Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Great Hites # 57


This week have stories by:

John Wilkerson

WinnerOdin1eye <------This week's winner
Lawrence Simon
Danny Machal
Norval Joe
Mick Bordet

Running Shoes
By: Lawrence Simon

There is no text for this story you will have to listen to the podcast to hear it.

Track Suit & Running Shoes
John Wilkerson

James turned down the alley just as the cops rounded the corner a
block away. Hopefully they didn't see him. This was a dead end so if
they did, he's busted.

He noticed a rusted, green dumpster. Some unidentifiable brown fluid
leaked from the corner where the rust had won its hard-fought battle
against the paint and steel of the dumpster.

As he approached, an offensive and equally unidentifiable stench
assaulted his nostrils causing James to wretch. He was able to hold
down the bile building up in the back of his throat long enough to
lift the lid and climb in.

Once inside, James could no longer hold back and he vomited on himself
and the contents of the dumpster.

He was new to this and still couldn’t get used to the smells that were
frequently found in the dumpsters and back alleys of New York City.

Once he was sure it was safe, James peeked out from under the
dumpster’s lid. Nobody was around so he threw the lid open and
climbed out.

Looking back into the dumpster he now saw what the stench was that
caused his body to so violently erupt in fits of gagging: a
decomposing body. James body erupted once again, spewing bile on the
ground and himself.

Looking down, James realized he’d need a change of clothes.
Fortunately he’d missed his companion in the dumpster. He quickly
disrobed the body and changed clothes quickly. They didn’t smell too
bad, he get used to the smell eventually. He was getting used to a
lot of new smells lately.

James had a new outfit now, a track suit and a nice pair of running
shoes. The shoes were a little tight but they were better than the
worn out penny loafers he’d been wearing. James had learned to
capitalize on these opportunities because when you’re homeless new
clothes are a luxury. It had been six months since he’d been laid off
and eventually evicted from his apartment in SoHo and this was the
first change of clothes he’s had since then and probably would be for
a long time.

Creative Commons License
Running Shoes by G Snook is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Running Shoes


After having given the nail one last “whack”, Alexander took the obviously worn pair of work shoes from the floor, double knotted the laces, and hung them from the nail he had just placed in his workshop wall.

Alexander stepped back and was surveying the rows upon rows of shoes that this latest pair had joined. The late afternoon light streaming through the windows illuminated the motes in the air and made the sheen of dust on the shoes evident. Margaret would surely be telling him, “If you’re going to keep all those shoes, you need to keep them dusted!” if she were to see them in the state they were now.

“What’s all the noise out here, grandpa?” came the query, startling him from his reverie. Unnoticed to him, his grandson Alaric had entered his workshop and, coming up behind him, familiarly placed his arm around his diminutive grandfather’s shoulders. Alaric, a recent college graduate, had been staying with Alexander that last couple of weeks, but the old man was still not used to having him around.

“Just adding another pair to my hall of fame Alaric,” Alexander replied.

“Ever since I was a small child, I remember rows of shoes hanging on this wall gramps, but I’ve never really known why you keep them. Surely you can’t have kept every pair of shoes you’ve ever owned?” questioned Alaric.

Alexander laughed and shook his head. “Boy, if I’d kept every pair of shoes I’d ever had, I wouldn’t own enough walls to put them on. Nah, these are just the special ones. The ones that have a story of their own. The ones that I come out and look at whenever I need a reminder of life’s journey.”

“Next you’ll be telling me they know how to talk, and probably with funny accents,” quipped Alaric, then ducked as a rag was hurled at his head.

Sensing a chance to get his grandfather, normally a bit of a quiet man (when it came to speaking about himself anyway), to share some of his personal history, Alaric casually went over to a pair of boots near the beginning of the first row and asked, “So what do these old boots say to you? ‘Get up, let’s go hunting?’ or maybe just ‘you should think about getting a new hobby!”

Alexander chuckled a bit and came over to where his grandson stood. “Nah, nothing so mundane as that, son. These boots brought me back through the roughest fire fight I ever saw back in Germany during the war.”

Alaric was a bit astounded. Although he had known his grandfather had been in World War II, this was a topic that Grandpa never discussed. Not wanting the conversation to end there, Alaric gently probed, “Really? I don’t think I’ve ever heard that story.”

Alexander turned and looked at him with a one sided smile. “Don’t patronize me boy,” he said gently. “Of course you’ve never heard it. That would be because I’ve never told it to anyone except your grandma.”

Alaric was afraid that his question might have had the adverse effect of the one he’d been hoping for when his grandfather reached up and squeezed his shoulder and turned around to walk off. Instead of leaving the room, however, he went over to his work bench and pulled out an old stool and sat down.

