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Location: Midwest, United States

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Shoeless Man

The gates were already descending as I approached the railroad crossing. Just another petulant gray afternoon, but at least I had a few bells and lights to amuse me as the long freight came rumbling through. I knew I was going to sit here for a while, so I shifted the transmission into Park, and settled in.

I looked to my right. The window framed an immense truck tire. Not much to see there. I looked to my left, and there it was: standing upright and alone on the painted lane divider…a man’s shoe.

As shoes go, it was quite nice actually. A fashionable suede clog, and practically new. Strange.

Now, I’ve seen shoes in roadways before, or (more often) tied pairs hanging from electric wires. Shoes that are stained,worn and ragged, alone or paired and not at all worth keeping, litter streets from time to time. This shoe was something altogether different. I’d rather fancy having a pair like that myself. Where was its partner? Why was it here in the road?

In my mind’s eye, I pictured a couple. They argue ferociously in their sullen car as another train, bound for who-knows-where, goes thundering by. She grabs a shoe that he just purchased, and flings it acidly at his head. He ducks, and it sails through the open window.
He curses and rages as the gates rise, and the car behind begins an incessant, damning honking. He’s got to move. Enraged, embittered, he hits the gas and goes. The storm has just begun.

Wait! Hold it!!!

Jonas, you mope! Why be so dark and dour?

Stop the tape. Rewind. Let’s start again...

A man and a woman sit quietly in a sedan. They’ve been lovers for oh-so-many years. They’re hypnotized, transported as the train cars trundle by. Beyond the crossing, farther west, is the entrance to the forest preserve. He glances at her and she at him. They smile at one another. Without really thinking, he removes his shoes. Flipping one casually out the window, he turns to her with an invitation: “Let’s go running through the grass!” Surprised, delighted, she acquiesces
to the notion.

The gates go up and they speed off. Tires squeal as he swerves into the entrance and willy-nilly stops the car. Shoes strewn about (one missing), the doors fly open wildly. They exit. Laughing. Barefoot. They chase each other through the tall, cool grass; then stop, quite breathless, beneath the arching trees. They clutch each other hungrily…then kiss…and drink each other in, toes curling into the giving earth. They laugh again and sigh, while ambling arm in arm across the merrily trampled lawn. Refreshed, reborn, they both float slowly to their car. They’re flushed and greedy, their feet are dirty, but these old loves don’t care. They’re young again. Free and happy as children again. And the cost to feel such love and joy once more?
A shoe.

Quite a bargain, that.

* * *

The Sun Has Burst the Sky
By Jenny Joseph

The sun has burst the sky
Because I love you
And the river its banks.

The sea laps the great rocks
Because I love you
And takes no heed of the moon dragging it away
And saying coldly 'Constancy is not for you'.

The blackbird fills the air
Because I love you
With springs and lawns and shadows falling on lawns.

The people walk in the street and laugh
I love you
And far down the river ships sound their hooters
Crazy with joy because I love you.

* * *

2 Comments:

Blogger Scoot Noodles said...

I like the way you turned that shoe's story around. I try to be positive about just about everything and it easily rubs off on those around you. Whether those around you are in the same room or just on the same web...

: ) Stay happy amigo!

Wed Nov 01, 08:47:00 PM  
Blogger Mary said...

Love the shoe story. I have one:

It was around 1967 or 1968. San Francisco and all the excitement 196x and San Francisco together imply. I was in college and had a part time job working in a downtown bank at night. It was my first experience in that kind of work environment. Even though it was at night, there was a dress code. After about a month, I was on the bus going home and I knew with absolute certainty that kind of environment was and always would be toxic for me. I took off the uncomfortable tan leather pumps that I'd bought to wear to the job, slid open the bus window, and threw those suckers out. Forty years later, I've never worked in a corporate environment again. I'll never forget how free I felt watching the shoes fly out into the night.

I can only guess what stories came to mind to the casual observer who noticed the shoes in the street.

Fri Apr 17, 11:47:00 AM  

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