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Monday, January 13, 2014

The Mirror Man. By John von Daler

                        Thousands of people met the Mirror Man every day in #Tivoli. He stood in front of the #Pantomime Theater and rented out mostly to small children his long boxes with mirrors at each end. With these periscopes they could see #Pjerrot, #Harlequin and #Cassander over the heads, hats and coats of the grown-ups in front of them.

                He would stand by the pathway in his cover-alls whispering earnestly about the wonderful attributes of his invention.
                One mirror looks all wrong. Two will help you get along. See like the birds! Hear my words! Periscopes here: 25 øre!
                Every day when the last pantomime show finished and the giant peacock had unfolded its feathers, he would lock his periscopes in a storage room beneath the ticket office and go home. He never stayed to watch the fireworks or hear the orchestras, but instead wandered quietly out of the side entrance of the park, crossed the street to the train station and took the subway to his little room on the street floor of a large apartment complex in Frederiksberg.
                Nobody really noticed the little man without his mirrors. Nobody ever wondered where or how he lived.  Nobody ever heard what he thought about anything, possibly with the exception of the matronly old ladies who populated this part of town. When they met the Mirror Man on the street they would exchange remarks about how badly everything was going, be it the weather, the government, the busses, or young people. The Mirror Man had learned to repeat the words he heard - and this made him acceptable, perhaps even popular with these proud women.
                At home he had neither books nor television nor radio to wile away the days before he left for Tivoli. He did have a street mirror though.
                Perhaps you are not familiar with street mirrors. This very proper fixture had been attached to the windows of many an apartment in Denmark since about 1800. From a comfortable arm chair the person inside could watch through multiple mirrors the goings and comings on the street. They were predecessors of modern day reality television, with the qualification that street mirrors could not be edited nor censored nor enhanced. What one saw was what was happening.
                The street floor inhabitants sat knitting, or in the case of the Mirror Man, repairing small mechanical flaws on his periscopes, while they watched the traffic on the street.  
                This suited him well. He often thought to himself that mirrors could only tell you the truth. One mirror could show you the opposite of the way things were, and two, a wrong and a right, could show you precisely what was happening in front of you. This was the way his periscopes were constructed, and this was the way he watched the streets, through mirrors made by himself, reality twice reflected. He had often thought that if the evil queen in Snow White only had looked at herself in one of his two-mirrored constructions, she never would have made such a grave mistake as to believe her own beauty to be greater than that of Snow White. I should never have read that tale, he thought. I should have written it!
                One day the mirror man took his ladder out of the closet, opened his front door, and went out on the street. He put the ladder up by his window, climbed up one step and unscrewed the street mirror with a screwdriver he took from his pocket. Putting the contraption under his arm he went back to his apartment and put the ladder and the mirror into the closet and closed the door. Then he pulled shut the curtains in the parlor and turned on the lights.
                He still could see the alarmed face of the delivery boy who had stumbled on the sidewalk as he had carried a case of beer towards the entrance of the building. It had not been a bad accident, just a slight swerve, a hitch in movement. The boy's red, messy hair, and astonished blue eyes had appeared for a moment right up at the mirror, larger than life, abrubtly peering in at the Mirror Man. The boy might as well have been some evil genie popping up in the distraught and disturbed prose of a fairy tale, flopping around in the story like some monster fish caught in a net aboard a small fishing boat in an all too billowing sea.
                So there! said the Mirror Man under his breath as he sat down in his armchair. But he was panting uncontrollably.

My book, Pieces: A Life in Eight Movements and a Prelude (WiDo Publishing) is now available. Order through, the publisher or your local bookstore. Click to buy Pieces here. Please feel free to write a short review of the book in your own language at or GoodReads. Thanks for your support!

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