Using this translation turn the pages a bit odd - sorry

The Picture Man

A Short Story by Lee Falk

Take picture or not take, all
the same to him, no difference
[First (and only?) published in Coronet april 1937]

None of us had ever been on this narrow street before. Nor were we quite certain how we had come upon it. It was a queer-looking street. The cobblestones were rough, and the old-world facades of the houses and shops seemed to lean together over our heads.

It was almost twilight, and we walked a short distance in the lengthening shadows. The dead end of the street was not far ahead. Perhaps it was natural that people should have gone indoors during the rain. But though the rain was now over, the street was deserted. Shutters and doors were tightly closed, and no sound came from behind them. There were no sounds, beyond the dripping of water from eaves and sills, and the clacking of our shoes on the shining cobblestones. Where all the people, I wondered? Where were all the cigarette butts? That seemed odd.

There was no rubbish in the street. It was clean-swept, like a period replica in a museum. No cigarette butts, no people, it seemed queer.But I felt better when both Mark and Richie punched Grace, and she began to laugh with her husky voice, and her shoulders and heavy breasts shook. The latter inspired me to pinch Midge. She giggled, half-heartedly, and in a moment, we were chasing each other in small circle, pinching and laughing and shouting, so that our faces were flushed and our movements were loose and effortless. Mark bent double trying to lift Grace, but she was heavier than he was, and we laughed until tears came into our eyes as we watched him strain and heave.

Then suddenly, Richie pointed ahead and broke away from the circle."A picture man, a picture man," he shouted. "Let's all get our picture taken."That was the first time we ever saw him. He was a slight figure standing in the shadows at the end of the street. At his side was a camera box mounted on a tripod.

We ran up to him. Richie standing in front of us and acting as spokesman."How much to take a pictures?" he asked.

The man shrugged. Then he took a sliver of wood from a vest pocket and began to pick his teeth. His Latin face was dark and in need of a shave, and an old cloth hat with large check design was pulled low on his forhead. "Don't you want to take our pictures?" Richie demanded. "What are you standing here for if you don't want to take our pictures?"

The man muttered and glanced at the sky"What did he say" Mark asked. Richie looked back over his shoulder"He said he was waiting for it to get dark so he could go away."

That seemed like an idiotic thing to say. After all, he was obviously a picture man. The battered camera looked as if it has seen long service. Grace stepped forward to Richie's side."Tell him we want our pictures taken right away, before it gets too dark" she said."You tell him," Richie said "He can hear you as well as me".

We all felt uncomfortable. He must have been standing there while we danced and pinched each other. There was no place for him to have come from. He was standing against a brick wall. The dead end of the street. "It's too dark to take pictures," I said"Yes, let's go." said Midge."No," insisted Richie," It's not too dark. Why should we go? I want to have my picture taken.""It's never too late for these tintypes," said Grace."But it's plain that he doesn't want to take our pictures," said Mark.

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Mandrake the Magican and the Phantom is copyright 2018 King Features Syndicate Inc., The Hearst Corporation