Shootings is a story about two men with completely different goals, and how their actions affect the same group of women. I wrote it as I posted it, in serial format. Enjoy the first chapter here and then go on using the link that follows.

Part One

“Way too much cleavage, Brenda. Just too much skin, in general. You should wear something a little more tasteful than that. Maybe a one-piece.” said Jocelyn Swinson.

Greg pressed the shutter. Flashes mounted under silver umbrellas popped and lit up Brenda’s bikini-clad body, the reflection off her gleaming white teeth like the strip on a running shoe’s heel. Her cleavage didn’t bother Greg one bit, and it seemed to inspire his equipment. The flashes whined less than a second before their pitch was out of human range, and they were ready to fire again.

His subject stopped smiling just long enough to reply. “Look, Joss, you want these calendars to sell, right?”

Jocelyn held her white bathrobe closed carefully as she leaned over to pick up the latest issue of People. As she straightened, she threw back her head to flip her chestnut hair from her face. “Sure, but do you want everybody to see you looking like that?”

“It’s just like going to the pool or the beach,” Brenda said. “I mean, I’m Ms. July, not Ms. February. What says ‘summer’ better than a bikini?”

As his flashes illuminated Brenda’s brown skin again, Greg almost couldn’t believe she had given birth to three kids. In fact, most people couldn’t. Maybe that was another reason she liked the idea of being on a summer page of the calendar. Greg sure liked the idea.

“A one-piece can say the same thing, but with more class,” Jocelyn said as she flipped through the magazine’s opening pages. “Oh, my. Meg Ryan looks like hell in this picture. I swear, these paparazzi would take pictures of celebrities picking up after their dog’s business, if they had the chance.”

“And you would lap it up,” Brenda said and rolled over to arch her back and smolder at the camera. “You don’t want to objectify women, Joss. I get that. Good causes don’t get enough attention, so we’re just trying to ramp that up.”

Jocelyn rolled her eyes and then turned them back to the magazine.

Greg wished he had approached Brenda, instead of his wife, with the calendar idea. Her enthusiasm no doubt would have helped sway the other ladies much more quickly than Raelynn had. Then again, going around his wife probably would have elicited a much more negative reaction than he had received.

Raelynn had stopped typing an e-mail and turned to face him. “You want to do a calendar of the members of the Mom’s club?” she said.

Greg opened the peanut butter and pulled a knife from the silverware drawer. He could understand her being overprotective of the group of mothers, some stay-at-home, some working outside the home, that she had co-founded. He proceeded carefully.

“Yes. Is that weird?” he said.

“More than a little bit. Could you put grape jelly on mine?”

“Sure.” He grabbed the jelly and the bread from the refrigerator. “I think they might like doing it. Plus, it will raise money for the group. Look at it this way. Firefighters sell calendars, right?”

“Yeah, but they’re all young and buff. Who wants to look at a bunch of moms all year?”

He laughed. “Have you taken a look around at any of your playdates? I have trouble not looking around. There’s lots of calendar material there, and hot moms are in, for guys of all ages.”

“Lovely, dear. So you’ve had enough of ogling my friends at the playground. Now you want to do it with a camera?”

“I think ‘ogle’ is a little harsh. I –” Greg paused. “Notice beauty. Besides, it will help the group raise money.”

“You’re so noble.”

“That’s me, your noble ogler, here for you any time,” he mumbled around a bite of his sandwich.

“Especially if my hot friends are there, too?”

“Your words, not mine.”

Greg was a bit surprised that the dubious start had culminated in his standing there aiming a camera at Brenda while Jocelyn waited her turn. Working a 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. shift in his “regular” job, he figured he had time to get home from work, photograph two ladies in his impromptu photography studio, and still help his son do homework before supper. It was the perfect place for the sessions, because as the director of the group, Raelynn could help reassure any of the members who got cold feet. She also kept an eye the children while Greg immortalized their mommies.

“So, master photographer, how do you plan to publicize this calendar? I mean, beyond our circle?” Raelynn asked that night.

Greg tossed his socks into the hamper in the master closet. “Not sure yet. Maybe a big signing event at the chain bookstores.”

“Good luck with that. What you need is a sex scandal video,” Raelynn said.

“Nice. Hey, I wondered something. Why would Joss want a summer month? Seems like she would have felt more comfortable dressing for winter.”

“Don’t let her fool you. She puts on a show, but she’ll like having guys look at her just as much as Brenda will. Maybe more.”

Greg laughed as he sat on the bed next to her. “I’ll never understand your kind.”

“My kind?”

“Yes. Women. They baffle me.”

“You’re not alone.” She reached up and turned off her bedside lamp. “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, um, tater pop,” Greg said.

“That’s not a good one, either.”

“Damn. I liked that one.”

Greg laid his head on his pillow and closed his eyes, trying to think of something besides the women he would be photographing the next five Tuesdays.

(continue reading)

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