming, baritone voice. Showing me old stomping grounds and schools, and teaching me the history of everything we passed.

The vernal equinox, waning crescent moon on my first night was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever been privy to. Unable to be adequately described or properly photographed with the tools I possessed. It was the color of a blood-orange toadstool, hanging dubiously on the horizon. Barely visible but for the every-other peeks between the shantytown. It was enough to move me to tears and to fill me with a childlike wonder about the lunar beast and it's meaning relative to my being. She hung there, heavy and forbearing of the adventures I was about to partake in and the layer of my soul that was yet to be discovered. When I lost her I became frantic, craning my neck every which way just for one last glimpse at her celestial magnificence. When I lost her I gained realization - that although something was not with me, it was always there, watching over and hanging in time.

My first real day in Morocco was well spent, sleeping until 3pm, buying a SIM and minutes for my cell (of which I used all almost immediately on nonsense communication), and smoking hashish in the locale café. The hashish and the rolling techniques were very intriguing, I watched astutely for future reference. They used cigarette tobacco and white Moroccan hash and rolled it into a paper with the cigarette filter on the end. I wondered about what the people I was with and around me were talking about, due to my lack of fluency in either Arabic or French and their broken English that was too much effort to decipher.

What I really craved was a nap and to know where my father was since he had disappeared early in the day with my step mother, which was less of a surprise and more of an annoyance. The Marlboro cigarette smoke was extremely dense & bothersome and it became hard to breathe. I stood out there and everywhere like a token, sore thumb of an American, despite my demure outfit of boyfriend jeans, white tee shirt and Louis Vuitton scarf tied around my head á la Lou Lou de la Falaise in 1970.

On day three, I went to visit my potential 6 month employer. His vision was impressive. Khalid ran a small, local travel agency in Centre Temara, specializing in appealing to the nouveau-riche of America & Europe. His tours were of quality rather than quantity and consisted of showcasing the small co-ops of Morocco, argan oil production being one of the biggest. American sows will eat up any exotic cosmetic product that claims anti-aging benefits. They're all trying to fight time to keep the attention of their ******, manic-depressive spouses. My position in the company, if I stayed, would be to appeal and connect with the American market, to take my honed, Yankee accent and throw pretty words at the yuppie clientele. It wasn't a bad gig but it felt like I would be ******* my heritage. Aside from that I was dying to go on the tours myself.  

My father was still battling me on the never-ending war of my outfit choices. Again, despite jeans, leather sandals & my favorite mans' t-shirt. I think it may have been the heart-shaped sunglasses he disliked, or maybe it was just too early in the AM. For him it was all about "blending in", "not attracting attention", "sameness". It almost brought me to tears to hear him say those words. It wasn't in my nature to go with the masses. Twenty-three years of uniqueness and he was trying to strip it from me under the guise of "protection from harassment of any sort".

To me, it was natural to want to adorn myself with bright colors, sheer fabrics, intricately designed scarves not traditionally worn as head pieces. He dropped the topic but I knew it wasn't the end in the twenty-three year old argument. We were in the middle of life, I wanted my dress to reflect the elation and bustle around me. Everything was full of depth and ornate decoration. From the stones we walked upon, with their repetitive, diamond patterns, to the grand architecture  of what would be considered "the slums" in America.

I was trying to convince my father that I would be a great candidate for a moped or a motorcycle. He wasn't buying it, something about heart attacks and my lack of attention span. The beauty of the travel agency was that there was a small cosmetic tie-in via the argan oil and rose water co-ops. I was given the outlines for his guided tours and asked to edit them, which I was more than happy to do. Following a small me once back home, my cousin and I headed to La Plage de Temara.

The beach, how do I put this kindly, was less than spectacular, but the view was breathtaking. Once you got passed the scattering of soiled diapers and broken glass bottles from the vagrant winos, there was mile after mile of cerulean blue Mediterranean sea outlined by a coast made of porous volcanic rock. The hazy, white, almost-Grecian inspired homes that were stacked against the bank were technically dingy but beautiful still. I was praying for the sun to burn away my psoriasis and the brand new, but entirely expected, mosquito bite on my cheekbone.

The shoreline was terrifyingly littered with human detritus that almost ruined the picturesqueness of the scene. I waded in up to my kneecaps, saw a roll of toilet paper drifting like a jellyfish and ran out as fast as I could. After about an hour of sunbathing, we walked through the run-down, once beautiful coastal beach town, Casino. Our destination? The rooftop of one of the abandoned buildings to meet with a friend of my cousins. My first impression of the domicile, with its staccato flooring and the multicolored, crumbling walls, was trepidation.

The open plan of the rooftop, line with hand-strung bamboo walls & open wrought-iron roof was very Rabat. The view, an over-whelming 360 aerial, of the bounding city and the crystalline, raging sea. The cooing doves flapped about lackadaisically from roof to roof, landing near me on the branch of a blackened, dead rose tree. The high walls of the dilapidated homes were lined with broken glass bottles to thwart trespassers and graffiti artists. Although, it didn't stop them from defacing the outside walls with proclamations of "FAMINE OR FREEDOM", "BLACK ARMY 06" & "BEAUTIFUL DEATH" .

