Madison met Anna early in the morning at the North Beach Photo Fair in Washington Square Park. Lance did not know what to do with either of them, but they were customers of the camera shop and both stepped forward and volunteered to help, so he told them to pull pins from last year’s exhibit boards.
“How come there are pins in these in the first place?” Anna asked.
“Because we didn’t have any volunteers to remove them last year, that’s why,” Lance shouted over the din of his ghetto blaster. However, today there were plenty of volunteers and while two other people hammered the old display frames together, Lance stapled jesso-white pieces of pre-cut canvas covered boards inside each frame. The finished product was a series of exhibit racks stuck full of pins. The pins had to go.
“Madison, I need you to clean these up too, okay?” Lance demanded and asked in the same breath. Obviously, he was under considerable strain to complete his display before the crowds arrived. But he took just enough time to introduce his new helpers to each other.
“This is Anna. Anna, Madison; Madison, Anna. I forget everyone’s last name. That’s John and that’s Warren over there,” he pointed at a large Asian man and a skinny white guy who barely looked up from their tasks, nodded, went back to work. “Help each other, willya?”
Lance placed another white-washed wall in a frame, bent a wire tab in each corner to hold it in place, shot it in all corners with a stapler where the material overlapped, then stepped back to survey his work.
“‘Cept for the pins and a little white touch up, we oughta be able to use that one.”
The Photo Fair was an annual event sponsored by Lance’s camera store. Madison had been buying film there for several years, but this was the first time he offered to help with the exhibits. Although not obsessed with the prospect of being one of thousands of amateur photographers whose images would be on display, he annually entered some of his work. Unfortunately, all of Madison’s pictures had been rejected by the judges over the years. The judging was done by Lance and his brother, Boots, who shared the decision making. Somehow their photos always seemed to meet with one another’s approval and each had several shots hanging in the white exhibit booths.
Lance thought Madison had a good eye and the best intentions, just so long as he kept out of the darkroom. Timing. That was his problem. Madison couldn’t develop a moustache. He lost too much emulsion in the soup before he used the stop bath. This after four years of lecture and demonstration. When Madison asked if the Fair — meaning Lance – needed any help, the best Lance could come up with was pin-pulling. How could Madison fuck up pins?
Anna was an unknown quantity. Not bad looking. A nice smile beamed at you with two dark pieces of coal for eyes, thick eyebrows. Good figure too; nice tits, looked like a tight ass under those jeans. No ring on her finger, so Lance purposely paired her with Madison. Lance was much more concerned with the logistics of the Fair than chasing a piece of tail. And he definitely did not want to raise his wife’s ire at a time when he needed to focus all his attention on business. No telling what might happen, but best not to tempt fate.
“We have about 200 photos to get up in,” Lance glanced at his watch. “Jesus Christ! It’s already 8:30! The Fair opens at ten. Keep pulling those pins!”
Anna was probably better suited as subject of the camera than as user. She had been a customer about a month so Lance was still forming his impressions of her. He had never seen any of her work although she talked as if she knew lenses, bodies and f-stops. No one claimed to have been in her pants or even to have had her remove so much as a jacket for a shoot.
Madison lost no time picking up Lance’s cue. Turning toward Anna, he asked politely, “You exhibiting?” It was his best opening double-entendre of the year. He wondered if she would find it amusing or rude.
“Haven’t unpacked any of my work. Nothing new, either. So, no,” she said and leaned forward to clean the exhibit of a few more colored pin heads. He pretended to be absorbed in doing the same. Actually, he was trying to get a view of her breasts between the buttons of her shirt. Was she wearing a bra or not?
“How about you?” She inquired. “We going to see what your focal plane looks like today?”
That was good. More than mildly amused, Madison had to ask himself if she was better at innuendo than he. She abruptly turned toward him, her palm open flat in front of her. It was full of pins.
“What do we do with these goddam things now?” Then, without waiting for an answer, she tossed them over her shoulder onto the new mown lawn of the Square. “Maybe they’ll grow up to be nails.”
Now that was funny.
* * *
Madison followed her around with his camera all day, but not like a puppy dog. He acted alternately interested and disinterested in what, he hoped, was a display of confident masculinity. Around noon he brought her a Polish sausage and a cup of coffee, then ran to find cream after she said she never drank it black.
Whenever she turned around he was there with his eye to the range finder, adjusting the lens or just snapping the shot, sometimes of her, often not. He ran through one roll and quickly loaded another. Meanwhile, he engaged her in the sort of conversation that would tell him about her and give as little away about himself as possible without being mysterious. He was a good listener. Most people talk more than they listen. He had learned to listen. And he knew from years of womanizing that the best listeners got laid the most.