North & South Short Short Story Competition 2019 – runner up ‘Magic Mirror’ by Michael Botur
It begins when you’re having a couple lunchtime drinks on the toilet, closed door of course, private delight, gulping stinging nips of depressant to weight your floating feet. Dilute the anxiety. Wash off the boss-bully. The panel of magic mirrors shows the confident you, the you with strong legs and a friend.
Coming out of the stall you bump into Gerard Chan from marketing and he’s clutching some dark drink in a Pump bottle and at first you’re both going to leave the bathroom without a word but you pause at the door. Being ashamed is pointless. Gerard Chan meets you for more drinks at 4.
It’s not just the kinship or the wince, the stinging liquid lip. It’s the magic mirror. In the glass dimension there’s a happy you.
Paul Govind, too, is in with a grin. Wobbling back to your desk to send off emails gets you noticed, there are murmurs, noses peering over the cubicle, but one drink with you in front of the magic mirror, people come around. It’s a confidence boost. You help your team carry out business with boldness. You tell the cleaning lady you love her.
Bottles on the hand dryers. Ice in the handbasins. Little umbrellas, straws, chips of ice melting on the tiles. The stock price soars and lurches. The boss occupies the disabled loo, puts her feet up on the rail on the door, leans back, tells you she’s always admired you. Your resourcefulness. How you find creative ways out of problems.
Someone bangs on the bathroom door.
You grip the mirror, blink, splash water on your face, swig and swallow, stash the bottle in the curl of pipes beneath the basin.
Listerine and Lynx. Fix your tie. Tiptoe back to work. Steady legs.