The Missing Mirror
It had been a very long time since a child had exhibited a super power in the small lakeside neighborhood of Madrona. So long, in fact, that it was as if this had never happened at all. Madrona was not crawling with radioactive spiders looking to bite, or littered with crash-landed spaceships containing small boys from distant planets. Signs of normalcy and calm were everywhere.
In fact, as you drove into the old tree-lined section of town, an actual sign read: “Madrona – The peaceable kingdom,” words inspired by an almost two hundred year old painting, currently hanging in a museum three thousand miles to the east. The painting showed a world where sworn enemies, both human and animal, live together in peace. But on this airy summer afternoon, two of the three Jordan siblings were living anything but peaceably.
Binny Jordan searched frantically around her room, which had the attendant swirl of strewn-about junk you would expect to find in the room of a ten-year-old girl. Binny’s search was impeded by all the clothes on the floor and discarded cups snuck upstairs for beverages to be consumed outside the kitchen (in flagrant violation of Binny’s parents’ rules).
Posters of various skateboarding heroes in daring poses covered the walls. No fewer than three skateboards lay angrily split at the bottom of her closet, halves pointing upward like tombstones. Binny had the vague intention to display these on her wall someday like a hunter would exhibit his quarry: “See the lives I’ve taken? Yours may be next!”
Peeking out from one spot on the wall Binny’s father’s drawing of his daughter as a skateboarding superhero named “Skate Punk”. He drew Binny and her siblings as comic book heroes periodically. Mostly when he was procrastinating before drawing the technical illustrations he was paid to create.
It has to be here somewhere, she thought to herself. The “it” in question was a small pocket mirror. It was old and covered in ornate swirly decorations and looked like it was made of precious silver. It had a hinged cover that protected the little round mirrored surface from scratches. It was Binny’s mother’s mirror, but Binny had appropriated it for herself. Stolen is such an ugly word. Unlike the used dishes in her room, her parents overlooked this infraction, since possessing the mirror seemed to make Binny happy, and unlike the dirty dishes, the mirror probably wouldn’t lead to an ant infestation.
The mirror usually sat on the shelf next to Binny’s makeup and hair stuff. Binny liked makeup fine, though she had liked it more when she was younger. These days it gave her a shared activity with her seven-year old sister Cassie. Cassie adored make-up, dress-up, and all manner of attention getting activities. At the thought of Cassie, Binny admonished herself silently. When something was missing from her room, why did she waste time looking anywhere but in her sister’s thieving little hands?
Cassie Jordan was outside at that very moment acting out an entire scene from Snow White using the very mirror Binny was looking for. “Mirror mirror, who’s the prettiest girl in the world? Me? Cassie? Cassie Jordan? Oh really? But I couldn’t agree more,” sang Cassie using the mirror like a microphone. As if that weren’t enough to draw her sister’s ire, she was also mangling the story by pretending to be Snow White, when clearly Snow White’s stepmother was the one that spoke to the mirror. As with most things that enraged Binny, Cassie wasn’t bothered in the least by this inconsistency.
With Cassie’s street performance in full swing, Binny marched into Cassie’s room, examining all the things she owned that were not in their rightful places: a large book on spying, including instructions on making codes for secret messages, a collection of hair bands which Cassie didn’t even need since her hair was much shorter than Binny’s, a suspicious number of socks that Binny knew were hers, admittedly hard to prove since their parents bought her and Cassie the same kind, and some spoons half-covered in peanut butter Cassie had stuffed between the bed and the wall upon becoming distracted by some other mischief.
Mom and Dad were gonna be super annoyed about this one, Binny thought with a smile. Binny made a mental note to add it to the ever growing list of Cassie’s transgressions that she’d been keeping in her journal for later disciplinary action. For now though, the mirror was the top priority, and it was still nowhere to be found.
Cassie was now performing final encores in her impromptu rock concert. The spotlights shined brightly on her as she swung and swayed, eyes mostly closed, singing snippets of popular songs mixed with nonsense into the mirror.
