Picture Prompt Exercise — 15 Minutes

Picture Prompt Exercise — 15 Minutes

He stood in the shade of an overhang, looking across the street to where the brushes were all lined up against the wall. He took a deep breath, drawing on the cigarette in his mouth, thinking of an American movie he had seen once as a child.

There had been chimney sweeps in that movie. Soot covered men dancing and singing and enjoying their work and their life. Joyous men, bright and full of life. He wanted some days, to be one of those men, to have the energy and breath to sing and dance as they did, but his was a life spent in reality, and was no dancing to be done here. There was the brushes, the soot-clogged chimney stacks, the tight places where he was sent to clean and then left to do his work.

He was forgotten the instant the orders were delivered, looked upon with disgust when he arrived with the ever-present black dust coating his clothing, his hair, his face and hands. He swore some days that it coated the lining of his lungs and the insides of his beating heart. What had he to fear from cigarettes when his life was spent in ash and last-night’s smoke?

Coughing a little, he chuckled at the thought of the singing, dancing men, not believing for an instant that their lungs could allow them to do either so soon after coming up from a stack. But of course, that movie was meant to be fiction, to be fantasy, and it did not bother to hide it.

He ground out the cigarette and looked at the brushes gathered there. Despite what he sometimes thought as he considered these moments, he was not bitter about his job. Indeed he was grateful for it. Each brush he carried was a person to him. The first was his wife, who had loved him beyond all reason for many years, who would do so for many more with the grace of God. The second was his son, their eldest child, a young man almost in his own right, preparing to go to school to learn a job that required more of a man than sweeping out tight, dark places. The third was his daughter, a girl still with a bright smile and brighter mind, who would follow her brother to school, if these brushes allowed him to still afford it, and was destined to break hearts there, hopefully not her own.

These brushes, dusty, simple, plain things that they were, gave him the means to give his family the means to gain for themselves all the things he believed they deserved in this life. If doing so meant he spent his days in dusty darkness, if doing so meant he would earn a disapproving look from a lady or housekeeper, then he would gladly take those upon himself.

No, he was not bitter about his job, nor was he ashamed. If anything, he was as proud as those men who sang and danced in the American movie. That part of the fantasy, at least, was real, and he smiled at the thought as he went to retrieve the brushes from the wall.

Prompt: National Geographic Photo of the Day: April 24, 2007

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