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Posts Tagged ‘Emma’

I’ve been tempted multiple times to go back and look for them, but I haven’t yet, and I won’t. It could be detrimental if I found them gone, picked up by a stranger or torn apart by the new train. It’s best to let them stay buried. So I picture them instead, black and combat-style, sitting underneath the dirt and dying in the way a pair of boots might die. I think about what Emma looked like the last time I saw her. Kissing the sole of that left one, right where the words were scratched, dressed in baby blue. I wouldn’t have recognized her had it not been for the black straw hat dripping down the sides of her face. Usually she was draped entirely in black, black lace full of little rips evidencing that moths surrounded the place she called home, wherever that was. I never found out. Usually she was in fake pearls, the kind being chipped away from excessive wear, or in cheap trinkets she bought from me that dangled down to her stomach. Looking like any girl you might pass by on the street in 1999 who felt they were mistreated by the world. Any girl who had spent their early years watching My So-Called Life, maybe, except that she didn’t watch TV because she once told me she had no TV, and I imagine even if she did she would choose not to watch it. But that day, she was in baby blue. She had handed the pair to me, first the right one, then the one with the epitaph of decay scratched onto its sole. Rest in peace she had told me. Her lips were plain that day. I was concerned because the only source of color usually came from her lips. Sometimes in reds, pinks, purples, blues. She would watch me apply plain Chapstick now and then behind the counter, and with her hands cupping her narrow chin over the register’s counter she would ask me how come I never colored anything bright. As if the color on her two thin lips were enough to brighten all that black. I would point to the floral patterns on my blouses, to the glimmer of gold and pink in my glasses, but her attention was drawn toward my naked lips. She would stare heavily at them, and then lift her face up abruptly, as if she were suddenly aware she was having a conversation.

“Are you ready to start the day, my dear?” I had said, smiling while wiping the counter. I had put on the faintest red lipstick, silly me, thinking I could be best friends with someone nearly half my age.

She carefully lined up the heel of her foot with the toes of her other. She walked seven steps toward the counter this way, keeping her focus on her feet. Even her boots were colorful that day; a bold brown opposed to a familiar black.

“Remember when we first met?” She had finally said. “Rest… in… peace,” she whispered. She lifted my right hand, kissed the top of it as if she were an old-fashioned daughter or lover bidding farewell. Then the boot received its kiss and she left. Smiled, turned, straight out of the shop. Swinging her legs up, bouncing her waving baby blue skirt, holding down her oversize straw hat with her fingers. I watched her until she made it down to the start of the abandoned railroad tracks.  She didn’t look back to say goodbye.

When she stepped over the tracks I called her name, but she couldn’t hear me. So I settled for summoning her in a different way.

Faintly, by and by, I would hear her voice. It was when I walked by the rack of beige wedding dresses. I used to think they were beautiful before I met her; now their hangers stared at me like lonely faces, their arms hung helplessly to the side of their corsages sleazily draped in twenty-five dollars worth of jewel and bead. They spoke in harsher, more dismal tones than they used to.

When I reached out to hold one of their hands out of an empathy I cannot explain, I would hear Emma snort next to me.

They belong to the moths. Nobody cares enough to keep them as a keepsake, and now they’ll be doomed to hang here, stuffed right next to each other in rows but weeping all the rest of their dreary days. As if they have any right to be loners because one person didn’t come up and pick them off the rack. People try them on, but most of them are stubborn. Just watch them and you’ll see what I mean. They don’t try to fit onto anybody. They don’t try to make their beads shine with color when someone wants to dance in them, to show off. They’ve given up, and because they are so full of self-pity they will rot. Face it, Willetta.

“They’re waiting for their perfect fit,” I tell her. My voice gets high when I’m upset, and my cheeks turn a champagne sort-of pink; because of this I can never lie to someone who knows me.

Yeah, like they have time to do that. I bet this entire town will be renovated and restored before these dresses find ‘perfect’ owners.

“Watch your mouth.” I lift up the right sleeve of the white Renaissance-looking one, kiss the top of it. Dust sticks to my Chapstick lips, and I taste it on my tongue until closing.

She was there five minutes after opening. I had never seen her before, and here I was thinking I’d met every rock in this small town. She walked in and waved, as if we had met before, and I watched her look through the colorful pins, costume jewelry, darling dresses, reindeer and heart-print sweaters, cassettes and tapes and vinyl that contained treasure most people overlooked. One of the tapes I had snuck in was a sermon my father had preached; the only time I heard his voice was when I heard the tape. When I was a girl, I think I believed in God only because it felt like believing in God meant believing in my father.