Throngs of imaginary fans chanted her name. Not her sister’s name. Not her brother’s name. Her name. As far as the fans were concerned, Cassie Jordan was an only child. Singular and special.
When Cassie wasn’t in front of her adoring crowds, she was riding in glittering limousines and being attended by smartly-dressed servants, all part of being the most famous seven-year-old rock star on the planet. But now Cassie reached out to touch as many fans as she could, sharing with each a tiny sliver of herself so they could bask in her specialness.
Like Cassie, the man was also in his own world. He’d taken Rembrandt out to walk this route so many times that the dog naturally knew the way to go – right by the Jordan house. With the dog navigating, the man could dedicate most of his time to organizing his thoughts.
The man was tall and solidly built. He had neatly arranged black hair, with flecks of gray appearing above his ears. His expensive, immaculately kept, but understated clothes were a point of pride, a key part of how he liked to present himself to others. But the man had a secret not nearly as neat and tidy as his appearance — the consequence of a loose thread that began to unravel long ago. The thread led him to the very children he was observing now.
The man had no children of his own, but he had a dog. Rembrandt was a Bernese Mountain Dog. Rembrandt was friendly and he was big. These weren’t small dogs to begin with and Rembrandt was large for his breed. Dark brown and shaggy with orangey brown “socks” and a white snout and chest. His size combined with his enthusiasm sometimes gave people – nervous kids especially – the wrong idea about his intentions.
To date Rembrandt hadn’t bitten into anything he wasn’t supposed to other than the periodic box of fancy sweets absent-mindedly left on a low coffee table, and several pairs of very expensive Italian leather shoes that the man had finally learned to start storing in his closet, out of the shaggy creature’s reach. The man’s closet had special drawers made just for shoes, so this was the perfect excuse to use them.
Rembrandt needed to get outside more often than most dogs. But the man knew well enough to keep Rembrandt away from the kids in the neighborhood, as large dogs giving out mixed signals as to their intentions, together with their solo male owners, were pretty much never welcome companions for kids at play. It made the man’s task harder, but the task still needed to be done.
Binny’s search through the house exhausted, the only place that remained to look was outside. Since most of the year Madrona was rainy and even on the chilly side, the kids of the neighborhood usually spent as much time as they could outside in the brief window during late summer and early fall when the weather was sweet. The early evening hours, as it was right now, were especially nice as it stayed light out and the kids could play until dinner and even for some time afterwards.
Binny didn’t see Cassie at first, and yelled her name. If Cassie had heard her, the unmistakably angry tone in Binny’s voice would have served as a warning, not an invitation. But Cassie was totally immersed in her own pink sparkly universe.
The Jordan house was large, tucked away on a steep slope. The hill was so steep that decades earlier the entrance to the yard had been moved to the side of the house so the residents didn’t have to climb so many steps every time they wanted to come and go. As such, when Binny shot out of the front door, she still had a ways to go until she could see where Cassie was performing.
As Rembrandt and his owner walked their familiar path past the Jordan house, the man saw the oblivious jelly bean of a seven-year-old bouncing with the mirror on the sidewalk below the big house, and the determined and angry ten-year-old storming out of the house on a retributive mission. The man could see what was coming next, yet there was nothing he could do to stop it. Like watching two cars speed towards an intersection.
Rembrandt was distinctly less interested in the inevitable altercation between the girls, but seemed to have found something worthy of his attention at a telephone pole down the street. He started insistently dragging the man towards the pole.
The more the older girl yelled and advanced on her sister, the more interested the man was in seeing how the little drama played out. But Rembrandt was intent on reaching his own destination of interest. He’d already dragged the man halfway to the pole, and now the man was at least fifty feet from where the little girl was standing.
Three separate things happened almost simultaneously: 1) the little girl finally heard the older girl yelling, 2) the older girl turned the corner and finally was in a position to see her quarry, and 3) Rembrandt got sick of waiting for the man to move. Rembrandt jerked his leash and made a break for the telephone pole. The man almost fell over, losing his grip on the leash, catching his balance at the last second before he would have ended up with his face in the dirt.
