The mystery behind the image: Writing a Biography

Can you find the mystery behind the photograph by J Gerald Crawford? There is a mystery hiding behind every picture you see.

The man had a fought a war. He may not have won it, but he came home alive.

Selman T. Davis had been the one chosen to write the man’s final biography.

It was a good choice.

Selman T. had been writing them for years.

And now he sat down to write again.

So what did he know about the man?

He was a stranger in town who aged too quickly.

He died too young.

Everyone did.

He was married or had been married. Divorced or widowed. Nobody said. Nobody knew. Selman T. only knew his gold wedding band was worn and tarnished.

The man was a father. At least there was the photograph of a little wide-eyed girl in his wallet. Maybe she was three, maybe a little older. It was so difficult to tell with children. It was also difficult to tell how many years it had been since she was three.

The man had a fought a war. He may not have won it, but he came home alive.

Well, at least he came home.

He was still fighting the war when he came to town and was probably fighting it down to his final breath.

In a small cigar box in the old man’s bedroom, Selman T., the writer, had found a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star, and the faded picture of a small military unit on the edge of a jungle and beside a narrow river.

The men were laughing.

They were drinking and no doubt drinking what they had distilled themselves.

Probably didn’t taste good.

Probably had alcohol in it.

Probably just enough fermentation to heal the pain and cure the loneliness – but never the other way around.

The man had placed an X across the faces of three of the soldiers.

It may have been their last drink.

Their last laugh.

Their last time together.

He had a union card. It said he was a mechanic

The card had expired.

The man had one suit.

It was new.

He had only needed it once.

He had a driver’s license.

But he didn’t have a car.

Didn’t need one.

Bus service was good.

Taxi service was cheap.

The driver’s license had expired.

The man left a Bible on the nightstand beside his bed.

It was open.

It had his name in it.

Sonny Douglas.

And his birthday.

August 16, 1943.

One scripture had been underlined.

Jesus wept.

Jesus had wept for him.

So this was life and all that was left.

Selman T., the writer, sat down to write the man’s biography.

It was little different from all of the biographies he had written in the past.

And in time, it would be all that was known about the man.

A name.

And two dates.

Birthday.

And death.

His entire biography would be chiseled on the face of a stone.

And years from now, that’s all anyone would ever know about a man who had lived for seventy years, at least he had been around for seventy years, a man who had known both love and war, always staying just a step outside the inner circle of anyplace he had ever been.

Now he had a biography written about him.  Read what Selman T. wrote, and it was though Sonny Douglas had never lived at all.

 

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  • Jackie Taylor Zortman

    Great article and what a wonderful picture. It would make a terrific cover for the right book.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      I never thought of the image as a great book cover, Jackie. But I think you may be right. All I have to do now is write a book about it.

      • Jackie Taylor Zortman

        That should be easy for you.

        • Caleb Pirtle

          I think I’ll give it a shot. How’s this for a title: Eulogy in Black and White.

          • Jackie Taylor Zortman

            It’s perfect. Wish titles came to me that easily. They are my weak point.

  • You have created the life and death of a man in true Pirtle style. I love working that kind of story, too, from a picture or an image that “speaks” to me. Thank you for another moment of your wonderful talent.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      You are kind, Pat. I’ve always thought that the tragedy of life is to be remembered solely for your name, date of birth, and date of death. A wonderful life or a miserable life is cast to the ground and forgotten.

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