Snapshot Stories Pt. 2/?

I can’t say how many of these there will be. These three snapshots compose the second post in a series I can’t put a number to. The first can be read here. Thankfully, these didn’t manage to be as depressing as the first set, with #6 perhaps being the exception. These, more for me maybe than anyone else, have been a blessing. They give me a small writing project as I travel to and from work. They allow me to hone my craft in the little ways. They keep me immersed in writing, even when it’s not a big project. Plus, they’re a ton of fun.

In honor of the snapshots in the hall.

#4

The sign screamed, “DANGER” but he didn’t hear it.  Instead, he leaned casually against the edifice, pulling his tie tightly into a knot. The sheer walls of smoothly cut stone rose sharply around him, but they didn’t intimidate him. Even the dark hole marked with danger didn’t intimidate him. This was his territory. He was comfortable in it. If he’d wanted to, he could have dusted the stains of his pants and boots. If he’d wanted to, he could have had a suit to pair with his tie. But he didn’t want to. He was proud of the stains and his clothing. Every stone, every pipe, every rail had passed through his crafting palms, and that gave him power.

#5

She despised nothing so much as country roads. The car’s thin wheels carved its own rivers in the road, but the second the infernal machine crossed another set of tracks, the car jumped, and her teeth set to rattling. The only thing keeping her hat on her head was a ribbon that only ended up choking her. The driver argued that the view was beautiful, as if that could persuade her. Dust aggressively rained into her eyes. How could she see any view in conditions like this? Much less enjoy it. Besides, the views hid behind pitiful fences of basic wood and wire. She’d have to look past the eyesores just to appreciate the mountains. No, she despised the whole endeavor: the hot sun, the bumpy roads, and she resented the dust hiding in the creases of her favorite dress.

#6

Hell was smoky – the heavy kind of smoky that accompanied the acrid smell of burning wood. Hell was carpeted with thick, grimy dirt and prickly, broken branches. Hell had no sun. Hell had no sky. And hell heard only the cries of fallen men and echoing gunshots. He didn’t count the soldiers next to him as signs of life. Either they were dead men walking, or they’d long since given up on being anything else. The trees, destroyed and splintered, still reached for the unseen sky in a wicked parody of fingers. His own fingers twitched in reflex as he peered through the scope and waited for the illusion of a pause to end. In hell, there was no peace. And every time peace settled in his bones, he reminded himself that it was a lie. This was hell. This was war.

Just a reminder that these are not historical and include no basis for fact. They are only the musings of an overly-inspired writer trying to glimpse into a moment of time. Still, I hope you enjoy them.

Snapshot Stories Pt. 1/?

Many photographs line the hall in route to my office. Though they are all recognizably pictures that are housed in the Archives, they are not obviously attached to moments, stories, or people. It’s a long hallway too. Walking by them everyday inspires me, in a sense. Every photo in that hallway has a story we cannot hope to glimpse. It’s both beautiful and sad. I can’t speak for the people in these images. I can’t pinpoint their emotion or their history. But they still make me wonder.

I should clarify: the following paragraphs are not stories. They have no beginning or end. They are snapshots, like I see on the wall on the way to work. They are based solely on my initial impression of the photo. I leave many specifics to the imagination because I can only hope to imagine them as well.

I don’t expect much from these snapshots. I jotted them down on the metro, or while walking around, or whenever the next sentence hit me. But at the very least, I hope they make readers feel something, anything, in honor of the snapshots in the hall.

#1
Every soul in town had found their way to that street. Fabric scraped on fabric as the bodies undulated, struggling against each other to move forward. Someone hit her – hard – from her right. Instinctively, she elbowed back and pulled her hat more tightly to her head. People around her moved with a purpose, even if they weren’t going anywhere. She wondered if the crowd pressed around her was slowly pushing her back, away from the square that she, and everyone else, tried so desperately to reach. She wanted to push back against the pressure and come up closer to the front. But this sea couldn’t be cut through so easily, and the people that comprised it were determined to oppose her. Instead, she planted her feet and fought the sway and hoped to witness what she could.

#2
“Stay close to me,” she whispered fiercely.
They were hesitant, enough to stay by her, but she worried about their curiosity. There was not much for them at home. Frankly, she wouldn’t blame them for wandering off if they could find something better. Part of her still hoped for them. But what remained of her hope trickled away from her as slowly as the grimy water trickled into the drain. The part of her that wanted them to stay clung still to their grubby arms. But even that part was uncertain enough to let the course fabric lay loose in her grasp. Hair fell in matted tangles in front of her eyes as she stared blankly toward the end of the cobblestone street. She didn’t know where they would all end up. And a dying part of her still fought to care.

