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 Review. www.michellenross.com