If Those Shoes Could Talk – Chapter Six

Oh shit.  I had been caught.  His question was echoing in my ears…”what you got there?”  I was panic-stricken.  I had lost all feeling in my legs and I wasn’t even sure I remembered my name.

Staring straight into the sun that blotted out everything but the outline of his body, I finally blurted out, “nowhere.”

This was it.  I had met my fate.  My life was flashing before my eyes.  I was going to be drawn and quartered, or hung from a meat-hook and have my skin slowly peeled off to make a dress for some crazed maniac.  They were going to cut out my heart with a chainsaw for some ritualistic voodoo ceremony, and my eyes would be transplanted into the last victim because theirs had been eaten.  Somehow, prison and my new best friend Helga were looking pretty good.

I was frozen with fear and felt as though I would faint but somehow, I managed to stay on my feet.  I was once again, cursing my evil twin and begging forgiveness from my good twin, but here I stood, waiting for the final judgement to be rendered.  Maybe I could show him my boobs and he would let me go, or I could escape while the was looking at them with lustful eyes that hadn’t yet been eaten.

Still being able to see nothing more than a shadowy outline against the bright sun, the stranger again spoke.  “I’m the caretaker here,” he said.  “I come around now and then to see if anything is amiss…kind of like finding someone creeping around, holding some bags.”

I immediately decided to turn into the innocent damsel in distress and said, “I have driven past this house for years and I finally decided to…to…(I held my head down in remorse, whether genuine or pretend)…well, to trespass, I guess.

I displayed the proper amount of regret and said, “I’ll put them back, if you want.”

He said, “again, what you got there?”  He laughed and said, “and don’t say ‘nowhere’.”

I said, “I found all these shoes and I just thought they needed to be rescued.”  I didn’t tell him that it was my evil twin who had made the suggestion.  I went on to say, “I think things tell stories, don’t you?”  I was clearly flirting with him while simultaneously plotting my escape.

He said, “you found them in that little building?”  When I said “yes,” he said, “I always wondered what was in there but I didn’t feel like it was my place to look.”  Hmm.  He had just more or less told me that he hadn’t looked because it was none of his business, just like it was none of mine.

My flirting hadn’t worked and I watched to see if he pulled a phone out of his pocket…or worse, a badge and a gun and a pair of handcuffs.

Instead he said, “well, the folks who owned this land have all died and it belongs to the city now.  I don’t think anyone will mind if you take a few shoes.

He looked up and around as if surveying the area and said, “you know, there’s a rumor that this little building is haunted.  They say a little girl with a crutch has been seen trying to open the door.”

That was enough for me.  Whether or not I had made a quiet promise to never come back, it was clear that if I made it home alive, my corrupt days were over and my evil twin could just shut her stupid mouth.

Once again he spoke.  “I don’t expect to see you around here again.”  I looked at him, while walking sideways as if expecting him to accost me at any second and said, “no sir.  You will not see me here again.”

Was he kidding?  Come back to a place that was haunted?  I was curious but I wasn’t stupid.  I wasn’t sure I believed in ghosts but I was sure that I was afraid of them.

I ran back to my car with my life and my shoes and made a quick get-a-way.  I had been reformed and hoped that my good twin would be proud.

If there was one positive thing that came out of actually being caught red-handed, it was that now I didn’t have to worry about explaining where the shoes came from.  I could say, “they came from the haunted little building.”

I hauled my latest treasures into the house and sat them down on the kitchen table.  One of the first shoes i took out, was a little cowboy boot that looked as if it might have been worn by a child of ten or eleven. Unlike most of the shoes, the sole was on and the heel was intact.  The boot was in remarkably preserved shape, filled with mud and the heel had holes in it with tiny little rocks inside the holes, that rattled when I shook the boot.  I cleaned the little boot and scooped out all the mud and sat it on the shelf with all its “friends.”

I let out a squeal of delight as I took out the next one.  It had to have been from a century ago.  It was a small high-top shoe with a scalloped side closure and tiny little buttons, some holding on by a bare thread.  I cleaned it and thought the almost wine color was interesting, but was puzzled because the whole shoe had not taken the dye properly, or so it looked.

Like the boot, the sole and the heel were still intact, so I began to scoop out the dirt from the inside.  The red clay didn’t crumble and turn into dust like it had with the others, so I decided to coax the buttons out of their hand-stitched holes and carefully open the shoe.

I gasped and stepped back when I opened the little shoe.

Inside…was a foot.

