Thursday, July 15, 2010

The World in Miniature: Shoes and Souls

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.


JE said...

It is a simple thing, and something we should remember. Nice job!


RosieC said...

Beautiful. A well written and poignant reminder of how those little things are so important. Thank you.

Matthew MacNish said...

There has always been something about Josin's writing that I just can't quite put my finger on. It always touches me pretty deeply, and there's no question I enjoy reading it, but I can't quite articulate exactly why.

Personally I think that's the mark of a great writer.

Excellent work Josin.

Thanks for sharing Bryan.

Josin L. McQuein said...

Thanks for posting this, Ink. And thanks for the comments everyone.


Lenny Lee said...

i liked this a lot. its easy to read and caught me right in my heart. sometimes when we see stuff with our heart and soul its lots better than what we could see with our eyes.

Mira said...

Nice job, Josin.

Poignant. Hard to capture that in such a short piece.

dolorah said...

Wow Josin; that was truly touching. Vivid, realistic, engaging. I was as sad to read the end of the story as I was to read about the poor man's death. But what an awesome legacy.