Bird at Work
Joan Drescher Cooper


Not intending to spy, Bird hesitated inside the doorway of the smaller studio. She did not know what to expect from this stranger who, since the revelation of identities, haunted her visits home, so she had come looking for him this time.

Stepping back to the camera’s tripod, the big man bent over the viewfinder, pressed a button hanging from a cord, peered at the arrangement, adjusted something, and pressed again. The confusing scent of maple syrup wafted toward her. Her father, this inscrutable giant in his habitual sloppy clothes, said he was a professional photographer. A little pffft of disbelief escaped her, and he turned, eyes widening. 

Then he grinned and straightened. He drew a chair up to the table and waved her into it. “Want a portrait?” His voice was rough with disuse.

She shook her head but sat. She lifted her chin and cocked an eyebrow. “I was curious to see your studio. Your secretary let me in.”

He grumbled, stared a second. “Don’t talk. Open your eyes and stop scowling.” She smirked. He picked up another camera, adjusted the focus, clicked with one large finger on the button, stepped forward, clicked again, and then said, “Turn your head toward the teapot. Chin slightly down. Yes.” 

She obeyed but glanced over to him after a few seconds. “I’m all nose at that angle.”

He barked out a grand laugh and put the camera down. He ran his hands into the mass of gray curls framing his face and pulled them back to show her his profile. He stood with his legs apart like a colossus and thrust his chin up. “There it is. Our one similarity, my beautiful daughter.”

Bird laughed. “Yes, I see that. And why does it smell like pancakes in here?”

He grinned and gestured to the tea spilling out of the cup in his still life. “Photography is all about appearances. Real tea is too watery.” He dipped his finger and popped the amber stickiness into his mouth. Bird did the same.

“Let’s make real tea. Or lunch. I’m happy you’re here.” He looked toward the hallway. “Bird? The woman who greeted you at the door is not my secretary.” He cocked his head listening to footsteps elsewhere in the house. 

“Your assistant?” 

“My wife.”


First published: May 2019
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