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Julia LaSalle

Right Shoe

 

I sit down next to my remaining shoe in the sunny spot on the driveway. My nylon workout pants snag on the concrete. Doesn't matter. I can't very well go for my run now anyway. Might as well just sit. I stretch my legs out in front of me; look at my socks, the pink stripes across the arches of my feet, and notice some dandelion growing through a seam in the pavement.

Some dandelion is always growing in a seam in the pavement.

I try to think about what to do. Call John? Bother him again after my melt down last night? No. I needed to handle this alone. I used to be able to handle everything alone.

I pull out the leaves of the dandelion but can't get at the root.

Who would do such a thing? Why would someone steal just one shoe? Leave me just the one?

 

I'd put my shoes in the driveway this morning. They were muddy from the run the day before. I'd dumped them in the washing machine first thing that morning, as soon as John got off to work, then I went about my chores. Ran the sweeper. Windexed everything. When the wash was finished, I took the shoes out of the washer and put them in the sunny spot on the driveway. Putting them through the dryer ruins the shocks.

Since the move, I'd made it a point to run in my shoes five miles each day. Sometimes more, but never less. I hadn't found a job yet, so I'd made it my job to be fit. Four months later it was more than just my hips wearing thin.

"You'll regret giving up this work," the office girls had told me when I announced my plan to quit that job and move in with John, "it's going to be more difficult than you think finding something in the south hills. You'll regret giving up this life to follow that man." But at the time, it didn't feel like I was giving anything up. I believed in our love and our life together.

Four months later though, after I'd packed up my sweaters and cat and city life, all I'd found out was the layout of the housing plan, the subdivision of Indian names: the course of each road, the distance of each side street.

To the end of Seneca Road is 3/10s a mile. Down Comanche 1.2. Arapahoe is one tenth of a mile. Arapahoe is good for a sprint, because it's level and short. I know the neighborhood terrain better than John because of these runs, though he's lived here longer.

The first few weeks in John's house were a joy; falling asleep at night holding hands, waking each morning to coffee. But things had started to change. Being alone all day, it was getting to me. I missed the office girls and our lunches and talks. Around 5 I'd start looking for John, waiting for him to come home, like a puppy. If the supper I made got cold because of his late meeting, I'd get frustrated. He'd get home tired, and when I told him over dinner about my routes his eyes would glaze.

Usually I would run on the street, start my run on Comanche, would imagine myself racing with Indian braves and squaw for company. Imagined they looked like the Indians in coloring books, the ones from gradeschool, that showed them happily partaking in Thanksgiving with leather dresses, feathers, and loin cloth. I imagined Pocahontas running next to me and imagined that we laugh and chat about the difficulties of fitting in with our love's world.

Tried not to think about the movie Poltergeist, or the irony of running the path of tribes decimated by future suburbanites. Told myself that everything isn't always a life metaphor.

Yesterday the rain had come down hard on me, and it came out of nowhere with thunder and lightning and cold.

So I cut my run short for the first time in months, and went through the yards. I needed to make sure John's computer was unplugged before the power went out. The power was always going out during these summer storms, and I was using his machine for my work. The work of finding work. Resumes. Portfolio pieces. Contacts.

When I got home I quick kicked off my muddy shoes and raced toward the steps with rain water and sweat dripping. I tasted it in my mouth. The house was so quiet.

John wouldn't be home for hours.

I started up the basement steps, two at a time and tripped in my wet socks when the lights blinked off. I hadn't made it in time.

I sat down on the basement steps and brushed cold wet hair off of my face. Took five deep breaths then walked the rest of the way to the computer room. Pulled out the plug and hoped no data was damaged.

Prayed that when the power flicked on my freshly-revised resume would be intact, ready to be printed and mailed out at any time.

I didn't know what to do then, so I squeezed some tidy bowl into the three bathrooms, sat on the sofa and fought the urge to take a nap. I called John at the office, his secretary answered. She asked how I was doing and then took the message. It's the loneliness that makes you tired.

When John got home, the house was still in the dark. I didn't know how to make dinner, and when he walked in he looked tired, but still I couldn't make myself not cry.

"What's wrong?" he said sitting next to me on the sofa, pressing his nose to my cheek.

"It's not working," I said. "It's not working at all."

He smiled a little, kissed my head, "It's all going to be fine," he said and ordered us a pizza.

John seemed to always be taking care of things these days and I fell asleep soothed but mourning my independence.

---

I pull more at the dandelion roots. Why would someone take one shoe?

I look at the jolly red and white geraniums along the side of the driveway. They either don't know or aren't talking. I turn my head first up the street then down. Nothing.

What could I do for my five miles? Hop? I couldn't fail at even this.

Was someone mad that I ran through their yard? Mad that I didn't know how to prune my holly tree, or that I hadn't pulled my trash cans in early enough on trash day. I still had so much to learn about this life. Was it the Indian spirits? Had I angered the ghost of Running Bear?

I put my hand inside my right shoe, feel its wetness from the laundry, and stand up. It doesn't matter who had done it. What mattered is that I handle it. I breathe a warrior's breath of resolve.

"Looking for this?" John says appearing from the side of the house, wearing sweatpants, ballcap and holding my shoe.

"What?" I say and jump up.

"I thought I'd take the day off," he said, "and run with you."

What a relief I felt. I put my arms around him.

"But why did you play that trick?"

"I thought maybe you could stand to lighten up, thought I'd remind you of the troubles we'd solve together."

We rub our noses together then we lace up our shoes. We take off down Comanche and I feet Pocahontas smiling at us.


Julia LaSalle's work has appeared in DrunkenBoat.com, and she was a finalist in Glimmer Train's Fall 2005 Short Story Contest for New Writers.

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