The Shoes

Carole Hamilton

     The shoes appear one day on the table outside the café beside the rock pool. They are the colour of the surrounding heather, purple, inside lined in a pale blue silk, curled toes and a tab sticking up at the back. They look like slippers, and more Aladdin than Cinderella, though no oil lamp or prince charming is in the vicinity. What a stir they cause, sitting silent but saying so much. One family stand and discuss them, huddle in a tight group.

 

  Nobody could have just left them.

 

  If someone had left them they’d be on the ground, not on the table.

 

  It’s supposed to be bad luck to put shoes on the table.

 

  The person would be barefoot, have to walk away across the wet and stony ground.

 

  I wonder if they’ll fit.

 

  You can’t take them.

 

  Probably wouldn’t fit anyway.

 

They reluctantly walk away but plenty of others take their place. I watch the reactions of the people who pass, some slow down, look from side to side and behind to check if anyone sees them. One girl beside me in the café in a long violet skirt with blue daisies swigs back her coffee and dashes outside, slips off her Jesus sandals and tries them on. Her feet won’t fit. Eagerness fades from her face as she puts them back on the table, ignoring the audience watching through the café window. An older woman follows. Picks up the shoes, first one then the other, examines them, searches the hard leather sole for a label, a size, nothing there. She sits down, unzips her long tan boots, pulls them off with a struggle. Slips her feet into the shoes and parades up and down. They flop off at the heels; she does a flat foot walk in an attempt to keep them on. Puts them back, fixes herself, then briskly walks away, checking behind for anyone looking.

 

I go to the counter, order another tea; I want to delay leaving to see who’s next in the cabaret.

 

Back again settled in my front window seat, a queue’s formed, all in bare or stockinged feet hold shoes and wait patiently. A portly woman with a small girl at the front goes towards the table. When the child sees them she jumps up and down on the spot then stares transfixed.

 

  A princess must have left them Gran.

 

  Don’t be silly Anna, that’s just a fairy story, there are no princesses, I thought you were a big girl now.

 

She puts them on, slides along the ground, tiny feet in boats. Tries to do a twirl on the spot while her Gran pulls at her sleeve. Before they leave Gran pushes off her suede ankle boot and slips her foot in, then trundles quickly down the street. A woman with a tight perm tries them next, she’s the strangest, her feet shift slowly towards the table, a body wracked in pain. There’s no visible sign of disappointment when she’s unable to finagle her feet into the shoes, instead she walks away upright, like angels had magically touched her.

 

Next day the shoes are gone, unannounced, just as they had appeared. The shoes came into people’s lives, lived on in their imagination for a long time. If you listened hard you could hear a tap tapping on a rock around the pool, and if you watched closely you could make out a faint hue of blue and lilac on the water.

 

Carole Hamilton was born, lives and works in Scotland. She teaches drama part-time, writing in the remainder. Ms. Hamilton was recently awarded a Scottish Arts Council New Writers Bursary.

She is presently working on a collection of stories about women on the edge. “Dissy”, an extract from her novel, If You Leave It Too Long It Hurts More, is published in Stramash.

 

 

Photo Courtesy of morgueFile.

 

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Story Copyright © 2006 Carole Hamilton. All rights reserved.