There was one, lonely grazing sheep tied to a frayed, red rope claiming him as a family meal. I could relate. Albeit, here the slavery was less pronounced. Everywhere I looked, I found inspiration, which is the closest thing to freedom we human animals can hope for.

As I prepared my bag the night before I was to head to Marrakech, my head was filled with visions of the spectacular. I had read stories and seen pieces on the fabled city and all of the magical things there was to be seen. It was a 4 hour, beautifully scenic drive down the auto route through hilly countryside and passed the city of Casablanca, covered in a dense brown haze. The difference in the quality of the air once you go out of the city was hard to believe. The one complaint I have to write about this 'god's country' is that the inhabitants have no respect for the land.

I don't mean that they don't appreciate the food that comes to fruition or the sea that supplies the freshest fish. I'm talking about their complete and total disregard for littering. When I drove passed the outskirts of Casa and saw a beautiful village with a backdrop of the famous Atlas Mountains, surrounded by a summit of garbage, I had to ask myself, "why?". Why do the people of a gracious and humble culture, not to mention an endemically CLEAN culture, throw their disgusting waste wherever they want? I'm straying off topic, but you understand my woe.

We arrived in Marrakech in brilliant time, around 1 PM, just in time to throw on my high-waist bikini & hit the pool. After sunbathing for a few hours, I readied myself to be astonished by the wonders of Djema el-Fna, the Mosque at the End of the World. In simple jeans and a tee-shirt once again, we headed out around 6 o'clock. The square was packed full of tourists from all over the world, of all ages, races, sexes.

When we entered into the square I was quite disturbed by the looks on the faces of the locals. They had the dejected look of what reminded me of the Chateaux Marmont, like 100 years lived in only 25. Like love lost and lack of options. There was nothing magical about the aggressive competition of the young and old men alike, vying for a bit of coin from some idiot tourists. The Barbary apes in captivity, dressed stupidly and piteously in women's clothing, the children of 4, 5 & 6 hustling those god ****** tissues, sickened me. The beauty of the place lay in the landscape, surrounded in the West by snow-capped cordillera.

There were charming things about the center, the smells of the many cooking tents, the sunset that left me gasping, and at night the stars shone and the moon was bright, but it all felt jaded. The old city was awash with men selling the exact same things for a higher price the farther in you walked, the jewelry was cheap and there were so many mopeds in the alleyways that it was dangerous to not pay attention for a moment. All in all, I saw the reason that UNESCO saved the location as an officially protected "cultural space", but I saw no magic, no story tellers, nothing  bewitching of the spirit. Sure, there were snake charmers, but half of them were fake. It was all smoke and mirrors.

The day following, my party and I took a guided tour into the High Atlas. Now this, this is where the enchantment laid, miles of blue-brown rock, stretched the length of as far as you could see all around. We had to travel into the mountains about an hour through deep country and the Marrakech of the locals, the real Marrakech. Through the towns that the government created when the foreigners started coming in, in droves of poisonous tour busses, and inflating the native infrastructure.

I had notions of grandiose to come and realizations of just what a small part I played in a large production. I had left selfishness on the air France flight into Rabat and quickly learned that peace is a relative thing here. People were not going to stop asking you questions but you realize that if they weren't questioning you it meant that they didn't give a ****. I felt loved undivided and genuinely, nothing comparable to the falsities I had thought were love previously. I learned of real beauty and to welcome, not fear it. That there were sad things in this world, yes, but I was a lucky one. I could not afford depression because I was taking it from the ones who had the right to own it. I still held my dark passenger inside but she's was lighter and quieter, she no longer bogged me down or spit vulgarity at all that I contacted. I still felt longing for my lost, lost lover as I would always but he no longer brought pangs at the thought of his eyes. I looked virginal in all white linens against a cerulean Mediterranean back drop, I felt virginal as I had taken no man in a month. I had been scrubbed and cleansed and covered to attain my rebirth and I had never felt the emotions that unearthed me. I clamored for more life, I hungered for it.

The way I used to be weak for him, I now craved strength with a sense of urgency for everything. I had new eyes for the world and the world, for me. I felt the pull and flow of the Andalusian and Berber blood that poured through my veins and nothing, not even not even the scorn from strangers calling me a daughter of the devil for my ensemble, could deter me from owning it. I had maddening notions that I was omnipresent, akin to a demi-goddess. I was earth, sun, ocean and blood - but unlike my peers and relations I was the only one who could find contentment in the peacefulness of silence. Still I would have liked so much to kiss you, with your full mouth and straight teeth, after a year of absence. For you to grab me by my neck and pull me into you hungrily, in the way only distance can make you sick for me. I fell asleep on the way back from Spain and I was awoken by me uncontrollably calling your name in my sleep. Yet how I longed to strike out on my own and meet a man of my future. I would not, like my dream, lie chaste and whole while in gods country and wait for you. No matter the poems I've writ nor the words I've scribed indicating so. I wanted something deeper and more deserving, though I will always love you, of my fullness and my crass, broken nature. My journeys were worth writing in diamond ink on golden pages and I needed someone who lived to review them at the peak of their worth.