But when the man regained his balance and surveyed the scene, the little girl was nowhere to be found. She had been there one moment, and in the time it took for the man to recover from Rembrandt’s over-enthusiasm, she seemed to have just vanished. Into thin air as they say. But that was ridiculous. She must have heard her sister coming and high-tailed it out of there. And yet, how did she do it so quickly? Where did she go?
The older girl approached the spot where her sister had been. From what the man could tell, the older girl with the deepening scowl had never actually witnessed that her younger sister had been standing there in the first place. Apparently the younger girl was able to vanish before her big sister caught sight of her. And anyway, the older girl was fixated on a shiny object that was lying on the ground. Abandoned.
Binny was triumphant and angry. She knew that Cassie had taken her mirror. It was the object Cassie stole the most from Binny’s room. And sure enough, there it was, lying in the middle of the sidewalk. Cassie had probably gotten sick of playing with it and just dropped it when she got bored, like a spoon half-emptied of its peanut butter. Anyone could have trampled it or just thrown it away. Or even, the thought horrified her, taken it as their own keepsake. Her sister’s carelessness was positively mind-boggling. Binny inspected the mirror – at least it wasn’t cracked and didn’t look too worse for wear. It was already quite old and not in perfect condition, so a tiny scratch here or there, as her mom said, was just part of its “character” at this point.
After that brief inspection, the mirror went into Binny’s pocket. Still angry, but satisfied that she’d recovered the stolen property, she now had more of Cassie’s crimes to document in her journal. Binny marched back up the hill and towards the house. The little mirror thief was still nowhere to be found. She’d deal with her later.
Rembrandt was quite satisfied with himself, having made it quite clear to the telephone pole who was in charge. The man, however, was not the least bit satisfied. His eyes were wide. His dog temporarily forgotten. Where was the little rock star? Kids don’t just disappear. People don’t just disappear. His mind was racing. The man was used to being able to explain things, and he couldn’t help thinking he’d made a terrible mistake in letting Rembrandt distract him.
When he’d been told to keep an eye on the children and look for any strange signs he never expected something quite like this. As a man of science, it was altogether too much to ask to believe that a seven-year-old girl had completely vanished before his eyes. There must be a tree behind which she had hidden, or a little alcove in the hill below the house into which she’d folded herself. There was no other explanation.
The man collected himself, still considering the possibilities, (could the little girl run that fast?). He slowly walked a few yards down hill to collect Rembrandt’s leash. For his part, Rembrandt was patiently waiting, panting, smiling, as if to say, “hey, where ya been?” The man bent down to collect the leash when something caught his attention.
Out of the corner of his eye the man saw a brief bright tangle of glowing silver light, and then in a flash, the light was gone. In its place, as if she’d been there all along, was the little girl. Without missing a beat, she was back to her routine. The man didn’t appreciate people who stood around with their mouths open but for the moment he’d become one of them. Usually articulate, even when only conversing silently with himself, the man was now completely without words.
Could he have witnessed some trick of the light? Could something shiny have reflected the sun into his eyes momentarily as the girl came out of her well-concealed hiding place? Could the light he saw be the result of a migraine headache coming on? Or maybe he was having a stroke? An aneurysm? None of these were comforting thoughts.
No number of possible explanations could change what the man already knew in his heart. The man had seen the little girl disappear and then reappear a minute later out of thin air. It should have been impossible. In the history of humanity, up until this very moment, disappearing has been permanently placed in the column marked “impossible”. And now, not.
This must be what he had been sent to observe. What could be “stranger” than this? The man tried again to persuade himself that he hadn’t seen what had so clearly happened before him, groping for another logical explanation. But none was forthcoming. He wasn’t getting a migraine, and he wasn’t having a stroke. But confronted with the truth of the situation, the man’s head had in fact started to hurt.