 

To be continued______________________________

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If Those Shoes Could Talk – Chapter Five

When I took the last shoe from the bag, my kitchen was full of red clay dust.  As I looked at the pitiful lot of old, worn, fragile shoes I wondered what I was going to do with them.

I don’t think I had ever heard of someone who collected shoes.  What would they be called?  A “shoemismatic?”  I was sure my prizes would never equal Imelda Marcos’ collection, but all her shoes really said were, “we once belonged to a very rich woman.”

My shoes surely had better stories.

I decided to clear a bookshelf of once admired and now defunct treasures to make room for my new stash.  They would have their place of prominence where anyone who visited could gawk in admiration.  But, if I was asked where I got them, what would I say?  Would I admit that I had pilfered a deserted little building?  If I did, would the police be knocking at my door?  Decisions, decisions.

The next question I asked myself was…am I going to go back for more? Did I dare?  I had escaped incarceration and I didn’t want to press my luck, but after a cup of fresh coffee, I decided that I would put on my big girl panties and yep…go back.  I would wait until the next day and I would make it quick.  Go back, dig for shoes, put in bag, make sure coast was clear, get out of Dodge.  That sounded like a plan.

I was excited and I knew I wouldn’t sleep a wink, but not because I intended to once again break the law.  I found it amusing and somewhat scary that it had taken so little and had been so easy for me to become nothing but a common criminal.

My daddy would have worn my fanny out if he knew what I had done and was going to do again…but he wasn’t here and he wouldn’t know…unless I had to call him to bail me out of jail.  He wouldn’t do that of course.  He would say something like “it serves you right…stealing shoes. What’s the matter with you?”

My evil twin tapped me on the shoulder once again and said, “you know, you’re not really stealing.  It’s more like you’re rescuing!”  I was glad I didn’t send her to Hell like I wanted to do before and wholeheartedly agreed.  I needed that validation.

The next day I got up with a renewed sense of adventure.  I drove to the old house, parked up the street and again, stealthy crept into the back yard and opened the door to the little building.  I started pulling out shoes with the same vigor that was present when I was scarfing down black-eyed peas and cornbread.  One after the other, they went into my bag.

The more I pulled out, the more excited I got.  My evil twin was right.  I was much more comfortable thinking that I was rescuing those shoes from their mud-packed grave, even though my good twin was singing in mocking fashion, “You’re…going…to…Hell…You’re…going…to…Hell.”

I was letting my evil twin out yell my good twin and decided that I would beg for forgiveness later.  Seems like I had heard something about it being better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission.  More validation for my villainous ways.

I finally decided that this would be the last time I flagrantly stole something, but I smugly thought, “this was so easy.”  I momentarily found myself wishing that I had stumbled on a Fabergé egg graveyard.  I would have been rich beyond the dreams of avarice.

Obviously I had already forgotten the panic and visions of handcuffs and prisons when I heard the sirens just the day before.

I gathered up my bags, closed the door to the little building and said a sad, final “farewell.”  Bags in hand and head down, so as not to trip over any hidden tree stumps and fall face first into my shoes, I was startled when I heard a gruff, “what you got there?”

 

 

To be continued____________________________

 

 

 

 

 

If Those Shoes Could Talk – Chapter Four

Feeling like I had escaped the long arm of the law and potential arrest, I was safe within the confines of my house.  I began to carefully remove the shoes from the bags, but only after I had pulled down all the shades, should prying eyes question the acquisition of my absconded goodies.

The first shoe that saw freedom was what looked like an old Wingtip from the 1900’s.  I carefully wiped as much of the red clay off as I could and held it up to my foot.  It wasn’t a very big shoe but I knew that in the good ole days, people were much shorter and their feet were much smaller.

The shoestring had rotted away, most of the eyelets were missing and the sole had come off.  The heel was badly worn on the right side and looked as if the owner had walked on the outside of their feet.

The next was a little Mary Jane style shoe, with a rusted buckle.  I could imagine what the little girl looked like, dressed in maybe her Easter dress and those little Mary Jane shoes, or shoe.

As I went through the bags, it occurred to me that there wasn’t a single pair among them.  True, I hadn’t uncovered them all by any means, but you would think that I would have found at least one pair.

Did the whole family only have one foot?  Was it customary to save at least one shoe for old times’ sake?  I had heard that in some countries, a shoe was put out for Santa Clause instead of a stocking.  Maybe Santa Clause took the shoes in trade for candy, and the other ones, now being no good, were thrown into the little building.