“You might as well make yourself comfortable,” he said. “If you’re gonna get me telling my shoe stories, we might be here a while.”

Alaric hurriedly crossed the room and sat on another of the stools as his grandfather began.

“You see, my platoon had been ordered to take this German town. I don’t remember the name. After you’ve done it enough, they all look the same. Anyway, my squad was working its way up this street running from doorway to doorway trying to stay undercover. We knew there were German snipers around and none of us wanted to be the first to be noticed.

Well, I was peeking around the corner of this building, and sure enough, a shot splintered the plaster off the wall close enough to make you think twice about peeking again. We figured the sniper was up in the bell tower at the end of the street, but we had no plans to try to get him out. We didn’t have the right guns to do the job. We drew straws to see who would go first and try to draw his fire. Of course, I drew the short straw.

As things turned out, I remembered, from the brief look I’d got, that the building across the street had a wall blown out, and I reasoned that if we could get into that building through that hole, we might have a chance to gain some ground. I told the boys what I planned on doing, tightened the laces on those boots and scampered out around that corner as quick as I could. I knew that sniper had me in his sights, so I did my best to dodge and weave while hunching over as low as I could to make myself as small as target as I possible.

From under the brim of my helmet, I could see the darkness of the hole looming in front of me, and I dove forward with all my strength. Don’t remember much after that until I came to with my squad pulling me into an alley near the building that I’d been running toward.

‘Did I get hit,’ I remember asking them. They all laughed. Scotty, the youngest of us all, said, ‘Yup, you got hit all right. Hit by a building!’ and they all started laughing again.

You see, Alaric, I guess when I took that quick peek, I wasn’t seeing as clearly as I thought I was, and that hole that I dove into was in reality just a shadow on a wall. A brick wall that I had just dove head first into! I’m sure the only reason I’m here today is because that sniper was laughing ‘til he wet himself up in that tower!” finished Alexander with a chuckle.

Alaric stared at his grandad for a moment and then started chuckling too.

Alaric got up and wandered back over to the wall. He went up to the very first pair of shoes in the very first row. They were black with a low heel and looked as if they had never been worn, “What about these, Grandpa? What’s their story?”

Alexander smiled a truly beatific smile. “Well son, although they pinched my toes and gave me a blister the one time I wore them, those are the luckiest pair of shoes I’ve ever owned. You see, times were tough back in the spring of ’41. Most of us figured war was coming, but none of us were truly ready. Anyway, I was a young squirt then, younger than you are now. I had just graduated high school and was pretty proud of myself. I was the first one in the family to have graduated and had just bought those shoes and a suit and had applied for my first job over at the mercantile downtown. You know the place, its where McDonald’s is now. All they had available was a position as a bookkeeper, but as soon as they offered it, I took it and was glad of the work.

That old store was a grand old place. They actually still had a cracker barrel! The scent of spices mixed with the smell of leather and soap, and there was always somebody you knew walking among the aisles. More importantly, they had just added a soda fountain, and all the kids hung out there, including the pretty girls. I thought I was pretty lucky to have got a job there.

In fact, I was running home to tell my parents, when the prettiest girl I ever did see walked out of the hardware store. I later found out she was visiting from out of town. Anyway, I was so busy looking at her, I guess I wasn’t looking where I was going, because I ran dang blamed smack into a light pole. I fell on my butt, right there on the side walk, and I’m sure I turned three shades of purple. I wanted nothing more than to get up and get out of there. Unfortunately, I hit that pole hard enough that the ringing in my head left me pretty unsteady. The next thing I knew, that pretty girl was leaning over me and helping me get up. She handed me my hat and helped me get home. My mother, God bless her soul, insisted she stay for some lemonade and so she was there to hear my news. Well, it turned out she staid a bit longer than just for the lemonade. That pretty girl’s name was Margaret. I married her, and five and half years later, thanks to the interruption we call the war, your dad was born. The shoes I was wearing on the night your grandma said, ‘Honey, it’s time’ are hanging right over there,” Alexander said pointing.

“I like these shoes,” said Alaric as he gently placed them back on the nail. He wandered a bit down the line and then picked a pair off the wall about half way down. He looked at them closely.

“Hey grandpa, what about these. What’s this brown stain?” asked Alaric.

Alexander got off his stool and wandered up behind the young man.

“That? That’s blood,” he said, this time with no trace of a smile. “You see, those were the shoes I was wearing the weekend I took your father and uncles up into the mountains. I accidently knocked your dad through a window. That’s your dad’s blood. It ran down my arms and onto my shoes as I bundled him up and raced down the mountain to the hospital. I’m sure your dad has told you that story,” he concluded looking rather troubled, even after all these years.

