Excerpt from “No Shoes.”

 I had hitchhiked from New Hampshire to Georgia in two days, and my feet were beginning to show signs of boot rot. My penchant for cheap wine caused me to pass out quite frequently, and I often woke up wearing my boots. The combination of walking dozens of miles in the hot sun, and falling asleep with my boots on had caused my feet great discomfort. With every step, they sent shock waves of pain up my back. I had to sit down.

Sitting on a concrete curb in front of a small liquor store, I began to pull my left boot off my sweaty foot. Old blisters on the bottom of my toes had turned black. Freshly formed blisters sprung from the side of my foot, pulsating with pain. I gingerly removed a sweaty black sock, placing it on the curb next to me. I took off the other boot, examining my other foot. Smudges of dark pink skin in between my toes itched badly. My toe nails were dirty, and my feet smelled bad. I let them air out for a few minutes, the tar beneath my feet was black and hot. Broken glass lay strewn across the parking lot, near a busted dumpster. I pulled a cigarette from the pocket of my skirt and lit it with my Zippo. Taking a long drag, I waited patiently for Chelsea. People walked lazily walk up and down Moreland Avenue.

A few moments later, an old man came out of the liquor store holding a brown paper bag. He grinned at me, revealing a wide smile with three broken teeth. “Hola senorita,” he said, his bloodshot eyes fixated on my torn skirt. I glanced at him, squinting.“Hey man, can you spare any change?” I asked, looking up at him. The glare of the mid-afternoon sun hurt me eyes. “Que?” he asked, moving closer to me. He smelled of sweat and booze, his white tank top stained with old blood. “Do you have any money,” I asked, scratching my ankle. He grinned again and began coughing. Wiping spit away from his mouth, he smiled,“No, no dinero senorita.” He sat down on the curb next to me. I scooted over, nearly falling off the end of the curb. He grinned and gently pulled a bottle of MD 20/20 from the bag. Laughing, he put it back in the bag. “Quieres un poco de vino?” he asked, leering at me. He waved the bag in front of my face, his leathery brown face distored in a twisten grin. He waved his thin brown hands around his head as if he were drowning. His long fingers wrapped around the brown bag, revealing thick scars.I stared at him, perplexed. “I don’t know what the hell you just said, man. I am thirsty as hell, and need some change to get a drink,” I said, rubbing the bottom of my foot. “Drink!,” he yelled out exictedly.Twisting the plastic cap off the bottle, he took a long took a swig. “Ahhhh,” he smacked his lips. Sweat dripped down his jawline. “Muy bueno”, he gloated. Grinning, his stretched out his leathery arm and rubbed my shoulder.I stood up and grabbed my boots. “Oh! Senorita, don go,” he put a hand over his heart. Just then, a large black truck pulled into the parking lot, its wheels squealing. Chelsea jumped out of the passenger seat. “Fuck y’all!” she screamed, slamming the door shut. “Y’all are a bunch of dumb motherfuckers!” She kicked the side of the truck with a bare foot, nearly falling over. The truck revved its engine,squealing out of the small parking lot. She walkedtowards me fast, her jaw grinding. A thin cigarette hung from her lips. The old man began to laugh. “Esta loco,” he said, shaking his head. “Hey Chelsea,” I said, struggeling to get one of my boots on while standing up. She dropped a plastic bag on the ground and took a long drag, her right foot tapping the hot tar. “That fucker Roy ripped me off again. I told that fucker and his friend that I don’t do this shit for free,” she shouted, her hand moved quiclky through a tangle of long brown hair. “That totally sucks,” I replied glumly. “Yeah, well I ain’t doin shit for them ever again,” she said, pulling a pair of plastic flip flops from her bag. The old man leaned to his side, cooing at her. She rubbed the top of his head, a shock of greasy black hair. “You met Miguel?” she asked. I shook my head. “He’s an ole dog, but harmless. Ain’t ya,” she said, flicking her cigarette. The old man took another pull from his bottle. He began to hum. “How do you know him?” I asked. “He hangs around, hittin on young girls, “she said, digging around the pockets of her jean shorts. They hung loosly around her bony hips. “Why am I not surprised,”I grumbled, lacing up my boots. “He ain’t never hurt a fly,” she said, elbowing Miguel. Laughing, he put the bottle to his lips again. 

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