I was excited when I took out the others.  In one shoe, was a newspaper clipping.  It had a picture of the very shoe it was in, and touted that the shoe “was worn by the likes of the Prince of Wales.”  I was almost certain that the Prince of Wales had not visited our little town and left one of his shoes for posterity, but then again, who knows?  One of our daughters married the Prince of Monaco.  I don’t know if he left one of his shoes, though.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I feasted on a black and white Saddle Oxford!  I remembered those from my days as a teeny-bopper.  Oh, boy. Did we look cool, wearing our poodle-dog skirts and Saddle Oxfords.  The high school cheerleaders wore them with their outfits on game day.  It was crushed and only half of the string remained, but to me it was a wonderful, nostalgic find.

The next delight was a Red Wing boot.  It still had the cloth label sewn to the side.  I knew about Red Wings.  They were named after a Native American.  Alas, it had seen better days and I suspect that the owner was a manual laborer, because they were worn slap out.

I remember what my daddy and my grandpa’s shoes looked like.  They had seen a lifetime of hard work and weren’t fit to save but they were, to them, like old friends.  My daddy used to call his shoes, “his old Huldies.”

I remember one time, my mama tried to clean them up.  My daddy had a conniption fit!  I guess it would be like cleaning a firefighter’s helmet.  That is a no-no.  They never clean their helmets.  The dirtier they are, the more action they have seen.  My daddy wasn’t a firefighter but he sure didn’t want his shoes messed with.

I don’t know why I was so fascinated with those shoes.  I imagine it was because I knew that people had walked through life in those shoes…and if those shoes could talk, what tales they could tell.

 

To be continued______________________

 

 

 

 

If Those Shoes Could Talk – Chapter Three

I was sweating like a whore in church.  How was I going to explain why I was there and what I was doing?  My wheels were turning and I was wearing out my brain, trying to think of some reasonable explanation.

I could picture my demise.  “Hands up!” they would say, with guns drawn. “On the ground!  Show us your boobs.”  I doubt they would have said that but I was trying to comfort myself with humor.

“I’ll claim amnesia,” I thought.  “I’ll tell the officers that I don’t remember who I am but I thought maybe I had left my shoes in this little building, so I came here to look for them.”

Or maybe I could claim temporary insanity.  After all, I would beg…”someone would have to be crazy to go into a run-down, falling apart house or plow through waist-high weeds to look into a run-down, falling apart little building!”

Yeah, that would work…if it was the officer’s first minute on the job, or they had just fallen off the back of a turnip truck.

I started picturing the bright orange jumpsuits, leg-irons and my new best friend Helga, while simultaneously cursing my evil twin for having gotten me into this predicament in the first place.

Well, it would serve me right.  I had trespassed, broken and entered, nabbed a doily, was prepared to purloin shoes from the little building and I had no defense, other than said pretend amnesia or temporary insanity.

“Oh no!”  I thought.  What if they tack on “grave-robbing?  Shoe grave-robbing.”  That in itself would render a life sentence.  I was sure of it.  I would be a jail-bird.  I would be a long-termer.

It wasn’t the life I had always pictured for myself but sometimes, things just kind of go kittywampus, especially when you’re a convicted miscreant.

I was prepared to surrender and throw myself at the mercy of the officers. I was even prepared to show them my boobs, when I realized that the sirens were now in the distance.

They weren’t coming for me!  I had dodged a bullet!  I did a little happy dance and even forgave my evil twin by not casting her into the bowels of Hell.

Now a reasonably intelligent person, who had just had the bejesus scared out of them would pack up their ill-gotten booty and head for the safety of their own home…but there’s always that pesky exception.

With renewed fervor, I continued my quest to uncover those hidden pieces of history that bedecked the feet of people long ago, now gone back to seed.  After filling three rather large bags, I decided to end my criminal ways, at least temporarily…sort of like my insanity.

 

To be continued_______________________

 

If Those Shoes Could Talk – Chapter Two

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  You could have just strapped me to the side of a hog and rolled me in the mud!

Inside the little building was a mound of dried, red clay dirt and peeking out of that mound…was what had to have been millions of shoes.  Maybe not millions.  Maybe thousands.  Maybe not thousands.  Maybe hundreds. Maybe not hundreds, but there were…lots of shoes.

Was this some attempt at an abstract sculpture?  Or was it a shoe graveyard?  Did people bury their shoes back then?  If they did, why would they use the space in the little building to discard outgrown, or worn out shoes?

I had already trespassed and I knew that I was going to scarper with my doily, so I figured stealing one little shoe would only add a few years to my sentence.