Alaric nodded his head. His dad had told Alaric about the time that his grandfather, father and uncles had gone up to the church camp in the mountains to do some light repair work and maintenance on the buildings. A pinecone fight had broken out with Alaric’s uncles ganging up on his grandfather and father.

His father and grandfather had climbed up on piles of mattresses that had been stacked on top of the dining room tables in the mess hall in order to try to keep the mice away from them.

Alaric’s dad had only been thirteen at the time and had had a tough time climbing to the top. Just as he was cresting the top of the pile, Alaric’s grandad had backhanded his father on the backswing of his next throw, accidently knocking him off the pile and through a plate glass window, where a triangular shard of glass roughly seven inches on a side, severed an artery near his elbow.

After having removed the shard, and cleansing the wound as quickly as possible, Alaric’s grandfather had thrown his father in the truck and raced him down the mountain. He then ran him into the emergency room, just in the nick of time.

“Grandpa, if they cause you pain, why do you keep them?” asked Alaric quietly.

“Because, as much as we would like it to be, life isn’t always joyful. If you try to forget the painful parts, you’re really trying to hide from yourself. Never do that Alaric. The only man that can truly run from himself is the man that doesn’t know who he is. And if you don’t know who you are, you aren’t really living, now are you?” stated the old man.

“Well, I guess that’s true grandpa. I never really thought about it that way. Out of all these shoes, are most of them sad stories, or are most of them triumphs?”

“Oh, a little of both, a little of both. Would you like to know the story behind that last pair?” asked Alexander, pointing at the pair he’d just put up.

“If you don’t mind telling, I’d love to hear grandpa,” replied Alaric.

“Well, as you can see, they’re worn, but they’re not worn out. The last I wore them, the last time I will ever wear them, was four weeks ago next Tuesday. I was wearing those shoes when I heard Margaret, your grandma call, and then I heard a crash from the kitchen. I went running in and found your grandmother there, lying on the floor. She was holding her heart, and there was such pain in her eyes. I called the ambulance and ran back to her. By then, she was nearly gone and her eyes didn’t hold so much pain. The last thing she ever said to me was, ‘You always did run whenever I called, dear.’ And then she passed away as I held her.”

By the time he finished his recitation, the old man had tears in his eyes and his voice had gone hoarse.

Alaric gathered him in his arms, and the two men, one young, one old stood there and let the tears fall.

After a time, Alexander thumped Alaric on the back and looked up at him. “Alaric, I’m going to ask you to do me a favor. You don’t have to, but I’d sure appreciate it if you would.”

“Of course grandpa, anything, anything at all,” replied Alaric.

“You’ve been staying here with me since Margaret passed, and I really appreciate it. I’d always planned on leaving the house to your dad and uncles, but they all have places all ready. I’ve spoken with them, and they’ve agreed that it would be right if I left the house to you,” concluded Alexander.

Alaric was rather shocked, but loving his grandfather as he did, was more than grateful to realize he would be able to look after the beloved place himself.

“There is only the one thing I ask of you,” continued Alexander. “I want you to document the story of each of these pairs of shoes. We’ll come out here every day, and I’ll tell you the story of another pair, and before you know it, you’ll know my whole life’s story.”

“Of course grandpa, I’d be honored,” replied Alaric.

“No, that isn’t the favor. You see, when it’s my turn, when I pass, I want you to claim the shoes that I am wearing at the time, and place them on that empty nail, that one right there,” he said pointing.

“And I want you to write, whichever pair of shoes they are, that those were the pair I was wearing, that I was wearing when I went running to meet your grandma.”

“Running one last time.”

Running Shoes
By: Danny Machal

Part I
'My name, is Berry Augustine.'

'I'm thirty five years old and I'm a sick man.'

'I'm also now, dead.'

'At the age of twenty nine I was surprised to find there was a woman who would marry me. My lovely wife Dana; she must have been sick too. No sane and healthy woman would ever get involved in my situation.'

'She is sad that I've gone, but she's also the strongest woman I've ever met. She'll never stop loving me or forget me and the void I've left in her will be filled quickly. She is just that kind of person, a survivor. Not like me. I was weak.'

'You see, they told me I have obsessive compulsive disorder. The three letters OCD would somehow define me to a lot of folks. I'm a person ya’ know? I'm not just an ATM for the pharmaceutical corporations, and it isn't like I'm contagious.'

'I ask them why it is wrong to have unexplained feelings toward certain things in life. Is the feeling of uncertainty in love no different? Is the unexplained superhuman strength of the mother who lifted a car to save her child any different than what I feel?'

“Yes, Mr. Augustine it is different. You have a sickness and we can help you,” they say.

'I really never saw any problem with my supposed illness until it killed me. Even then I only saw it for a few seconds and that is pushing it. You’re asking your self two questions right now. The first being how I died. The second is most important.'

