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______________________________