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.

 

 

 

 

 

Who Will Tell Their Story – Chapter Six – “Agnes”

Agnes was a woman who had finally escaped a torturous marriage to a Godless, abusive husband, who had rendered her to nothing more than a frail, frightened and broken replica of her former self.

Even after she won her freedom, she would still be battered and bruised, from running into things.  She never turned on her lights and never opened her blinds.  She seemed to take comfort in the dark, where no one could see her, or touch her, or hurt her.  She had never known how it felt to be loved, other than having it show in the form of blackened eyes and swollen lips.

Agnes wore her pain like a crown of thorns.  Her soul had been broken, her heart had been ripped to shreds, but it still beat and she wondered why.

If someone made a sudden move, she would flinch and if someone walked up behind her and merely spoke, she would scream and cover her head. When she first arrived at the Battery Park Hotel, she was understandably, quiet and reserved.

Then she met Eloise, who wouldn’t accept her life of solitude and fear.  She insinuated herself into Agnes’ dark world and tried to diffuse her defense mechanisms by insisting that she turn on her lights, open her blinds, participate in game night and go on regular shopping trips for new clothes.

Agnes was by all rights a wallflower and Eloise…well, Eloise was the life of the party.  They were an unlikely pair but they seemed to mesh somehow. Agnes was hungry for normalcy…something she hadn’t known in years, and although no one would ever describe Eloise as being “normal,” she gave the impression that her motto was, “live it up, folks.  We never know how long this dance is going to last.”

Eloise didn’t “cure” Agnes but she did expose her to beautiful sights, wonderful sounds and a way of life that she had only dreamed of.  Agnes was never going to be one to yank up her shirt and expose herself, but she had learned to smile instead of wincing in fear, and eventually learned to laugh instead of crying in despair.

Agnes seemed to be an old soul, attuned to things others were not.  She wasn’t sure how to react when things appeared to be good.  She was always waiting for the proverbial “other shoe to drop.”  Maybe she didn’t recognize happiness when she saw it, or maybe she was afraid that if she was happy, something or someone would snatch it away from her.  Maybe she had suffered too much trauma.  Maybe she was afraid “he” would find her.

When she voiced her trepidation, Eloise comforted her and said, “You’ve come too far.  I am not going to let you go backward.  I’m not going to let anything happen to you, and if that son-of-a-bitch ex-husband of yours ever dared to come within ten miles of you, my Smith and Wesson would be the last thing he ever saw.”

When Agnes asked if she had a gun, Eloise made her laugh when she said, “no, but it sounded good, right?”

Despite Eloise’s efforts, Agnes was still afraid.  She didn’t know why…there was just this gnawing feeling deep down in her gut and she had learned not to ignore that feeling.  She told Eloise, “I just get the feeling that something terrible is going to happen.”

Like so many of the other residents of the Battery Park Hotel, Anges’ remains were never identified.

 

 

To be continued_________________

 

 

 

Who Will Tell Their Story – Chapter Five – “The Jonah”

Otis Hall was the eighth and final child born to Carmen and “Bump” Hall, in the small town of Accident.  His mama used to laugh and say, “You were an accident that was born in Accident.  We weren’t planning on having any more young’uns, but the good Lord saw fit to give us you.”

Throughout his childhood, Otis’ siblings affectionately and jokingly called him “an accident waiting to happen.”  If a piece of sidewalk was just the slightest bit raised above the other, Otis would stump his toe and fall down.  It there was the tiniest bit of a tree stump left in the vast yard, Otis would find it, trip over it and fall down.  There were thresholds in every doorway of their old house and sure enough, Otis would at least twice a day, trip over one of them and fall down.

His mama and daddy owned a little country store, and it was a given that if he even looked at a nice, pyramid-shaped group of vegetables or fruit, they would come cascading down like a stack of dominoes.

His teacher and the neighbors took to calling him “the Jonah.”  Back in his day, if you were called a Jonah, it meant that you brought bad luck every where you went.  “Here comes the Jonah,” they’d say.

His mama told him not to pay any mind to what people called him, because they just didn’t know what a good boy he was, and although he had been an accident, he was a blessing from the Lord.

When his mama and daddy died, Otis took over their little country store and somehow managed not to destroy everything in it with his clumsiness. Eventually, a big box store came to town and the little store had to close its doors.

Despite Otis’ moniker of being a Jonah, he became a greeter for the big box store.  Only having to say “hello and welcome” to the patrons seemed ideal, although a few times, a display was positioned a little too close to the door and one misstep from Otis sent the goods tumbling into the isles.

Otis worked at the store for almost thirty years until one day, it started pouring and the rain-soaked patrons tracked in water.  Otis slipped and fell down.  While waiting for the ambulance, he heard one of the youngsters laughing while he said “told you.  He’s a Jonah.”

At the hospital, the doctor told Otis that he had broken his hip…badly.  He would need extensive physical therapy and constant care.  His older siblings were long gone and having never had time for a wife and children, left Otis at the mercy of a nursing home.

He spent several months there, learning to maneuver with a walker that he fondly called his “rollater.”  It had the usual bright yellow tennis balls on the front legs, that he had covertly mucked from an unused “loaner” he found in the closet.

He didn’t like being there.  It felt like a prison and he often complained that everyone “just seemed so old.”  There wasn’t much attention from the staff and many nights, he listened to the cries and moans of people who had all but been forgotten.

One day, Otis decided to be a rebel and “break out.”  He packed his bags, called a taxi and left.  He had heard about the Battery Park Hotel and sets his sights on living there.  Although there was some question about his mobility, he was granted admission.

He had found his milieu.  He was welcomed by the other residents, who knew nothing about “the Jonah.”  He had been flashed by Eloise and yes, like all the other men, he loved her.  He had met Irene and thought she was beautiful, but he knew that she would never be interested in a broken-down old “accident,” like him.  Raden had offered the same obligatory nod that he afforded to everyone else, but he and Otis had never spoken.

At night, Otis didn’t hear cries and moans.  He heard laughter and sometimes, the sound of big-band era music, playing on someone’s antique record player.  He was happy.

On game night, Otis would leave his room a good thirty minutes early.  It took him a while to negotiate the long hallways and more often than not, the elevator doors would try to close on him mid-way into his entrance. He would good-naturedly fuss at the doors and call them “scoundrels.”

There had only been a few mishaps during Otis’ tenure there.  Once he overturned one of the game tables and checkers went flying all over the room.  The people with two good hips, took it in stride and picked them up,one by one.  In the dining room, he accidentally knocked over a large basket of rolls and much to the chagrin of the employees, it resulted in a mini-food fight. Even though most of the people had two good hips, they were a bit slower than they were in their youth, so the five second rule didn’t apply.

Otis was found huddled in the elevator, along with his trusty “rollater.”

 

To be continued________________________