by Alison

The pictures on the mantle piece told you everything you needed to know. The first, the oldest, showed two scruffy young men in black and white. You can tell, even without colour, that the clothes they wear are army green, that the dirt on the ground is a dusty brown and the sky is blue. Some war, somewhere. There's no note on the bottom saying 'Korea 1951' or that this is a picture of hell. The men, one dark haired, one light, have their arms around each other and are smiling.

There are other pictures. The dark haired young man stands next to an older copy of himself by the water somewhere in Maine. They've been fishing.

In another, the blonde man stands stiffly in a family portrait with a pretty woman holding a baby boy and at his knee are two young girls.

The pictures on the mantle tell the story of two separate lives. In the pictures of the dark haired man are many women, never the same in any photo. The old man withers before the camera before disappearing. The younger man, growing older, never grows up. Past the cars and women there is too much empty space around him.

The blonde's pictures are different. They are full of a growing family, girls growing into women, a boy becoming a man. His wife ages slowly, and is still beautiful in the last photo she is in. In that picture she is speaking to another man. The rest of the blonde's pictures are of him and his children. The children leave. Then they are of him, alone.

It's the last picture, though, that tells the most. It is in colour, two scruffy old men with their arms around each other. They're smiling.


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