Monday, September 28, 2015

Shoe Stories: short-short pieces on a theme

My brother Frank left his shoes in the living room. My size 6 shoes fit easily inside his size 10s, so I put them on, my feet inside my shoes inside Frank's shoes. Frank returned, looking for his shoes. They were hidden in plain sight, right where he expected not to find them.
- Anne Taft

My mother had a shoe collection that would rival Imelda Marcos. An entire closet was devoted to her shoes racks, each pair fitted into its color-coordinated place. I can remember as a little girl opening the door to this magic kingdom, the delicious scent of leather and shoe powder wafting into my nostrils. Navy and black patent leather were big favorites and took up several of the racks,  all accessorized with gold braid, brass buttons, silver clips, tiny tassels and linen bows. But there also were rows of beige, taupe, white, maroon and pink. Low and medium heels, spike heels, wedges but never flats and never, never anything that said "man-made uppers." I did not inherit my mother's sense of style. Perhaps I was afraid to compete. Clunky boots, sneakers, and comfortable walking shoes fill my few shoe racks. Mostly I am happy with my choice. I have avoided the bunions, hammer toes, and misshapen feet that plagued my mother. But just once I would like to feel like a glamorous queen, floating on a high-heeled sequined cloud.
- Annie Wexler

My mother had narrow feet with a steep arch. Size 7 AAA or 7 AAAA. This was not a size found at A.S. Beck or Thom McAn so twice a year she took the bus to Saks Fifth Avenue for their unadvertised basement clearance. There she combed stock for their signature Fenton Last, shoes that came with any number of A's after the size. Shoes crafted from fine leather without a seam, elegantly molded to caress a regal foot. Showcased on 3 inch heels and trimmed with refined accents. She returned home with the look of a tigress, satisfied.
- Carol Miller

In the 1930s, my father sold shoes at a New York City department store. Because he had reddish blonde hair and blue eyes, people often assumed he wasn't Jewish. But he was. As he told the story, women would approach him confidently and ask, "Young man, would you please wait on me? I don't want any of those Jews touching my feet." My father never showed annoyance or complained to his supervisors, but as he proudly put it, "I sold them shoes that crippled them." True passive aggressive revenge.
- Deirdre Silverman

I make my own rules when it comes to shoes — rules for myself, that is. Now, I do have the classic woman's "shoe fetish," to be sure, but my collection has changed over the years, according to my changing cycles. For example, in the early '90s I decided that my over-injured and bunion-plagued feet deserved a break. So I decided that, except for when I was wearing costume shoes in a show, there would be no more high heels for me. And once I quit the theatre, that was the end of them completely. In 2000, I became a strict vegan, which meant that all of my lovely leather shoes were off-limits. And so I (reluctantly, it must be told) gave them up … all except my dancing shoes — ballet slippers, jazz booties, character shoes, and taps — those I could not part with. I never wear them anymore, but they will always (at least for right now) have a place in my home, memories never to be forgotten.
- Gabrielle Vehar

Since I can recall I have suffered from love-of-shoes affliction. My first pair of red shoes was magical for me. I wore them proudly to church with my black and white checked dress, red pocketbook, and white gloves. Hair in a ponytail and straight-cut bangs, my mind's eye can still visualize this. Then of course the platform heels of the '70s: corduroy on the  sides and blue and green flowers over my toes. Then there were red patent leather clogs that screamed "notice me!" Straps, laces, buckles, velcro. On the sides, front, and/or rear. Shiny, soft, fabric, plastic as gummy bears (jelly sandals). All colors and sizes. Some days are just simply made for Vibram soles.
- Grace Celeste

My son is 15 months old, and "shoe" is one of his favorite words. "Shoe!" he says, catching sight of one. He points with his index finger, triumphant. "Shoe shoe shoe shoe!" He is right every time. Suddenly, his life is rich with nouns — shoe, dog, owl, apple, fish — that can be lifted out of a baby’s blurry haze of impressions. He can name things that used to be nameless; he can summon meaning from a world that used to be chaos. Shoe!
- Gwen Glazer

