Part II- The Right Boot
I followed Mom into the dim, musty store. The crammed racks bulged with pioneer costumes, so I thought. Tables full of merchandise didn’t catch my attention. Mom led me to the back of the store—it smelled like Goodwill. “Can I help you?” A woman with twitching cheeks and shaky hands that moved to the beat of her voice approached us.
“We’re looking for boots. Monday is Western Day and she needs a pair of boots,” Mom informed, looking down at me. I hoped not to find anything here, but pretended to study the goods and figure out what Mom was up to.
The lady brought a pair of black stitched boots with pointy tips. “These are boys’ boots, but they might fit. No one will know the difference,” she said holding them up, attempting to display them in such a way to make me forgive her for showing me something so ugly.
“Try them on,” Mom impatiently muttered.
I took off my old sneaker and tried to stuff my thick foot in the boot as I held on to a display table for balance. “They won’t go in.” Both embarrassed and relieved, I shook my foot out. The boots were huge and my feet still didn’t fit in them. Good. I didn’t like them anyway. A few had potential, but they were made for dainty feet, too small for me.
I acted disappointed, knowing we’d soon be at Carmen’s, the paradise of western attire. I visualized my boots: soft and smooth, smelling leathery sweet, no creases until I put them on and walked around in them. They’d illuminate my life until I scuffed them up enough to make them my own, but not so much to wear them out too quickly.
“I think we found some,” Mom interrupted, shaking me back to the darkness of reality. The rickety sales lady, our of breath, approached us. She looked flustered. She climbed a tall, creaky ladder to retrieve a dusty box. What’s inside? Ugly boots or dream boots?
Mom helped me open the box, as if I were a toddler that needed help opening a gift a parent was proud to present. No one tried these on judging from the smooth, unwrinkled tissue protecting the boots. Through the thick layer of tissue, I couldn’t make out the boots. My heart pounded harder as my hopes went up. This was the moment I’d been patient for. Finally, I’d look good on Western Day, not overly costumed like a rodeo clown, but dressed up enough to look western, like the other girls. No sneakers this year. All I wanted were dream boots. I looked up at Mom and smiled. “Open ’em up.”
Holding my breath, I carefully unfolded the tissue. First the top layer, then the next. There they were, all settled in their nest, my eyes probably the only eyes to gaze on them ever since they incubated on the top shelf of the cave-store. I looked at Mom, waiting for her reaction.
“They’re beautiful,” she beamed.
What? Mom must be insane. These are the ugliest things I’ve seen in my entire life, I silently screamed.
“Try them on,” she instructed, sounding less demanding than when she had me try on the boys’ boots. There was no way I was putting these things on. Two-toned beige and brown with frou-frou stitching ruined the boots. The stitching made them look like a quilt for feet. They weren’t smooth. Not leather. Too pointy. The real kicker? They stood on a three inch heel. Not my dream boots. I hated them. I’d be the center of attention, the rodeo clown.
“Try them on,” Mom reminded me.
“Oh, yeah, okay.”
Reluctantly, I eased my right foot into the boot, balancing myself against the table again. My toe touched the bottom of the boot and my foot slowly progressed. Please don’t fit, please don’t fit, please don’t fit. My foot popped right in. Too bad a prince wasn’t looking for his Cinderella. I shifted my weight onto the booted foot. My left foot dangled aimlessly without its partner.
I hope they’re too expensive. My stomach quivered at the thought of wearing these things. These were the kind of boots floozy women wore, the kind who had bleached-blond hair with dark roots, the kind of women who wore frosty blue eye shadow and streaks of fuchsia that blemished their cheeks while they held a cigarette between crookedly lined orangey-red lips. These boots were made for women who wore low-cut, skin tight shirts and designer jeans that might pop if they sat down too fast.
“You like them, right?” I didn’t want to disappoint her. I looked down at my foot again. “The boots, you like them, don’t you?”
Don’t. I don’t like them. I didn’t have the courage to say it out loud.
“They’re the right price and you will wear them if I buy them, right? Right?”
I nodded. “Oh…yeah…right.”
What? I couldn’t believe what came out of my mouth. Silent words of protest tried breaking free. Why did I say that? I lied. Mom, I lied. Can’t you hear me? I hate these boots! They have high heels. It’s like walking on stilts in a circus. I’ll fall flat on my face. People will laugh at me.
“We’ll take them.” Mom smiled at the twitching lady.
“Wonderful!” She took the box, relieved her trip up the ladder wasn’t wasted. While Mom paid, I wondered if she bought the boots because she thought they were beautiful or if she bought them so I’d stop bothering her. On our way out of J.C. Jones, Mom handed me my purchase. I glanced down the sidewalk knowing my dream boots lived at Carmen’s Western Wear but weren’t destined to come home with me.
Mom’s famous question broke the silence. “Are you satisfied?”
“Yes,” I lied.
The budget won—again.