I steal feet souls.
The back-of-store shoe pile — the one people think is for charity — is for me. I love sniff-smells of sweaty footprints left behind in tried-on piles and bronzed discarded baby shoes holding up my Bible and Shoes of the World books. When I measure room-to-grow shoe lengths, I have to resist snapping off toes and heels in my hands.
People deserve to have their souls pilfered: never playing tennis yet wanting tennis shoes, dusty Eleanor Roosevelt orthopedics worn by trendy young women, brown leather pumps with devil-red soles spooning with outdated mom-chosen saddle shoes and pointy-toed witch shoes. I catch soul bits on my medieval wooden shoe stretchers, heel pushers, shoe devil horns and discarded shoelace nooses.
Shoe-needing children are the easiest to steal from: baby tip-toe feet in the shoe sizing, growth-inhibiting x-ray machine and distracted parents mean their tiny feet are mine. I love stinky teenager feet too but have to ask perpetual Johnny Hates to Wear Shoes to take off the back room plastic hooker heels and for his mom to stop taking wedding day shaming pictures.
I could guess shoe sizes with a quick thumb press estimation; but dislike the feel of still-not-solid kid feet moving under my hands like too-far from death skeletons. I guess radiated feet sizes like part carnival barkery, part snake oil quackery. They’re amazed when I announce to no one and everyone.
You’re a size 6.
It’s easy to steal from suspicious wives who know the blue suede Lothario loafers and boy band boots will be under someone else’s bed. I briefly feel for those women but really want their pink pedicure flip flop souls. Satin pink ballet slippers make scorned feet look angelic, trapped-wrapped in pretty pink ribbons. Gladiator sandals wrap carefully up their Cleopatra-worthy ankles and knees as I fasten each buckle.
I wrap shoes in brown paper boxes with brown-paper-paper, tied with favorite-things-shoe strings like dirty magazines. The split-soled, broken-down-arched shoe cast-offs line up like soldiers.
Ushering out customers and impatient nap-needing, lollipop-wielding children ten minutes before I really close, I smell the familiar musk of leather, foot sweat and blister blood crawling into my nose. I take quick breaths and count my daily prizes. The customers will be back in six months; feet regrown, pushing through shoe fronts, begging me to steal again.
Amy Barnes has words at a variety of sites including McSweeney’s, The New Southern Fugitives, FlashBack Fiction, Popshot Quarterly, Flash Fiction Magazine, X-Ray Lit, Anti-Heroin Chic, Museum of Americana, Re-side, Detritus, Penny Fiction, Lucent Dreaming, Lunate Fiction, Spartan Lit, Perhappened Mag, Rejection Letters and others. She volunteers at CRAFT, Fractured Lit, Retreat West, Taco Bell Quarterly, NFFD and Narratively.
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