'What exactly was my diagnosed OCD a result of?'

'So I'll answer quite simply.'

'Sometime in my early twenties I became unable to wear a pair of shoes more than once. I couldn't help it, deep down it just felt wrong. It felt wrong to me like rape and murder feel wrong to you. It just wasn't something I could ever do. Even fleeting thoughts of, Re-use as I came to call it, made me sick. Sometimes I would actually manifest physical illness in myself. Some places I couldn't ever go into, say a bowling alley, not that they wanted me there anyway. Every time I tried it always ended in a violent torrent of projected sickness on the walls of the entrance. I don't remember the day or the moment I started to feel this way, it just was. Maybe my brain has blocked out some painful memory to save me from the real cause.'

'Imagine waking up everyday and having to lace up a new pair. The house you live in smells of new machined rubber. You have a room with three hundred sixty five boxes of all shapes and sizes; the year's cache of footwear. Nike, Vans, Airwalk, Reebok, Adidas and a lot of no name Super Store knockoffs fill this room top to bottom.'

'Even at twenty dollars a pair it is a little over seven thousand dollars a year. This personal eccentricity was a large financial burden on me. There were stretches of time when I didn't eat so that I could just leave the house. When Dana came along it was easier. Both our incomes kept me comfortably in shoes. I was mystified to the very end why she stayed with me – eternally, I will always be grateful for her.'
'It was hard to deal with the part of myself I had no control over. The lurking annoyance of unwelcome rules made me a slave. Martial law had been declared in my brain and I would rather die than break it. So I did.'

'Being dead, is a lot like being in jail. Everyone you meet in this place is only interested in the event that got you here. Here's how it went down for me.'

Part II

“Babe lets go,” Dana shouts at me while holding open the back door in our kitchen.

“Just a sec, putting shoes on. You know these runs cost us a lot of money,” I shouted back down the hall.

“Running is good for the heart and soul, especially when done first thing in the morning. Worth the investment if you ask me.”

“My little stock broker never misses a good investment does she?” I sprinted past her and out the door.

“Cheater,” she shouted. We were off to the park to run our laps.

This had become our routine for a while now. My psychiatrist suggested that regular exercise would be a good thing for my depression. Didn't help. Not one bit. Only thing it did was get me good at running and cost me an extra pair of shoes four days a week.

We came upon a sharp turn in our imaginary race course. Dana was gaining on me so I figured I'd play it sly like. I pulled a low in and high out to get in front of her. I got about half way around the sloped embankment when my legs were promptly swept from under me. The hit was powerful and I got some good air time sliding to a stop on my behind. It hurt and I probably bruised my tail bone. When I sat up to get a look at my attacker he ran over and licked me across the cheek.

“This is why there are leash laws. Get away from me you mutt.”

I pushed the massive black lab with both hands. Pushed a little too hard, I guess. The fella lost his footing and fell over. At least now he knows how it feels. I wasn’t that sorry. I got to my feet and knew I was lopsided; sloping down more than the grade of the hill, uneven, and not balanced.

“Damnit, shoe came off.”

“Looks like you’re one legging it home, Captain Ahab style,” Dana smiled and picked up my shoe.

“I can go get the car if you want.”

“Nah, I'll be alright. Let's just walk home,” I said.

“Let's take the bus. The stop is right here,” she suggested.

We sat down on the bench and waited.

Waiting at a bus stop is like being in a room of Gladiators before the main event. You know you all have to kill each other, but who will strike first? The buses in this city can get full sometimes so you need to establish your spot in line at the moment the bus is in sight. In our case the bus was elusive and came with little warning. Like a small quarterback behind one of his linemen, the bus came quick behind a cement truck. We all jumped up from our seats.

I lost my balance forgetting I only had the one shoe on. I tried to stop myself but ended up sprinting a few steps forward and falling off the curb. Lost my other shoe too, ‘thanks Gravity.’ I landed on my back and time slowed down. This seems to be pretty consistent with most people’s recollection of their death. It is like God’s last evil prank is to mess with your perception of time at the worst possible moment in your life. Of course he couldn’t ever do that for the moments you’d want to remember forever. Dana and I's first kiss, our wedding day, any of those big life moments you wouldn’t forget if only you had a little more time to soak it all up.

Dana locked eyes with me for the last time. In that brief moment I was reminded of our wedding vows, 'forever and ever, our eyes said to each other.' She moved toward me instantly but it was too late. I heard a high pitched squeal long enough to register the sound, was indeed, brakes being slammed. I turned my head just in time to get a face full of rubber. By the time the cement truck came to a stop, the road looked like Paul Bunyan had stepped on a large packet of ketchup, forcing it to explode.

