A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

Back to the photograph.


Mum,” said Taylor, using the quiet voice he reserved for begging, “I need to have the film in my camera developed.”

And you’re spent up, dear?” she asked, knowing he must be because she was well aware that he’d taken barely enough money on his jaunt to buy him three square meals a day let alone pay for addictive things like penny slot machines and candy floss on sticks.

It’s a record of some of the things we’ve done,” he tried to explain, “and there should be a girl...”

A girl, darling?” she asked, her eyes twinkling, but he didn’t notice because he was spending most of the time examining his own feet.

We asked her to take a picture of us,” he confessed, “she was in a nearby tent with her folks.”

Oh, so she was just any old girl?” asked his mother.

How could he say no mum, she wasn’t any old girl, she was the most beautiful creature on the face of the planet and I think I love her … I think I loved her from the very first instant my eyes caught sight of her, the way she stood there with hair that fell around her shoulders like wisps of perfection, with eyes so bright you could see how true she was just by looking at them, and dressed in that tennis outfit, her legs, you never did see such legs, so long and strong and perfect…

Yes mum,” he mumbled, “she was just any old girl in the tent next to ours...”

Here you are then,” she said lightly, delving into her purse, “you’d better get those photos developed. Go to the chemist at the end of the High Street. He gets them done while you wait if he isn’t too busy. And while you’re at it, buy some razors. I do believe you might be growing whiskers!”

Mr Tomsk the chemist was enjoying a quiet day. Most of his business could be left to the girl to do, selling the sort of things that people used the chemist for, beauty products and cleansing salves for an endless parade of already practically perfect young women and condoms for nervous teenage boys who weren’t quite sure what they’d do with them, and he just attended to prescriptions and his dark room for the rest. So when Taylor went in, holding his camera, he knew he had a job to do and jobs filled the time in, made mornings and afternoons pass all the more quickly.

What is it young fellow?” he asked, and he grinned to himself because he had a fairly standard joke for lads like this one, “something for the weekend, is it?”

Not at all,” replied Taylor, understanding the hilarious question but not even managing to smile in response to what it suggested, “could you develop the film in this camera? Sir?”

What do you say, Janice?” Mr Tomsk asked the girl, “have we much on today?”

Janice was used to this feeble repartee and she winked at Taylor as she shook her head. “You’ve not much on today, Mr Tomsk,” she said, knowing he would make a suggestive reply concerning alternative uses for the back room in quiet times but also aware he couldn’t possibly mean a word of it because he was a happily married man with a tribe of children. But it was his way, and hurt nobody.

If I had much less on I’d be clad only in my birthday suit,” he said, and guffawed as though he’d just come out with the greatest witticism since mankind left the caves and learned his first pun.

Oh, you are a one, Mr Tomsk,” said Janice, and she winked again.

Give me an hour and all will be ready,” Mr Tomsk told Taylor, “if I were you I’d take a look around my shelves and see if there’s anything you need.” He looked rather fiercely at Taylor’s face, “we do razors,” he added, “for shaving with. And soap. Shaving soap, and some that comes in a squirty-can for the lazier young fellow who hasn’t the energy to create a lather himself.”

I’ll come back,” Taylor told him, “I need to go to the library.”

He didn’t need to go to the library, but he went there anyway. Books had always provided him with entertainment and some knowledge, ever since he’d learned that they contain, between them, everything you need to know about everything in the world. He mooched around the library for the best part of the hour that Mr Tomsk had said the photographs would take and paid particular attention to the tennis section of the sport shelves.

He didn’t know much about tennis, just that it involved racquets and balls and a net because, at school, the boys did cricket in the summer and the girls had a choice that included tennis whereas the boys games were fixed at cricket. But it had crossed his mind that the beauty from his camping holiday just might have been famous enough in the tennis world to be included in a magazine that contained images of renowned tennis players.

I suppose what interests you,” said a whiskery voice at his elbow as he sat trying to make out the individual faces in a group photograph of a squad of female tennis players, “is the little skirts they wear, the saucy wenches!”

The old man smelled of stale tobacco and something of indeterminate origin, something that one day Taylor would identify as alcohol but at the time thought was merely rather unpleasant, and he scowled at him and wandered out of the library before the conversation could become two-sided.

It was almost time for him to return to Mr Tomsk and his developing room, and when he got there the girl Janice, clearly bored because customers were few and far between, was dusting a shelf.

He’ll be done soon,” she said, “your pictures are in the drier.”

She reached under the counter and produced his camera, and offered it to him.

Mr Tomsk says this is a really good camera,” she said, “he says the pictures should be really sharp and detailed.”

It was my mum’s,” he confessed, “she used to go on bike rides with a friend of hers, and they took photos, and when they got home they painted pictures from them.”

That’s interesting,” said Janice in a bored voice, and they were both rescued from the need to perpetuate an unwanted conversation by the appearance of Mr Tomsk.

Bang on time,” he said, and he grinned mischievously. “I can see why you were so keen to get these developed! My goodness, young man, she’s a corker! The lass on the first exposure! I tell you what, she’s such a corker I’ve added an enlargement of her, free of charge, as a reward for you giving me the pleasure of seeing her!”

He passed the pictures in their coloured paper wallet to Taylor. There a single sheet of photographic paper on top, too large to fit in. “Girl friend, is she?” he asked, “whatever, she’s a stunner!”

Taylor looked at the enlargement that was separate to the rest of the pictures.

Crikey,” he breathed.

And that was exactly the right thing for him to say as he looked at the smiling monochrome image of the most beautiful girl in the whole wide world, and something went weak and timorous inside him.

© Peter Rogerson, 11.08.19

© 2019 Peter Rogerson

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Added on August 11, 2019
Last Updated on August 11, 2019
Tags: chemist, developing, film, images, library


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 77 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..