High school senior Ashley St. Helens
has suddenly found herself living a fairy tale life....
Which is not as much fun as it sounds.
Until... the other shoe drops.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

No Such Thing As A Shoe

“There is no such thing as a shoe! Don’t believe me? Let me prove it to you. When I say ‘shoes,’ what do you think of? Maybe you think of your dad’s tennies, or of high-heeled boots that could minimize your feet. Me, I think of my favorites, my fabulous 1940s Carmen Miranda dancing shoes with the painted wooden cherries dangling from the ankle straps—cha cha cha—they’re in here somewhere. So what is a shoe? Shoes are an idea. An ideal. An ethereal concept that we attach to any variety of...of thing we attach to our feet. Shoes don’t have to cover your feet, or even protect your feet, necessarily, and you don’t even have to be able to walk in them. The one thing shoes all have, though, is a sole.

“Think about it. Say the word with me.”


“Now say it again,” he said, zipping up the back of my dress, “What does it sound like?”


“That’s right. Coincidence? I don’t think so! We all walk our own paths in life, and our shoes give us direction! They give us definition! We wake up in the morning and say, Who am I? Who will I be today? A soldier? I’ll wear army boots. A sailor? I’ll wear deck shoes. A spy? James Bond dress shoes with daggers in the toe, as shiny as mirrors so you can see up the skirt of that beautiful woman you’ll seduce in the midst of danger. Darling, there’s a purpose to every variety of shoe, don’t you see? Fuzzy slippers keep you warm. Movie star mules with a pouf of marabou on the toe, they don’t keep your heels warm, but they do say, aren’t I just the girl?

“Shoes both reveal and work with your identity, too. For example, indians wore moccasins to sneak around in the woods, to be part of nature, to ride their horses bareback. Cowboys wore high heels to hold them in the stirrups so they wouldn’t fall out, with tough leather soles so they could step on cactus, attach spurs, walk through a cow pie without it getting stuck in the tread. Indians do their sensitive campfire animal dances in the mystic smoke, communing with their ancestors. Cowboys stand up tall and strut, all ego; they square-dance and get drunk!” He did a little doe-si-do around me. Then he took my hands and pulled me down beside him on the bed.

“Ashley, do you know what it means to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes? Empathy. How can you understand someone unless you start with their feet? Wear their soles and you know their souls. Is any of this sinking in?” It was sinking in. It was blowing my mind! I wasn’t missing Rosencranz and Guildenstern so much anymore.

“So think of your own soul, think of how it makes you feel when you’re really feeling it, when you’re really knowing who you are. Footwear is important—but you’re never fully dressed without a smile, so if you love your shoes, and they fit both your feet and your feelings, you’re going to be a brighter light in this world.” He finished, took a deep breath, and checked his cherry-laquered nails. I sat there, soaking it all in. I could have applauded. I shook my head, instead.

“But Harry….” I had a serious problem. Two of them. “Look.” I held my feet out in front of me. My pontoons. My giant sleds. My cricket bats with bangers on the ends. Harry looked at me blankly—at my feet, at my face, my feet, my face. Finally, he leaned down and unbuckled his own shoes—metallic blue, high-heeled pumps with tiny ankle straps. His feet were encased in panty hose, but I could clearly see the nails were neatly manicured and painted the same girly red as his fingernails—but with pink swirls on top. I had to smile.

“No, you look,” he said gently. “Look closely.” I peered again. There was something odd about his left foot. What was it? It wasn’t ugly, it was...it was larger than life. He had an extra toe, right in the middle! “Honey,” he said, “sometimes what’s weird about us makes us special.” He crossed his ‘special’ left foot over his right knee, and then picked up my right foot and crossed it over my left knee, holding it to his, so our soles touched. I felt a tingle run through my leg, and thought of Kurt Vonnegut. Our toes and heels lined up. Our feet were the same size. “Don’t you get anything I’m saying? Look.” He waved his hand at the bed behind him, where shoes of every shape and style and color spilled out of his largest suitcase. “My shoes are your shoes, and I’m going to help you find the perfect one.” All of a sudden, I understood.


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