One particular vinyl I had put in the pile was a hit single in the early 1940’s, “Paper Doll” by The Mills Brothers. I paid particular attention to that vinyl, because it couldn’t go to just anyone. My grandpa used to turn this one on and sing along, after emptying his cigar-smoke-filled cheeks. Meanwhile, I would pull out the paper dolls my grandma had bought for me and pretend they were my mom. Mama, you look so pretty in this one. Do you want me to get you pearls to wear with it, too? I would dress them and dance with them, barefoot on the kitchen floor doing what I thought was the waltz, as my grandpa sang about paper dolls. Then I’d take pictures with my Polaroid of each of their outfits, pasting them in the only journal I ever owned; one that belonged to my grandma who was never much of a writer. When I first opened her journal there were only two pages that were filled and I found them only after flipping through carefully.

To Buy/To Do

  1. Pack red lipstick Buy lip balm (more practical)
  2. Safari dresses á la Katharine Hepburn; so you don’t have to look in the mirror to know you’re gorgeous, doll
  3. Bring vinyl — can you bring vinyl to such a place? Ask Gregory
  4. Viewing magnifiers for seeing strictly-wild things up close; so close you’re afraid they will breathe on you
  5. Extra pens to record observations and thoughts (so as not to forget!)
  6. Extra money for souvenirs (can you buy souvenirs there? How much money to bring?) Ask Gregory
  7. Don’t forget to call Doctor Schwartz at 592-34–
  8. Don’t forget that you put your bag under Gregory’s side of the bed, not yours
  9. Don’t forget to remind Gregory that Willetta goes to piano on
  10. Don’t forget the keys are in the second drawer of your dresser, as usual. (The vanity’s drawer)
  11. Don’t forget to remember to wake Willetta up early so she can say good-bye
  12. Tomorrow(today if you are reading this) will be Tuesday, the seventh
  13. Don’t forget that you leave on Tuesday, the seventh, today! First flight at 1:30p.m. Bon voyage!

And the other:

“How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”

~ William Faulkner

I never understood what she meant by “strange roof”. She had always lived under the same roof, in the first house grandpa had bought her. I thought perhaps she was referring to the time she was in Africa for a week, the first time she left Grandpa and me on our own. When she got back, she had told me stories about how she slept in dusty tents and blankets and had to take her friend Daisy with her every time she wanted to use the restroom. Grandma would roll up her dress and do her business, with Daisy standing with her back to her, watching for lions. She blushed every time she told the story, covering her grinning lips with her withering fingers.

“Childhood romantic dreams of safaris and African Queens and painted jewelry were lost in those moments,” she would tell me. “It wasn’t worth it to be away from you two. Do you understand what I mean? Do you understand that no place is better than home?” I was a young teenager.

“Yes,” I would say, my voice turning high. I wanted to travel.

She would pause for a moment, staring for minutes at a time at my face, her eyes glossy and her head cocked to the side. I thought for the longest time it was the stories that drained her. I thought she had been so involved in the stories that it was practical she would need minutes to find her way back to reality. I didn’t question her forgetting my name now and then, or what day of the week it was, when she could tell such stories. She was older, and I almost expected details to fade from her mind as they surfaced to appear, in fine lines, on her skin.

On the page after Grandma’s notes, I wrote the only journal entry I’ve ever written:

March 24, 1979

Grandma told me today about trepanation. It’s pretty gross, to the max. Egyptians used to do it and they would make a hole in your head and let the evil stuff leak out of it. but really they just would hurt people because they didn’t have the medical knowledge we do. Grandpa always talks about how medically advance we are and how we could solve anything, so no worries. Grandpa keeps making a joke today saying grandma got a hole in her head when she went to Egypt, because she forgot that yesterday we bought a kitten, who I named Lula. She threw her outside and I looked everywhere for her until I brought her back. Grandma kept saying sorry but she really couldn’t remember when we bought her yesterday. She was even there! So when she told us about the trepanation grandpa made that joke and we all busted a gut laughing, and now grandpa keeps saying it, and I want to write it down so I don’t ever forget it because it was so funny.

            I can hear Emma next to me so clearly as if she never left the shop that day: They all died. All your paper moms died. One was drowned in the sink after her porcelain ship sank to the bottom. Another was pulled away in the wind after the door was left open during a storm. And I know you recall when the cigar fell onto your third mom, burned a hole right through her head and made her lose all her memory of every dress you ever decorated her with.

