Michelle Ross ~ Mirrors

The house I was born in had two mir­rors, one in the bath­room and one in the liv­ing room. The mir­ror in the liv­ing room was the length of the wall on which it hung. Etched in black on the mirror’s sur­face were moun­tains and forests of impos­ing pines. Between the moun­tains, there was a val­ley, and in that val­ley, a lake. When I looked in that mir­ror, I was imprint­ed on this landscape.

The mir­ror in the bath­room was etched with water spots and tooth­paste. In that mir­ror, my face was just my face.

The liv­ing-room mir­ror was lit by the sun, which threw a slab of hard, yel­low light onto the car­pet below.

The bath­room mir­ror was lit by four bulbs mount­ed in a line: bleached skulls.

The liv­ing-room mir­ror reflect­ed our book­shelves: a set of ency­clo­pe­dias; a farmer’s almanac; a Guinness Book of World Records; faux leather-bound nov­els with gold-edged pages; two small abstract paint­ings Dad did before I was born—the col­ors dark and vel­vety; a moss-col­ored vase in which turkey feath­ers were arranged like flowers.

The bath­room mir­ror reflect­ed frayed tow­els draped over the show­er rod, a needle­point Mom had done of a lone palm tree droop­ing coconuts, the crooked-lid ham­per that bare­ly con­cealed our dirty laundry.

Back then I thought of the liv­ing room mir­ror as belong­ing to Dad and the bath­room mir­ror as belong­ing to Mom. But it was Mom who pol­ished both mir­rors each Saturday morn­ing with wadded-up news­pa­per that stained her hands, while miles away, Dad crept through the tall brush, stalk­ing his prey.


Michelle Ross is the author of the sto­ry col­lec­tions There’s So Much They Haven’t Told You, win­ner of the 2016 Moon City Short Fiction Award, and Shapeshifting, win­ner of the 2020 Stillhouse Press Short Fiction Award (and forth­com­ing in 2021). Her fic­tion has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Colorado Review, Electric Literature, Okay Donkey, The Pinch, and oth­er venues. Her work is includ­ed in Best Microfictions 2020 and the Wigleaf Top 50 2019, among oth­er antholo­gies. She is fic­tion edi­tor of Atticus Reviewwww.michellenross.com