The basket would not sit still on the table. The lighting was perfect, but likely to change at any minute, and the basket refused to sit still. The cause of its unusually animated state stuck a nose out, and whined in a slightly worried tone. Then tipped the basket over, spilling its contents across the table. Eight puppies, suddenly liberated from the confines of the basket, set out to explore their new environment.
It wasn’t that much larger, of course. The table was only a couple of feet square, covered with a yellow cloth and eight black puppies spilling out of the basket that now lay on its side.
With that, the composition was perfect.
Later, in the darkroom, it became clear that even in the perfect light, puppies can and will move as fast as needed to avoid being in perfect focus.
The wood table sat in a room panelled in knotty pine that, once upon a time, had been whitewashed. Now it was merely an ashen grey, with occasional blotches where a knot must sit. Not that it mattered much, as the room was fairly dim, aside from an oil lamp burning on a shelf on the wall, and a larger oil lantern on the table. From the smell, the lights were burning whale oil. It left a distinctive funk in the air that was difficult to ignore.
The ceiling and floor were mostly lost in the shadows, as were several windows in the wall. It might have been twilight outside, but the windows were clogged by cobwebs and dust on the inside, and overgrown by long-dead vines punctuated by the occasional abandoned bird’s nest on the outside, making them useless as sources of light, as well as uninteresting in the background.
The table itself was kept surprisingly clean and neat. In addition to two lanterns shedding warm yellow light, it held two wicker (or willow branch) baskets. These were well-worn and frayed. Missing and broken twigs added an aura of age and authenticity to their presence. The baskets held various nuts and roots, dried after several seasons in the root cellar, along with a (hopefully) recently killed drake, still wearing most of its feathers. A mallard drake, to be precise, its green chest contrasting the orange carrots and white parsnips nicely, while a spray of lavender in the background had faded enough to be barely recognized and lost all scent, not that it could compete with the whale funk that permeated the room.
The statue rested in the grotto, the last remnant of a glorious past. Some pieces were missing, as time is no more kind to statuary than it is to man. The remaining fragments included two right feet, one larger and calloused, the other more delicate. Oddly, neither left foot was anywhere to be seen. Nor were most of the (presumed to once exist) legs and torsos. Most of a delicate arm held a lyre, with the fingers of a missing hand in the process of plucking a string. The arm was cloaked in vines, their orange fruit punctuating the grey stone of the statue and greens of the grotto itself. In the shadows, placed on a natural shelf, rested most of one of the heads, and expression of surprise on what remained of the features. The most striking were the eyes, where dark pigment remained deep in the holes drilled where the pupils would be. Contrasted with the pale grey stone, the effect was of a guardian staring down any would be thieves, while also mourning the loss of the rest of his figure.
Following his line of sight leads the eye to a second natural shelf, more open to the weather. A round boulder of white stone is all that remains of the head of the other figure. From its size, and the sizes of her foot and arm, she was obviously female. Though whether she was his wife, lover, daughter, or ward is lost to history.
The feet stand together on part of a stone plinth. The rest, along with the left feet, is missing. A stone tablet once leaned on the legs of the figures, possibly containing some clue to their identities. The largest remaining piece bears the word “Eternity”. No other pieces with writing are recognizable.