She’s pulled out a book on paper dolls and is punching out the little dresses from them, throwing them at my feet.

Stop!

I look at Emma again, wandering around the shop, and see she’s pulled out a Choose Your Own Adventure book.

“I hate these, I can never read them. I constantly have to flip to the beginning to remember what’s happened.” She talks to me like we are friends who see each other every week, maybe work together.

I nod. “You didn’t see anything good in the music section?”

“You have a funny way of organizing things,” Emma says. Although I don’t know her name is Emma just yet.

“Everything is arranged by color, isn’t it?”

“Nobody ever mentions that.”

“Well I just did.” She grabs a chunk of vinyl from the greenish cover section and brings it to the register, along with a pair of black combat boots.

“All of this?” I don’t know if I can part with all of it at once like this; I am wondering if she will take her motherly responsibility to this collection seriously. She seemed to grab that handful of vinyl without thinking.

“What’s your name?” She’s picking at the multi-colored pins near the register.

I pick at the register’s buttons, slowly.

“Willetta.”

Willetta. That’s a weird name.” She scrunches her nose as if she’s finally inhaled the dust.

“What’s your name?” It’s the least I should know about her, since she is about to walk away with a bagful of my friends.

“It’s Emma, spelled with two m’s.”

Emma.

“You don’t go by Willie or something?”

“Just Willetta.”

“That’s a pain in the ass to say.”

I stop punching buttons on the register.

“Well… that’s my name.”

“Alright, Willetta, what’s my total then?”

“Thirty-three seventeen.”

“Awe, geez louise, Willetta, I didn’t bring enough money to cover it all.”

She rests her elbows on my counter, tilts her face up so I can see underneath her black bangs. I meet a pair of earnest black eyes.

“Thirty-three seventeen.”

Her fingers massage the laces on the boots and then, as if popping a peppermint into her mouth, she takes the bit of the plastic-enclosed lace at the end and sticks it in her mouth.

My hands hit the counter hard. “Ma’am, please! Stop that! Oh, I do hope you’re buying those…. In fact, I’m going to have to require you to buy those. Please.”

She grins, the boot dangling out of her mouth. She lifts the left-foot boot with her mouth like a dog, and shakes her head. This is the point where I start to thinks she’s nuts. Mentally handicapped. Probably thinks she’s a real dog; probably is one of those psychos stuck in that perpetual fantastical state-of-mind, unwilling to grow up if you ask me.

“Why aren’t you stopping me?”

The shoe falls.

“I mean, I’m standing here eating a shoe and you’re still over there on the other side of the counter. What do I have to do, lady, bite off a piece of the leather and chew?”

“I asked you to please stop,” I remind.

Words? That’s your big idea on how to stop me? Words might be great and all, but really, you could talk to me all day and I wouldn’t do anything. There are better ways to make me listen. You could hit me like my dad does, for instance. He keeps his rings on. Wedding ring, class ring, and one I mistakenly gave him for one of his birthdays. You can put on all your antique rings and punch into my sides. Or you could take some of these pins, open their mouths and throw them at me like pretty little darts.  You could strangle me with my own shoelace; this looks long enough right here.”

“You’re crazy,” I tell her. Plain as that. I’ve never called anybody crazy before. I’m wondering if I should call CPS about the comment about her father, but I’m having trouble understanding whether or not she’s serious. Kids like to mess with you.

“Maybe so. Don’t sell these shoes,” her voice dips as she reaches to grab the shoe that fell from her mouth. She places the pair on the counter, pushing them toward my hands.

“Don’t sell them. I’ll come back in a while to get them, I swear to God I will. Do you believe in God? I swear to Buddha, I swear to Zeus, I swear to Joseph Smith, I swear to Madonna, I will be back to get these shoes!” She’s delivered a speech, chin held high, hands moving everywhere. I fear for the little crystal pins.

I don’t say anything before she’s out the door. Then I stand there; holding up the boots’ laces between pinched fingers.

“Thank you for your business.” My voice is high and my face is warm as she runs out the door. I shake my head and throw the boots under the counter. She won’t be back.

The second time I see her, fifteen minutes later, she hands me thirty-three seventeen in exact change. I wanted to take them all at once, she says, scooping up the green vinyl and the combat boots. So none feel more special than the others. And then she leaves, and I watch her go, stopping at the abandoned railroad tracks to put on the shoes. Her bag full of green vinyl swings on her arm, she spins on the track, lifting her skirt and laughing, doing the two-step down the tracks until she disappears behind the town’s old print shop. But before she disappears, she looks back, and I know I will see her again.

