Her name was Beatrice but everyone called her The Bee. Her skin was the blackest black I’d ever seen and every shirt she wore was yellow. Under normal circumstances I never would have talked to her, but our teacher had put us together for the Civil War paper. This story isn’t about the paper though, it’s about The Bee and the Mud Mirror she showed me, and how together they changed my life forever.
“Okay, so the Civil War began on April 12, 1861 and ended on May 26, 1865 and that’s all I know.”
“That’s it? That’s all you know?” She gave me this look when she said it like ‘whatever’.
“Not much into history.”
“How can you not be into history?”
I shrugged. “Because it’s boring.”
“In what way?” she exasperated.
“What do I care about a bunch of dead people? Can’t even relate to the living, why would I even begin to try with the dead?”
“Maybe you can’t relate to the living because you haven’t related to the dead.”
“How on earth do you think the dead are going to help with that?”
“Exactly,” she exclaimed.
I put my head down and rolled my eyes.
“Earth,” she said, “dirt. It’s what we’re all made from.”
“Some more than others,” I quipped under my breath, using my breath – I hadn’t meant to say it out loud.
“And it’s where we’re all going,” she stated bluntly. “All.”
She slapped History shut and stood. “Look, I’m sorry – I didn’t mean it that way.”
“Then how did you mean it?”
She was angry.
“I’m sorry. It was a super stupid thing to say I just…”
I had nothing. “Nothing... I just nothing. I’m really sorry K?”
“You know what you need?” she asked me.
I leaned back. “What?”
“You need a Mud Mirror.”
“A Mud Mirror. They’re from Africa, where my family comes from. I’ll bring you one tomorrow. If you really are sorry you’ll meet me out back during lunch. Up to you.” Then she was gone, through double glass doors past the ‘Keep Silence Please’ sign and down the hallway before I could form a reply.
“Sit down,” she motioned to a space on the stairs. “Hold this.”
She passed me a chuck of broken glass, sharp edged and slightly scuffed. “Where’d you get this?”
“My Dad does windows. That’s a piece of a window. You know how they say eyes are the window to the soul?”
“You know the first mirrors were just windows with silver painted on one side?”
“I think so.”
“Well, this is a Mud Mirror. Consider it the best chance you’ll ever get to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. Here – give it to me.”
I passed her the glass and she placed it on newspaper she’d set down between us along with a small wooden bowl and matching spoon, bottled water, and a jar of dirt.
“This is Africa dirt; I brought it back with me when my parents took me there last Christmas.”
She dumped a spoonful of dirt in the bowl, added water, and then stirred the wet dirt into mud. I watched her as she put a glob of mud on the glass and swirled it around until the entire surface of the glass was covered save for two ovals placed just like eyes.
“That’s a mask,” I told her as she placed it in the sun.
So I waited. We didn’t talk, just sat there together watching mud harden.
“Okay, take a look. "She gingerly picked up the glass and flipped it. “Hold it here,” she instructed, putting it 5 inches from my face.
I looked and saw the world through glass eyes, but before the world a reflected face, my face – the color of mud.
"Let me tell you about the Maker of Mud," she said.
In Africa I teach the children of dirt and Adam and original sin – and beside the fire I weave a tale of talking Bees and Mud Mirrors and God come down as Jesus, the Creator and Savior of us… all.
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