As I started to take one, it occurred to me that if disturbed the mound, my final resting place might be under the avalanche of shoes that would come tumbling down, if I moved the wrong one.  I needed a better, more thought out plan.  Or maybe I should just let sleeping shoes lie.

Driving back home, my evil twin was barking orders on my left shoulder. “Go back and see what else you can find, you wiener!”

When I got home, all thoughts of reason and any sense of being an upstanding, law-abiding citizen went out the window.  I thought I heard my evil twin cackle with delight while I gathered up every kind of bag I could find.  I put on my work boots, a pair of my daddy’s overalls from fifty years ago, and threw my shovel into the trunk.

Before I got to the end of my driveway, I suddenly panicked.  “Should I wear a disguise?  Good idea,” I thought.  I grabbed a pair of sunglasses and off I went.

On the way, I deviously calculated my plan.  I would park further up the street so as to not attract any unusual attention, especially from any nomadic police cruisers that happened to be driving by.  I would then stealthy make my way to the back of the house and through the weeds to the little building, where my treasures awaited.

Bags on my arm and shovel in my hand, I forged my way to the little building.  A few annoyed squirrels were chattering as if they were warning me to get out of there, but I opened the door and gazed in wide wonder.

I was thinking, “should I take one from the top and risk the whole thing collapsing, or should I take one from the bottom and risk the whole thing collapsing, or should I take one from the middle and risk the whole thing collapsing?”  Decisions, decisions.

I stood back, closed my eyes, took my shovel and pried a shoe from the middle of the mound.  I jumped back, in case the shoes decided to mount a rebellion for having been disturbed and started walking all over me.

I did tend to have a vivid imagination and always seemed to anticipate the worst possible scenarios.  At least that way, I wouldn’t be surprised.  I might be dead, but not surprised.

To my delight, nothing happened.  The mound held firm and I was holding a shoe!  It was covered with dirt of course, but I could tell that it was a man’s shoe.  Did I dare try to get another or should I just cut and run?

My evil twin was back on my shoulder, spouting obscenities and calling me everything but a child of God.  I don’t know why it had to be so nasty, but I listened and continued to more or less uncover what to me, was tantamount to discovering King Tut’s tomb.

The mound seemed to be secure and so did my ill-gotten booty.  I was pulling out shoes with utter abandon!  Big shoes, little shoes and medium shoes.

I wondered.  Had the little building at one time been a shoe store?  Of course not.  It was far too small, but why all the shoes?  I was giddy with excitement.  I was digging and sneezing and wiping red clay dust off of my face but I hadn’t had that much fun in I didn’t know how long.

I smiled as I caressed each shoe before I put it into a bag.  I couldn’t wait to get them back home, even though the thought of prison life and a big, tattooed woman named Helga loomed in the back of my mind.

Suddenly, I heard sirens.

Oh shit.

 

To be continued____________________

 

 

 

If Those Shoes Could Talk – Chapter One

I don’t know what made me stop on the side of the road where an old, dilapidated house stood.  Almost every day for three years, I drove past it. One day, breaking the rules by risking arrest for trespassing, I decided to take a peek inside.

It wasn’t a fine house, at least not a fine house as defined by Antebellum or Edwardian standards.  It had been neglected and was almost covered with overgrown, climbing vines.  The roof was sagging, the windows had been broken and it was a lonely and desperate sight.  Sort of like a neglected old person you would see in a state funded nursing home.

Old things and old people have an appeal, at least to me.  They have a certain smell, a certain character, a certain je ne sais quoi and they have stories…if you are willing to listen.

As I walked into the unlocked back door, I found myself standing in what was left of the kitchen.  It still had a rickety old table and two chairs with broken rush seats, laying on their backs.

It bore the scars of having been ransacked and used as a shelter for homeless people seeking respite from the weather, or perhaps the neighborhood children sneaking off with their parents’ cigarettes and beer for a little youthful excitement.

Old, weather-worn plastic curtains still hung over the windows and the wide plank wooden floor, which at one time had been painted a bright yellow, had succumbed to the ravages of time and the elements.

A mock velvet-covered sofa sat in the living room, where the seats had provided a nest for rats to raise their young.  The fireplace still held the long dead embers of a once flaming stack of logs and I thought I detected the faintest smell of pipe tobacco smoke lingering in the air.