In totality, I only spent maybe one week with her. Her eyes would stare patiently into mine; those black, bulging things. Her colored mouth would smirk, smile, guffaw as sound escaped it. I thought she wanted to stay.

She asked me what year I was born, and I told her 1966. She asked about that year and I couldn’t recall anything specific, but I did know that The Sound of Music, one of my favorite movies to watch with my grandmother, had opened the year before.

She told me the world might end soon, that Y2K would be here and that I should go to a party before the world ends. I told her I only wanted to be here when it happened, and besides, I thought Y2K was silly. It’s an event to give suppressed people a chance to do something inexcusable or outrageous they’ve always wanted to do. Believing a change so tremendous would happen within one day was laughable.

Usually she asked silly question that I didn’t mind answering. Like, what would you rather do: never change out of your favorite dress for the rest of your life, or never be able to wear the same thing twice? Never change out of my dress, I had told her. No need to waste clothes. I had pointed my finger at her and shook it when I told her.

One day she asked about my grandmother. I told her I visited my grandmother’s grave every other Saturday to leave her white roses. She answered:

“She liked dancing, right? You should dance around her grave the next time you see her. If you’ve run out of tears, she’ll understand. I’ll bet she’s sick of people coming over to her and just crying on her, drowning her in tears.”

“Don’t talk about your grandmother that way”, I had said to her.

We didn’t talk for the rest of the day.

            Rest in peace, grandmother.

Taylor, Leonora Elizabeth

            (May 4, 1922- March 24 1981)

            Leonora Elizabeth Taylor was sent to heaven on March 24, 1981, a heaven where she was happily reunited with her baby girl and son; a waterless heaven, she discovered, where cruises took place on colorful clouds. A place where age doesn’t exist and where wind doesn’t misdirect, but instead exists solely to tickle long, silver hair. She was a vivacious, gentle, yet feisty woman, always picking on Gregory and reminding Willetta that real love meant not being afraid to poke fun of one’s object of affection. She particularly enjoyed dressing up and going out, being shown off; she believed it was a tragedy if one didn’t enjoy being shown off, and she was beautiful enough to be right. She is survived by her husband Gregory Taylor, whom by some miracle she managed to say good-bye to moments before she packed her bags for heaven whilst crying and telling him she would not forget him, and by her granddaughter, Willetta Elizabeth, who knows her especially by her stories, and who wants her to know she will keep all of them safe. Willetta remembers everything. Every walk by the lake where Leonora held her hand tightly, the laugh that came from her mouth after she found out Willetta had forged a permission slip telling her P.E. teacher she could not swim because she was allergic to chlorine and her skin would turn completely green if she were forced to swim, every waltz on the kitchen floor to “Paper Doll” as Gregory sang, every costume dress Leonora brought back for Willetta to play in. There will be a celebration of life for our loving wife, mother, grandmother and friend on Sunday, March 26, at 6a.m. (Willetta’s favorite time of day, right as the sun hit the blackened earth) at Life Church, the church where Willetta’s father used to preach. Flowers, particularly white roses (her favorite) are especially welcomed, but please try to control your tears. Our family is not particularly fond of water.

            Contact Willetta Taylor at Old Tyme Antiques to hear or share a story about Leonora’s life. Please, please contact Willetta. She wants to share, needs to share. It’s the only way Leonora can return, if only for a while.

 

“About these shoes, Willetta—I need to return them.”

“What?”

“I need to return these boots.”

“I’m sorry, but you can’t.”

“C’mon, Willie,–”

“Willetta.”

“Willetta. Listen. The shoes are telling me to kill somebody. Kill them. Do you want to be responsible for that?”

“For—what on earth are you—”

“I didn’t see it coming, either! I had no idea. I put them on, and just like that they were talking about murder. They talked about killing her, absolutely slaughtering her! Taking a knife to carve her like a turkey, to gut her like a pumpkin. It will renew her, they said. Like she’s going to be renewed in blood, like the blood of Jesus Christ.”

I look up from the shoes, into her face. Her eyebrows have nearly touched her hairline, her lips pursed together, as if she won’t speak until I do. She has long eyelashes peeking from between strands of black bang, and although she’s wearing an outrageous shade of even paler purple lipstick than she was before, she looks quite docile.

“No. I don’t want to be responsible for that.”

“That’s what I thought.”

“Then you need to take them back.”