Ouch, you brought up a touchy subject! Being born with hammer toes, I’ve worn “ugly” shoes most of my life. As a child I liked Hush Puppies but had to wear brown oxford tie-ups for more support. I purposely scuffed them up as much as possible. My gleaming patent leather Mary Janes were only for church or for visiting. Saddle shoes came to the rescue. Those white and blue lovelies, difficult to polish but very cool. Thongs were out of the question but I wore cotton wedges to Coney Island. Anything was “good enough for the beach.”  
- Joan McNerney

It seemed a long walk alone, and I was only six. No one knew where I was or what I was about to do. I had a purpose, and it took bravery. I stood in my little girl flower cut-out buckle shoes for a long time after I rang the bell. Finally a long-legged black-robed figure leaned down with a pleated tight-fitting bonnet to ask what I wanted. It was not often that anyone rang the convent bell. "I want to make a donation," I said. She ushered me quietly into a soft carpeted parlor. I had never been inside, and the parlor was a surprise. After what felt like another long time another figure peeked out of her bonnet with a different voice asking what I might want. I sat on the floor, took off one of my pretty shoes, reached in, took them out. Two coins in my held-out palm, my eleven cents.
- Kath Abela Wilson

My mom used to buy our sneakers at the IGA supermarket when we were little. I thought that's where shoes were sold. The question was always "red or blue?"
- Kathleen Morrow

"Oooh! should I get these? What do you think? For dancing!" I'm falling asleep from the stuffy old-things air of the Salvation Army store, dazed as I wander up and down the shoe section. Is my mother really asking me if she should buy one more pair of "dancing shoes"? These ones are strappy high heels. Black. They would well accompany a glittery flamenco dress, perhaps. "Don't you already have a couple pairs of dance shoes?" I ask, trying not to point out the obvious, that when a person only manages to go dancing a couple times a year she really doesn't need more than two pairs of dancing shoes. Really, not more than one pair, to be fair. "Which ones do you mean?" Her reply softens my heart and I realize that my mother's stock pile of fancy high heel shoes is an important line of contact to the idea of going out dancing, the hoped for reality of every Friday night under a disco ball. I can't take that away from her. I wish, too, that it were true. "Oh, you're right," I say. "I'm not sure that you do have any quite like these. Get them!"
- Leah Grady Sayvetz

There are no shoes like the ones "you had before." Those favorite shoes that you wore every day, or the favorites that you wore for special occasions, cannot be replaced — not on your feet or in your heart. Anything new is a challenge. This is especially true for shoes. Those old ones are so comfortable, so easy to get into, so familiar. New ones are prisons on the feet, so harsh and stiff and so confining. And so you must look to the future, not to the past. Persevere. Put them on every day, if only for an hour or two. Visualize yourself walking on a cloud – walking on air. Walking happily into tomorrow.
- Linda Keeler

When I was little I had a pair of Buster Brown saddle shoes that I wore everywhere, except to church on Sundays when I wore black patent leather shoes. I liked my Buster Browns, but for some reason I thought they inhibited my running ability. I kept seeing ads on our Magnavox television for Keds and Red Ball Jets, and my friend Neil always wore sneakers. He usually beat me running down the hill, and I wanted to pass him at least once, so I begged my mother to buy me a pair of PF Flyers.
- Liz Burns

The secondhand thrift shop housed a flea-market of shoes; bruised cowboy boots, black ballerina flats, and orange-sequined bedroom slippers. But, there they are — earth-gray Birkenstock sandals with a little life left in the suede. I buy them, $7.50, and wear them out of the store leaving rubber flip-flops behind. Immediately I feel green! I disdain meat and jet fuel. I covet raising chickens.
- Louise Vignaux 
Men don't wear shoes — they wear cowboy boots. At least that's what I thought until I was six years old. My father travelled all the way to Wichita to have his custom boots made. When he got a new pair, they would sit on the dining room table for days so we could all admire them. He wore his old boots to work on the farm; his not-too-shabby ones when he got cleaned up; and his new ones when he went to something fancy, which was a very rare event. It was the choir director at our church who finally dispelled my false assumption about men and boots. He crossed his legs one Sunday morning, sitting in his special chair on the stage near the pulpit, and I was shocked to see a pale skinny leg poke out above his thin black socks and then catch sight of his shiny black shoes. No boots riding up his calves. No leather tooling patterns to admire. It was very sad. My daddy got such a kick out of this when I told him about it.
- Marty Blue Waters