The stairs creaked with pain as I walked up to the second floor.  In one room sat, what at one time, would have been a marvelous brass bed.  It was badly dented and tarnished, but was complete with the original rusty spring unit.  At the foot of the bed, under a stack of 38 vintage magazines, was a hand-crocheted turquoise and white doily. Theft was not typically a trait I possessed, but today I would break another rule and take the doily home with me.

Light fixtures had been ripped from the ceiling, doors had been taken off the hinges and the only thing left in the small bathroom was a claw foot tub, possibly because it was too heavy to move.  A chain with the badly rotted rubber stopper still swung from the tarnished, frozen faucet.

Spiderwebs decorated every corner and more plastic curtain remnants danced in the breeze blowing in from the shattered windows.  I made my way around to the other bedrooms and tried to imagine who might have once graced them with vintage nightcaps and sleepy eyes.

From the third bedroom, I was able to see a small building, almost hidden by tall grass and the same vines that were trying to devour the house.  It was too small to have been a barn-like structure or a modern-day garage and it was larger than an old-timey outhouse would have been.

I quickly made my way downstairs, running my hand along the banister and wondered how many hands had touched it in the past.  The house was still beckoning my prying eyes, but the little building had captured my interest and curiosity.

Making my way through the maze of weeds, the little building stood in front of me.  Like the house, time had taken its toll, but it still stood as if begging to be discovered.  There were no windows and the roof was covered in different styles and colors of shingles, ranging from green to blue to black, and from architectural to asbestos.

The door was affixed with two leather straps in lieu of hinges, and seemed to moan as I tugged at the handle.  When I finally coaxed it open, my eyes widened with excitement and puzzlement.

I laughed to myself as I wondered…hmm…what is this?

 

 

To be continued________________________

 

 

 

Who Will Tell Their Story? – Chapter Seven – “The Diary”

These stories were about five of the residents who graced the Battery Park Hotel.  Their stories came to me in the form of a badly burned diary, author unknown.

I found it several yards from the rubble, as if it had been thrown from a window, in an effort to save their stories, as it was obvious their lives would not be saved.  Most of the pages had been scorched and turned into ash, but the middle pages survived.

As I began to read, I pictured each one of the characters, so deftly portrayed in the diary.  I wondered if perhaps I was invading someone’s most intimate thoughts, but having been the only thing that survived the fire, I assured myself that it was meant for me to find it.

I imagine Eloise, with her Raven colored hair and flighty mannerisms, delighting all the men with her feminine wiles.  I imagine those men, gazing in shock and awe at her exposed bosom and I can almost hear her teasing laughter when she asked if they could see a spider.  She was a high-spirited woman who hated the word “widow,” and to me, it made sense.

I imagine Irene, with her bright pink outfit and matching shoes.  I wonder if, knowing that she wasn’t going to make it out alive, she donned that outfit because it made her feel pretty.  I wonder if she gazed out the window and took one last look at the house she had shared with her late husband for so many years.  I wonder if she cried for her children.  I wonder what her last thoughts were before she leaped off the top of the building.

I wonder about Ray Dean.  After having spent a lifetime of deceitful dealings, did he feel that maybe his debt had not been satisfied and atonement was still outstanding?  I wonder if he wished, in his final hours, that he had gotten to know the other residents of the Battery Park Hotel.  I wonder if he thought about his mama and papa.  I wonder if his last thoughts were of Isobel.

I picture Otis, complete with his rollator.  He spent his youth being considered a bad luck omen.  Was he indeed a “Jonah?”  Was he the one who brought bad luck to the Battery Park Hotel?  I’d like to think that he was a good and decent man who, despite his clumsiness and unfortunate nickname, lived a good and decent life.  I hoped that he died a quick death and didn’t have time to think that he was the cause of the fire.

I think of Agnes.  She was someone who endured so much pain.  When she thought she had finally found safety, just as she feared, it was snatched away from her.  I wonder if she died with the lights off and the blinds closed, thinking that she would be safe?  When she knew she was going to die, I wonder.  Did she say a prayer, or did she curse God for taking what was left of her life…the life she really never got to live?

These people’s lives ended and they all had a story to tell, but they can’t tell them now.  People should be remembered, no matter how insignificant they feel, or are made to feel.  Each one of them was important.  Some were flighty, some were mysterious, some were escaping unfortunate pasts, some were looking for freedom, some were looking for validation, and some were trying to outrun that “last dance.”  Some of them will never be known.  Their stories are in the burned, brittle pages of a castaway diary.

These five people lived and loved and laughed and cried.  They left a mark, even if no one cares, but who will tell their story?

I will.

 

Mech’eresha.