I sat up all night, one eye on the television and the other on the little shoe, periodically interrupted by those little slices of death most people call sleep.
As soon as dawn broke, I was chomping at the bit to return the little shoe to its former grave and hoping that I hadn’t somehow been cursed for life. As I was getting dressed, I wondered aloud if I should return all the shoes. I was starting to think plundering those shoes was tantamount to robbing a cemetery.
I had lost all sense of good reason and as my daddy would say, “it served me right…stealing shoes.” I decided to return all thirty-eight shoes back to their original resting place and never, ever do anything like that again.
I packed them all up and drove to the house, I was brazen this time. I didn’t park down the street like a milksop. I parked right in front of the house. I got my bag of shoes out and headed toward the little building, hoping that Mr. Stranger wasn’t checking up on the house, or worse, looking for me.
As I opened the door to the little building, it didn’t moan like it had before. It was almost like the little building was welcoming the return of its former inhabitants.
I put the shoes back, one by one and said the name I had given to the person I had imagined might have worn them. The Wingtip belonged to a sophisticate named Earl Winchester. The Redwing belonged to a big strapping logger named Cletus Brooks. The Mary Jane belonged to a happy little girl named Sally. The Saddle Oxford belonged to a spry young girl named Calliope, who loved to dance, and the shoe with the newspaper clipping, in my mind, belonged to Lord Grey.
The little shoe with the foot, belonged to a little girl with long blonde curls and bright blue eyes, named Fancy. Hers was the last one to take back its place in the little building.
I had been so completely engrossed in returning the shoes, I wasn’t the least bit afraid of being confronted by Mr. Stranger, or the police. I just had a sense of peace and somehow knew that I was doing the right thing.
After returning all the shoes, I decided to stop by City Hall and ask about the old place, Mr. Stranger said the owners had died and the property belonged to the city. I wanted to know a bit about it, since I had essentially robbed the little building and gotten away scot-free. Well, I had robbed it and returned what I had taken and gotten away scot-free.
If I had been caught, I was fully prepared to make a deal. First I’d say, “I didn’t do it.” If that didn’t work, I’d say, “If I did do it, I didn’t mean to do it,” and if that didn’t work, I’d say, “If you’ll let me go, I’ll never do it again.” But it hadn’t come to that, so everything was okay.
I found City Hall, parked and went inside. Two women were sitting at desks, piled with papers and legal-looking folders. They were snacking on cookies and talking about their children’s soccer games.
After an annoyed “harrumph” from me, one of them finally looked up and said “can I help you?” I started explaining the reason for my visit and told her that I would like some information about the property. I said “I met the caretaker and he…”
Before I finished my sentence, the woman laughed, looked at her co-worker and said, “you met the caretaker?” I said a reluctant “yes.” She looked at me and said, “there is no caretaker. You must be talking about Mr. Boone.”
I told her that he didn’t exactly introduce himself but okay, I had met him. I wasn’t forthcoming about how I had met him. They both started laughing and it was annoying me to the point that I was getting ready to call on my evil twin.
The one at the first desk said, “I’m Martha and this is Betty. You’ll have to forgive us, but this happens now and then.”
“What happens?” I asked. Martha said, “someone comes in and says they met the caretaker. Let me give you a little background on the place. That is what you want, right?” I nodded yes.
She said, “well, I’ll give it to you in a nutshell.” Then she looked at me and said, “are you tender-hearted?”
I was a little puzzled by her question but finally managed to say, “does that matter?”
To be continued_______________________