It’s easy to imagine lying flat on my back in the dusty street of some high plains boom town, bullet hole through the tin star pinned to my vest. Arms splayed, toes of my boots pointed toward Heaven. The smell of horse dung, a door creaks, a shutter slams, wind whistles, sagebrush tumbles, bounces down a deserted alleyway. When actually, I’m in a park on a blanket on the grass, shoes as a pillow, gazing at faces in the clouds, while nearby, children play with a toy sailboat in a pond and giggle at frogs jumping off lily pads. 
- Michael Gillan Maxwell                      

Even the painstakingly documented renovation of the historic railroad hotel’s lobby offers no explanation of one artifact: a pair of bronzed boots. My own memory keeps wanting to say "booties," as images pop up of soft leather, shaped by its tender caress around a baby’s first steps, then fossilized in semi-shiny metal. But the bent, scuffed lobby boots never were soft nor tender, no one ever lovingly urged them forward from embrace to embrace. Do they memorialize the toil of a track layer or coal shoveler, switchman or freight loader? The “rags” first steps toward a magnate’s riches?
- Nancy Gabriel

I give up. My feet do not end in pointed triangles. Nor are they raised, toe down / heel up, 75 degrees off the floor. I remember tottering on my just 3-inch heels. I was 17. My father laughed. I clung to the wall and practiced, ignoring the moans of my muscles and toes, until I mastered the art of walking on these stilts — probably viewed as flats by women who sport today's 6-inch stilettos. Oh, don't do this to your poor feet, I want to tell them now, or they'll get even with you in 20, 30, even 40 years. Is it worth turning a hard-hat's head, or whetting the appetite of a masochist who envisions you with a whip in your hand? Designers make fools of us, and we dive head first — or should I say feet first — into the pool of idiocy. Having become (years ago, actually) une femme d'un certain age, I slip into my round-toed flats, sigh with pleasure at the absence of pain and pinch, and take on the day.
- Nina Miller

Shoes! Oh how I love thee! Shoes and bags, but shoes have always been my favorite (please don't tell bags). The soundtrack of my life would have to be set to shoe songs of all sorts, but now a list of some of my favorite shoes: white vinyl go-go boots that ripped down one side mid-concert and left me "walking" like I wore one flipper; red and gold leather cowboy boots that were ruined when I left them out in the rain; plaid platform oxfords, à la Bay City Rollers; purple suede Keens that are ripped to shreds and currently discontinued; silver, diamond, holographic Reeboks; Candie's fuck-me shoes (lilac); knee-high buttery leather cowboy boots with lacy overlay designs; Doc Martens — black.
- Paula Culver

My father was taking me to the discount store to buy winter boots, and I had already declared war. At age 11, I knew what I wanted; black patent leather, a one-inch heel and an elastic gore on the outside. Who cared if they let the snow in, who cared if I froze walking to school? I was too old for baby stuff. He stopped in front of a line-up of army green rubber. Metal buckles, reinforced toes, felt lining. Budding maturity be damned — I whined, I begged, I kicked the counter. His voice rose and I knew I was . . . defeated. 
-  Paula Peters Marra

