“Perfect Shot”

Annie Kennedy

Kara was on time, but the photographer sent in a guy to barely glance at her before screwing around with the usual fifty bags of equipment like they didn’t know what time the shoot started and didn’t need to set up before she got there. She was used to it, though. A professional. She stood where told, leaned where told, pouted or glared or smiled where told. It always took them time to set up their shots in between, the photographers and their assistants whispering about the angles and light and her poses, and she stared back as they scrutinized every inch of her face and body without seeing her at all. Just part of the game.

They were at a newly-renovated vintage boutique hotel, from 1847 according to the plaque she’d stubbed out her cigarette on by the front door. The place had just been saved from being demolished and restored to its glory days, and her ad in Vogue would run in time for their posh grand opening. After having her stand around long enough to crave another smoke, they had her hike up to the third floor – the highest this little building went, and the elevator didn’t work without an operator, who wasn’t yet hired – in too-tight stilettos while they stayed down on the first. Once there, she leaned down, following the spiral with her eyes around and down to where she’d just been below. The photographer (Greg, maybe? They were usually famous but she didn’t follow photography, only recognizing that one woman with the owl-round glasses and the smoker’s cough from a news interview) was lying on his back, looking up, obscured by a series of cameras and giant lenses that reached up toward her. He’d bark orders at the assistants around him, who would hand him different things and take away different things. Sometimes he’d have an order for Kara, but this game was more waiting than posing. When he did take shots in between screwing around with his equipment and his staff, all the flashes were tiny specks. The third floor was deliciously quiet. She liked the shine in the polished old railings. She could see herself in the wood, but distorted. The image was nicer than her sharp, glaring, naked photos that graced the magazines and ads, every molecule in focus, even after the airbrushing. Here, for once, she was a shimmering blob. She could have been anyone.
Greg – maybe it was Craig? – was calling up again, and she put her hands on the smooth rail, leaning over to hear. The long white scarf she’d been ordered at intervals to hold or wave or flap draped in the air along with her pale hair as she leaned. “Get up on the rail,” he was instructing her. “Sit on it for these next shots. Can you do that safely or should we send up a chair?” She didn’t want company. It was peaceful being up here at the top, the photographer lying below, people moving around like ants but no one bothering her. It was the best distance she’d ever had at a shoot. “I’m fine,” she called back. “I don’t need any help.” To prove it, she swung a leg over and hooked it, then hoisted herself on the rail. Piece of cake. She felt kind of powerful on the railing, even higher than everyone else. The wood was so smooth under her thighs. She crossed her legs, feeling the long flowy dress settling around her calves, and looked down. The lens was looking up. “Good,” Greg-or-Craig called. “Just lean forward a little, your face is blocked by your knees.” She leaned. Just a little, an imperceptible shift of her upper body, the smallest of leans. That was all it took to throw herself off-balance, though. Before she knew what was happening, her head and shoulders were pulling forward and her butt was slipping right off that shiny polished railing. She was flailing, falling, flying. Absurdly, she held the scarf with both white-knuckled hands, hoping it would work like a parachute. Despite all the articles bashing her for being too skinny (“What weighs more, this orange or Kara Spear?” one blogger asked last year, and it became an internet meme, with people comparing Kara to various objects – last night someone posted a new one, a dollar bill, on her wall), it only took seconds to plunge all three stories. Greg-or-Craig’s assistants screamed, a chorus of male and female voices striking harmony like the “om” her yoga classes always ended with, and for once a photographer saw her, really saw her. She saw Greg-or-Craig’s eyes widen in slow motion, almost like a mouth opening to yawn, as she plunged down toward him. He had just enough time to stretch out his arm, pushing his black camera with its mile-long lens out of the way, before she landed on him and everything went black for them both.

She’d heard the expression about the wind being knocked out of someone, but she’d never felt it until today. A long “ooof” escaped from her in a low, unrecognizable voice, along with all the air in her lungs.

She tried to breathe in, taking shallow little sips of air, while the world caught up to her again and her vision cleared. At first she wasn’t sure she could move, but when she tested her head it lifted, causing a swirl of pain. Her face was wet with more than just the tears escaping her eyes (geez, when had she last cried?), and her breath made a funny whistling sound through her nose. She realized with horror that she’d probably broken it. “My nobe,” she rasped wetly, addressing the people who must belong to the pairs of feet swimming around her. “I dink I broke my nobe!” Arms grasped her and pulled her up, getting her onto her feet and aside, and the motion made her dizzy. Her hands clutched her nose, which – yup – was indeed streaming blood. Little drops of it trickled through her fingers. “Oh by Gob,” she said, reeling, off-balance. “Oh by Gob, ith broken.” She looked through the fingers that clutched her nose as if to keep it from sliding off. She was shaking and crying, but not one person was paying attention to her.
They were all staring down at Greg-or-Craig, and one of the assistants was wailing something Kara couldn’t make out at first – Ted? Was she calling him Ted? – but then the flood in her head receded and Kara understood. “He’s dead, he’s dead, he’s dead,” the woman kept repeating. “Oh my God, he’s dead.” And he was, there was no mistaking it. He was lying exactly as he’d been as Kara plunged toward him, face up toward the third floor, arms out, and his eyes were still wide open like they’d been as she neared him, but whatever they saw was beyond the lens of his camera, or anything else in this world. There was a smear of blood on his surprised cheek, maybe dripped by Kara’s own nose, or maybe from something that happened as her 98 pounds landed on him from 30 feet above. In the cartoons, he’d have been squashed flat as a pancake, but he didn’t look flat right now, just permanently shocked. As she watched, impassively at first, the enormity of what just happened hit Kara, and she stumbled forward. Her heels, miraculously still attached to her feet after the fall, tangled in the strap of Greg-or-Craig’s Nikon, and she tripped, nearly falling on top of him all over again. The “he’s dead” woman had finally shut up, but the crowd had grown bigger, and they were all staring at her, some holding up cell phones as if filming or taking pictures. Well, she was a model, wasn’t she? Kara straightened up and sniffed, tasting metallic blood in her throat, roiling her purposefully empty stomach. This is what she does. Stepping gingerly away from the camera strap, she moved away from the body, aiming for the ladies’ room she’d seen off the lobby when they arrived. There was time to clean herself up before the EMTs and the press got here. As she kept moving from Greg-or-Craig and his wide eyes, Kara wondered what the bloggers were going to say about her weight now that she’d squashed someone flat.

“Speared,” the papers would say about Greg-or-Craig, or some other stupid play on her last name. Well, it wouldn’t be the first time she’d made someone famous. She continued toward that icon of the round, faceless, skirted woman adorning the restroom door, where sinks and paper towels and mirrors that didn’t distort awaited her.

 


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Photography by David Lee Black Studios. All images copyrighted. DavidLeeBlack.com


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