Sunday Stories: “Family Photos”


Family Photos
by Adam Voith

“Look, we can’t do anything. We see what happens in the room, but we can’t move. We can’t intervene. And they can’t hear us. Believe me, we’ve tried everything. Also, don’t forget: I’m 24-Year-Old Whitney. I don’t know him like this.” Whitney is smiling in her wedding dress, happy with the choice she’s made. “I can’t speak for Right Now Whitney. We’re not sure if she’s aware.”

“That’s right,” says R_____ from a different frame. “Try and understand our position. I can’t explain the stuff I’m doing these days, but I swear I’m not like that at this point in my life.” He’s wearing a Santa suit, Thirty-Something Whitney by his side with felt antlers and a red foam Rudolph nose. Toddrick’s there, too, in a Christmas sweater. Big cowlick, maybe seven years old.

Gramma’s sitting on patio furniture with a daytime cocktail. It’s the 4th of July or another summer celebration. Grandpa’s holding a beer in one hand, a ping pong paddle in the other, standing off balance on one foot making a funny face for the camera. “I still don’t buy it,” he says. “That’s not my R_____.” Gramma objects, sick of his denials by now, and sad. “For God’s sake, Marty, we’ve seen it with our own eyes. Several times.”

“Can we please just go over what happened last night?” This is Whitney’s sister, Aunt Cathy. She’s in a cap and gown, finishing law school, not smiling. “Quilting Whitney, I know this is incredibly shocking, and we can answer more questions later, but for now I need to get everyone’s account.” Aunt Cathy recaps everything, every time.

The newest Whitney is holding a quilt of a million colors, the first fruit from a new hobby. She was shot a few years ago, but only showed up last week. After some brief introductions, Quilting Whitney explained that she’d been face-down in a book for a while before being framed, and how she was relieved. She’s been talkative, but hasn’t said much since last night. Mostly just one or two word questions: How Long? How Many? Why?

Collectively, they decided recently to skip warnings for newbies about what they might see. It’s uneasy when another incident occurs, but the group thinks sometime, maybe, there won’t be a next time. They hold a little hope, or most of them do. 

“Same old shit,” a Toddrick says, acting bored. His school pictures hang in a cluster: missing teeth in kindergarten and first grade, beaming with a weird perm in fifth, last polo shirt in seventh, and this recent one talking now, from earlier this year, with dyed black hair hanging over one eye. His past few photos have not been totally surprised when they arrive. Too many gnarly rumors, too much smoke for no fire. “Unfortunately,” he says, “nothing we can do.”

“Thank you, son. I love you,” says Swimsuit R_____ from ’85.

“Dad, stop. You’re sick.”

PTA Whitney gasps and snaps: “Toddrick!”


“Cool it, please. Now, who were those new boys, honey?”

“No clue,” he mumbles back. “Now Toddrick called them Damien and Eddie, I think. Seemed like harmless little fucks to me.”

* * *

Three groups of boys arrived in pairs last night: 

Tom and Shawn are brothers, and frequent overnight guests. “Check it, dude. Stopped by 7-11 on the way,” Tom said, pulling out two big bags of candy from his backpack, and a copy of Thrasher Magazine. “Empty pools of California feature. Henry Rollins interview, too.”

Mikey and Steve came in not long after, loud and arguing about a girl. “Mike. Buddy. She doesn’t even know your name.” These two are also frequent visitors. “You guys,” said Steve plopping on the couch, “tell him Melody Pricetice has no clue who he is.” Mikey took a beating over it.

“Uh. Sure. Melody Pricetice wants a guy with half his head shaved and flunking grades.” 

“Yeah dude, go pick her up in your rusted out Gremlin, play her some 7 Seconds through those blown out speakers on the way to the mall. She’ll love it.”

Damien and Eddie were the last to arrive. Slightly younger, clothes a little crisper, new skateboards under their arms. Shawn, Tom, Mikey and Steve looked at them blankly, and then at Toddrick, shrugging shoulders.

“Oh. Right. Guys, this is Damien and Eddie,” he explained. “They’re freshman. I met them skating today. They’re cool, I think. Damien and Eddie, these are the rest of the guys.”

