Martha slid her left foot into the size 9AA red alligator pump with spike heels and pointed toes. Then she slid her right foot into its mate, stood from the row of turquoise plastic chairs, and wobbled to the mirror. They were beautiful. These weren’t shoes that you wore to church or to work, and certainly not to a law firm in Hanley, Tennessee. These shoes were meant to clickity-clack on polished marble, like you’d find on the executive floor of a New York law firm or the halls of fine museums or the lobbies of Broadway theaters.
Martha had seen such floors in New York, an indulgence before marriage, before children, before she had fallen into a conservative life in a small Southern town. She saw Gene Kelly on stage, climbed to the top of the Statue of Liberty (but not in red alligator shoes), and paddled across Central Park Lake.
Now, staring at the reflection of her shapely legs and long, narrow feet capped by heavenly red shoes, Martha pondered the mystery of how these shoes came to be at the Pick-n-Pay. Maybe they were shipped by mistake, a diamond among the paste that was the store’s usual offering of sneakers, loafers, sandals, and “old lady shoes.” The fact that the shoes were her size must be a sign from God.
Martha closed her eyes and imagined herself as Ginger Rogers, dancing with Fred Astaire in a Hollywood classic. She was spinning and twirling, arms extended, curtseying to her partner, dipping under his arm, bowing to an audience. The song in her head escaped as a whistle from her lips. The clerk’s snicker drew Martha’s attention back to the store and her lunch break and the realization that Mr. Tuttle would dock her pay if she were late back to the office again.
She removed the red alligator shoes with spike heels and pointed toes, wrapped each in tissue paper, cradled them in the box, and reached for her “sensible” shoes. Navy pumps with half-inch heels were not shoes designed for dancing or attending the theater or even working in the executive suite, but for tapping the foot pedal on a transcription machine in a small town office and for Sunday school and funerals and other solemn occasions. They were shoes for mothers.
Martha pulled her wallet from a red leather clutch, comforted by the knowledge that her purse matched the new shoes, a fashion necessity, but understanding that the red alligator shoes would never be seen in public. She would don them while washing dishes after the children were in bed. She would slip them on and dance to Lawrence Welk’s Champagne Hour on Saturday night. Then they would be wrapped again in their tissue tombs and stowed on the top shelf of the closet. These were not shoes for mothers.
With her prized shoes in a brown paper bag, Martha slowly waltzed down the sidewalk toward the Law Offices of Tuttle and Losur.
Gwenette Gaddis is a prose writer working on two novels; she also has written a collection of short stories. Her flash fiction piece “Afternoon Delight” was published in Staccato. Her greatest talent, however, is baking brownies.
Photo credit: “Free” by DuproDs is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.