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TOE Short Story :: The Compact – Ch 3


by Michael Davidson

Chapter Three

On the outside, it was just a green case, plastic. However, when opened, a brush to apply rouge sat snug on the bottom, mirror on top. The rouge, above the brush, was packed tightly, worn all the way to a silver surface in the center from use. As for the mirror, wasn’t scratched. Mom had taken care of her compact, immediately erasing any smudges with a tissue and keeping it in her purse, out of harm’s way. I had seen her looking into it quite regularly, checking her cheeks and blotting her lips before we left the apartment or the car, after she exited a public bathroom.

On that day many years ago I didn’t look into my reflection above the sink, but I did look into the mirror on mom’s compact. Devin was there. He’s always in mirrors.

When I heard the front door open, I tucked my findings into my pocket, away from dad to take, now my only parent. Went into my room and closed the door. Dad was on his cell. I couldn’t hear what he was saying because he spoke in whispers. Normally he converses with the volume on high. Neighbors have complained.

I remember sitting in my room on that day many years ago, lost. I opened mom’s compact, looked into the mirror, at my reflection inside the square, and saw Devin. The afternoon sunlight came in through my window and refracted into Devin’s brown eyes, illuminating the planes on his face, lifting the curtain to show his eyes burning, luminous. It was the first time I had seen Devin’s eyes in this state, two embers. Since then I’ve come to adore and respect them when they contract this quality.

Dad whispered some more, I could barely discern an I-love-you-too before a goodbye. He wasn’t talking with mom. Mom was gone.

I gritted my teeth, feeling something fierce on par with hatred. Aware of my next move, I snapped mom’s compact shut, put it in my pocket, and listened to the enemy conduct his after-work routine. Refrigerator opening closing. Beer cap removed. Glugging. Sound of empty bottle hitting counter.

Dad walked into his room, ignored my door, and burped. After pissing, he found her note on the bathroom floor, where I had left it on purpose after looking into mom’s compact. Although he read it to himself, I could hear his voice reciting mom’s words as his eyes scanned from left to right. The last part, the part about loving me, about me meaning the world to her, he skipped. He crumbled the paper, threw it away. Later burning her note after finding it underneath his pillow.

I had recovered it in the trash can and put it there. A reminder of his adulterous ways.

The next night, his twenty-year-old girlfriend at the time found the same note underneath her pillow when she slept over in spite of the flames dad had subjected it to.

Devin told me to make copies, still too young to do worse. But, for a boy my age, his design was wicked enough, a heap more wicked than the small-time pranks he had me execute in the past, because there were consequences now, and those burning eyes.

When I heard them arguing that night, when I heard this silly redhead, a student of his, they were always his students, accuse him of missing his wife, of lying about how little she meant to him, exclaiming, Why else would you keep her note under your pillow, you bastard, I was in my room relishing the moment, a kind of vindication for me and mom. Maybe this was why I had her compact open: to let her partake in our victory. But it wasn’t mom I saw framed above the brush and rouge. It was he who lives in mirrors, Devin, my little devil.

June 10, 2009 2:02 am

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