“I don’t understand.”

“It means that you take them back. Put them back on display and give somebody else a chance to take them; somebody who actually wants them and is willing to wear them now and then and not keep them cooped up in the back of their closet. They are already so worn out, but they still have soles, and they are worth it, Willetta, they are worth taking back.” She’s taken on the tone of both salesperson and beatnik poet.

No; I don’t understand because about forty minutes ago you came in here telling me I could absolutely not sell these to anybody else. It was practically life or death if I sold these to anybody else, and now you’re telling me I have to take them back or I’ll be responsible for murder? I’m sorry, missy, but I’m not in the mood to put up with this right now. Or ever, actually. Please leave my shop.”

“Just look at them. Just look.” She pushes the boots toward me. “On the bottom of the left sole.”

I play along, peek at the bottom of the left shoe. Sure enough, in faint gray as if scratched with keys, it says RIP.

“Did you do this?”

“Oh, no ma’am. I can’t imagine who could possibly have done this. It’s sick. It’s twisted. It’s dark, Willetta.”

She takes her elbows off the counter. She gently gives the boots a loving pat as if to tell them it’s not their fault they’re psycho.

“It’s difficult to leave them after I’ve just gotten them. I know I probably sound crazy to you. A lot of people call me crazy. But I’m not crazy. I just can hear things that other people block their ears to. I can hear the stories. I’m trying to explain what I mean…but it’s like I can look at something, and I can hear its desires. I can see where it’s been because I pay attention to detail.”

She’s holding the left shoe, stroking its leather skin.

She’s treating it like a friend, with care, and the intensity of her sincere tone is overwhelming.

“I can hear the dresses talk,” I finally say. I clear my throat, look down at the counter, start counting the little crystal pins.

Emma’s eyes cut into mine, they are skeptical.

“What I mean is I know what you mean.”

It’s not that the dresses have mouths like we do, and they open them and they speak sounds like English or French or Portuguese. But there is a baby blue dress with a lacey cream collar that has cried to me, told me about how the tiny blood stain, invisible to almost any eye but my own, came upon it.

You see, it was out on the lake in an antique canoe with its owner when she started bleeding profusely; so it was abandoned, thrown into the water, pulled from its owners bulging and broken stomach. Its owner jumped into the water, because she could swim faster than she could paddle. The wind overtook the boat, and it ran into a pile of rocks, leaving the dress completely alone. There, alone, the dress would wash itself in the water, scrubbing, scrubbing, and trying to rid itself of the blood. It rid itself of all but one stain, blue maroon in the spot below the hips, a haunting reminder of the loss of what it once held. No. Nobody wanted the dress because it was stained with that shameful spot.

I can hear them all. Sitting on their hangers and obsessing over their appearance, wondering why they haven’t been taken. Whispers of why they’ve been disowned, why their original owner didn’t care to have them around, or forgot about them entirely.

There is a satin strawberry champagne nightgown that spoke to me one night as I was closing. I was weary, but it kept pulling my eyes in, then talked louder and louder until I would listen. Its owner had worn it to bed with her lover, but the lover took one look at its outdated sleeves, and the tiny cream ruffles around its skirt and neck. You’re still a girl, the owner’s lover had told the owner of the dress. The dress blushed strawberry champagne with embarrassment, and those words were soaked up as truth, and the blush was so precise, that it became its permanent color. The owner tried to rip the dangling ribbons from its collar after fleeing to the bathroom, but once gone, the dress became even more childish and outdated than it had before. Its ribbons were its roots, and now it was lifeless.

“Like this dress right there,” I say to Emma, pointing to a sagging peach beige dress hanging forlornly on a rack. “Nobody wants it because it has a hole in it, see?”

I run my hands through its stiff, lace-y bottom until my finger falls into it; it’s the size of a bullet but it wasn’t shot. Its edges are singed, like someone ran a candle through it. I know its story: one of a different lady and her love, quite the pair. This dress looks so old I reckon it could be from the 40’s.

“This dress used to be quite the charmer, you know.”

“Is that so?” Emma manages this with a tone of sincerity.

