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"Pretty Little Pictures" by Miranda Steinway

After driving for many hours, Chloe and I step out of the car to approach the Grand Canyon. Both of us are smelly and stiff from the journey, but we forge ahead until we can see the view in all its golden glory. The early evening sun illuminates every crevice of the Canyon’s vast display. My eyes widen, hungry to chew over every last detail.

“That’s it?” Chloe asks.

I turn to her with a frown. “What do you mean?”

“I thought it’d be…bigger.”

I assume she’s joking, but she has a serious look on her face. “The Grand Canyon isn’t big enough for you?” I ask.

“That’s so condescending,” she says. “All I was saying is that it’s smaller than I thought it’d be.”

Chloe stomps away from me, towards a vista point that’s teeming with tourists. Her knee-high chunky boots make an exaggerated crunchy sound as they pound against the dry dirt. Her dyed-green hair bobs back and forth in a high ponytail.

When she’s annoyed, she looks exactly like she did when she was a kid, even though she’s certain she’s a woman now. She can wear all the makeup and mini skirts she wants, she’ll still always be a kid to me. Part of me wants to run after her, but I know that will only provoke her further. I stay in place and let the Grand Canyon keep me company instead.

I stare out at the layered rock and consider how many millions of years it took to transform into this marvel. Water steadily carved down its center and time sneakily deepened that divide. My entire existence is a blink of an eye in comparison. It makes all my problems feel silly and small. I hope Chloe is staring out at the canyon and feeling silly and small too.

I stroll along the canyon’s edge admiring the fiery shades of red smoothly blended with the muted beige and gray. I study its many dips and shadows, emphasizing its untamed roughness. I admire all the people proudly posing for pictures together. As bad as human beings can be as a species, it’s sweet how sentimental we are.

Once I reach the swarm of sightseers, a man approaches me. He’s wearing an Ohio State shirt with a matching fanny pack wrapped around his hips.

“Excuse me, Miss? Could you take a picture of me and my family?” he asks.

“Of course,” I say with a smile.

The man hands me his phone and rushes over to his wife and children. They gather under his open arms in front of the majestic view. His wife nuzzles into him as she grips the shoulders of their two small sons. The boys stand in front of them obediently beaming with missing baby teeth.

“Everyone say cheese!” his wife says.

“CHEESE,” the boys shout.

I click a few times and nod when I’m done. They unlink from each other and the husband runs back over to me.

“Would you like us to take a photo of you?” he asks.

“No thanks.”

“Oh, sure you do!” his wife says, waving me over.

I pause to scan the crowd. “Give me one minute. I need to find my sister first.”

I hurry through the herd of holidaymakers in search of Chloe. I notice her hunching over the furthest tip of the fence gazing off into the distance. I’m not sure if she’s actually enjoying the view or if she’s pretending to so that I’ll leave her alone. I race over to her and tap her on the arm.

“Come here for a second.”

“Why?” she scoffs.

“Just come.”

I drag her by the wrist back to where the family is waiting.

“How in the world did you convince your parents to let you do that to your hair?” the wife asks upon laying eyes on Chloe.

“My parents are getting divorced, so they literally don’t care at all,” Chloe says.

The wife bows her head in embarrassment. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

I pull Chloe close to me as we model in front of Mother Nature. She doesn’t smile, but I decide not to bother her about it. The man squats down low and sticks out his behind to capture the picture from the perfect angle. I giggle once I see the photo. We’re trying so hard to act normal for the camera. We look ridiculous.

“I hope everything works out for you two and your family,” the wife says, as we walk away.

Chloe and I head back to the car in silence. We lock the doors and I blast the air conditioning. I reach into the back seat and grab two water bottles. I place one in her lap. She glugs down half a bottle and wipes her mouth with her t-shirt.

“Hey, do you want to go?” she asks.

“We just got here! We drove all day.”

“Do you?” she repeats.

I gaze directly into her green eyes to gauge her sincerity. She doesn’t blink.

“Yeah,” I say with a shrug. “Let’s go.”

Miranda Steinway is a writer based in California. Her writing has appeared in Ellipsis Zine, Across the Margin, Maudlin House, and Expat Press. She is currently working on a novel. Find her on


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