I had mostly humdrum days in between which bled together until the day my father left for the states, sans me. It was an emotional scene and I was reminded about just how unprotected I really was without him. I took journey to Fes the following day with my Aunt and grandparents. It was a breathtaking drive through rough terrains from which masses of vegetation magically sprung forth to feed a nation. There were fields of wildflowers, all red peonies, brilliantly yellow buttercups, butter-colored daisies, intricate and massive wedding lace. Thousands upon thousands of sacred olive trees littered the landscape, it was perfectly picturesque. We journeyed into the 2,000 year old city and you could feel it's pulse. The stench was my only complaint, a mixture of ripe sea-water and rotten meat in some areas. It was a standard medina with hundreds bustling about, the most distinguishing difference being the beauty of the architecture. You had a feeling of heaviness from the age on the buildings and the locals looked as if they had been there since the beginning. I was in a pure state of wonder and vowed to look everything up about Fes that I could during my next peaceful wifi moment. We bartered and shopped and went as far into the twisting alleyways as we felt comfortable. For lunch we traveled into a small outer lying town in the hills and had the best kefta I
this is just the beginning
Megan Parson Dec 2017
Brighter than Rudolph's red nose,
My nose, like a traffic light glows.
Santa could hire me you know,
As his coach man I'd love to go !!
Traffic stops when I cross,
Puzzled police are at a loss.
"Oh, those signals", they say at last,
By then I'm gone real fast !!

Winter haunteth the place I live,
Not a ghost. (Ghostbusters do forgive)
Tissues like snow, dot the floor,
What's in them, I don't adore.
If only this was Charlie's Chocolate factory,
Where snow resembled sugary gallantry !!
Maybe Santa loved Winter no more,
Instead it entered through my front door.

Homeless Winter, thou gifted me cold,
And cold, a runny nose.
I'm grateful, for I am bold,
And gifteth Winter, poetry and prose !!!
Advanced Merry Christmas !!!!
Wrote this while I had this cold, I guess t'was a story that had to be told !!!
L B Oct 2018
Friend one:
Reads "Rotten Tomatoes"
Always early, parks in a handicap zone

Friend two:
quietly disapproves
knows Friend one walked her dog a mile earlier

Friend one:
moves her car
digs out two waters, chocolate
and back pillow
buys peace and tickets

Friend two:
catches sneeze with *** of tissue
aggravated exchange:
about walking too fast ahead.
“Are you not my friend?  Walk with me!”
Buys popcorn

Friend one: 
  wants seats on the end
for handy bathroom runs

Friend two:
does not want “the blow by blow” of reasons
just not in rafters
sneezes, and says so
trips
spills popcorn on the stairs

Friend one:
Sets up “camp”

Friend two:
holds crap

Friend one:  
Settles in, builds her "nest"
opens water bottles
arranges back pillow
half-a-million napkins
“Want your jacket?”

Friend two:
holds popcorn, helps Friend one with jacket

Friend one: 
  pushes button for her seat back
seat sounds like a ****.

Friend two:
says so, both laugh like fools  
Friend two sneezes loudly, rubs her eyes
loses self in movie

Friend one:
starts to snore quietly

Friend two:
nudges her

Friend one:
(Who is never really snoozing)
runs out to restroom
misses best part of movie
Comes back,
“What happened?”
What happened?”

Friend two:
aggravated
hushes her
takes allergy pill

Friend one:
weeping at the end, watches all the credits
starts her review
apologizing to the kids of theater-cleaning-crew
popcorn, napkins, tissues everywhere

Friend two:  
Sneezes yet again

Friend one:
Knows all the stars--
of friendship

being how she is one :)
Joanne is a best friend from teaching days.  We love movies, wine, and dinner.  Noticing our comfortable routine today, made me smile.  Told her I was writing this.  Everyone should have well-loved friend.  :)
Nat Lipstadt Oct 2014
White Tissues

a thousand years ago
I had to do the shopping,
(short story, irrelevant)

angry, she,
always angry,
the ex called me careless+...
never quite remembered to buy
the no~color tissues,
white only, on the list ordered,
to avoid decorative mismatch clash
to not offend the bathroom guests's
sensibilities and refined fleshy color palettes,
and not to match thereby,
to unduly reveal
the mismatch of
two lives incompatible

she ****** the color from my life...

still now,
buy only
whitely, precisely,
always,
for the colors
in my life, of my life,
have now been returned to me

but they are best cherished,
visible inside, looking out,
painted filter to enhance,
to reveal!
the joys inherent
in the colors of a
refunded, redounding rebounding,
re-fined happiness internal

tissues white now employed
to store the joy colored in colorful tears,
re-defying re-de-finding-fining
the contrast
from the sorry past,
tears now in living color
shed while writing
this happy colored vignette

