Venus with a Mirror

Venus with a Mirror (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She moves to the mirror.  In the gray light of the room her reflection smears.  She studies her profile turning her head to the right and the left.  Her humming ends with an air of disapproval.  Looking not into the eyes she spits onto the glass and rubs earnestly with her dust cloth to remove the streaks.  The cat walks underneath her work his tail curling up to flick an arm already tiring in its circling ministrations.  He turns his head to look at himself back arched.

“You’re not making this easy.”

The cat passes in front of the mirror his ears twitching.

“You’re just like him ain’t ya?  A man needing approval.  Thing is you make it depend on a woman’s work.  Well you ain’t getting it from me.  I ain’t your momma…  You ever feel rage?  I ‘spose not beings you’re a feline.  A slave morality ain’t in your nature.  But I figure he must have felt it—rage—the most potent that of injustice.  You ain’t sure what you’re mad at and that just makes it worse…  He was an educated man—Oliver was—I used to told him that’s just words.  Don’t take no genius to sit and be taught what’s out of books.  More like money and good fortune what’s feeds minds and make them think how they know what.  He used to rag me ‘bout my folks my sister and brothers my cousins how none of them contributed nothin’ how they just got by like hard work has anything to do with intelligence like society advances no ways—hah!  Now divorced he works for my old man and him without a lick of schoolin’ past the eighth grade…  Yes, rage.  Don’t take a smart man to know that power don’t come from what you know but in how you die all those little things you give up those words we call them by how livin’ them is short but once they’re dead they stay dead a long time but you remember every slight the memory of words which say your salvation once was in my love but you are also in my hate in the fact that when I die I will not call out to you to remember me to say This I loved about you and the imperfections which are many…  Yes I know his desire and his pain his once was that now is but an open sore and to be free to heal one must say that was but what now is is not as great as the prejudice of Love how I can say I loved you once but now I love another and that love and your love cannot be contained but in fact fills whatever it finds itself in… and I am and you are and he is and what contains us we will never know the outer perimeters.  For the past cannot hold us.  The past is what we are now and that will change with tomorrow and what’s wrong with him that wasn’t right for me might be right for someone else so that good friends don’t have to be lost they just find different pasts for themselves different words…  Damn if this mirror don’t want to stay clean.  Like somebody sneezed on it.”

The winter had come early and now the rains came to melt last week’s snow.  Peggy moves to the window and draws the shade letting the morning gloom of light overcast in a gray mist give the pinkish hue of the upholstered Victorian furniture a look of something sad and old.  The cat still sits perched on the corner of the bureau.  He’s licking his paws.  A calico his fur is a mixture of black and orange and his eyes are yellow.  If he’s been listening to Peggy at all he doesn’t give the assurance that her words will bring her good luck or fortune.  He stares up into the mirror at the reflection of the painting on the opposite wall.  It rests above the embossed black horn of the phonograph—a rendering done in acrylic.  One of Charlie’s men had done it at his request.  When Charlie Birger asked you to do something you did it.  As a hired gun he was familiar with coal and had only dabbled in paint.  But then as to some educated men like the slighted Oliver it was not who made the painting which made it art rather those who regarded the painting calling it such—it was the process the work which mattered—and to Charlie Birger though the rendering was not original he liked it on his wall and let his wife have her matter of taste in the rest of the furnishings.  As for the brass knuckles resting on his bureau and the blood dried on it—well, some work is never finished—the words just die.  Peggy pays no mind to it now and continues with her cleaning.  She hums a new song.  The cat’s ears twitch in a faint acknowledgement and then as if to sleep was to be awake in order to really hear the story his eyes slowly close to the wordless sound.