Barefoot

In an effort to improve my writing, I am going to make an effort to find a writing prompt every day and either write a short story or a real-life memory. This was the first prompt I found today to write about. I would like to say it’s fictional, but it’s not!

“Where were your shoes? Write about an interesting time when you happened to be barefoot.”

As a child, my dad’s side of the family met often for birthdays, anniversaries, promotions, and just to celebrate being a family. One of our favorite places to meet was a pizza parlor on the east side of Madison, Shakeys. They’ve long since closed but if I close my eyes, I can still picture my brothers and I standing on the booth peering through windows that divided the kitchen from the dining room. It was a special treat to be able to watch our food being made.
One particular evening, we met after the adults got done with work. After enjoying a variety of pizzas ranging from sausage to shrimp and black olives, we asked if we could go to the arcade.
“Yes, but Heather, keep an eye on your brothers.” My mom was concerned that my brothers would go through the door by the arcade, into the Laundromat next door, and never be seen again.
“Don’t worry mom. We’ll be fine.” I rolled my eyes as I assured her that nothing was going to happen.
Once in the arcade, we pulled chairs up to the games so we could see the screen and work the controls. The last game I remember playing was pinball.
“Come on, time to go.” Our dad had been sent to corral us back to the table so we could say goodbye and go home.
“But dad, we’re having fun,” I whined.
“Heather, it’s time to go. You can play more games next time,” His patience wearing thin from a long day at work followed by family time when he wanted to be at home, relaxing.
“Okay, be right there.” I finished my game, replaced the chair, and went back to the dining room.
Once I had my jacket on, I made my way around the table saying goodbye to everyone. I can still smell the mix of diesel exhaust and cigarette smoke as I wrapped my arms around my grandfather. To some, it seems like a putrid combination of scents, but having a father and a grandfather who drove truck for a living, it was comforting.
“Heather, where are your shoes?” questioned my grandmother. I had been so proud of my new baby blue jelly shoes with glitter earlier in the evening.
“I don’t know. I took them off when I was playing games.” I was so comfortable being barefoot that I didn’t notice the cold linoleum tile on my feet as I had walked back or the roughness of cheap commercial carpeting once I was in the dining room.
“Go get them. We have to go.” My mother was obviously annoyed that I was so careless as to leave my new shoes behind.
A few minutes later, I came back to the dining room, still barefoot, scared. “They’re gone.”
“What do you mean they’re gone?” I could feel the entire family staring at me as my mother questioned me. I could almost hear them thinking, she doesn’t take care of her things. Maybe someday she’ll learn.
“I mean they’re not there, mom.” I was upset, we had just bought them that afternoon, I had to beg to get them, and now I lost them.
“How do shoes just disappear?” Now my grandmother was joining in. “It’s not busy, who would want them?”
My father went to ask the manager if he had picked them up as my family searched the restaurant. After about twenty minutes we all realized that we would never know what happened to the shoes. Barefoot, I walked to the car. I was devastated that I wouldn’t have the shoes everyone “had to have” when I went to school the next day, scared that I was going to be in trouble, and embarrassed that something so irresponsible had been done in front of my entire family.
It’s been over 20 years since that night out for pizza and I still hear about it every time we drive past the Chinese buffet that replaced our favorite parlor. While we’ll never know what happened to those jelly shoes, I’m happy to say it was the last time I lost a pair of shoes while out to eat!

~H

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