Off with her head!

family birthday

Mum’s nagging again. “Make sure you fit everyone in.” Yeah, yeah, I didn’t want to do this anyway. Except anything’s better than actually being in the picture.

“Check the flash is on if it’s too dark. Actually, don’t do that, the sun’s just come out — there should be enough light now.” OK, OK, do you want the flash on or not? Sophie’s making noisy sighs, shrugging her shoulders, wish she’d stop showing off just because it’s her birthday.

“Come on, Mandy, hurry up, before we lose the will to live!” Ohhh, Mummy, I can’t do everything at once, I’m trying my best, it’s too fiddly and you’re fussing me! Now James is asking Dad when we can start having some cake and Dad is trying to keep things quiet by whispering so no one can hear. And now Sophie’s sighing again.

“Mandy, what are you waiting for? Sophie wants to blow out her candles!” Yeah, right, like that’s what she really wants, and not for you to just shut up. “And Gran is going to starve to death! Get on with it. And don’t cut anyone’s head off!”


Another short submission for the Creative Writing Short Stories class, based on a photo prompt: ‘Write about what happened just before this photograph was taken.’

21 thoughts on “Off with her head!

  1. Ah, yes, the joy of pre-digital photography! My mum has carrier bags of pics just like this one. No one took photos unless it was at an event, so we always seemed to be having birthdays or going to street parties or going to zoos.
    The scene you’ve created is totally believeable – very nicely done.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Lynn, no greater compliment can be paid to a wannabe creative writer! The photo, with its multiplicity of character viewpoints and air of waiting, waiting, waiting was just crying out for an interpretation. The irritated and irritable-looking mother was the real spur to this piece, her and the bored-looking birthday girl of course!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. A great interpretation. And a great photo. We just don’t have pics like this anymore – thanks to digital cameras, my son will look back believing he was always smiling, always having a great time, never bored or sulky … or out of focus! Not sure if this is a good thing or not.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Digital photos — such a great way to edit our lives for a future audience. Photoshop or crop, sharpen or delete, consigned to a virtual album in a cloud: we’re going to regret the false perfection that we now create where once we were grateful for any titbits thrown our way by Snappy Snaps or Polaroid or box Brownies, however flawed.

          By the way, I was only recently mentioning the Stephen Poliakoff tv series Shooting the Past to someone online — was it you? My memory’s shot — where intertwined lives were reconstructed by means of the archive of a soon-to-be sold-off photo library. A great drama of ideas, and a great cast too.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. It wasn’t me, no. But I do remember the series – I remember Lindsay Duncan being very good. It was one of those odd, intriguing TV series that wouldn’t be made outside of Europe, I think

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Another personal link: Emily used to know Lindsay Duncan when Lindsay was a Bristol Old Vic student in the 70s, and I was introduced to her — before she was famous.

              Liked by 1 person

            2. Ah, so many great British actors have passed through the Bristol Old Vic on their way to stardom. And the poor place still had to be rescued from falling down a few years ago. Still with us, though

              Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sure there are Instagram and other feeds which feature the same risible fault, only with digital photos there’s no real excuse as we don’t have to wait for them to come back from the shop!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t have much to add to the comments above. Yes, very concise and to the point. I love the writing prompt and love what you did with it. You not only breathed life into this picture, you also managed to give us a insight into their backstory. Well done sir!


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