"Ch. 2" of "Mirrors"
Read Chapter 1 here
(The story really has no chapters. These are arbitrary chapters)
The ancient man had been a legend in this country. No one knew how old he was or where he came from. It was rumored that he had lived for at least a millennium, or even longer. The odd thing was that no one thought it particularly strange that he had lived so long. His specialty was mirrors. He could make every kind of mirror conceivable with the most beautiful and intricate wood designs. But there was something unique about his mirrors. They had a presence to them. When people looked into them they said their most beautiful attributes cloaked them like a garment. His mirrors enhanced the beauty of the looker. But even more so, there was a power that radiated from the mirrors that made the users of the mirrors younger and healthier. There was also another unusual feature about his mirrors. He had made mirrors for hundreds of years and none of them had ever been broken.
It was rumored that he once had a wife. She was the most beautiful woman that ever lived and her love and kindness were unmatched according to the legends. But the story goes that her great love and compassion for all forced her to an early death as she gave all that she had to sustain the lives of all who sought her help. Gratis did not remember her, but she was always with him. Her presence accompanied him. He always heard her voice and had had not a few conversations with her.
The mirror was complete, the wood fitted and polished and the glass imbued with the ancient man’s life-giving force. Gratis then took the mirror and set it in a prominent location in front of the store. It was their usual practice to make the mirrors on demand, but often, his father would make one or two for spontaneous buyers.
At that moment a couple walked in playfully, hand in hand, and giggling uncontrollably. Gratis eyed them suspiciously, he refused to make eye contact with them, hoping that they would leave. He was very discriminating as to whom he sold mirrors to. His father never placed any restrictions on the sale of his mirrors, but Gratis, on the other hand, was sensitive about giving the mirrors to people who were undeserving.
“Hi,” the lady blurted out and giggled some.
Gratis nodded at them, all the while avoiding eye contact, he pretended to be engaged in serious work behind the counter.
“Hi,” she giggled out again. “This is an unusual store, do you sell antiques?” She reached out and touched his hand.
He recoiled from her touch. It was the touch of an unholy person, not like that of his mother which radiated waves of peace.
“Do you sell chairs here?” She asked scanning the store.
“No we don’t ma’am,” Gratis replied in his most stern and unwelcoming voice. She must be drunk, he thought. She seemed unfocused. Her husband in the meantime was wandering the store touching everything. Gratis was losing patience just watching him. The mirror then caught the eye of the lady. “Oh my! Isn’t that beautiful?” She said walking towards it. Gratis panicked and was determined to stop her, there was no way he was going to permit these people to own one his father’s sacred mirrors. He stepped towards the woman to stop her from even looking at the mirror when a firm hand rested on his shoulder. It was his father.
In distress he looked over his shoulder to the aged man whom he loved dearly. The look told him all that he needed to know. He stepped back and let the lady inspect the mirror.
“Honey,” she yelled, piercing the sacred silence of the room, “look over here. It is a really cool mirror. I swear I look much better in it.”
“Not that you ever looked bad, sugar bear,” he winked as he flirted with his wife in the presence of the ancient man and his son. “Would you like it dear?”
“Hmmm . . . well . . . yes!”
“Sir,” the husband swiveled around to Gratis, “wrap that up for her to go.” He spoke with such disregard for the holy man and his son. It was as though he considered them his servants.
The ancient man nodded to his son to do as the guest had asked. Every fiber of Gratis’ being screamed in revulsion, but he couldn’t refuse his father any request. He picked up the mirror barely concealing his watery eyes as the tears welled up within him. He laid out a protective cloth and placed mirror flat on it. The tears flowed freely and splashed on the glass. He didn’t bother to wipe them.
“Thanks!” The lady giggled as she and her husband sauntered out with the precious mirror in hand.
Both Gratis and his father watched as the mirror left the store. Gratis was visibly shaken and drowned in uncontrollable sorrow, his father remained stoic, not revealing a hint of his interior state.
“I’m going to bed,” announced the father. Gratis turned around alarmed, his father had not slept in years. Every now and then, his father did actually sleep but then you could sense the moment coming. In this case there was no premonition that his father needed to sleep.
“Are you okay, father?” He asked hesitatingly.
His father cracked a faint smile, which was meant to be reassuring to his son, and then he walked to the rear of the store and then down to the basement where there was a bed. Gratis then heard the creaking sound of his father lying down on the bed.
Gratis, not sure what to do, lay in his bed across from his father and watched him sleep. The old man’s breathing was labored and his sleep fitful, Gratis cried softly until he fell asleep.
Copyright 2005 Ono Ekeh