If you follow this website then you know how much I adore good black-and-white photos, and since it’s Monday I thought I would cheer you guys up with some nice photos, and also with a new free fiction offering for your entertainment. I will post excerpts from my short story, The Mirror, over the next several days, until the entire story has appeared. The Mirror was included in my short fiction anthology titled Supernatural Love. The guys in the two photos I’ve posted here look much like the main characters in The Mirror. The guy in the top photo looks like Kevin, the guy in the lower photo like Thad.
The Mirror comes to you with a caveat. The story contains graphic depictions of to sexual activity between two adult males. If this sort of thing offend you then you shouldn’t read The Mirror. Okay, here’s the first installment of my story:
The Mirror, copyright Martin Delacroix 2014
I blame the mirror for my present heartbreak; I really do.
Here’s what happened.
A few months ago, I lay in bed on a Friday evening. I studied newspaper classifieds, when I came across an ad: Estate sale, Saturday, eight-thirty A.M. to five P.M. All must go: antique furniture, china and silver, oriental rugs, beds, linens, etc. Bargain prices.
The ad provided a Pulsipher Street address—a seedy area of town.
I’m twenty-three, a Gemini. I have a Roman numeral two tattooed on my bicep, and if you know your astrology—you really should—then you know guys like me are active. We always need to do something or talk to someone, preferably both. My ex-boyfriend, a Libra named Craig, once accused me of using crystal meth at a party, just ’cause I kept moving around and chatting with people all evening.
“Look,” I told Craig, “I’m not one to plant my ass on a sofa with a drink. I like meeting folks; that’s who I am.”
When he dumped me, about a year ago, Craig told me this: “I’m sorry, Kevin, but you’ve worn me out.”
I felt devastated, of course. How could he leave me? I grew so depressed my doctor put me on medication. Then my love life went into deep hibernation. Screw romance, I told myself. Who needs men? But deep inside, I knew I’d never be happy without a boyfriend.
Let’s get back to the mirror.
My house is small: two bedrooms and one bath, a 1930s bungalow with high ceilings, a screened porch in front, and a detached garage. It has a funky kitchen, a dining room with built-in cabinets, and I guess you could say it’s cluttered. I like buying stuff, especially old things: furniture, bric-a-brac, and artwork. I collect Fiesta ware; it’s all over my house: plates, sugar bowls and creamers, pitchers, serving platters and such. After I’ve purchased something old, I feel I’m living with the spirit of its former owner. Understand?
I circled the newspaper ad for the estate sale. Then I set my alarm for six-thirty, so excited I had to take a pill to fall asleep.
* * *
The house on Pulsipher looked like most in that neighborhood: a Queen Anne with a turret, scalloped siding, a gabled roof, and a wraparound porch with cylindrical columns. Everywhere, the home’s paint was checked and peeling. Roof shingles curled at their edges. Several windows were either broken or cracked. The yard—nothing but weeds and dirt—sported a “Garage Sale” sign like they sell at the hardware store, the kind with orange letters on a black background, mounted on a stick. To the east, the sun crested a live oak.
I squinted while glancing at my wristwatch. The time was eight o’clock. Okay, I thought, I’m early. So what?
I climbed steps to the porch. Layers of dust, thick as emery boards, coated window mullions and even the trim work on the coffered front door. Using a brass knocker, I rapped three times. Then I waited at least a couple of minutes, before someone answered.
The door hinges squealed like those in a spook house. A stooped man, as skinny as a scarecrow, stood before me, blinking behind his horn-rimmed eyeglasses. The top of his head was bald and freckled, level with my chin. His skin was the color of cake flour. Dandruff flakes dusted the shoulders of his cardigan sweater. The backs of his hands were freckled as well. His knuckles were swollen to the size of marbles. A fringe of silver hair grew about the sides of his head, covering the tops of his ears and brushing the collar of his translucent white shirt. His slacks bore coffee stains, and I smelled tobacco on his breath.
He squinted at me like I was a solicitor, not saying word.
I pointed to the sign in the front yard. “I’m here for the sale.”
He looked at the sign, then at me. “You’re early,” he said in a scratchy tenor.
“Yes, well I—”
“Come back in a half-hour.”
Before I could respond, he slammed the door shut, so hard the knocker jumped.
Damn, how rude.
I returned to my car and, thank god, I’d brought my briefcase. I teach elementary school—English and social studies. I had dozens of student papers to grade, so I killed thirty minutes while marking up book reports with my red pencil. Oddly, while I did this, no one else appeared for the garage sale. When eight-thirty arrived, I was still the only bargain-hunter present.
The same little man answered the door, this time with a cigarette dangling from his lips. He looked me over like I was a shoplifter. Then he motioned me inside and, Christ you should’ve seen the place.
Cobwebs hung from the ceilings. A scent of mildew was strong. In the living room were two horsehair sofas, several lamps with silk shades, a pair of leather wingback chairs, and a bird of paradise carpet worn to the weft in several places. Damask wallpaper covered the walls. Oil paintings hung here and there at odd angles—portraits and landscapes mostly. A stuffed grizzly bear—a real one, taller than me and moth-eaten—stood in one corner, reared up on its hind legs, showing its teeth and flaring its claws like it was ready to attack. A granite fireplace, as big as a garage door, dominated the room. A film of sticky dust coated everything in sight, and the room stank of burned tobacco.
Because the drapes were closed; I found it hard to see clearly, so I turned to the little man. “Could you turn on a light?”
He muttered something about the power bill, but he switched on a lamp, and then a caramel glow filled the room, reflecting in the bear’s glass eyes.
Immediately, my attention was drawn to a mirror like I’d only seen in movies. Nine feet tall and four feet wide, with beveled edges, the mirror rested in a ribbed wooden frame. The frame had once been gilded, but now it was simply black. The frame was curved on top and adorned with wooden carvings resembling grape vines. The entire thing rested in a notched base, also black with age. The base held the mirror upright.
I gave the mirror careful inspection. Despite the frame’s poor condition, the glass itself offered a clear reflection—no flaws in the silvering, no scratches on the surface. I stood with my hands in my back pockets, thinking, Wouldn’t this look great in my foyer?
I turned to the man and asked for a price.
“One hundred-fifty dollars, not a penny less.”
I nodded and pulled at my chin. “Who died?” I asked.
“Whose estate is this?”
After he drew on his cigarette, he tossed the butt into the fireplace. “My brother Willie’s. He lived alone in this house, over sixty years.”
“No wife or kids?”
He shook his head. “Willie did a lot of traveling.” The little man pointed to the mirror. “He bought that thing from a psychic in New Orleans.”
I nodded while pulling at my chin some more. I said, “What did your brother do for a living?”
“Willie was a magician. He performed all over the country, in nightclubs mostly, sawing girls in half and such. His stage name was Professor Cosmo Moon.”
Stifling a laugh, I pulled out my wallet. Then I handed the little man three fifty-dollar bills. “I’ll be back for the mirror this afternoon,” I told him.
He nodded while pocketing the money. “Get here before five,” he said. “It’s bingo night at the Moose Lodge.”
Okay, guys, that’s all for today. I’ll post another excerpt from The Mirror on Tuesday.
This will be a typical Monday for me. I’ve already finished my writing for the day, and now it’s almost lunchtime. After I dine I’ll drive inot the city to visit the YMCA for a workout and lap-swimming. I have a few errands to run afterward, and then I’ll head for home.
Have a great Monday, everyone.