~~

Poems of Color

just too much
colorless cold,
to decamp to,
sit upon the Adirondack throne
that is by his name,
by the cold waters,
now winter coated with
white-capped amber bluewaves
arriving jack-frosted on the lifeless beach

over this weathered sanctum,
natures supremacy reigns,
no matter the season or
his faulty human body's
weak reasoning,
it rules,
despite your frail poetic absence

but without your imposition
upon companion grey,
ensconced patiently
in that rarified atmosphere,
where and when
the sea sword
knights and inspires
the benign, benighted poet,

the human in him
frets and worries

where and when
ever again,
will nature deign to rain
poems upon him and his
winter-storaged writing organs?

the poet,
through his own
winnowy window reflection,
sees the sight of
the empty chair
between him and the sea air and
pondering more,
how shall he ever write
in the upcoming months of bleak?

through the frost-edged glass,
that old chair,
now sudden animated,
sensing his poetic human presence,
it turns toward its missing occupant,
voice aged reassuring,
speaking,
rhyming, 
it chants,
somber intoning...

"the poems writ yet still  undiscovered
but inscribed upon
my weathered slats and armrests,
have your name and no other,
therefore, there fired,
perforce,
they await your return,
come spring...come summer

now is the season of your hibernation,
we sense your fearful
winter forebodings and
speculations of consternation

know these unopened poems
are in fluid stored,
when you return
to our joint station,
we jointly will celebrate their
first day of naissance

