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Photographer and Model

Story by Stefani Nellen (Read author interview) March 15, 2007

I‘m not built for this kind of thing anymore. The black lace bites into my skin, and the bra forces my soft breasts into grotesque black cones. I bet my buttocks look like old cantaloupes.

But Harold insists. “Come on, be wicked!” His camera clicks.

I lean over the back of his recliner, stroke the worn brown corduroy in need of a dry cleaner, and shake my cantaloupes.

It’s how we met. He needed a model. I needed the money. We both found love, decades of it.

He whistles. “Baby! You’re still as scorching hot as a bucket full of Chili Peppers!”

We laugh. I turn around and catch him putting a new film into the camera.

“You and your old-fashioned thing,” I say. “Why don’t you get a digital camera? Everybody has one.”

“Don’t care what everybody has.” He clicks new photos. I tousle my graying hair and make my lids titter.

“Besides,” he says, “I’m not shooting you to put you on some internet site. The photos are for me.” Click. “When it’s time, you put as many as you can in a nice, white envelope. And you put that white envelope into the coffin with me.”

Click.

“Now come,” he says, “where’s your smile? It’s not so bad. It’s only death, hon. A glitch.”

The sun sneaks through two layers of thick curtains and makes a halo out of his white hair. His freckled fingers hold his camera, so still without me posing.

“Here,” I say. I undo my bra. The straps fall over my shoulders. My liberated breasts spread over my ribs. “Take everything then.”

He never took nude photos of me. He’s never seen me naked. We always made love in the dark.

He swallows and lifts the camera to his face. His mouth a thin line. Click, click, like touches of his hard fingers and palms.

I slide my hands into my pants, push them over my soft hips, and feel them brush past my knees. My crotch is cold. The black lace thing lies on the carpet, irrelevant like dust.

He steps closer, cheeks sucked inwards, a skeleton with a camera. Click. Click. He pecks me, nibbles parts of me.
He’s too close for portrait shots now. He clicks my right breast, my left, the mole on my ribcage, the long bellybutton. He samples me, documents me. His shoulders strain underneath his shirt. He’s down on his knees, photographing my thighs and kneecaps.

I spread my arms and stand still. If I could, I would peel off my skin and let him have all that’s underneath, and underneath that, and everything there is to me. Anything to keep him here longer.

About the Author

Stefani Nellen is a psychologist-turned-writer living in Pittsburgh and the Netherlands with her husband. Her short fiction appears or is forthcoming in VerbSap, Bound Off, Hobart, SmokeLong Quarterly, Cezanne’s Carrot, FRiGG, and Apex Digest, among other places. She co-edits the Steel City Review.

This story appeared in Issue Sixteen of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Sixteen
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The SmokeLong Quarterly Comedy Prize 2021!

This competition is no longer accepting entries. The long- and shortlists have been published on the blog. The four winners of the competition will be featured in Issue 74 of SmokeLong Quarterly coming out near the end of December.