Mirror, Mirror

“What’s that?”

My father and I were cleaning out my grandmother’s railroad apartment and had come near the end of the hallway with her chest of drawers.

“Your grandmother’s bed sheets.” He gave a quick laugh. “She covered the mirror.”

We put the chest down.

“You can take them off.”

I ripped the sheets off what was a full length mirror sitting floor to ceiling.

“It’s part of the wall.” I’d never seen anything like that. “Why?”

“Why what?”

“Cover a mirror?”

My father cleared his throat. “Well, remember now, your grandmother was senile. She wasn’t always sure what day it was. She got mixed up a lot about…”

“But a mirror? Didn’t she recognize herself?”

“Yes, yes, of course she did. It was some of the images she said she saw once in awhile. They were…”

“Images? What images?” I felt my father was hedging.

“Well, the other tenants, you know, the ice house workers , threw some pretty wild parties.”


“Yeah, you know, booze, women, loud music.” He took a breath. “Well, they were pretty big guys. They worked hard in that ice plant. And, once in a while, they let off steam.”

I’d heard that saying somewhere. “Did they frightened grandma?”

My father’s face softened. “No, no, quite the contrary. They helped her with her grocery shopping, mailed her letters for her, and did some plumbing work for her.”

“So, what were these images? Did you ever see any of them?”

“Nope.” He bent down on his side of the chest.

I bent down on my side. “What did she say the images looked like?” We lifted up the chest of drawers.

“She said they were filthy. They were something no Christian would allow his family to see.”

We put the chest of drawers in the bed of my father’s pick-up truck and got into the cab.

“Oh, no.” My father was searching through his pant’s pockets.


“I left my keys on the fireplace mantel.”

I was out the door and back in my grandmother’s apartment. The keys were where my father said. As I started back down the hallway, I heard music, the music my father’s generation called jazz, and I saw light coming into the hallway from where the mirror was located. I slowed down as I approached the mirror. It was just as my father said my grandmother had told him.

I handed the keys to my father, shut my door, and began hooking up my seat belt.

“Well?” My father was looking at me.

“Well what?”

“What did you see?”

I shrugged my shoulders. “Nothing.”



Mr. Herles has taught English at both the high school level and college level. His poems and short stories have appeared in various literary magazines such as Chronogram, The Lyric, Barbaric Yawp, and Trajectory.