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the Photographs on the Table –

Photographs scattered over the folding table, silvery black, ivory, muddy sepia, that one there tinted almost red, creases burring the corners and a long fold right through the middle of a group of men, their shapeless suits a black gone rusty brown. A stolid doorway behind them, columns rising up past a lintel carved with simple Gothic letters, Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. One of the men is tall and broad, his hatless hair bright white, and the younger, slighter man beside him laughs under the brim of a neat derby hat. The third of them’s quite somber in a simple jacket buttoned up to his throat, and something in his hands, but there the photograph’s been scratched, the ruddy tones of it scraped away.

Out under fluorescent lights, Ysabel approaches, wrapped in a filmy gown, feet bare on polished concrete. In one hand a glass half full of milk. “Jo?” she calls. “Jo?” Laying a hand on the high-backed black desk chair pulled up to that folding table, starting back at a bubbling grunt of a snore. Jo’s slumped over the photos, one folded arm a pillow, and a bottle there beside her, almost empty. Ysabel picks it up, brow quirking at the stylized yellow bee on the glass of it, the label that says Evan Williams Honey Reserve.

She sets the milk where it had been, and strokes Jo’s wine-red hair. Presses a kiss to her cheek. Straightening, she looks over the boxes stacked up against the back wall, regular banker’s boxes white and brown in mostly regular columns, four or five high, and some on the floor before them, and by the table, lids loose or propped open, and within them, so many more photographs.

As she leaves, she tosses the bottle into a blue recycling bin with some force, and a crash of glass.

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