A Story by Alice Patinkin

A short-story I wrote for a project in college earlier this year.


Poppy searched the familiar face in front of her for a reaction. Her mother was quietly examining a framed picture.

After a moment, her mother frowned, and Poppy held her breath.

“Well?” Poppy asked, when still her mother said nothing.

“Are you sure you took this?” Poppy’s mother inquired.

Poppy didn't know what to say.

Her mother’s brow furrowed; “This picture,” she went on, “Looks old! It doesn't look like a new picture… it looks like it was taken years ago!”

Poppy was taken aback.

“Mother,” Poppy said, “It’s in black and white. That’s why it looks old, but see, there’s a modern car just there in the background…”

“…What are you doing taking pictures with modern cars in the background!” her mother went on, unphased, “And you expect people to buy these!”

“Your husband bought this one,” said Poppy, “And he bought two more to go with it. He bought them quite willingly, for 2,000 U.S. dollars, as are several people all across the world.”

Now it was time for her mother not to know what to say.


Poppy hadn't always been a photographer " nor had she always been called Poppy. That name came later.


Before the raving critics, before jobs and money, before the university, and before her mother’s remarriage; back when she lived in the little house with the big garden, her name was Polly. And Polly is what we will call her from now on, because this is where the story begins.


Pollyy spent most of her days in the big garden. She would play up in branches of trees and down in bushes in the warm earth. She would draw pictures of the flowers in her notebook " trying to catch the special way the sun shone through the petals in the late afternoons.

Often, she would watch her father work with his fancy machines, and sometimes he would ask Polly to pose for him.

Her mother would call them inside for dinner before dark, and Polly would do the evening’s schoolwork that her parents gave to her.

Life went on like this for Polly for quite some time, but then things began to change…

Her mother began to look tired, and her smiles soon disappeared. Her father seemed distracted, and he did not work with his fancy machines as much.

During the evenings they forgot about Polly’s schoolwork, and would scream and shout at one another. It scared Polly so badly she would run to her room and cry.

No one came to comfort her.

One night, she cried herself to sleep.

When she woke, her mother was sitting at the side of her bed. Her mother’s face looked cold and stony.


“Polly,” Polly’s mother said, “Your father has gone out. We are getting a separation, and you and I are moving away.”

Polly could do nothing but cry. She would not put her things into the boxes and bags like her mother instructed her to.

Her mother did it for her.

They were still packing when Polly’s father returned home. Polly’s mother did not greet him at the door. Polly fled into his arms, wrapping herself tight around him. She would not go anywhere without her father.

“But you must, little one!” her father insisted, “That is the best thing for you.”


“But will I see you again?” Polly asked, “Will we come back to our little house with the big garden?”

“You will see me again,” Polly’s father replied, “But we must say goodbye to the little house with the big garden. I must move away from here too. Your mother and I do not have what we need to keep on living here.”

Polly understood that, and it made her cry harder.

“I will never play up in the branches of our trees again,” she sobbed, “And I will never play down in the bushes in the warm soil. I will never catch the special way the sun shines through the petals of flowers late in the afternoon.”

Polly’s father looked down at his daughter. He took her by the hand and led her to his room. “Close your eyes, Polly, and hold out your hands” he told her, and Polly did so. She felt something cool and heavy being placed in her hands.

“Hold it tightly, Polly” her father instructed, and he guided her out of the house, into the big garden. “Kneel down low” Polly’s father told her, and Polly knelt down in the cool afternoon grass.

Polly’s father guided her arms so that she had the cool heavy thing pressed close to her face, and then he told her to open her eyes.

When Polly did, she gasped! She was holding one of her father’s wonderful machines " one of his wonderful cameras - and through the lens was bobbing a bright red poppy " the sun shining through the petals like fire.

Polly’s father helped her steady the camera and take the picture. He helped her take other pictures of the garden. The pictures, once taken, fell out of a slot in the front of the camera. Polly’s father showed her how when she waved the pictured gently, they would develop themselves.

Polly had captured them perfectly.


When the car arrived for Polly and her mother, Polly’s father helped put their baggage inside. They drove away, and that was the last Polly saw of her garden, and her little house. She curled up in the backseat, cradling her father’s camera, and the pictures she had taken with it.


Polly and her mother moved to the city. It was cold, and dirty, and Polly could not play outside like she used to. She began going to a school, as her mother no longer had time to give her lessons. Many of the children teased her, and Polly felt she had no friend except for her father’s camera.

She took picture after picture, getting better and better. She saved up her money and bought a fancier film camera.

Her mother was enraged. She was certain that if Polly continued to spend her time in that way that she would end up like her father… “Sad and sorry”... "A bankrupt wreck." 

But Polly did not see her father like her mother saw him.

Polly saw a bright red poppy, bobbing in a camera lens; the sun shining through the petals like fire.  She saw a man who had given his life to something he loved, despite its consequences. And that, to Polly, was more important than money.


When Polly was awarded a scholarship to art school, her mother screamed herself senseless. When she graduated, and launched a successful career, her mother nearly cut all ties…

…but I do say nearly, for Polly’s mother’s new husband was a great fan of Polly’s work, and bought her pictures quite willingly, for 2,000 U.S. dollars; as did several people all across the world.

© 2013 Alice Patinkin

Author's Note

Alice Patinkin
Comments and critiques are much appreciated!

My Review

Would you like to review this Story?
Login | Register


I guess Polly's mother is just going to have to get used to men who admire her photographs. And maybe, forced into it or not, she'll have to accept her daughter as she is. A very good story. I enjoyed reading it.

Posted 8 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I like this story. I remember having a Polaroid C=camera; how magical it was to see the pictures developing themselfses.

My daughter is a photographer, and has many "fancy" machines.

Posted 8 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


2 Reviews
Added on June 19, 2013
Last Updated on June 19, 2013
Tags: inspirational, photography, family, love, children, fathers, mothers, divorce


Alice Patinkin
Alice Patinkin


Hello! My name is Alice. I'm a Theatre major, English major and hopeless romantic living in the beautiful mountains of Virginia. Ienjoy writing poetry and short stories whenever I'm graced with the fr.. more..