Shoes for Memories
By: G Wayne
It was a crisp January morning, and it was Saturday. I got up early just to enjoy more of my
day off. With my thermos-cup filled with hot coffee, I jumped into the car and headed out
to-with no purpose, just to enjoy a drive. The morning sun was bright in its cloudless blue sky
as I motored off into my weekend fantasy. It felt good to be on the move to no particular place,
without the need for any arrival time. I passed the houses and the stores and a man dancing on
the sidewalk while twirling a sign that advertised a tax preparation service. He was dressed
like the Statue of Liberty, even his face was painted verdigris green. I was taken aback at how
happy and eager the man appeared, preforming a task that seems to me, less desirable than:
sitting on a hot stove, eating broken glass, treating stuffed-up sinuses with explosives, or
shaving with a chainsaw, a Cuisnart, a jackhammer, or a bench grinder.
Driving on, I noticed a homemade cardboard sign attached to a lamppost. It was bordered
with metallic fringe that sparkled brightly in the breeze. This sign selfishly stole my attention
and announced in big, unevenly printed block letters, "YARD SALE TODAY". I was annoyed
at this interruption in my almost perfect day and quickly decided to stop thinking about it.
I drove on, still caught in the novelty of a day with no responsibilities. My mind wandered
from thought to thought as I drove, and that darn yard sale sign kept popping up. Then
memories of the great deals I had found at yard sales in the past began to play in my mind.
Before I was aware, the Siren had attached herself to my soul and the sweet, irresistible song of
the sea nymphs beckoned me beyond my control to be dashed on the rocks of yard sale. I
quickly found the next safe spot to make a U-turn and headed back while feeling the glow of
great expectations for my new muse.
It was not hard to tell which house was having the sale, only one had the front lawn covered
with blankets where things of all nature had been placed. Although it was still early and yard
sale primetime would not happen for a while, there were still plenty of other bargain hunters
and we carefully ignored each other, adhering to the unspoken yard sale hunter's code. I
walked up the driveway, cautiously surveying the litter, searching for that coveted prize. The
thing that I did not know until the moment I saw it, I could not live without. Of course, it must
be purchased for far less than its true value. The cheaper the better is my motto, and I consider
my haggling skill is a force to be reckoned with.
In the garage there were makeshift tables made of planks on top of sawhorses. I quickly
glanced over a collection of ceramic poodles and then commemorative plates set up on risers
like a choir, to an item that stood out in contrast. A pair of old shoes rested toward the back of
one table. The leather was scuffed and cracked and they were very unremarkable outside of
the large metal cleats mounted on their toes and heels. Next to the shoes was a pair of spats,
once clean and white, now yellowed by the passage of many years. I began to fantasize who
the person was that once wore those shoes. It looked as if they were made for a professional
and the yellowed spats suggested an era that had passed by long ago. My mind's eye could
see a brightly lit stage. On it was a man tap-dancing to the sound of a full band. In one hand he
held a straw hat with a wide red band circling its crown and in the other, a straight, black
tipped white cane. He wore a blue tinged, white seersucker suit with vertical red pinstripes
that made those spats seem to glow in the dark. I could see his radiant smile beaming out over
the audience as he proudly strutted across the stage. I picked up one of the shoes to inspect it
when a voice called out from beside me.
"See anything you like?"
Startled, I looked around to see an old man with wispy silver-gray hair smiling at me. His
stooped posture and hollow cheeks betrayed a frailty brought on by prolonged illness and old
"These shoes sure look interesting," I said after regaining my composure.
"Oh ya, what's so interesting about 'em?" he asked, his eyes boring into me.
"Well, it's not really the shoes or the spats, it's the story they tell."
The man seemed amused at my insight. "And what story might that be?" he asked, leading me
"These shoes and spats look to me as if they belonged to a professional dancer. Someone who
performed on the stage"
His visage began to noticeably change. The man's hollow eyes brightened and years melted
away from his weathered face as he began to smile. He took the shoe from my hands, shaking
slightly at the end of each movement, and held it as if it were a magic lamp, a private gateway
to fond memories of a past world. He nodded his head while running his thumb over the
scratches and scuffs; it seemed that each one sparked a story of its own. He looked at me, but
his eyes focused wistfully on a point in the distant past as he said:
"These are my shoes, at least they were. I haven't put then on for over forty-five years. Yep, it
was the best part of my life-what's that idiot phrase that got so popular, "back in the day." Well
back in the day for me was the end of a glorious era. It was when radio became popular and
the audiences got smaller. Then TV came along and the only folks that showed up were
street-people with nothing else to do and kids with fake IDs, cutting school to see the
strippers. Ya know, I worked with the greatest vaudeville acts of all time. I got to dance with
Gene Kelly and one time I was in a number that followed Burns and Allen. George Burns
himself invited me to have dinner with him and Jack Benny. For months, I danced in a comedy
sketch with Blaze Starr and the part where she rubbed up against me never got old."
"Really!" I said, not being able to convey the awe I was feeling. "That's quite a life."
"Yes, it was. Yes, it was. I experienced the good times and the bad, the highs and the lows. I
held on and embraced that life no matter what it would bring. When times were tough and
dancing on the street corner for tips would barely afford me a hot meal, I was happy and still
felt fortunate. To this day, I have no regrets."
There was a long pause after he finished speaking. I was full of emotion, but empty of words
to comment on the vicarious look, that he shared, into a world I could scarcely imagine.
"Thank you, I think I'll remember this for a long time," was all I could say.
"That's OK kid, my pleasure," he said and gathered up the other shoe and the spats. "I don't
think I should be selling this stuff quite yet," he said, then turned and lumbered off,
disappearing into the house.
It's nice when people open up.
So . . . leave a comment on "Post Your Opinion".
Copyright © 2009 G. Wayne