‘Good bye Dana, I love you.’

'Well, that was it for me - headless, shoeless, and lifeless. I sometimes wonder if it was rubber itself that had it out for me. Maybe those rubber-band balls I made as a kid weren't such a hot idea, and maybe, just maybe, it wasn't in my best interests to squeal my tires or, drag my feet on the cement. I suppose my soul will be reincarnated soon. I can only hope I don't come back as a bird nested high in a rubber tree, because if I do, I have a feeling I'll fail my first flight test.'

Saying good-bye
By: Norval Joe

It's hard to be a teenage girl and fat. Truly, it's enough of a challenge to be any one of those characteristics, but to have all of them is a formula for a miserable existence.
Sherry had many friends. She had lived in the same house since birth and was always well liked by the neighborhood children. Her playmates in elementary school and, really, anyone who got to know her, became fast friends. Young children are much more accepting than teenagers and adults. The exception being those children with much older brothers. These children seem to learn sarcasm and insult almost from the cradle.
There comes a point when a child, a girl, one who is fat, advances through the grades, and the new acquaintances aren't as accepting.
"It seems she will never loose that baby fat," well meaning, but insensitive adults might say. However, the guileless comments fade away to become the ridiculing sneers and whispered comments of peers. "Doesn't she know how dumb she looks in that outfit?" Smiling friends turn and giggle, laugh, snicker, make fun, as soon as the object of contempt is out of earshot.
When they laugh, they don't always laugh quietly. By accident, or on purpose, the laughter reaches the fat girls ears. She goes home and eats, because eating feels good. She tries to fill the emptiness left by their laughing, with food.
The years passed. Kinder gardener baby fat turns into childhood chubby. Junior high school chunkiness meets preteen boys indifference or outright abuse, and expands into high school fat.
She reached her final years of schooling and did her best to be the happy one, the friendly one, the active one, and the smart one. She served in student government, competed on the debate team, and sang in the chorus. Her cheerfulness was paint on a ceramic mask, a hard but brittle shell that disguised and protected the soft painful places inside her.
She was invited to parties and went to movies with groups of her girl friends. She nibbled on popcorn and drank diet soda. At home, away from prying eyes and judgmental noses she ate chips by the bag and ice cream straight from the carton.
In her 3 X-lg graduation gown, she gave the commencement speech. Her voice was the epitome of enthusiasm. She reviewed the graduating classes four years of hard work and accomplishments. She glowed as she described the boundless opportunities that would be theirs in the coming years. There would be colleges and universities, travel, families and careers.
She ended with a promise that they would all gather in five years time. In a spirit of enduring friendship they would share their continued accomplishments and boundless opportunities.
Her class cheered as she returned to her seat.
It's true that her class would meet in five years time. When they met they wouldn't see her there. She was worn down and didn't want to go on to new and boundless opportunities.
A grad party that ran through the night was held on the school grounds. There were games, music and food. They all laughed, hugged and cried, reminiscing about the past and making plans for the short summer. After which they would disperse to their various destinations in the fall.
Sherry didn't plan with the rest of her friends, she just smiled and nodded her head when asked a question. She had her own plans, that would begin and end in just a few hours. Her friends planned a water skiing trip at the lake for the next weekend. She hadn't worn a swim suit since the 6th grade swimming party. The jeers of, "look, there's a beached whale," and "Watch out for Captain Ahab," were still burned into her memory. Sherry thought about the bottle in her dresser hidden under her t-shirts.
Each week during her senior year she took one sleeping pill from her fathers' supply, and saved it. She only took one, so that her parents notice and become suspicious. She had stolen her last pill that very morning.
A friend dropped her off at home, after the party ended. Her parents were still asleep. She grabbed a bottled water from the fridge on the way to her bedroom. She locked the door and retrieved the hidden bottle of pills.
The previous night she had spoken of the important decisions that they all would be making. Here she was making her most important, permanent decision of her life. She felt unexpectedly excited.
She put on her pajamas and got into bed. She opened the bottle of pills and lay back, thinking of the sadness, rejection and disappointments of her life. All the pain was all going to stop this morning. She closed her eyes and let the depth of her desolation wash over her. She cried. The tears flowed freely from her eyes and wetted the pillow under her head.
She had no sleep this last night, at the party, running on adrenalin, chocolate and diet cola. She had spent the previous night preparing her speech for the commencement ceremony and had only slept for a few hours. Before she knew it, her exhaustion crept up on her, and she fell asleep.
She woke to a pounding on her door. "Sherry, dear." Her mother called. "Get up. We need to go shopping and it's getting late."
She had promised her mother that they would spend the day using the money she had received as graduation gifts and buy a new wardrobe to use at college in the fall.
"OK, I'm coming," she called back. She rolled to her side, swung her feet out of bed and sat on the edge. She tried to shake the fuzziness from her brain. As she got up, the open bottle of sleeping pills rolled across the bed in a long arc, spilling the pills as it went. 'Shoot', she thought. 'What am I going to do now?' She had lost the perfect opportunity, and would have to figure out a new plan. She scraped the pills back into the bottle and returned it to its hiding place.
They pulled into the mall parking lot and searched for a space close to the entrance. "Sherry?" Her mother asked to get her daughters attention. When she looked at her mom, she asked, "You're so quiet. Is something wrong?"
'Is something wrong?' she thought, 'I just failed at committing suicide.' "No, mom." She said instead, "I'm just tired. It's been a busy few days. Besides, I don't know why we're going to the mall. They won't have anything that fits me."
Her mother looked disappointed. "Well, we can see what they have, and if you find something you like, we can look for your size on line. But it's not just that. My little girl just graduated from high school and will be going far away for college. I just want to spend some time with you, before it's too late."
Sherry felt her bitter shell crack, just slightly. Her focus on herself faded just enough to picture the sadness and pain that her parents would feel at her death; and the guilt.
As they pulled into the parking space Sherry began to cry. Her mother turned off the car and realized that her daughter was in tears. "Honey," She said, leaning over to hug her, "What's the matter?"
"Oh, I don't know. All the changes that are happening. I feel so out of control." She took a deep breath and sighed, regaining control. "And, like I said, I'm probably just tired."
For hours they braved the flood of skinny, scantily clad teen and preteen girls that perpetually inhabit the shopping mall. Store after store they visited and Sherry rejected each purchase for one reason or another.
"Honey, we've found a bunch of clothes that are attractive and look good on you, too. Isn't there anything here that you would like?"
The aching sadness inside her battled with her love for her mother. "I just don't feel like I will be able to use any of this when I go," she said, and then repeated, to herself, "when I'm gone." Again, she thought of the bottle of pills, waiting for her in her dresser drawer.
She couldn't meet her mother's gaze who seemed to be searching her daughter's face for clues. Sherry dropped her gaze to stare unfocused through a storefront window. "Mom," she said looking up. "I think there is something I would like."
They walked to the car with two purchases. A pair of plain grey sweat pants and a pair of running shoes.
Two months later, Shelly left for college in a smaller pair of sweat pants.
Five years later, as the class reunion began, no one saw Sherry. They were looking for the wrong person.

