Saturday, October 29, 2011
Permanent Address - Short Story
Bill Johnson purchased the mirror at a resale shop in the Short North area of Columbus, Ohio. It had cardboard over the glass and plastic around the gilt edges, but the shop owner assured him the glass was in perfect shape. “Bring it back if you aren’t happy,” he said.
Bill was very particular about the furniture and accessories he bought for his apartment. He went for old and eclectic items, but everything had to be in very good shape. A physician by day, Bill wrote fiction at night and wanted to be surrounded by creative objects to inspire his prose.
Back at home, he turned the mirror over to adjust the hanger and noticed a list of names and addresses printed on a long strip of yellowed paper taped to the back. Next to each name was the date and location of the purchase. He knew the mirror was old, but was surprised to see the date of May 15, 1911 next to the first name. The mirror had done some traveling over the last hundred years. There were addresses from Paris, New York, Kentucky, Michigan and North Dakota along with a few from Ohio toward the bottom of the list. He decided he would do an internet search after dinner and see what he could dig up on the previous owners. He finished hanging the mirror in the entryway, but left the cardboard over the glass for the time being.
Later that evening, Bill poured himself a glass of red wine, turned on a bit of Mozart and began his search. The very first name was Francois Durand from Paris, France. Bill found an old newspaper article about a French aristocrat with the same name who died on May 15, 1911. Durand was found in his home and appeared to have died from natural causes. His estate was sold at auction and fetched a large sum for that time period. Bill thought it was strange that the date on the mirror matched the date of Durand’s death.
Moving down to the next name, he learned that a Carol Hempley had purchased the mirror on March 27, 1920 from an auction house in New York City. His Google search brought up an obituary for a Carol Hempley who apparently died on that same date. Bill began to feel a strange tingle up his spine. The first two had died on the same day they purchased the mirror.
Out of the remaining seven owners, Bill was able to find information on four and confirmed they had all died the day they purchased the mirror.
Feeling a bit dizzy, Bill picked up his wine and walked to his entryway. The mirror was still covered with cardboard. It was a particularly beautiful frame with an intricate weave of pewter and gold. So exquisite in its artistry – so profound to think of the miles it had traveled and the lives it had touched. Now he was the owner of this gorgeous mirror, yet he was mystified by the facts he had uncovered. He stared at the cardboard cover and decided there was nothing to lose. It was time to unveil the looking glass and meet his reflection. He carefully undid the tape and watched as each corner gave way. As the last corner released, the cardboard fell to the ground.
Bill looked straight ahead and saw his own reflection staring back at him. He felt such a profound sadness, as if the weight of eternity had descended on his spirit. He wanted to look away, but could not. He wanted to see something more, but could not. He wanted to feel peace and serenity, but could not. He was so disturbed by the impact of his reflection and the thought of all the souls who had viewed themselves in this same glass that he felt himself growing weary. He took the cardboard, lifted it back into place and carefully retaped each corner. He found a marker and wrote in bold letters – STORE IN A SAFE PLACE. DO NOT UNCOVER THE MIRROR. PLEASE HEED MY WORDS.
When Bill didn’t show up to work for two days, the office sent a coworker to check on him. She entered his apartment and found him lying on the floor in front of the mirror. He had been dead for two days.
When the auction house came to assess the items in his home, the young appraiser took a special interest in the mirror. Lifting it from the wall, he turned it over. On the back, at the bottom of a long yellowed piece of paper filled with names and addresses was the name: Bill Johnson – purchased on October 31, 2011, Short North Novelties, Columbus, Ohio. How strange, he thought.
The auction of Bill Johnson’s household items was held the following Friday. An Ohio State professor in the department of political science took home the lovely gilded mirror. She loved the gorgeous frame and looked forward to seeing the silvery surface of the mirror. Turning it over, she noticed all the names and addresses. How quaint, she thought. I'll add my name tonight.