Everything But Backwards


Ellery tugged my sleeve as we walked through the park on that last golden day of autumn.

“Daddy, why is that man all alone?”

He was five then, full of questions. If I didn’t answer quickly I knew he would race over and ask the  man himself. That was Ellery in a nutshell. Impulsive to the last.

“He’s not alone, son. He has the birds.”

“But he looks so lonely. And old.”

Before I could answer, Ellery was running full trot, jolting to a halt in front of the  bench where the old man sat with a small paper bag perched in his hand. From time to time he reached in and scattered a few seeds, quickly pecked up by the burbling pigeons. He looked up at Ellery.

“What do you see, boy?”

“Birds. Two of them look just alike.”

The man nodded. “They are mirrors. You have seen a mirror, boy?”

“Of course.”

“What does your mirror tell you, then?”

Ellery stuck out his lip, the way he always did when thinking hard. “Everything, but backwards.”

The man smiled, his gums the color of old sneakers. “Yes, that is right. But when you have two mirrors, then the world is put right again.”  He handed Ellery the bag of seeds, got up with some difficulty. “You try it yourself. Two mirrors.”

Ellery, eyes wide, said nothing.



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