Running Shoes
By: Mick Bordet

Somehow each generation becomes defined by the one or two critical events that resonate with the zeitgeist. I remember my great-grandparents talking about where they were when Kennedy was shot, whilst with my grandparents it was the fall of the Berlin Wall. Looking back now, I can also say exactly where I was when this generation's moment came. I was in the back seat of my father's car, fighting with my older brother when the announcement came over the radio. Political decisions were, with few exceptions, of no interest to me at the age of three and yet as soon as I heard it, this one sunk in fast and it hit me hard.

I had just been bought my first pair of running shoes; proper running shoes, not the garish plimsoles I had endured for the first years of my life. These were red and white, zig-zagged from toe to heel like lightning, with soles of foam that made me feel afloat on the air when I tried them on in the shop. I was eager to get home to put them to use as soon as I could. That was a novelty in itself for a boy who wasn't interested in anything unless it was a robot or a toy gun.

The order from the new President, her first in office, was a simple one. All forms of footwear, from shoes and socks to slippers and stockings, were no longer permitted to be worn, effective from 7am the next day. My parents, sat in the front of the car, were gobsmacked, ranting about what a ridiculously petty law it was to bring in given the state of the world. My brother simply said "awesome" and took his off there and then. I was inconsolable; sat there with a burning desire to run, to slip my feet into those go-faster red flashes and break all my round-the-garden records. I put them on as soon as we arrived home, went to bed in them overnight and refused to take them off in the morning.

There they would have stayed for days had we not watched the morning news reports coming in from all around the country of men, women and children being stopped by teams of barefoot police officers, having their shoes and socks removed, sometime by force, and their feet sprayed with a permanent blue dye. This seemed extreme, but by the afternoon it was clear that this was not some sort of joke and that it would be enforced, with anyone caught wearing shoes over blue feet being subject to a short custodial sentence. You got one chance and that was all. Within the week everyone was walking around barefoot, still feeling somewhat uneasy and self-conscious, but we were all in the same situation.

For the first month, almost everyone grumbled, fed up with sore heels, wet feet, blisters and stubbed toes. Businessmen moaned that they no longer commanded respect at the office, models muttered that they felt small without their high heels, anglers complained that they couldn't spend so much time in rivers without waders and builders went on strike because they had no protection from dropped bricks.