I am hard on shoes. My lifestyle includes mud, dogs, long walks through mud with dogs, and hard work on my feet — always wearing shoes. I never, ever go barefoot. I buy shoes for function and comfort, not for fashion. Occasionally these three things come together in a shoe or boot or sandal, but that's just a happenstance, not a requirement. I like to buy black shoes or boots or sandals, but most of my sneakers have been white. They soon become a dirty grey — sometimes bordering on black. I have been known to buy men's sneakers, I can wear a men's size 7, to get a black pair I want, but they don't fit exactly right. I've worn them anyway, until they were completely worn out. I do this with all of my shoes — I wear them until there's nothing left. I'm the same way with cars. I don't keep them clean, I don't care what they look like, and when I'm done with them there's nothing left but a dirty stain on the ground.
- Sara Robbins

To a 17-year-old, four hours lasted longest in the Bradlees shoe department. Time moved slowly, putting tickets on discount footwear with a little gun, then writing the size on the other side in black crayon. Racks and racks of women’s flats. Men’s boots. Baby booties. Cheap sneakers for all.  Mismatched, goofy, animal-faced slippers at
Christmastime. Incorrigible piles of flip flops in June.  Pretending to know how to use the size measure on runny-nosed children when mothers asked and then hovered, not
watching. By my 19th birthday, I knew peoples' shoe sizes just by glancing at their feet. It was a good party trick!
- Stacey Murphy

For me: clunky brown leather oxfords with laces. Other girls my age got to wear Mary Janes; matte chocolate leather for school, patent leather for Sundays and parties. It was partly because Mom vowed I'd never suffer foot trouble from ill-fitting shoes, and partly because, being very small for my age, my choices were severely limited in the early '50s. Times changed, and adult styles became available in smaller sizes. I reveled in penny loafers, saddle shoes, and Capezios — "ballet flats" to the modern age. I was even able to find black suede pumps with a heel! — all of 1 1/2" — when I was in high school. Heaven. Times have changed again. Women are taller, their feet larger, and once more the choices have narrowed for me. But luckily I have a new weapon — internet shoe shopping.
- Sue Norvell

I love my old Danskos — they've been around for six or so years, and they're all beat up, but I just can't part with them. The fact that they are patent leather hides their scrapes and cracks; the fact that they have scrapes and cracks is all right since they remain shiny. They are in-between shoes — good for cool days but not cold, okay in wet leaves but not rain. Easy to put on, easy to kick off. And so comfortable. Danskos were originally made to be surgeon's shoes, designed for people who are on their feet all day. Most of the nurses I work with wear sneakers, but there are a few Dansko loyalists among us. We hang on to our old pairs, keeping them in boxes in our closets even though they've tromped around the hospital for years. We won't wear them again but how are we supposed to toss out all that history, all that comfort, all those stories?
- Summer Killian

During the "Blizzard of '66," the Washington, D.C. area where I grew up was inundated. To the delight of us kids, blowing and drifting snow shuttered our schools for days. My best friend and I longed to go out and play, but the drifts were too high. My father, a "weekend carpenter," told us he had a solution. We heard him sawing and sanding in the basement. When he finally emerged with plywood-and-rope snowshoes, we were skeptical. But once we'd strapped them onto our boots, we could walk freely over even the highest drifts.
- Theresa A. Cancro

Favorite sandals: My art deco retro color-blocked red and powder blue open-toed flats with strong rubber treads. Rosalind Russell could have worn them. Favorite most comfortable shoes: My slip-on waterproof easy black Merrill fancy thongs. I usually can't wear anything between my toes but these I can wear. I wore them every day to walk to the beach. Once I got to the beach I slipped them right off and walked deliciously barefoot. All time favorite: No shoes. Barefoot on the sand, nothing like it. Luscious soft sand embracing the soles of my feet like reflexology, like the best foot massage ever. Then, walking along the ocean while the gentle waves wash over my feet, always a surprise, hydrotherapy, the best feeling in the world, complete and utter freedom. This is primordial touch of foot on earth, on sand, on water, on holy ground, on ancient land. Little birds walking on the beach, on the edge of the water, seagulls eating breakfast on the sand, diving down deep, and me, another creature, walking, looking, touching, loving the world.
- Yvonne Fisher