Wednesday, July 5, 2023

“The Finder of Lost Things” • by Karin Terebessy


Through the distorted wide lens of the peephole, the man on Miriam’s porch looked even more pitiful than he probably was. Wearing a vented straw raffia hat, with sweat stains visibly seeping through his cheap blue suit, he slouched against the porch railing, breathing heavily through his mouth.

Miriam tore the door open, “Let’s have it. What are you selling?”

He pushed himself upright,  “Not selling. Finding.”

His weak and paunchy stomach contributed to a rounded back and stooped shoulders, even when he stood at his full height. Miriam didn’t know how old he was. Ever since she turned seventy everyone fell into one of two age categories: too young to actually be legally driving or indeterminate.

“Not interested,” she began to close the door on him.

“Hey,” he reached out, but stopped short of actual physical contact, “Where’s your sense of adventure? Your curiosity?”

Her sour mouth scowled.

“Wait!” He held up his hands, disarmingly, “Miriam, I’m the Finder of Lost Things.”

“Ah nuts,” she spit, but she knew instantly and completely that it was true. “All right, in with you then.” She shuffled back into her dark house and before he was even through the door, she grimaced over her shoulder, “Hurry up and shut the door. Letting the cool out and the flies in…”

Arms crossed over her chest, braless under her housecoat, she tapped her slippered foot impatiently. “So let’s have it then?”

“Have what?”

“The lost thing?” She held out her palm.

He fanned himself with his hat and raked his fingers through his thinning hair. “Don’t want to invite me to sit down? Offer me a glass of water? Where’s your sense of propriety?”

“Propriety!” She snorted, “Have you looked at the world lately?”

“Some people are still kind,” he offered.

Miriam rolled her eyes, “If they want something.”

When it was clear he wouldn’t budge, she wheezed, “All right, have a seat then,” and reached into the cupboard grabbing an old glass—the kind fast food restaurants used to give away in the eighties—filled it with tap water and slapped it in front of him, a little water sloshing over the rim.

He fixed the pad on the kitchen chair and sat down. Miriam remained standing.

“You think people are nice—yes, thank you,” and he took a long drink, then continued, “you think people are only nice when they want something?”

“Talk to my daughters sometime—”

“I have.”

“What’s that?”

“Unimportant. Go on. Your daughters,” he prompted.

She huffed a humorless laugh, “The one who lives in town only talks to me when she wants me to watch that kid of hers. And the other one,” Miriam swatted the air like flies encircled her, “she doesn’t talk to me at all. I haven’t even seen her kids in a year.”

“You ever pick up the phone?”

“They don’t talk on the phone. It’s all text text text.”

“Have them over then?”

“I just told you, the one only wants to come over when she needs something and the other doesn’t want to come over at all.”

“You could go to them. You remember what it was like to be a young mother. Where’s your compassion?”

“What is this, some therapy session? Let’s get on with it.”

“Get on with it…?”

“The lost thing,” she said, “I’ve got a list…”

Miriam rifled through her kitchen junk drawer, returning with a notepad. She slapped it on the place mat in front of him and sat down hard.

“Oh,” he said, “you actually have a list. Most people use that term metaphorically…” He started patting down his pockets. “Now where are my glasses…”

She tapped forcefully on it. “My mother’s diamond earrings, the one nice bracelet from my deadbeat husband, that scratch-off ticket—I was going to win ten dollars…”

“Let’s see, yes,” he slipped on his glasses and studied the list. “Hm, I notice your mother’s Seder plate isn’t on here,” he muttered.

Miriam squinted, “Why would I want that?”

“Ba ba ba,” he absent-mindedly made breathy noises as he scanned the list, “and the birthday card from your granddaughter?”

Miriam felt a ping in her heart.

He gazed thoughtfully at her, over the top of his reading glasses. “You know the one I’m talking about, Miriam? It had a drawing she did of the two of you that day you bought her ice cream.”

Her heart pinged again. She didn’t like this. She opened her mouth to protest but he was faster.

“She really liked that you ran after that ice cream truck in your slippers. She wrote about it in her, ‘what I did over the weekend’ essay the following Monday.”

Miriam screwed up her lips. “Nonsense,” she said bitterly. Her heart felt like raw sewage and it was giving her indigestion. “She’s another one, that one. Never picks up the phone. She’s not attentive, only cares about herself.”

He took off his glasses, “Where’d your perspective go Miriam? She’s a teenager. That’s how teenagers are. Doesn’t mean she doesn’t l—”

Miriam had had enough. She stood abruptly from the table and glared at the Finder of Lost Things. “I’ve been calling you for decades and when you finally show up, you lecture me in my own house? Enough, get on with. Give me what I lost and get out!”

He sighed but smiled sympathetically. Without another word, he pulled a small velvet cinch bag from his inner coat pocket and handed it over. He saw himself out as she struggled with the drawstring. There was something inside, small, wrapped in another cloth. A corner of the item stuck out and it glinted and sparkled in the light and Miriam’s heart pounded as she allowed herself to hope it was something truly valuable.

But when she finished unwrapping it, it was merely a mirror.

And all she saw was herself.


Karin Terebessy likes to write speculative flash fiction stories. Her work has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Stupefying Stories, Flash Fiction Magazine, Sci-Phi Journal, and other ‘zines. She is currently attempting to write a novel based on her short story “Mood Skin” which appeared in Stupefying Stories in 2016.

Her previous appearances in our pages include “The Memory of Worms,” in the now out-of-print Stupefying Stories #16, as well as:

“Mood Skin”
Drug companies marketed Neuro-Dermo Spectral Emotive Response as a breakthrough in effective parenting. Administered while still in utero, babies emerged able to express their feelings in a brilliant hue of colors. The effect was guaranteed to disappear by age 7. In a few rare cases, some children developed vitiligo.

In an even rarer side effect, some children never outgrew their mood skin at all… 


“The Real Reason Why Mrs. Sprague Came by Her House So Cheaply”
On the doorstep, a white-haired man in a three-piece suit ballooned up his chest. “I come from the past,” he proclaimed.
   “Who doesn’t?” Mrs. Sprague snipped.
   “But I’ve just traveled through time!” he said quickly.
   Mrs. Sprague shrugged. “Me too. I’m doing it right now. And now. And now. Good day—”



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Please don’t make me escalate to posting pictures of sad kittens and puppies…  


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Pete Wood said...

This story is 20% plot and character and 80% atmosphere. Which is fine by me. Evoked memories of Faulkner and Welty with its southern feel. Nicely done.

Karin Terebessy said...

Thanks for reading the piece and for your feedback, Pete.

Made in DNA said...

We all need to find those lost mirrors.

Karin Terebessy said...


Maryann said...

Awww, I am hopeful for Miriam. So sad to be lonely and bitter.

Karin Terebessy said...

We’ve all been Miriam at some point in our lives, losing perspective. But where there’s humanity there’s hope. I feel good about Miriam’s chances 😊