“Better leave those decks in the garage,” Shawn warned them. “Toddrick’s dad’ll have your ass if he sees them inside.”

* * *

“Normal sleepover at the beginning.”

“They passed around the magazine, ate a ton of candy before Now Whitney brought in a giant pizza box, Pepsi, and paper plates.”

“She laughed at all the candy wrappers, told them they’d spoiled dinner.”

“They still ate like little pigs.”

“Growing boys.”

“R_____ came in. He said hello to the regular boys.”

“Asked ‘Who’s this?’ nodding toward Damien and Eddie.” 

“Toddrick told his dad their names.”

“He didn’t hang around long.”

“He never does, not early.”

“They watched skateboarding videos, turned the the volume up super loud, pantomimed kickflips, jumping off furniture, grinding the edge of the fireplace in their socks.”

“Now Whitney cleaned up the pizza, and dropped a pan of warm brownies on the kids.”

“She told them not to stay up too late, and went to bed.”

“They watched Fletch.”

“A+ movie.”

“Later, Toddrick fiddled with the dials on the VCR.”

“He’s like ‘Look, look, look!’ backing away and pointing at the screen.”

“He half tuned-in a scrambled channel.”

“The other boys collected closer.” 

“Squinting, tilting their heads from side to side.”

“Cinexmax. Friday After Dark.”



Quilting Whitney’s cheeks were red. “Oh my God. I thought that was bad.”

“Harmless. After an hour or so, they got bored.”

“They were all asleep by 3am.”

“On the couch and love seat, or spread out in sleeping bags and piles of blankets on the floor.”

“R_____ came in.” 

“What, around 3:30? 4?”

“Oh God.”

“Baby, I’m sorry.”

“Teenage boys can sleep through anything.”

“He padded on his toes over and around the lumps on the floor.”

“He had a videotape.”

“Pulled it from the pocket of his robe, and put it in the VCR.”

“He settled into his recliner.”

“Jesus. Do we have to go over it in detail?”

“Dad. We have to.”

“The flick was about an injured athlete and his nurse. He had the volume turned way down. “

“Barely audible.”

“After a while, he goes over by the new kid on the couch.”


“Damien was sleeping on his tummy, right?”

“He hooked his fingers into the boy’s belt loops.”

“How does someone sleep in blue jeans?”

“Well thank God, really.”

“He was tugging at those loops, but couldn’t pull them down.”

“It woke him up, finally.” 

“Poor kid jumped up, hissing ‘What the hell?’”

“R_____ jumped up, too, landing back in his La-Z-Boy.”

“Damien went to the bathroom.”

We heard the toilet flush, then he ran water for a long time.” 

“He came back into the room, moving slowly, looking at the TV screen.”

”It was the nurse and the patient licking each other, R_____ sitting there like nothing was happening.”

“Damien lay back down on the couch facing the other way.”

“He drifted off again.”

“But how?”

“I know. It’s surprising, but we’ve seen it before.”

They sleep like logs, I’m telling you.”

“He did wake up again.”

“Yeah, with a start.”

“Like he remembered he was supposed to be keeping guard.” 

“R_____ was crouched down by Eddie, who was conked out flat on his back in loose fitting shorts on the floor.”

“On top of Whitney’s quilt, actually.”

“My God.”

“Belt loop boy jumped up again.”

“Went back to the bathroom.”

“The toilet flushed several times.”

“While he was in there, R_____ ejected his tape and left the room.”

“Damien came out from the bathroom and saw he had gone.”

“He sat upright on the couch.”

“I remember his face was glowing blue from the static on the screen.”

“He was just… blinking.”

“Yeah, just staring, really.”

“When the sun came up, he stood over Eddie and nudged him with his foot, rocking him back and forth a few times.”

“Eddie looked up at Damien hovering over him. ‘Shit man, what are you doing?’”

“They put on their shoes, went to the garage, grabbed their boards.”

”Right Now Whitney was making coffee in the kitchen when they came through.”

“She asked if they wanted breakfast, and why they were up so early.”

“Damien mumbled ‘No thank you’, and they were out the door.”

Newest Whitney has the quilt over her head.

“How’d you do that?” the others demand to know.


Adam Voith is a writer and music agent in Nashville. He’s online here and Tweets here.

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