“Yes. It was bought by an enamored fiancé for his wife-to-be. Well, she kept the dress for years, wore it all over the town and continued to get compliments on it. One night her and her then-husband lit a candle in the bedroom; they were getting romantic before this big event he was going to bring her to, so he could continue to show her off. As he wrapped his arms around her to kiss her, he lifted her up, and this bottom part of the dress grazed the candle. But rather than catching the entire dress on fire, a tiny flame appeared, and hung onto this little circular spot on the dress, as if this entire peach dress were now its new body of wax. The lady thought it was mortifying. She was supposed to attend an event that night and had planned on wearing no other dress, nor did she want to wear any other dress. Her husband, after putting out the tiny flame, thought it added to the dress’s amazement and enchantment, but the lady was considerably irked by the hole in her dress. She did not expect to have a hole in her dress at such an event. Eventually, she told him she would not go with him that night. She had a hole in her dress and it was causing all the compliments to leak out of the dress, one by one. She could no longer recall that Mrs. Osborne had told her she looked like quite a doll in it, and such. The memories of the dress started to seep out, too, and all the girl was left with was a hole, nothing else. She stuffed the dress into the garbage, and had it not been for her husband to scoop it out and donate it in hopes it would get another chance, Lord knows where it would be now.”

“But why does it matter?” I almost forget that I am telling the story to someone. Emma caresses the hole, then yanks her finger down and suddenly the perfect circle is gone.

“Emma!”

“Those stories are depressing! Why do good stories all have to be depressing? I’m sick of it! I won’t be a part of it!”

She is racing now through the racks of dresses, pulling them off their hangers, throwing them into a pile of ashes at my feet; they are bodies without bone.

“Here are these sleeves that you have kissed. I’ve seen you kiss them before.” Her black eyes pour directly into mine. “But where is their fruit now? Huh? Even if they were to somehow come back to life, if they were given another chance, who’s to say their life wouldn’t be wasted on meaningless parties, or plagued with more sorrow and loss? Vanity, vanity, all is vain under the sun!”

She throws a baby yellow sundress above her head, and it explodes in the excitement of freedom, falling over her face.

“We are vain creatures! And I’ve decided that we shouldn’t care, because we’re going to die.” She is prancing around the pile of dresses, picking them up and muttering ladies’ names before she tosses them: Goodbye, Leona! Goodbye, Eleanor! Goodbye, Rebecca!

“They are all dead now, I bet. They are not wise, not antique, not old-fashioned….that’s a cover for the fading, that’s a cover for the decaying, that’s a cover for those who know they have to die or have to change.”

“Get out of my shop.”

“No.”

“Get out of my shop.”

She’s fallen to her knees, face in her palms, heaving. Over and over she is mumbling, Why does it have to be so depressing?

Then, she whispers: “I wish I could save them all.”

When standing over her, I see how tiny she really is. Her black dress is a heavy drapery over her small body. Her stomach is folded over her knees, arms and hands tucked in around them. She reaches out to the pile of dresses around her feet, my feet, and strokes the dresses, one by one.

“I’m sorry your story has been so sad,” she tells them.

Right then and there I forgive her. I wonder if her dad really hit her with rings.

“Do you want to work here, with me? To help me save them?” I bend my own knees. I once read that when talking to a child, it’s good to get on their level.

Her violet lips curve upwards, she puts her thumb and index finger between her chin, inhales, and shuts her eyes. As if she will find the answer only when she blackens her surroundings.

I blacken the boots’ world after three weeks of not seeing Emma skip in and sniff the air of the shop, sneezing each time. They had remained there under the counter, in the same spot I had set them after she had whispered “rest in peace” and left. Though I tried to take them back, it became increasingly obvious they were not mine. Their black leather was darker than any of the other shoes’ leather, and I swear I could smell them from the register; mothballs and burned wood and mud, the kind of mud that sinks the soles into the ground so deeply it makes it difficult to pick your feet back up.

I heard them scream so loud at one point, a battle cry- or was it a cry for help? They were screaming that they were dying, that all the shoes and everything around the shoes were dying. So I grabbed them off their rack, slipped my size 8 feet into their size 7 home, and did what I had never done in all my years of owning the shop—I walked outside in the middle of work, listening.

Ah, yes. I could hear the voices within a minute. Rest, they whispered when I stepped on my right foot, In peace, they sighed, when I stepped on my left. Rest, In peace, Rest, In peace, Rest, In peace.

I ran. The further I was from my shop, the more I expected to be lost though I knew someone would have to try to get lost in this town if that’s what they wanted to be.

Eventually I peeled my stinging and suffocating feet out of the boots and began to dig, coloring my fingernails with the damp dirt. I buried them near the abandoned railroad tracks. The track hadn’t moved in years back then, and I had no intention of it moving.

I’ve considered going back and digging up the boots, but I haven’t yet, and I won’t. It’s best to let them stay buried.

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