Everyone Smiles (6th Annual Dialogue Contest Runner-Up)


by Amy Morris-Jones

But that's not how I remember it."

"No?"

"No, in the old photo I have, I'm standing on the stairs—they were green. You know, that indoor/outdoor green carpeting?"

"Uh-huh, my folks had that on their back deck."

"I was pretty young when I was here before—probably only like eight or nine."

"You had that poodle-perm then, right?"

"Yeah, I did—and glasses, too. Pink glasses with only one lens. I was a beauty...It's funny how different this place looks without the green stairs—and in the rain, too."

"Are you sure this is the right hotel? It's hard to see much with the windshield all fogged up."

"Yes, of course I'm sure. There aren't any other Lake Lures around here, are there?"

"Well, I suppose there could be other lakes named that—"

"Right next to Chimney Rock State Park?"

"Okay, so this is obviously the place—sorry. Want to go inside?"

"No, we never went inside."

"Wait—so you have a picture of yourself on the stairs, but you never went inside the hotel—you didn't actually stay here?"

"No, the photo was just my sister and me on the stairs, posing as if we were guests. Don't look at me that way...I know. It's weird, but it's what we did when we were with her."

"With her?"

"Yes, you heard me."

"I'm sorry...I didn't mean to—but you never talk about her, and I—"

"It was so long ago...Even the lake looks different somehow, like my brain ran my memories through one of those bakery sheeter machines, making everything flatter than I remember."

"Did you at least swim in the lake?"

"No, she wouldn't let us—but we didn't have swimsuits anyway."

"You didn't bring them?"

"No, we just didn't have them. Could you turn off those damn windshield wipers already? I can't see."

"Yeah, sure."

"Anyway, even if we'd had bathing suits, we didn't know how to swim."

"You never learned to swim—not even before? My parents made me and my brother take lessons for years—until I could swim the length of the pool by myself anyway."

"No swimming lessons—and no pools with her either. Not even a bathtub actually."

"So you took showers."

"Only if we'd done something to make her really angry—I'd always cry while the icy water poured over me. I used to pray she'd beat me instead of making me take a shower."

"She—"

"I usually just washed up as best I could after I finished washing the dishes, so it wasn't all that bad..."

"But she took you on vacations?"

"Oh, yeah! We traveled all the time—never stayed in one town for more than a few days."

"I vaguely remember hearing something about that on the news after they found you."

"But it was good—really. I got to see so many places—like here."

"Tell me about when you came here...Why this place?"

"Oh, that's a good story! This place was in a movie she used to watch. That's what we did—traveled around visiting the places where all her favorite movies had been filmed."

"A movie was filmed here—at the hotel?"

"There—down on the beach by the lake. That's the area that was in the movie—her favorite movie actually."

"All I see is gray cliffs and brownish water with some green trees in the background. Not very picturesque for a movie."

"Oh, it's just distorted through the windshield. You have to use your imagination a bit. See, over there? That rise in the sand?"

"Lemme clear off the windshield again...Okay, yeah, I see it."

"That's where the table sat—where the lead actress sat with her sister when the leading man appeared unexpectedly. It was all very grand—at least that's what she kept telling us while she posed us and took pictures."

"So you never saw the movie?"

"No, she kept the only TV in her room. We were only allowed in there to make the bed and vacuum, and she'd watch us the whole time."

"Is that how you found out the police were looking for you—seeing yourself on TV?"

"The TV was never on when we were in her room."

"A newspaper?"

"She didn't get any newspapers that I ever knew about."

"Then how?"

"How what?"

"How did you know the police were coming for her—for you?"

"Oh—Can you see that old dock? The one with the covered roof at the end?"

"Where?"

"Over there to the right—across the lake."

"I wish this rain would stop—visibility sucks. It's not much of a dock. What about it?"

"That's the spot where the family in the movie takes dance lessons from the former Rockette."

"You know an awful lot about this movie for never having seen it."

"Like I said, it was her favorite. She posed us and told us to smile in each place while she explained to us what happened there in the movie."

"And you just went along with it?"

"Of course—I was a kid."

"You never thought to scream or run to someone you saw on the street? Weren't there people on the beach?"

"It wasn't that easy."

"Seriously?"

"You don't understand...She wasn't a bad person. She loved us in her own way."

"But she took you and your sister right out of your own backyard when you were little kids. She kept you from your family for three years. How much worse can you get?"

"She fed us and made sure we had clothes."

"Yeah, I remember hearing that she threw her leftovers on the basement floor for you to eat and only washed your clothes when she took you places."

"The media just broadcasts what they know will get attention."

"So what was the true story? I'm trying really hard to understand but—"

"I remember the green carpeting on the stairs from that photo so clearly. The place just doesn't look right without it."

"Never mind the green carpeting."

"She'd posed us standing on the stairs with our hands on the iron railing—as if we'd just walked out of the door of the hotel."

"What a psycho."

"I remember her telling us to pretend we were movie stars."

"She should rot in prison."

"I remember how nice it felt to have the sun on my face while I waited for the click of the camera."

"Prison is too good for her."

"Isn't it funny how everyone smiles in photos?"




BIO: Amy Morris-Jones lives, works, and writes along the shore of Lake Michigan, focusing mostly on issues and scenery that capture the Midwest in general and Michigan specifically. With two novels and several short stories currently in revision, she has plenty to keep her distracted as the snow begins to pile outside her door. She can be found sporadically at http://amorrisjones.blogspot.com/ and @amorrisjones.