The photographer knew his subjects by reputation only and by what little information Kathleen Connelly had shared. The photographer and his assistant had two chairs set up on either side of a small table, working against the tide of Kathleen's well-meaning comments. Jack stood to the side, leaning on his cane, watching the scene before him. All looked comfortable and Jack made his way to sit in his assigned seat. Kathleen had put a stack of her Papa's books on the table, but Jack had shoved them to the side so he could lean his elbow on them. With his back to the camera his profile strong against the light gray background. Jack looked strong and handsome in his new suit, his short, grayed hair a hint of the old man he had become.
Stephen sat on his prescribed chair with a thump, a constricted by age, but a remarkable figure nonetheless. His sparse white hair was frizzed out to the sides, reminiscent of a dog's ears, and he looked slightly cross as he squinted at Jack through his glasses. A string held his watch around his neck like a pendant, showing darkly against his starchy white shirt. He, as the occasion required, was wearing his best suit and embroidered Persian slippers.
"We are off to a new adventure, eh?" Jack said, winking so Kathleen could not see. Jack was blind in his bad eye, almost completely deaf, but still full of an enduring joie de vivre.
"Oh, a new adventure, sure," Stephen agreed. "Kathleen tells me that I must be good with the photographer or I will never get to Africa." Stephen paused, thinking, then continued slowly. "She threatened me by telling me if I didn't cooperate with this photographer, indeed, the only chance she would have to get my picture was after I was dead." Stephen and Jack exchanged a look then turned to look at Kathleen. She was now busy harassing her late arriving brother Barrett, fussing with his collar, smoothing his suit.
"I wouldn't worry, Stephen, about Kathleen," Jack said carefully, giving Stephen another meaningful glance. "She will be fine."
"Don't mind Kathleen, Jack." Stephen said cautiously. "She will be surprised but will get over the shock of the moment. More pertinent to our circumstances, joy, when do we leave?" Stephen was careful to speak slowly, distinctly, so Jack could follow.
"This afternoon. There is not a moment to lose," Jack replied quietly. Stephen uncharacteristically smiled at him. "Barrett has taken care of all the details. The crew is on board and we have almost finished watering. " Jack said, sotto voce.
Barrett nudged Kathleen. "They're at it again," he hissed into his sister's ear, testing the waters.
Kathleen gave him a glare. "I know it, brother, I know," Kathleen said, picking imaginary lint from Barrett's suit. "Papa has asked to go to the harbor with Jack this afternoon and I have agreed. Hopefully this will quell him for a time." Kathleen sighed. "I have had enough of their conspiratorial looks, their secret conversations. Jack encourages Papa to such a degree! Always talking about taking Papa to Africa again, not a moment to lose. And Papa in such questionable health, his senses in shambles from the excesses of his youth. He hardly knows where he some days! It's not kind, Barrett Maturin, not kind at all, for Jack to toy with him in such a fashion!"
Barrett gave Kathleen a long, appraising look, glanced quickly at the watching eyes of his father and Uncle Jack, and quelled a smile. "Kathleen, it is but a trifle to humor Papa, to let him be his own man on his own terms, to let him go to Africa." Barrett's eyes lit up. "In fact, sister, this afternoon I will go with them to keep them out of trouble." He said brightly. "It will be an unparalleled adventure for the three of us. Besides, I need to check on the schooner anyway, see about some provisions."
Kathleen nodded slowly. "You are level headed enough to keep them centered in reality. An excellent idea to check on the schooner as well." Kathleen said practically but added one last comment. "Don't let Papa fall in the harbor again, dear, he might not be able to take the shock of the cold water."
There were two pictures of Jack and Stephen taken together, one for each family, both old men leaning amiably against the table in a comfortable position. Kathleen and Barrett had their photo taken with their father, just to stem the protest from Stephen that he had had to suffer through the process, now it was their turn together. Jack had one taken alone, an unexpected request, for Sam and his family. Kathleen had one more photo taken of her father, leaning on his books and peering at the camera through his glasses, a vision of myopic old age. Jack was removed off stage and away from the dreadful seriousness Kathleen brought to the moment. He got his revenge on her by loudly offered helpful suggestions throughout the whole solemn process, thumping a heavy foot on the floor for emphasis until the photographer had to protest, citing errant vibrations. With a wide smile, Jack stopped his thumping but continued his verbal assault.
The party took their leave of each other on the steps of the studio. Stephen gave Kathleen a long, long look before he got into Jack's carriage. Kathleen patted her father's hands as he reached out the window to her.
"Barrett put the books in the boot, Papa," Kathleen said.
"Thank you, my dear, you are a perfect daughter, " Stephen said, grasping her hands warmly. "But I shall not see you for a time."
Kathleen smiled a little, trying to hide her sadness at her father's aged delusions. "Off to Africa, are you?" She asked. Her Papa's eyebrows shot up for a fraction of a second, startled, but he immediately regained his composure. Jack took the opportunity and leaned over in the carriage to grin at her.
"We'll be back by October," Jack cackled, going along with the spirit of the moment. "Then we will whisk you off to Lerida for winter."
"But it's only April now, Uncle," Kathleen said loudly, unwilling to break the spell of adventure that had taken the two men. "Will it not be hot in Africa in the summer?"
"Yes, yes, but there is truly not a moment to lose," Stephen said, letting Kathleen's hands go. He looked every year of his age in Kathleen's tired eyes. "Keep an eye on my chickens, dearest, will you? And tell Brigit not to worry."
Kathleen regarded him wearily. "Yes, Papa."
"Good girl," Stephen said, sitting back.
Barrett looked into the expectant faces of his father and his uncle. "Are we ready, gentlemen?"
Jack pounded on the wall with his fist. "Ready!" he shouted. Kathleen waved as the carriage rolled down the lane and out of sight. Her last glimpse of her father and his particular friend was of them waving, waving from the windows.
© 2001 Karen von Bargen