March 4, 2009 at 10:05 am | Posted in J. Frederick | 1 Comment

Shoes are, or should I say were, leather and cloth and plastic and metal objects that you strapped to your feet, completely covering them up from the elements and protecting them from the ground.  Now, I know that sounds surprising – even absurd, or blasphemous.  But it’s true.  You’re too young to remember that, but anyone from my generation will recall, as I do, being led by the hand by our mothers and grandmothers into giant, wonderful shoe stores, once a year, on our birthdays.  Those vast shelves of shoes seemed to stretch into infinity; the wise, friendly shopkeeper stood nearby, ready to help me try on a pair or two.  My mother smiled warmly, her eyes dancing, as she let me choose whatever pair I wanted, and I can still feel the tears of joy on my cheeks, such astonished and grateful joy.  How bitter those tears would feel just a few years later, as the great shoe stores of my youth burned, the flames licking the night sky, the tanks of the Barefoot Fascists rolling mercilessly through town – broken glass crunching, poor shoes stomped flat and mangled beneath their cruel, calloused soles.  For a few years I had brave friends with unmarked shoeboxes hidden away in the backs of closets or under beds, but they’re all gone now, taken away, their muffled screams just a memory.  All that’s left is me, alone in my room, fingers fidgeting over a lone broken shoelace; I look down with shame at the nurse’s painted toenails as she politely but firmly takes away my homemade slippers, crudely fashioned from newspaper and tape.  But my feet are cold, I tell them in vain, my feet are so cold. – J. Frederick

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