2019 Junior Division: 2nd Place

The Perfect Shot

Shivani Patel

A Photographer and a sniper meet at a cafe. Neither is aware of the others occupation as they both discuss “How to take the perfect shot”

I sip at my coffee, idly paging through the catalogue of tree stands as I make plans for my trip up the mountains this weekend. There’s been a sighting of a flock of rare birds only a few days ago and I am determined to snap the perfect shot of them for a hefty commission. A suit slips onto the stool next to me, calling his order out to the barista as he glances my way. On seeing what I’m reading, he chirps in, “The CR-41 is utter rubbish. If you’re planning on spending any amount of time up high, check out the XJM-39 a few pages further.”

I blink at the man, frowning slightly but skip ahead in the catalogue to peruse his recommendation. While the stranger is ordering I take the time to study his profile. He is certainly well built, but in a lean kind of way, like a leopard. Several scars cover the expanse of his right hand, this is certainly odd, but not uncommon. I mean, I have a mate who lost his whole arm while shooting in Africa. Bet there’s a real good story behind those.

“Sorry, what was that?”

“Oh! Nothing.” I rush out, “I was just saying thank you, this is exactly what I’m looking for” I reply, raising my mug in his direction. “I’ll have to see if a shop nearby has one available. It’s a bit of a rush job this weekend, no doubt you know how clients can get.”

“Oh, don’t I!” he exclaims with a wry smile, shaking his head. “And some of the details they think they can demand, as if true art can be guaranteed to come out just so.”

I chuckle as I turn further towards him, happy to vent about ornery customers. “Exactly!” I agree. “Of course I’ll do my best to line things up perfectly, waiting hours for the subject to come into view, but even then there are so many variables to take into account!”

“God, the variables…” he muses, “Wind, elevation, glare, the slightest sound possibly spooking the target, not to mention your muscle cramping after remaining still for so long.”

I nod along with each item he lists off, “Even your equipment failing you at the worst possible time,” I interject, “That ruined a job for me last year. Business took a hit for a while after that, but I learned from my mistake.”

“Oof,” he says, wincing. “You’re lucky to have got that second chance. It’s a cutthroat business, not many can come back after something like that.” He raises his scarred hand and sighs, “Took a long time for me to come back after my last botched job.”

I’m so tempted to ask about the story behind the scars. But you never know, those things can be touchy subjects for some people. “Well, it’s worth it, you know? Even with all the difficulties getting there and Murphy trying to screw you over every step of the way. When it all pays off, with your sight picture just so and that split second between heartbeats arrives, taking the perfect shot…” I trail off, grinning slightly.

“There’s no better feeling,” he finishes, agreeing. I glance at my watch, and on seeing the time I make to leave as I hurriedly finish my drink. “It’s been lovely talking with you, but I need to get everything lined up for the trip up the mountains and give the old piece a final polishing.”

“The mountains?” he inquires, looking out the window. “So it’s a local job, then? Shall I watch for something in the papers?” he teases, eyes alight over the edge of his mug.

It’s an odd statement. None of my photos would make it into the papers that quickly, but I acquiesce. Who knows, I might shoot something amazing.

“We’ll see,” I laugh back to him, gathering my things and packing them away in my bag, “If things go well, I’ll be making a few substantial waves in the community or two.”

“Well then,” he toasts me with his steaming coffee, “Happy hunting.”