That Shoeless Man

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Short story I wrote a while ago.

Submitted: June 23, 2012

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Submitted: June 23, 2012

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It was a Monday afternoon when I saw him for the first time. I got off work about half an hour early-and much like every other day-I started my fast paced walk home. I was eager to see my two cats, Tiny and Allie, and soak in the tub for a few hours. The hot water always felt good on my skin after a long day at the office. My head was in the clouds thinking about my apartment only feet away, and I neglected to look where I was walking, resulting in me walking into the belly of a rather plump older woman. One look at her face caused me to cringe. Wrinkles, crows’ feet, liver spots, and little black hairs adorned her face, giving her a very masculine appearance. Her hair reminded me of the stretch fake cobwebs my dad would struggle to decorate our house with every Halloween when I was a kid. She opened her mouth, revealing horribly neglected buckteeth. “Watch it!” She snapped, sending a foul odor wafting in my face.
“I, I’m so sorry,” I said, gagging on the stench of her breath. 
“Humph,” she said, her chin held up high as if she thought she were better than me. 
As soon as she left, I saw him, sitting outside my apartment, one leg stretched out in front of him and the other crouched up against his chest. His clothes were splattered with dirt, probably from cars speeding past him, hitting a few mud puddles in the process, unintentially of course. A small paper cup rested beside him silently begins for change. He wasn’t like the others: he had no stupid sign begging for money or food. I had always suspected something shady from them. But this guy, he didn’t even ask people for money. He just sat there looking pathetic, and why shouldn’t he? He has nothing, and winter was slowly coming. Soon, it’ll snow, and then what? I walked right past the man to the doorstep. It was when I had my hand on the doorknob that I realized something horrifying: the man had no shoes. How could he bear walking through the cold streets of Chicago without any shoes? I reached in my pocket, fingering the good amount of change that I had in there.  Change that would probably eventually end up between couch cushions or under my bed. I then removed my hand and opened the door, closing it quietly behind me.
My apartment was as empty as it always was. The only sound was my two cats purring loudly as they came to greet me. Allie rubbed herself up against my legs affectionately as her purring grew even louder. Tiny kept her distance, much like she always did. She was sky; that was the first thing I noticed about her since I scooped her up off the street about two years ago. I still remember driving down North Avenue and, to my surprise, seeing a small brown cat at the side of the road, practically begging to soon be roadkill. Cars sped right past him, swerving a little to avoid crushing the poor cat. At least they had the decency to not hit him. The look he had upon his face will forever remain in my mind. The car was certainly not meant to be a stray. And with that thought in mind, I stopped the car in the middle of the street. With cars honking me and people screaming at me, I carefully scooped up the cat in my arms. He was shaking, and soon, I was too as a tear slowly traced a course down my blushed cheek. The cars continued to honk. 
As I stared into space recalling the memory, I realized I had been wasting time. I should have been in the tub by now. I walked to the fridge, reaching for my iced tea that I’d always drink after a long day of work. But instead of grabbing my Arizona Iced Tea. I reached for a beer. I wasn’t much of an alcohol drinker, but I was craving one of my boyfriend’s cold Corona’s. I opened it and chugged it down, much like a frat boy would at a college party. I reached for another and brought it upstairs with me, where I would soak in the tub for hours with my beer in hand. 
The next day, I saw him again. Who was this mysterious shoeless man who wouldn’t beg for change, but merely hope for it? Again, I stared him down, but didn’t dare give him anything. Each time, I thought about it, I would hear my mother’s voice telling me, “Honey, don’t get too close to a tramp. God knows what he’ll do.” Words of advice from my oh-so-loving-Mother. All week, he was sitting right outside my apartment building, shoeless and shivering. Each time I walked by, I’d stare at the calluses that lay upon his filthy feet. 
On a Monday afternoon, I found myself walking down the same route that I always did every weekday. I watched the trees bristle in the wind, like they always did. The wind left a whistling sound in my ears reminding me that I should probably close the windows as soon as I got to my apartment. The whistling sound, although, wasn’t half as annoying as the fat son of a bitch who was trudging next to me while humming an insufferable tune. As that sound grew louder and louder in my ears, I felt myself walk, once again, into a rather familiar belly. It was the woman who I had walked into the week before. She was still incredibly ugly, but that day, she looked as if she were trying to dress up, maybe trying to impress someone, possibly her crush. She had on a hideous purple polka dot dress that accentuated her fat rolls quite nicely. She was wearing purple eye shadow, in which I found it clear that she was a stranger to make up. “Oh, you again,” she said bitterly. 
“I’m really, really sorry,” I said. 
“You really don’t watch where you’re walking, do you?”
“No, no I guess not.” I then looked over her ruffled shoulder to an empty space right outside my apartment. “Where’s the man?” I asked her as if she would have the answer.
She turned around and stared at where the man used to be. “What man?” She said. 
I turned my attention back to the woman’s hideous face. “Nobody, I guess.”
She gave me a weird look telling me that she thought I was insane. “Humph,” she said as she loudly stomped away. 
 


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