you are charged,
you sole possess the
eye colored liquid visions
to see them
in the splinters and the breezes
through to their natural
childbirth revelation"


~~~

The Colors of Life Everlasting*

blondes, brunettes, redheads,
the goodbye colors of the
street's tree choir members
and their leafy gowned denizens,

the good stiff chill upon them,
the selfsame chill,
in my anguished mind,
now hiding

those partial unclothed trees,
to me sing,
a comfort food song
heard above the quiet terror of the
noises of a winter's wind precursors

"we green,
will be again
tho old,
spring green
is signature of our almost
life everlasting

once you wee were,
free green uncaring, youthful,
presumptuous presuming
that you too were,
in possession of
life everlasting

your colors
have changed too,
the process,
your process, different,
unlike our scheduled
rebirthing maintenance

yours a continuum slide,
with no reversal allowed,
no returning
you
to your first days of
crayon drawing youth,
unlike us,
a calculus of impossibility

we will turn young again
for many seasons more,
you,
never will

new eyes will feast upon our
glories refreshed
and love our
green visor shade cast

yet special are you,
the man-poet
who was chosen
by forces controlling,
to see and to tell,
witness-write of our annualization
during our overlapping
frames in time

when to the shade of hades
your physic sent,
our limbs, our leaves, our lives,
as-long-as-they-too-shall-last,
will cover thy remains and
give your poems back to the
sultry summer breeze from
whence they came,
and the colors
of your words
will be then
the colors
of your life everlasting"
10-26-14
Pagan Paul Jan 2019
.
Jerrica had found Lost.
The treasure buried above ground.
The memory foam with dementia.
The quill with no nib …
she thought about feather pens.
Catching herself from falling
the swoon had caught her cold.
This **** ****** sword
was proving to be elusive
and now she was under sustained attack.
From a personal fetish.
It just wouldn't leave her alone,
creeping into her mind unbidden.
She needed to scratch an itch,
if only she knew what that itch was.

Trolls are magickally bound to their bridge.
Leaving it is usually fatal.
But Gyb had bones to gnaw,
and once he had his teeth employed
his mind was a captive onlooker.
A crazy plan formed in his head,
possibly avoiding the brain.
He took mud and formed a figure,
then some of his hair clippings
moulded into the head.
Then he took a leap of disbelief!
He looked into the river and … Click!
Snapped his fingers and fixed the image.
He cut it out of the meniscus
and attached it to the doll familiar.

“Did Achilles have damp ankles
or was he well heeled?”
Morfine had asked Choklut.
“Neither. He was the one who sneezed
and opened the Fête of the Suitors”.
“No. I think he was called Telemarketing,
he sneezed and they drew the tombola raffle”.
“Wasn't there a Goddess involved as well?”.
“Um … Yes, maybe the Goddess of Tissues?”.
“Snivel? No, she is more tears than snot.
I think its the one who turned her husband
into a swan, and made him ****** her handmaiden”.
“Oooo Nasty!”
“No, Nasty fell in love with his own profile,
and called things off with his nymph,
the reverberations can still be heard today”.
There was a brief pause … then,
“What are we doing Choklut?
We found a magickal sword and …
talking of which, where is it?”.
“I don't know. You had it last”.
Just then a serving girl gave them a note.
It said. Tomatoes, Peppers, Onions, Eggs …
“Not that side you dyk” she said.
Morfine turned the note over and read.
“Quick, no time to lose.
Someone saw the sword in the river.
We have to get to stanza 8
before it goes over the waterfall!”.
“Oh” said Choklut “I've never seen a stanza belly flop”.

It was true.
Contrary to the laws of physics.
Kelm saw the sword floating down river.
It looked like any other sword.
So he let it be, dismissed it.
He couldn't swim anyway.
He mused on the irony of that.
Nobody learnt to swim and yet drowning
was an undignified death for a barbarian.
If he could swim
he could find the fishes hiding places.

Jerrica had also been musing.
With a Poet.
That was during the last 3 stanza's.
But now …
she saw a sword floating in the river.
Something didn't quite fit.
Something was not in the right place.
She placed the Poet back in her breast pocket.
'If only he wasn't just 4 inches high' she thought
'he is rather handsome and intelligent'.
Bingo! She had it. But she didn't want it.
Armydiseases Principle of Liquid Dispersement!
It states!
Introduce a solid object into a body of liquid,
then the corresponding volume of liquid is dispersed
back to the nearest solid.
So, right now there is a very small flood
in the shape of a very small sword
ravishing the local area.
She decided, quite rightly as it turns out,
that she was feeding herself a red herring.

Slim stood on the bridge
staring at the churning water below.
How did it happen?
A stanza all of his own,
ruined by the intrusion of morons.
“Morfine and Choklut” he bellowed
“I'm going to eviscerate you”.
The wind carried a few of the words away,
but that was the gist of it.
“Hello” a voice said.
Slim had an accident, and jumped out of his skin.
And plunged into the cold water.
A strong arm pulled him out,
and he was face to face with a troll.
“My name is Gyb. I hate Morf Chok also”.
Nothing had prepared Slim for meeting a troll.
Not even the etti-queue-etti lessons at school.
'Would you care for afternoon tea?'
seemed rather inappropriate.
Gyb broke the awkward silence.
“Look! Sword floating”.
Slim didn't look.
Convinced the troll would eat him.
Thats their way. Distract and devour.
But he couldn't help it, he snuck a look.
And the sword slid on by gently bobbing,
tiny little runes glinting in the sun.

For its part the sword was serenity itself.
Chilled out to the max.
Resting on the water. Relaxing and reclining.
Life was good for the sword.
It had just passed a boy fishing,
poking his rod down a fish hole.
It had passed a young woman,
who looked confused and flustered.
It slid under a stone bridge.
A troll with a doll,
and a man with questionable odour.
And then he heard the roaring.
He sent out his senses,
no mean feat for a sword,
and 'felt' its surroundings.
Its image eye caught sight of the future.
It was an effing great waterfall.
And the future was the way he was heading.
For now.

Narrative Interlude

At this point in the story the author, Pagan Paul, is compelled
to inform the reader/listener of a complaint received
from Messrs Morfine and Choklut.
The substance of which amounts to the following:
That the said author is willfully under using their talent
as supporting cast and denying them access to many stanza's.
Furthermore they are threatening to expose the authors
'irregularities' in his relationship with Princess (name redacted).
The author, Pagan Paul, responds thus:
I should like to remind Messrs Morfine and Choklut
that, with astroke of my quill, I can eradicate them.
Drop them from the story all together.
And with reference to Princess (name redacted) -
'Its my Poem and I'll irregularit if I want to'.
Dear reader/listener prepare yourself for stanza 9.
It has a waterfall in it.
Maybe Morfine and Choklut will appear, maybe not.
They are the ones over a barrel.


Minutes after the sword floated by
something else caught her eye.
To boys on a barrel, in the water.
Boys barreling along or a barrel buoying along?
Choklut noticed her by the bank.
'funny place to have a cash machine' he thought.
Doing his best to impress and look brave.
Morfine waved and nearly fell off.
Suddenly the barrel lid opened
and Slim poked his head out like a tortoise.
“What the …?” said Choklut.
“Just repaying a debt boys” he said.
“But you owe us nothing” Morfine replied.
“Oh but I do” snarled Slim
“I owe you one times intrusion into your own stanza”.
He ducked back inside, and slammed the lid.
“Of all the fatherless ...”
“I blame the author” said Choklut.
“Yeah well, he is the one who's gonna be sorry,
we've just muscled in on stanza 8,
and relegated that waterfall to stanza 9” Morfine chimed.
“Morfine. Morfine! I hear the waterfall coming”.
“No! Not now. He has to leave it until 9 now,
we are about to cross the finish line on 8”.
The waterfall loomed.

Actually the waterfall knew nothing of weaving.
It just stayed where it was, pouring.
Spectacular, it was a very pretty waterfall.
It must be. It attracted tourists.
And it had fun!
It loved watching detritus tumble,
teeter on the brink. And fall.
Especially tourists.
It was over 300 paces high,
less than 40 paces wide,
its descent magnificent liquid ballet,
sparkling droplets shining like jewels,
forever transcending light refraction,
and plunging, plunging, plunging,
into a gorgeous azure puddle.
About ankle deep.



© Pagan Paul (17/01/19)
.
3rd poem in my Strange World collection.

Part 3 out soon :)
.
Brittany Wynn Nov 2014
We enter the church and immediately
have to push through two dozen sobbing Italian women
dabbing dry eyes; their tissues only show
black and multi-colored smears. Amid the echoing
“Oh my Goawd”s, they lean down and kiss my sister’s cheeks,
but even in my best black cap sleeves, I am the taboo
to my cousin Janet, a woman as barren as the stone lot
in between her husband’s restaurant and Deihl’s Autoshop.

We find an empty pew, and watch as the men
stride down the aisle, contestants
in a cultural Miss America pageant where the wrong answer
gets you whacked. Their heavy brows
sink in condolence as they hand over stacks of bills,
every hundred becoming a pity penny
for all the moments Janet lost in her luxury-life
made shiny by diamonds and cars and fur coats
which can’t be cashed in for a second chance at a family.

The men have paid for the food, the china, the band
in the corner meant to fill the space of sadness—
a reminder that we live a lavish life.
My sister shifts in her seat and as a man walks
by she touches his jacket, and gasps.
He’s a god.
(edited)
Left Foot Poet Mar 2019
The Fidelity of Transmissions

”Cells, the units of life that compose our bodies, are able to make copies of themselves to help us grow, fight disease and recover from injuries. Cells have built-in mechanisms that maintain
  the fidelity of transmission  
of genetic information from one generation to the next, and to control cell division in a timely manner, allowing our bodies to build or rebuild various tissues.”