Yet slowly, month by month, a change was taking place, the sort of change that couldn't be legislated or forced. This was a change of heart that affected the whole nation. Streets started becoming cleaner. Not due to some new policy, but because people stopped dropping litter, all too aware of what it felt like to have a rotten burger squeeze up through their toes or split their heel open on a discarded bottletop.

That was only the first of many such benefits. There was a subconscious leveling of classes, with rich and poor alike going barefoot. With toes now more vulnerable, people took better care of where they walked and what they carried. Footpaths started to be properly maintained, improving access for the elderly and infirm as well as the regular shoe-less pedestrian. It wasn't long before marketers realised the potential to appeal to an alternative sense and larger shops began to texture their floors in different patterns to indicate departments or sales, whilst many former shoe shops switched focus to provide pedicure services and ointments for blisters and hardened skin.

By the time I left school, most of the world had adopted the same policy, with very few countries digging their heels in and allowing, or encouraging, shoes to be worn. Needless to say, those same countries became the only places manfacturing shoes and thus the suppliers for a small, but growing, black market.

Which brings me back to my current position. The world of crime is not what it once was, now that everyone not wearing shoes automatically leaves a DNA trail wherever they go, especially around the retail centres, most homes and the few remaining banks, where owners have laid perimeters of concrete mixed with pumice, guaranteed to retain skin samples from even the most heavily-calloused feet. Criminals have to wear shoes just to pull off the most basic of burglaries or robberies and, since anybody seen wearing shoes is technically a criminal anyway, it is easy for the police to identify suspects. Your average criminal needs people like me.

I've been smuggling shoes into the country from the South for about four years now, you see. It's the little I can do to repay the state for taking away the simple pleasures in life. Yes, there are the slick track shoes with disposable linings, so much in demand from the criminal underworld; they certainly pay the bills. The real joy, however, comes from delivering a good quality pair of sensible leather brogues to an ex-army man who longs to recall the discipline of squeezing into a pair of spit-and-polished regulation boots or a set of glittery high-heeled stilettos to a movie startlet to parade up and down the red carpet in her hallway.

It is more than just a job, it is a passion, a personal vendetta turned into a vocation. My heart will, it seems, always be in running shoes.

