Monday 27 March 2023

The Lens by Jim Bates, mocha

 His boss was a crotchety old guy who ran the Texaco gas station with an iron fist and a greasy hand. The boy liked him even though he never once saw the old man smile. It was a good part-time job and he learned how to change oil and grease cars, two skills he never used much as he got older but were good to know nevertheless.

            For high school graduation that year, his boss gave him a telephoto lens for his camera.

“Thought you could use this,” he said, handing him an unadorned cardboard box while they were taking a break from working in the garage. Then he went back to changing a head gasket.

The boy was stunned “Thank you!”

The old man just grunted and said, “Hand me that ¾ inch socket wrench, will you?”


The next day the boy went into the woods with his camera and new lens. He climbed a tree and waited. And waited. And waited some more. He was looking for the perfect shot, but it never came.

Back at work the following day, he told his boss he’d used the new lens, and that even though he hadn’t seen anything worth photographing he’d had fun anyway. The old man wiped his hands and nodded. “Good,” he said. “I thought you’d like it.” He was quiet for a moment, then said, “Come here. I want to show you something.”

They went back into his cluttered office. His boss opened a file cabinet and took out a folder. He handed it to the boy. “Here. You might enjoy looking at these.” The boy opened it up. It was full of outdoor color photos. To the boy’s untrained eye, they were beautifully composed. There were photos of lakes, landscapes, and mountain ranges. There were sunsets and moonrises. Storm clouds and flowering meadows. The boy was speechless. The old man smiled. “If you stick with it, you’ll take better pictures than these.”

When the boy finally found his voice, he said, “I’ll never be this good.”

The old man grinned and clasped him on the shoulder. “Sure you can. You just need to practice.”

And back to work they both went.

Words could not express the boy’s gratitude for the lens, nor the hidden friendship shown by the old man; the kind and caring concern hidden beneath his greasy demeanor.

That perfect shot? It never came, although the boy always kept his camera handy just in case. And that was fine with him. He learned over the years to enjoy being outside and looking at birds and animals and trees and the seeing world in a different way. Kind of like an artist might.

He took a lot of photos too. Some of them weren’t too bad. They captured the feeling of the scene and the beauty of nature. Like the old man had done in the photos he showed him on that long ago day. Deep down in his heart, he has the feeling his old boss would like the ones he’s taken throughout his life. Especially the ones with the lens the old man had given him. All those outdoor landscapes. Yeah, especially those.


About the author

Jim lives in a small town in Minnesota. He loves to write! His stories and poems have appeared in over four hundred online and print publications. To learn more and to see all of his work, check out his blog at:


Did you enjoy the story? Would you like to shout us a coffee? Half of what you pay goes to the writers and half towards supporting the project (web site maintenance, preparing the next Best of book etc.)

No comments:

Post a Comment