This fictional piece is Bill Draheim’s second guest article for Grryo. You can read the first one here.
When I saw it was Boris walking the median—that big loping stride, the buzzed head with the white scar at the heel of his skull—I pulled over. The Interstate this far away from town isn’t much, just two long lanes with rapeseed fields at either side, so he would have been safe if I’d let him be, but who drives by an old friend?
He said he would be glad of a ride, and I figured he couldn’t do me any harm anymore, so in he got and then it was the two of us like in the old days.
Boris looked toe up, worse than a beaten dog. He seemed to get worse every time I saw him. Dirt spattered his clothes. Flecks of glinting grit on his shoes. I didn’t ask where he was going or where he’d come from—a man is entitled to his privacy, as far as I’m concerned—and there wasn’t much to say that hadn’t been said before, so we rode in silence. Words would have just trod on the glory outside anyhow. It was that time of day when everything goes quiet and the light falls soft and slanted on the land.
Boris leaned his head back, eyes half open. After he sat like that for some time, I figured he must have fallen asleep. Though I always remembered him as a snorer. And here he weren’t snoring at all, though he seemed peaceful enough, for Boris.
I hadn’t finished what I’d set out to do that morning, so when we came to the little Lutheran church at the edge of town, I rolled the car under the white Ash and there we sat as the last light crept across the fields until only the bell-tower was lit.
“I’m gonna stretch my legs,” I said, in case he was awake. He had a way of doing that: playing possum. Sure enough, he nodded.
But I didn’t get out, not yet. The bough overhead cast a finger of shadow on the hood of the car. I watched as it waved, as though it were saying goodbye.
Boris lolled his head, gave me that evil eye of his: “I’ll stay in the car if that’s alright with you.”
“Yeah, sure,” I said. “I might be a minute. Gotta check out the church.” When he didn’t say anything, I said: “I could use a hand.”
“Church got nothing to do with me, nor me with it.”
Well, that was a hell of a thing to say. Boris was infamous in those parts for a number of reasons, but I was no angel either. “Fine. Then watch the fucking road.”
He laughed, “You really gonna case it out? A church?” As if that was the worst thing someone could do. “Forget it. I got some thinking I need to do.”
“Thinking!” That tore it. “What the hell you talking about, Boris?”
“That’s why I was out walking in the first place.”
“Then why’d you jump in?”
He didn’t have an answer for that. Instead he rolled his big head front and center and closed his eyes. Soon he was asleep, or thereabouts.
I slammed the door as I left.
The sun was dead and gone. It’s amazing how quick it goes down in the end, as if the horizon’s grease and the sun, an egg rolling off it.
I climbed the steps and checked the door. What were these Podunks thinking, leaving the church open on a Wednesday night? Maybe someone was inside, a lonely old biddy praying in a pew. Maybe the Pastor himself. I knew he sometimes stayed late, to tidy up his meager things. I hoped to hell he wasn’t here. That would be all I needed, running into him and having to explain myself, why I was hanging around.
A wind blew. The leaves of the Ash tree stirred. I turned at the sound. Through the rear window I could see the back of Boris’ head, nodding back and forth. Thinking.
I remembered the salt-colored granules he had on his boots. It was Muscovite. I tried to think where it could have come from, the flats by his old house maybe? If he had gone there, it could only be for one reason but there was nothing to see, not anymore. Her folks had buried her in another part of the county, far from where he’d laid her down. Boris himself had been left where he lay. No one would touch him.
What the hell, I thought, let’s take a look, but the church was silent and empty and as usual, there was nothing worth stealing. But I figured I’d come back next week. Probably the week after that, too, just in case.
When I returned to the car, Boris was already gone. He would be heading back to his old house right about now, thinking about what he’d done, fading with each step, like how light fades at the end of day.
Bill Draheim inconspicuously documents the world around him using unassuming acquired vessels. It’s not the tool it’s the artist…
Web Page | Facebook
William Gosline is a fiction writer, blogger and occasional screenwriter. He is pursuing an MFA in writing from Pacific University. He lives and works in Honolulu, Hi.
Web Page | Facebook
Bill Draheim became familiar with Rachel Gardner after reading her comment on William Gosline’s Spectictulive Fiction piece, The Ship, which included his photography as an integral part of the story.
Rachel then challenged Bill to come up with six photos that best exemplified her story, The Machine’s God. Bill used the surreal photos he composed on his Samsung Convoy flip phone to create a haunting abutment of words to images.
The Machine’s God
How it started:
I went to bed with a fever once and didn’t wake up for nine days. They told me I was incomprehensible, delirious, what came out of my mouth was like a traffic jam of words and animal noises. I woke on the tenth day feeling hungry. I made myself a fried egg sandwich and then I went to my workbench and built the first one.
It came to me in my fever dream. I dreamt of fire, of warm, liquid metal. There was no struggle, I simply held the material in my hands and it seemed to shape itself. I didn’t truly know what I had made until I turned it on. My sister came in the door when I had it in my hand. She lost half the hair on her head. She’s forgiven me since then, but I don’t know if I ever will.