The Price of Friendship, Part 2.
By:Norval Joe

Chad slipped into his science class a few minutes after the bell rang, but with the normal confusion of after lunch chatter, the class hadn’t settled down enough for him to be noticed. He sat down and tried to think of what he would say to Amy. She wasn’t really a girl friend, in the sense that they were going out. They didn’t hold hands at lunch or make out in the halls between classes, like a lot of the kids did. But to fit in as an 8th grade boy, you had to have a girl friend, so when the other boys asked who it was, he would tell them, Amy. He was sure that what he was saying about her must have gotten back to her; the way kids gossip, it wouldn’t take very long. Since she still sat with him at lunch time, and if he waited for her to get out of her elective choir class, she would walk home with him; she must not mind that he was saying so.
She was in his civics class in the next period and that would give him the opportunity to slip her a note before she went to choir practice. He wrote out a note explaining everything but as he proof read it, it sounded unbelievably lame. What kind of jerk would think that he could give a girl away? She would never show up if he gave her that note. He folded it over and over, then he shoved it in his back pocket intending to burn it, or flush it down the toilet, later. On a new piece of paper he wrote, ‘Amy, meet me at the lunch tree after choir. I need to talk to you, Chad.' He folded this one four times, wrote her name on the front, and put it in his shirt pocket. He had spent so much time composing the first letter, that as he finished the second the class was ending. He quickly walked to his last class of the day.
In civics they sat on opposite sides of the classroom; therefore, it was obvious to Amy that something was up when Chad entered the room and walked over to the side where she sat. He gave her a weak smile and dropped the note on her desk as nonchalant as possible. There were school rules about passing notes. They only truly applied while class was in session, he didn’t want to draw any attention to Amy or himself. He turned quickly so that she couldn’t talk to him until after class.
He got to his seat as the teacher stood and began to address the class. He glanced over at Amy who had just finished reading the note. She carefully folded it and put it in her backpack. She looked across the room at him and frowned. She shrugged her shoulders and nodded.
Chad felt dreadful. He felt like a traitor; delivering a faithful friend to suffer the penalties of his personal crimes. But, what crime had he committed? The teacher was droning about amendments to the constitution.
Chad found it impossible to maintain his attention on the teachers lecture as his mind kept turning to questions about Derrick. He really didn’t know much about him. Chad figured that he was new to the school, though they had never really talked about it. He was just there one day, at their lunch tree, talking like he had been there all year long. He wasn’t in any of Chad’s classes and they seldom saw each other in the hallway.
“Chad! Hello, Chad?” He looked up as the teacher called out his name. He must have missed the first time she had addressed him, because most of the class had turned to look at him. “Yes, Ms. Van Doorn? I’m sorry, what did you say?” He replied blushing.
“Well, I never thought my lectures were so absorbing. Deep in thought about human rights?” She asked, lightly.
“Oh, yes, ma'am, kind of.” This was not his day for staying out of the spotlight.
“Chad, you’re wanted in the principals office. She saw him turn from bright red to milk pale so quickly that she tried to lighten the situation, by saying, “Well, what ever the crime, they can’t incarcerate you for long. Not without a trial with a jury of your peers. Isn’t that right class? Where do we find our right to a trial by our peers?”
The entire class sat glassy eyed and dumb founded at the teachers swift switch back to lecture, including Chad. When she scanned the class for a student willing to answer her questions, she saw Chad still siting there. “Chad, I think you had better go.”
“Oh, right.” He said grabbing his back pack and heading for the door. He had the urge to look back at Amy, but he didn’t want to see the rest of the class watching him rush off to his doom with the principal; he slipped out the door as quietly as he could.
He stood outside the classroom in a panic. The Principal wanted to see him. That was never good. Chad expected that he would walk into the office and find Derrick there with accusations of neglect and abuse of his game console. How would he explain this predicament to the principal? Would he be at all understanding? He looked down at his feet. He should hurry down the the principal, but he was petrified, by the potential for disaster. He noticed his shoes. His mother had scrimped for weeks to be able to buy him some new running shoes for track. Maybe he could just run away. Of course that would only make things worse, so he headed down the hall toward the administration building.
He thought about how the whole episode began.
On Monday, as they arrived at their tree, lunches in hand, they found Derrick. He was sitting on the edge of the bench, leaning over a hand held game device. Electronic games, music players and telephones were banned from the classrooms and hallways. They could be used during breaks and during lunch, out of doors. Derrick was so absorbed in his game that he seemed unaware of the others as they approached.
"Cool game, Derrick," Chad said when he sat next to him, glancing quickly at the small screen. "Awesome graphics. What is it, as space game?"
"Uh, huh." Derrick grunted, not looking up. He concentrated on the device, working his thumbs up and down on little track balls.
"I've never seen a game like that before, where'd you get it?" The graphics were incredible. Chad leaned in closer to watch as Derrick maneuvered a space craft through a three dimensional maze of asteroids and enemy fighter ships. It had the definition of the 42 inch plasma TV's that Chad had seen at the electronics store, but packed into a four by five inch console.
"My dad brought it home from work. He works at the Andermore Labs, over the hill toward Oakland." He said, as if it explained all mysteries. "Oh," Chad replied, feigning understanding.
"Do you want to try it?" Derrick asked suddenly.
"Oh, Yeah," Chad said, trying to act cool, but unable to hide his enthusiasm. As he reached for the game, the school bell rang. It was time to head in from lunch. "Shoot," Chad said, "maybe tomorrow, I guess?"
"Hey," Derrick said, noting Chads disappointment. "Why don't you take it and play it at home. You can bring it back in a few days."
"No," Chad said, hesitantly. He thought about how much fun it would be to play the game, but continued, "I can't. I don't want to be responsible for something that expensive. I'll bet it's worth thousands."
Derrick looked around him like he was afraid of being overheard. "It's no problem, as long as my dad doesn't find out. He doesn't know that I took it." Derrick grinned at him conspiratorially. That his Derricks dad didn't know that the game player was gone worried Chad even more.
"No, I really shouldn't. Besides, I have a ton of homework to do." Chad said.
"Come on," Derrick said, anger flashing in his eyes. "You're not going to break it or lose it" His arguments were beginning to sound more like threats. "Besides, I know you're good for it. Just bring it back by Friday." Derrick pushed the game into Chads hands.
Chad had expected the device to be warm after running the graphic intensive game, but he was shocked by the coolness of the small metal box. It felt almost as if it had just been taken from a refrigerator.
"No, I'm serious, I can't" Chads words trailed off. When he looked up from the game player, Derrick was already gone and half way back to the school building. The second bell would ring soon, and he would be late for science if he didn't hurry. He put the game in his lunch bag and ran back to his locker, where he grabbed his back pack. He put the device safely inside before heading on to science.
He stepped through the door to the principals office and was greeted by the perpetually smiling secretary. "Hello, Chad. You can have a seat right there. Mr. Satoro will be with you in a moment." She indicated one of the orange plastic chairs that lined one wall of the waiting room.
He sat, his stomach growing tighter as if it was physically filling with dread. He bent over and rested his chin in his hands, his elbows on his knees. This position gave him a direct view of his running shoes, and he considered again, the idea of escape.