I knocked on his door five minutes before closing. The door swung open and I stepped into the darkness. “Hello?” he said.
“Hi. I’m sorry, I know you close soon, but I was in the area and thought I’d just drop in and pick up my camera.”
“Ah. Yes.” He stood there in his pressed navy labcoat and evaluated me for a few minutes. “Remind me what camera that would be.”
“It’d be under Adrianne Mathiowetz.”
“The compression damage.”
He brought out a memory card and several lenses so that we could verify it worked, which, as it turned out, it didn’t. There had been more damage than he’d originally seen: the mount had been bent and jammed, which he’d fixed, but a few of the tiny sensors inside which allow the lens to communicate with the camera had also been punched in. He walked to a table with a bright lamp and magnifying glass and bent over the light. “Hmm.” He looked under the magnifying glass again. “Hmm.” His face glowed like a ghost story. “There.”
He walked back to the counter. “People always take pictures of the clock.” Snap. Flash. He turned to me. “See, there’s the picture of the clock I just took.” His thumb clicked back another image in the preview window: kitty stretching luxuriously in a cardboard box. Another image: kitty asleep on a windowsill. “Oh . . . and maybe the rest is just pictures of my cat.”
“Your cat looks like my cat,” I said.
“Youhaveacat?” he asked.
“Sorry, what was that?”
“So, what’s his name?” I asked.
He smiled. “Bernie.” Bernie slinked out of the pitch black back room now, squinting at us. “Hi Bernie!” I said. “His nickname is The Bernmeister,” he added. Bernie rubbed against the counter and purred. Aw, Bernie. Then, “I’m glad we checked the camera. Sometimes it gets hurried around here and I forget that I haven’t tried it. Your camera had scratches on it. Concrete, it looked like.”
“Yeah, asphalt. I was going about 20 down a hill.”
“Would you like another bag?”
“That’d be great, actually. Please.”
He carefully wrapped my camera in plastic, then placed it in a decorated paper bag: cerulean and gold declared THE CAMERAMAN.
“Well. You seem like a very nice person.” It looked, for a moment, like he may have even smiled. It was hard to tell in the dark. “But you should be all set now.” And he began to back into the darkness again, Bernie whirling about his feet.