#3
This wasn’t a line, he thought; it was a stalemate. If he moved at all, it was only to shuffle a few inches forward before settling into waiting again. He didn’t dare set his suitcase down, for fear someone would make off with what precious belongings he had left without a thought to him. But his arm tired the longer he carried his things, and the thought of taking the risk was so tempting… Worse than the pain creeping like a worm up his arm was the desolation he had to look at while he stood. There was no where that had gone untouched by the damage, no safe place to rest his eyes. He pitied the souls of the children who couldn’t fathom the situation. He empathized with the families struggling to stay calm. But all the staring and waiting and shuffling and standing had distanced him from the rubble, and he wondered only where he’d end up, without worrying over the home he’d lost.

More of these turned out sad than I intended. Of course, in order for a photograph to be in the Archives, it must have permanent relevance of some sort. And I suppose many of the moments that have permanent relevance are the tragic ones.

Just a reminder that these are not historical and include no basis for fact. They are only the musings of an overly-inspired writer trying to glimpse into a moment of time. Still, I hope you enjoy them.

I Signed the Declaration of Independence – RGADC

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(Hello, internship! How do I look?)

When my Mimi first asked what I would be doing at my internship, I proudly told her – in the words made famous by Nicholas Cage: “I’m going to steal the Declaration of Independence.” Which elicited a look of horror from her.

Of course, I won’t actually steal the Declaration in my time here.

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(But I sure can try!)

I’ll be too busy keeping up with everything else that’s going on. And, honestly, who would want to steal the Declaration anyway? How could that end up going remotely well? I’d hate to be the person caught selling it on the black market. America would call for a lynching. For that matter, what poor idiot would buy the thing?

But while I wouldn’t hang the Declaration of Independence on my wall, I sure love walking by and looking at it any day I choose. It is beautiful. It is powerful. It is something else. Things like this get me goofily excited about history.

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(What I wouldn’t give to have my signature immortalized. Oh, look!)

In fact, the whole internship gets me goofily excited about history. Specifically, I work in the Department of Education and Public Programming. We ensure that visitors gain the most from their experience at the National Archives. We have a center, called the Boeing Learning Center, open from 10 – 4 every day. For one thing, it’s the only space in the museum where photography is allowed (see above photo of me with the Declaration). Secondly, we have access to over 1,000 facsimiles of documents for the public to peruse. These include state specific records, the Zimmerman telegram, the Articles of Confederation, and more. Fun fact: the Articles are sewn together on parchment that reaches 13 feet in length.

See how much I’m learning? Everyone here retains incredible amounts of information; I don’t feel like they get enough credit for their hard work. Maybe by the end of the semester I’ll be able to accurately point someone to a cool document in their home state and detail its history. Realistically though, I doubt I’ll be as incredible as my supervisor. In my efforts though, I plan to explore the files thoroughly to familiarize myself with them.

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(Doesn’t everyone here seem so nice? They are.)

I’ve felt insanely well-welcomed. The first week focused primarily on orientation, but as we get into this next week, we will begin to delve into our personal projects. Already I have a deadline for a huge blog post that I’ll be compiling over the next few weeks.

Writing with social media allows me to expand my flexibility within my field. Certainly so far it’s been very different than the writing I’m accustomed to: creative writing, personal blogging, and journalistic. This is interpretive writing. While I hope I can adjust quickly, I’m glad I can step out of my comfort zone and learn to write in various ways.

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(Did I mention the gorgeous building?)

And I’m learning a ton on top of that. I can’t express how valuable it is for visitors at the Archives to experience some of our holdings hands-on. Even if its a copy, there’s a different feel to it than looking through a pane of glass. Everyone should make a stop at the Learning Center, if at least to see the specific documents from their state. For me already it has made the experience here much more valuable.

Really, everything here is incredible. In the Archives. In the Washington Center. And in D.C. in general. Let’s get excited about America!

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(Our banner yet waves.)

Also, on a slightly unrelated note, there are presidents everywhere I turn in D.C. They’re at work, they’re on memorials, they’re on tv (since I’ve had to watch Scandal and House of Cards since arriving). They even made an appearance at the Nationals game on Sunday. And as awesome as that was, it was also a little frightening. Let’s get excited about America?

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(Say hi to Teddy and George! Maybe we’re getting too excited now?)