Mirror Mirror

by Dan O'Day McClellan on July 15, 2013

in ME AND..., SHALL WE?

“I can see you now in that mirror and if you’re not careful I’ll pop right through it.” Letter from author John Fante, while in Rome working on a screenplay, to his wife, Joyce – 1960

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Mirrors are wonderful devices. Do I look okay? Are my nose hairs too long? Is there something in my teeth? Am I putting on weight? Can I get my hair to do what I want it to do? Is that a big pimple? Damn, I look good. A way to reflect while looking at a reflection.

Recently, my wife and I moved into a new apartment, and besides the bathroom mirror, which every home has, the apartment had no other looking-glass in it. So, we needed another mirror. I stopped at a couple of yard sales one weekend, but the mirrors I found didn’t seem right for our new place.

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Maybe it was best if we just bought a new mirror, I reasoned, but then I remembered that there was another mirror that might do the trick.

I used to live in an unusual block of apartments, in Burbank off Hollywood Way, “bachelor apartments” they call them, that had been built back in 1950’s for the influx of workers coming to California for the entertainment industry. There were six apartments, all with old Murphy beds that folded back up into the walls. Beside the apartments was a small house where my landlord, Mr. Fetty, lived. I remembered that there was a very large mirror hanging on Mr. Fetty’s bedroom door. It was old and sturdy, chipped in one corner, but all in all probably just about right for our new place, 6 feet tall, 2 feet wide.

I mentioned to my wife that I was going to grab this mirror, but she wasn’t too keen on the idea. “Really? I don’t know?” she said, frowning. “I think I would be scared that I might see Mr Fetty in it.” I laughed and assured her that this wasn’t going to happen. I told her not to worry.

Mr Fetty, died when he was 95. I got to know him really well during the last five years of his life. I had coffee with him most mornings, and I would listen as he recounted stories from his life, stories about him and his wife when they were younger, and how she died when she was only in her 50’s. I learned a lot from him. He was more than my landlord, he was also my friend. In some ways, I thought of him as a grandfatherly figure, I suppose. He was very fond of my wife, since she would often help him bandage his head whenever he bumped it into the low branches of the lemon tree in the backyard, which he seemed to do about once a week, as his eyesight got progressively worse and worse. And I’ll say this, Mr. Fetty always kept the rent low, and we appreciated that.

When he passed away, we had to move, which is why we now needed a mirror in our new, much more expensive place. When Mr. Fetty died, he left the apartment complex to a charity. I helped the executors pack things up. There was a lot to pack for sure, the accumulated items of a lifetime. I felt like it was the least I could do for Mr. Fetty, who had always been kind and generous to me. In exchange for my efforts, the executors gave me permission to take anything that I wanted that was still left after they had liquidated what they could. So far I hadn’t taken them up on their offer, but now I needed a mirror, and the apartments were just sitting there empty, as the charity figured out what to do next with the property, and I still had a key.

As I drove to my old apartment to get the mirror, I wondered if maybe my wife wasn’t right. The mirror had reflected Mr. Fetty dying on the floor in his bedroom, the paramedics trying to save him, giving him CPR but with no luck. Mr. Fetty had looked into that mirror every day for who knows how many years. Maybe some part of him had imprinted upon it. Does energy stay with an object, and in this case, an object that reflects whatever it sees?

Who knew what else, besides Mr. Fetty, the mirror had seen? I remember Mr. Fetty saying that it was really old, and that he was not the first owner of it. He had bought it from somebody else, but I couldn’t exactly remember the details. In the movies, mirrors have been used as portals to another time, or another dimension, seeing into the past, or maybe even the future. My mind filled with possibilities. Maybe, it was in the dressing room at an old theatre or early television show set? In a hotel room watching a rock star’s orgy, or a married couples wedding night? Maybe, Marilyn Monroe had looked into it while putting on her lipstick. Who knows?

I wasn’t worried about seeing Mr Fetty. I’d jump back a bit, and then ask him how he was doing, or what was going on inside that mirror, or wherever he was. We always got along in life, so why not in death?

I unscrewed the mirror from the back of Mr. Fetty’s door and brought it over to the new place. Seeing it, my wife decided that I had been correct. It was a good mirror, but she didn’t want it in our bedroom, though. It made her uncomfortable. We ended up putting the mirror in my office, where she uses it every day.

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One night soon after a few glasses of wine and waking up on the couch, I turned off the TV and went to my office to shut down my computer. As I passed the mirror, I saw something out of the corner of my eye. Was that a ghostly apparition? Or was I just drunk? I don’t know. I glanced again and smiled at myself.

I did dream about Mr Fetty that night, sipping coffee with him in his kitchen. In the dream, he asked how the mirror was and let me know that he was glad I took it. He didn’t mention peaking in on us, but somehow I got the feeling he had.

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Dan O'Day McClellan (Contributing Editor, Los Angeles)

Pennsylvania native Dan O'Day McClellan is a seasoned actor, writer, comedian, voice over artist and producer. Dan is the founding member of Los Angeles improv comedy troupe, The Omelettes. Dan's ongoing film making/producing work with Pete Galaxie Productions includes the award-winning short film, The Silence of Bees, along with the short films, Just Out of Reach, Reality of the Situation and The Afikomen. Dan's 1st Novel, Lognotes of a Wino, is due out in fall of 2015.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

H Ronald McClellan July 17, 2013 at 11:04 pm

Great story about a man who had a large influence on your life.

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