~~~
when the poetry cri de cœur grows unbearable ,
sound mystery-science calms his tumbling transcendency

alas, here too, his ears sit up straight when stumbling on a invitation to
“come write,” for hid within the science jargon, oft rests a snipers shot

redirecting the didactic mind back to the
everyman’s land where-poetry cells split,,
commanding him to delve into, visit new brain wrenching vistas
“the fidelity of transmission”
at its macro level, for science is micro-poetry,^
n’est-ce pas

~~~
when you love another
the transmission is a slow pour,
or a radical jarring,
the fidelity extremely extraordinarily variable

the loveliest unpredictable

the sip sip of eyelid kissing adoration,
the irrational irrigation of the no-space-between,
when the television remote disappears in the couch crack,
the screen, complete static, perfect complement, to a rigorous experiment of

the loveliest unpredictable

we manually conjoin fluids in her mouth’s petri dish,
stain the slide for observation,
in full Imax color observe the cells busting and doesy-do’ing over to
a new partner, where bonds of fidelity attach a partnership clause to

the loveliest unpredictable

when a child emerges, the first words are
find that remote, just kidding, first comes a comestible demand,
mother’s milk 98 degree heated,
feed me a white solution to any unanswered cell’s questions, what a

loving predictive predicate

scribble this, ****** that, change a diaper,
while debating whose baby’s assemblage resembles,
overjoyed at the experimental outcome,
proofs of the fidelity of transmission,
the outcome notated, but science demands no bias confirmation,
another test required of tissue rebuilding

the loveliest unpredictable

~~~

^postscript
for is He not laureate greatest poet of all,
developer of the scientific architecture,
inventor of varietal sunsets, moonscapes,
individualized singularity of snowflakes,
love making, gravity and the preprogrammed death
of your own cells,
etcetera etcetera etcetera
all just poetry in motion in fluidity,
ah, fidelity fidelity
fidelity
Sat., March 9, 2019
J Sep 2018
I’d rather be witty
And real and clever
Than simple and pretty
And 17-ish forever.

I’d rather be wiser
And challenge the fools
Than an advertiser
Luring the cheapest of drools.

I’d rather solve complex issues
Of technology and life
Than have some tool hand me tissues
Pondering insignificant strife.

Given the choice
I’d rather live
With the world hearing my voice
Than the grave alternative.
Big Virge Jun 2018
Ya Know …..

They say … when you age …
That … you should … Stay …
….. " ACTIVE " …… !!!!! ……

Now … " Physically " …
That makes … sense to me …

But ….

NOT IF … " Mentally " …
Your Mind State's … "Captive" … !!!!!
"Reactive" … and … " Lacking " …
In Thoughts … " Attracting " …

A … " Balanced " … Life …
in … " Body and Mind " …

So …..
I KEEP … Mine …

" As in " … My Brain … !!!

" Active " … and inclined …
to ….. " elevATE " ….. !!!!!!!
and therefore … " Maintain " …
A … STRONG … Mind State … !!!!!

A Thing I … " Exhibit " …
In My … Wordplay … !!! …
Whenever … I Visit …
an … A4 Page … !!!!! …
and let … My Lyrics …
become an … " Array " …
of … Rhymes Exquisite … !!!!!
when they are … " Displayed " …

My Words become … " Active " …
whenever they're … " Acted " ...

