Linda Parker stepped into her two-bedroom house in Silver Lake, northeast Los Angeles, closed the door behind her and let go of a heavy, tired breath. It’d been a long and busy day. Five photo-shoots in just as many different studios scattered all across town. The work itself wasn’t that tiring. Linda loved modeling and she was lucky enough to be able to do it professionally, but driving around in a city like LA, where traffic was slow-moving at the best of times, had a special way of exhausting and irritating the most patient of souls.

Linda had left home at around seven thirty that morning and by the time she parked her red VW Beatle back on her driveway, the clock on her dashboard was showing 10:14 p.m. She was tired and she was hungry, but first things first.

‘Wine,’ she said to herself as she switched on her living-room lights and kicked off her shoes. ‘I so need a large glass of wine right now.’

Linda shared her single-story, white-fronted house with Mr. Boingo, a black and white stray cat she had rescued from the streets eleven years ago. Due to his advanced age, Mr. Boingo barely left the house anymore. Running around outside, chasing after birds he could never really get to, had lost its appeal several summers ago and Mr. Boingo now spent most of his days either sleeping or perched on the windowsill, catatonically staring out at an empty street.

As the lights came on, Mr. Boingo, who’d been asleep on his favorite chair for the past three hours, got up and stretched his front legs before letting out a long, carefree yawn.

Linda smiled. ‘Hey there Mr. Boingo. So how was your day? Busy?’

Happy to see her again, Mr. Boingo jumped to the floor and slowly approached Linda.

‘Are you hungry, little one?’ Linda asked, bending down to pick up her cat.

Mr. Boingo snuggled up to her.

‘Have you finished all your food?’ She kissed his forehead.

Linda had known it would be a long day, so she had made sure she left Mr. Boingo enough food, or at least she thought she had. Taking a step to her right, she checked the food and water bowls tucked away in the corner. Neither was empty.

‘You’re not hungry, are you?’

Mr. Boingo began purring; his sleepy eyes blinked twice at her.

‘No, I’m not.’ Putting on a silly, cartoon-like voice, Linda pretended to be Mr. Boingo. ‘I just want cuddles cause I missed my mommy.’

She began gently scratching Mr. Boingo’s neck and the underside of his chin. The cat’s mouth immediately stretched into a happy smile.

‘You love that, don’t you?’ She kissed his forehead again.

Cat in arms, Linda entered her kitchen, grabbed a clean glass from the dishwasher and poured herself a healthy measure from an already opened bottle of South African Pinotage. She let Mr. Boingo go before bringing the glass to her lips.

‘Umm!’ she said out loud, as her body finally began to relax. ‘Heaven in liquid form.’

From her fridge, Linda retrieved her dinner - a small bowl of salad. She would much rather have a double cheeseburger with chili fries, or a large, extra-hot pepperoni pizza, but that would be breaking the rules of her strict low-calorie diet, something she only allowed herself to do once in a while as a treat, and tonight wasn’t “treat night”.

After another sip, Linda collected her wine and her salad, and left the kitchen.

Mr. Boingo followed.

Back in the living room, Linda placed everything on her dining table and powered up her laptop. While waiting for her computer to boot up, she reached inside her handbag for a tube of moisturizing cream. After carefully massaging a generous amount into her hands, she repeated the procedure with her feet.

From the floor, Mr. Boingo watched, unimpressed.

The next half-hour was spent replying to emails and adding several new bookings to her calendar. That done, Linda closed her email application and decided to log into her Facebook account – thirty-two new friend requests, thirty-nine new messages and ninety-six new notifications. She checked the clock on the wall to her left – 10:51 p.m. As she began debating if she was really in the mood for Facebook, Mr. Boingo jumped onto her lap.

‘Hey there. You want more cuddles, don’t you?’ The cartoon-like voice was back. ‘Of course I do. I’ve been left alone the whole day. Bad mommy.’

Linda had begun stroking her cat’s chin again when she remembered something that she’d been meaning to do for a couple of days.

‘I know what,’ she said, staring straight into Mr. Boingo’s tiny eyes. ‘Let’s take one of those Face Swap pictures, how about that, huh?’

A couple of days ago, Linda’s best friend, Maria, had Instagramed a Face Swap picture of her and her adorable little Bichon Frise. The dog had a congenital abnormality in its lower jaw, which caused its tongue to stick out all the time. To match it, Maria also stuck out her tongue as the picture was taken. The combination of fluffy white fur, bleached blonde hair, tongues sticking out, and Maria’s always over-the-top makeup, amounted to a very entertaining image. Linda had promised herself that she would try something similar with Mr. Boingo.

‘Yeah, let’s do that,’ she said, nodding at her cat, her voice full of excitement. ‘It will be fun, I promise you.’

She picked up Mr. Boingo, grabbed her cellphone and tapped the icon for a Face Swap application she had already downloaded.

‘OK, here we go.’

She readjusted her sitting position and considered the image on the tiny screen. A couple of framed paintings, together with a silver light fixture, could be seen on the wall directly behind her. To the left of the paintings was the doorway that led to a short corridor and the rest of the house.

Linda was very particular when it came to taking pictures, even the ones done just for fun.

‘Umm, no, I don’t like that,’ she said, shaking her head at Mr. Boingo.

The lights in the hallway behind her were switched off, but the ones on the silver fixture were on, giving the image on her screen an odd background glare. She readjusted her position once again, this time moving a little to her left. The glare was gone.

‘Yeah, much better, don’t you think?’ she asked Mr. Boingo.

His reply was a slow, sleepy blink of the eyes.

‘OK. Let’s do this before you crash out again, sleepyhead.’

Using the Face Swap application couldn’t be any simpler. All she had to do was take a picture. That was it. The application would instantly identify the two faces on the screen, place a red circle around each of them and then automatically swap them around.

Linda picked up Mr. Boingo and sat back on her chair.

‘There,’ she said, pointing to the screen on her cellphone. ‘Look there.’ Mr. Boingo, looking like he was about to doze off, let out another lazy yawn.

‘No, silly cat, don’t look at me. Look there. Look.’ She pointed at her screen one more time, this time snapping her fingers. The noise seemed to do the trick. Mr. Boingo finally turned and looked directly at Linda’s cellphone.

‘There we go.’

Losing no time, Linda put on a bright smile and quickly tapped the “photo” button.

On her screen, the first red circle appeared around her face, but as the second one quickly followed, Linda felt something constrict inside her chest like a tourniquet, because the application didn’t place it around Mr. Boingo’s tiny face. Instead, it placed it around something in the dark doorway directly behind her.


© Chris Carter 2015