I locked my first creation away under my floorboards. For all I know, it’s still there, under the rotting remains of our old house. The next I tried to manufacture with caution, but the work leapt ahead of my hands before my brain could object. This one scuttled away under the armoire. We didn’t find it for weeks, only its leavings. All the jam in the house missing, teacups broken, and the cat found stark raving mad in the closet. The search ended when I was putting on my greatcoat to go out one day and heard a crunch under my left shoe. I felt bad, despite myself.
This was the one I came to regret the most. It seemed so innocuous when I finished it, made of old pig iron scraps and watch springs. I remember how it fit to the curve of my palm. But then it disappeared for a month. By this time we were used to the machines disappearing for a time after their birth, usually they turned up none the worse for wear. I began to worry when I heard the new mayoral candidate use words I myself had coined, a trip to town hall confirmed my fears. It had grown…and with growth had come a thirst for power. Before I could consign it to the dust, half the town was uninhabitable. Forgive me.
By now they became as pets, or children. Small in my affections. I had created what seemed the entire gamut of terrestrial life, the insect, the dray horse, the worker bee. It was inevitable that I create something of a deity for them. It wasn’t a bother at first. It merely floated around the rafters, sermonizing the others in a series of squeaks and clicks. The others were quiet when it did that, so I let them be. Later that week I discovered a small shrine on the highest gable of my new house. The others were sacrificing themselves, hurling their tiny bodies to the ground below. Well, there was nothing else for it. I got my wrenches and went to disassemble it. The task nearly got the better of me, but in the end I trapped the thing in the furnace. The flame was violet for weeks after that.
I am old now, my hands have lost their surety, and I get lost in conversations I held decades ago. Like any proper machine, I am winding down for the day. A few of them, my machines, my children, pile at my feet, watching. Even if I knew how to talk to them, I would have nothing to say. They are all of them self-sufficient, and seem to take care of themselves. Yet they seem to look to me for…something. No matter. I am busy with my very last creation. It is not black, nor does it contain skeletal parts, but the function should be obvious to all who lay eyes on it. I start it up and hold my arms out for final judgment. One slice and I am machine undone.
Bill Draheim has spent the past 9 years working on various Honolulu-based TV shows and films like LOST, Hawaii Five-0 and Godzilla. Inspired by the sets, props, people and locations that surrounded him, a portfolio of abstract and surreal photographs emerged, all captured on an old flip phone. Some of these photos were used for this collaboration.
Website // Youtube // Facebook
Rachel Gardner lives in the part of California that isn’t LA or San Francisco. She has been published several times in the American River Review and is currently pursuing an art degree.
Website 1 // Website 2
A word from Caleb:
I’m pretty lucky to have creative friends, Nina being one of them. Last month we started talking about making a film together and the rest is history. The final product was following her around Minneapolis for a day, documenting it all. Having a mutual sense of dedication is important in creating great work and I think it shows in the film. Her narration gives insight into what inspires her photography, the style of her work and her thoughts on the artistic process.
Nina’s work inspired me to start this project in the first place and it’s been cool to see the aesthetic of her photos progress over the years. But one thing has been a constant; the way she photographs the natural qualities of her subjects. Nina turns people’s insecurities into something beautiful.
I shot this film in the same style of her portraits, trying to catch a smile or candid moment of her. Some of my favorite images are happy accidents, where it seems like the subject doesn’t realize they’re being photographed. You’re seeing a true representation of the person and that’s what makes Nina’s portraits special.
After getting to know Nina through Caleb’s eyes, I wanted to find out a few more things to share. I asked Nina to oblige me with a quick interview and she agreed.
How did you start taking photographs?
I started taking pictures in middle school. I was definitely that annoying friend who took pictures of everything, and I never really thought anything of it. They were pretty terrible. My dad encouraged me, though, and taught me a few things. I began engaging with the photo community on Flickr at the suggestion of my favorite teacher in high school, which is where I really started making major progress. By my junior year of high school I began doing senior photos, and the rest is history!
I would love to hear more about your growth through Flickr. Could you share more about how it affected your photography?
Absolutely! Flickr really helped me to understand where I stood in the photography world. There were tons of photographers who were much better than I was – and I learned from them. There were also people out there that hadn’t yet gained some of the knowledge and skills than I had. It was important for me to have those balancing factors so that I could see myself rightly in the spectrum of photographers. Flickr at that time was a thriving community filled with feedback, so I gave and received a lot of excellent critique on my work. Of course, that lead to growth. It was definitely instrumental for me in getting a better idea of who was creating what at that time.
There is definitely less emphasis placed on traditional learning now that art is more accessible to the masses. iPhones and other devices have brought photography and digital design to everyone’s doorstep. Do you think that it hurts or helps?
It used to be a little disconcerting to me that everyone was considering themselves either a professional photographer or an artist in general. As I’ve become more confident in myself and my work, though, I’ve really come to appreciate how easy it is for the everyday person to start engaging with and making art. Wouldn’t it be sad if nobody was trying to make anything beautiful except a select few who had an official title? To everyone who feels drawn to photography or art making of any kind, I say go for it! If you can add more beauty to the world, do it.
Thank you Caleb and Nina for sharing more of your craft with us. We look forward to seeing more of your work in the future.
Find Nina // IG // website //
Find Caleb // IG // Website //