Or Simply …. Heard ….
Via …. " Spoken Word " ….
From Me … " Big Virge " …

See …..
" Activation " … of …
… " Thought " … !!! …  
I Now …. " Explore " ….

As a way to …
KEEP …. " Active " ….
and NOT GET … " Bored " … !!!!!

As I said … Before …
I … DO NOT … Ignore … !!!
A NEED … to do … MORE …
Than Exercise … On Floors … !!!

I do that … TOO … !!!!!
But Don't … EVER ABUSE … !!!

" The Tool " …
That when … USED … !!!!!

" Activates " … Tissues …
NOT USED … by … " Fools " … ?!?

" Who " ….
DISMISS … thought … !!!
to IMPRESS … These ****** … !?!

" FLEXING " … Muscle … !!!
and … STRONG … Skin Tones …

So that they can … " Couple " …
" Activating " … Hormones … !!!!!

I'd rather be … "humble" …
Than … Activate … TUSSLES … !!!
That … DON'T BREED … Chuckles … !!!
when they … OPEN … " Dark Tunnels " …
where fellas use …. " KNUCKLES " ….

" Activating " …. TROUBLE …. !!!
because they got … " Rumbled " … !!!
when having … MORE THEN … " Cuddles " … !!!
with girls whose … " Main Trait " …
is to …. " ACTIVATE " ….
more than … Their … PROSTATE … !!!!!

See …. !!!
I … " Activate " … Levels …
"Deep Inside" … My Mental …

That Takes …..
Lead from … " The Pencils " … !!!
of … " ***** Lil' Devils " … !!!!!!!!!!!!

Therefore …
I Stay …. STRONG …. !!!!!
and … AVOID … " Problems " … !!!!!
That come from … " Loose Thongs " … !!!
and …. " Violent Wrongs " …. !!! ….

I'd Rather … Write Words … !!!
and …. " Poetic Verse " ….
That … Act like … " Prophylactics " ...
and give disease … " Collapses " … !!!!!

because … My Wordplay …
….. " Snatches " …… !!!
  
"Whips" … and gives out …
….. " Hangings " ….. !!!!!! …..

To Cats … " thinking " …
They … MASSIVE … ?!?
When … what they are is …
……. " TRAGIC " …… !!!!

TRAGIC ….. !!!
Little … "captives" …

Using … " Foolish " …
….. " Tactics " …..
That … put them on …
… " My Blacklist " … !!!!!!

of … Those Worthy …  of …
……. LASHES ….... !!!!!!!!!!

See Me ….
I Prey … like … MANTIS … !!!!!
or ... like man from … " Atlantis " … !!!!!!

I Pray …  
Upon … an … AXIS … !!!!!

" Symmetrical " …
and … " Balanced " … !!!!!!

Unable … to be ….
" Challenged " …. !!!!!!

by IGNORANCE …
That's … "Captive" … !!!
In minds now … LOST … !!!
and ……. SAVAGE ……. !!!!!!

Long After … I'm …
… " NONACTIVE " …

My words will …
Still Be … " ACTIVE " … !!!!!!

That's why I … Write …
and post … Online … !!!
So that … when I …
have … " Physically Died " …

These words I … Find …
Inside …. My Mind ….
WILL … " Stay Alive " … !!!

" IMMORTALIZED " …  !!!!!!
  
BEYOND …. My Life ….

That's where … My Pride …
"TRULY" …. Resides ….

In a place where …
… " Thoughts " …
CREATE … wordplay …
Beyond … The Wars …
We see … " Today " … !!!!!!

I Hope … One Day …
People …. Will Say …. ?!?

"That Big Virge Man,
played an active hand,
in the betterment of,
our race of, humans,
and left us seeds,
to activate dreams,
of finding peace,
and living for more
than, fights on streets,
and, vanity ! That Man,
for sure, wrote poetry,
that's active now,
He's no longer around !!!"

But …..
While i'm here ...
My Mind … " Adheres " …
to … " Activating Verse " … !!!
That … CLEARLY … " Hurts " … !!!

" Chickens and Jerks " … !!!!!!

whose form of … " Work " … ?!?

" Activates " … NONSENSE … !!!!!
Causing ….. PROBLEMS ….. !!!!!!!!!

I have …
An … " Active Body " …
and an … " Active Mind " … !!!

So ….
My work's …
Far From ……….  " Shoddy " ………. !!!!!!
because … It Feeds … " The Blind " …

with the kind of … "Insights" …
THAT DON'T …. Invite …. !!!!!!!!!!

IGNORANCE and PRIDE …
to be …. " Aligned " ….
with a …. " Positive Life " …

The words … I Rhyme …
"Activate" … like … STARS ...
Shine in …. " The Night " …. !!!!!
because … from … " The Dark " …
There … MUST COME … " Light " … !!!!!

So ….
As I approach ….
These … Last few … lines …

No Time to … " Reproach " … !!!
or …… " Criticize " ……. !!! …….

because … These Words
AREN'T … " Faddish " … !!!

and won't take …. ALL ….
Your ….. " Bandwidth " ….. !!!!!

