Our father began saying “Ain’t,” but we didn’t feel trouble yet. He remained gainfully employed by the bank. He changed tires and caulked tubs. He spray-painted our family’s address on the new trash can so it couldn’t be stolen from the curb. These and other demonstrations of practical competence suggested a man well adjusted to America, but one day he came from Sister’s room and forbade mirrors. The next morning, in the downstairs bathroom, I found a small indentation where he had filled in the hanging-screw hole with plaster. Otherwise the wall had been left a blank of red paint.

Our mother kept her compact in her purse, so she did not feel much loss of freedom. She chalked the matter up to male-pattern weirdness. I said maybe he had confused the properties of metal and glass, so he was afraid the mirrors would rust.

“That ain’t the problem,” he said.

But Sister thought I’d cut a nerve. She snuck in my room after dark and told me what else to think. She said he’d hate seeing his reflection rusty with blight. She had hope in her voice. I nodded though I wasn’t sure. I had never been too sure.

When he left we didn’t hang any new mirrors out of something like respect for him. I grew even more confused and quiet. Words bubbled in me but I would have been embarrassed to say them aloud. They made even less sense on paper. So I became a haunter of the house in late nights. Up and down the halls I worried over new zits I could feel but not see because our mother wouldn’t let me borrow her compact, and the pissed but mirrored stalls of our school were many hours away. More than once I ended in Sister’s doorway, studying her light body under the silver moon and feeling wrong with God but needing to see.

Another day got ruined when a girl called me the ocean because my face was full of white caps. “Heads,” I said. “Whiteheads.” But she did not relent. No one relented ever. That night I crawled in beside Sister and unbuttoned her shirt. She smiled. The world turned warmer and worse. The whitehead above my left eye hurt till it popped on her pillow. I didn’t miss him so much no more.

Marcus Pactor

Marcus Pactor

Marcus Pactor is the author of Vs. Death Noises, which won the 2011 Subito Press Prize for Fiction. His work has recently appeared in Juked, Yalobusha Review, and Literary Orphans. He lives and works in Jacksonville, Florida.
Marcus Pactor

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