Camera Obscura

I am an old, old woman. I live by myself, with my body barely working in a little one room house my husband built years ago. It was back before Adams was president I think. Now with Lincoln in the White House and the country all in pieces they say, well I don’t think I’ll live to see the peace. I was four and eighty years old this past September.

Fortunately I don’t need much to keep this old body going. Just enough to buy a little food and some herbs to help with the arthritis. Sometimes my great grandson comes by and sweeps out the room and I tell him a story. These days he wants to be running after girls. He has a favorite too.named Meredith. Keeps buying her small things and little love notes. He thinks she’ll go out with him soon.

“Ma,am?”, a good looking young gentleman had walked up to her small porch. He was dressed in well kept traveling clothes. He had hitched his horse, a large one appropriate for a man his size, hitched to a tree nearby. The horse looked happy enough.

“Ma,am? I hear you draw very nice portraits of folks.”, he continued, “and I was wondering if I could trouble you to make one of me.”

“Why that would be no problem” I say, “but you must understand that to draw a true portrait is a hard project. My portraits are special. Do you know why?”


“They capture who the person really is, the soul of the person. I’ve drawn the portrait of the old and the ugly, the rich and the poor, and the young and the fair. You are not guaranteed to like the portrait when I’m done. Do you still want me to draw your portrait?”

“Yes, I do”

“The cost is five dollars. One at the start, two in the middle and two when it is finished. Is that agreeable?”

“Yes, I can manage that.” said the young gentleman.

“Good, please come back tomorrow morning and I’ll draw your portrait. Be well rested. Have a good evening sir”

“And the same to you madam”

The evening came on and I had my small supper, that day a piece of cheese and a small amount of bread with some water. I simply didn’t eat much anymore. My daughter was after me, she tells me I’m too skinny.

The next morning after the sun was up and I had had my breakfast of an egg he returns in clean clothing and well groomed. I spend some time getting him set up and I set up my camera obscura. I use it to get the basic outline and position of features, and then my subject can feel much freer to sit in place. Of course it isn’t a camera as much as a light box and a screen inside, but you can make a drawing from it.

I commence with the drawing in earnest. He asks to have a look. “Really, why can’t I?”

“It’s my policy, I make truthful drawings and they can affect people. I’d like it to be finished and then it will be up to you.”

As I draw, his lips, so soft and really kissable in real life come out thin. His mouth, sitting right before me in a gentle smile is in this extreme rictus. As I continue his features become angular and I become perturbed. No matter how hard I try his skin is coming out really dark and his eyes are so, evil.

The hair, I start drawing the hair. As I draw it the picture transforms it and the hair spirals into two horns on his forehead. Now I start to see it right there, he’s no longer smiling at me, he looks angry!

“Woman, what have you done?” he roars as he snatches up a mirror to check his reflection. I had a perfectly nice human to hide me and you went and ruined it. How am I supposed to go about, looking like this” and this came out with a hisss and his face became much more snakelike.

His clothes were gone too and I started roaring with laughter. “You demons are all alike, you think you can fool everyone with your fancy clothing. Not this time! Back you go” and I turned the picture to him and he was drawn into the picture with a most surprised look on his face.

OK, I didn’t entirely level with you, I’m old, but I dedicate myself to  eliminating those like him. Demons in fair skin that wait to pounce on any vulnerable person they can find. I went through his clothing. Knives, a revolver, wire, not a fun evening for me if I had not taken care of him. I also found a twenty dollar gold coin, finders keepers I say.

Where is he now? Heaven only knows.


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