by Josin L. McQuein
You can find her at My Bloggish Blog Thing
Shoes and Souls
He used to sit there and watch the city go by.
Every day it was same thing: egg salad sandwich on rye, black coffee, no lid, and a red vine. He'd drink the coffee and eat the candy; the sandwich he'd hand to a homeless man who wandered the sidewalk with a cardboard sign.
"He's taking the time to warn me about the end of the world, the least I can do is buy him a lousy egg salad sandwich."
There wasn't a day that came by where he came in wearing anything but a suit, like he was a professor or maybe some big-shot exec. Sharp on the points, not a speck of lint. And he always wanted that same table.
Anybody else try and sit there, and the owner'd run 'em off.
He'd take the paper out from under his arm, flip it open and let it lie while he sat and watched the city with his eyes closed. The click-clack of hurried high heels and the muffled shuffle of a kid still young enough to lag behind and look at the world. The slide of worn dress shoes, even the padded steps of the world-ender's cloth-wrapped feet. They were an old man's symphony.
"People don't pay attention to their shoes," he said. "Someone should."
Then he stood up, unfolded his white and red cane and headed out the door while it swished right and left over the floor. He left the newspaper right where it was, like always.
He didn't come in the next day, but that was Sunday and on Sunday he didn't always come by. We figured he had a kid that came to visit once or twice a month.
I still hope that's true.
When he didn't come in on Monday, and then Tuesday, we got kind of worried, like maybe he was sick. By Wednesday, we knew it was more than sick - but the owner still ran off the folks that sat at his table.
We saw him again Thursday when he showed up in the paper. That's when we found out his name was Max. Maximilian Theribald Markson, Jr. - an awfully big name for such a wiry guy, and still kind of small for him at the same time.
The paper hasn't moved since we met Max that day. It sits at his table, and sometimes we join it for a cup of coffee and a red vine. Someone usually buys the old man outside a sandwich, but it ain't always egg salad. The only rule is that you have to sit there and listen.
Listen to the voices of the people, listen to the sounds of their joy and anger - listen to their shoes against the linoleum - and figure out who they really are. It's a simple thing, really.
Everyone should be able to see as well as a blind man.