I am a … " Wordsmith " …
Whose Pen … writes …
……. " Scripts " ……….
of … TRUE LYRICS … !!!!!
... " PROACTIVE " … !!!!!

These words are …
NOT … just … " Rantings " … !!!

They're … DRIVEN … and …
…….. EXPANSIVE …….. !!!!!!!!

and … PROVE … that …
Like My … " Writtens' "

When ……  
" Big Virge " … was here …

… " Living " …

My Brain, Body & Spirit

were … " Attached " …
to being …

….. " Active " …..
Not a bad idea to stay active, hence the poem ......
betterdays Jun 2018
it is the season of soup
and tissues here.....
after two weeks of drizzling
and driving rain

each sentence is punctuated
by a sneeze or a sniffle

hoarse voices whine
and whinge beneath
doona mountains

we all look like we have
wrestled with a yeti
and lost

meanwhile the washing piles up
the bins fill with sodden germy tissues
the chemist smiles with glee,
each time we enter his store
and the tuxedo rex runs from bed to bed

from red eyes and cotton filled head
i write this seasonal report
hoping to see the end of flu season soon
Sai Jul 2016
Trash can, wastebasket;
the place we throw it all away.
Used tissues--soggy mascara, dried *****,
or the babies that would never be,
and the heaps of food waste, human waste.

Wasted human.

Why do we take ourselves and the people we used to love,
toss people and our person deep within a hole of shame,
darkness, misery, guilt, worry, frustration, fear?

If someone only said to you, or to me, when we dig deep
into the ground and find the place no one will find us
or them, the people we are burying--
if they only said,
"You are not trash."

Our emotions refuse to become refuse, the remains of
being unwanted, as we perceive ourselves to be.

But we is just me, and even though I can't hear the voice
I long to hear above my own, the sounds reverberate in my chest,
next to my heart, where I heard them last.

The last time we spoke your fingers did not reach for mine.
Your jeans did not rip in the same one spot.
The dog that I picked that you picked after you went back,
his tail wagging all the way on the ride back to his new home,
did not kiss my face and my eyes and ears like he loves to do.
Even though you didn't still love me, you did before,
now thrown hastily, yet decidedly in the trash can outside your door.

I dropped off the last remnant of your physical being,
an old rabbit-eared antennae.
I didn't, couldn't look in your trash can,
or stand in the driveway longer than was needed to drop and run
the hell away from crumbling gravel, a window newly aluminum foiled, and the motorcycle kept under surveillance at all times.

I hope he looked on his camera screen and saw walking,
talking, feeling, breathing human trash gliding
down the sidewalk, feet pattering into a jog.
The grass licked my feet and tangled in my toes on the way
to the one place my sighs could sink lower than my feet,
deep into the warm upholstery of my car seat, the grandma car,
the dented, imperfect, but mostly reliable car

away, far away, to a place where someone would look curiously,
pick up the trash, my trash, me, and say,
"It's beautiful."
ju Oct 2011
Handbag~ 1994**
exam timetable
£5 from my Mum
shiny key for the front door
fresh-mint chewing gum

Handbag~ 1998
keys for work
keys for home
£20 and a bit of change
photo of my best mate
and a bloke that's twice my age
lipstick~ lacy knickers
condoms~ ID card
ticket for a bus to town
UV sparkly stars

Handbag~ 1999
keys for work
keys for home
spare key for his flat
condoms~ contraceptive pills
No.7 powder-ivory/matt
VISA/Delta debit card
paper
gel ink pens
number of a bloke
who says our love
will never end

Handbag~ 2000
keys for work
keys for home
key for the gas meter
teletubbies picture book
list of baby-sitters
new mobile phone
herbal teething gel
lipstick~ Annadin
vanilla impulse body spray
children's Neurofen
photo of my baby boy
really tiny socks
under-eye concealer
secret stash of chocs

Handbag~ 2002
keys for work
keys for home
pull back and go car
baby wipes
mobile phone
estate agents' cards
picture of my little boy
list of things to do
Boots own brand pregnancy test
both windows coloured blue

Handbag~ 2005
keys for home
card from work
tissue full of tears
photo of my boy in school
that shows his gappy teeth
photo of my baby girl
and one of both of them
a ring that used to be my Mum's
Pro-Plus~ Diazepam

Handbag~ 2009
keys for work
keys for home
one SLIM~FAST bar
one Cadbury's wrapper
Haribo~ Calpol~ tissues
assorted Disney plasters
treasured stones~ special shells
sand and bits of twig
money to buy ice creams
photos of my kids
Jenny Cassell Jan 2010
Swollen eyes
Clumped lashes
Damp cheeks
A runny nose

A fallen soldier
A heartbroken mother
A distraught lover
A devastated friend

All of it fiction.

So why am I crying?

Because I know.
I remember
What it feels like

To have your world fall apart,
Your love taken away

And I cry

Because it's never been the same.

— The End —