Posts Tagged shoes

Excerpt 146

Her nails scraped against the sealed flap as she looked around to make sure no one was watching her.  Everyone seemed to be concerned about the directions for boarding gates or taking items out of their suitcases to meet the approved weight for checking bags.

Ala thought about calling her parents to let them know she was leaving the country.  She was used to doing so even if she was only leaving the city, and couldn’t imagine their worry when they realized they had no idea where she was. This however, was before their hobby had taken such precedence in their lives.

If she called her parents, and they bothered to pick up the phone, they would try to stop her from getting on the flight. Her father would probably drive to the airport.  They would see Danno and would want to talk to him.  They would think he was trying to coerce her to leave the country.

The seating area was hot and she could feel the bottom of her feet sticking to the leather in her sandals.  She loosened the straps, took them off and stretched her toes.  She ripped the edge of the envelope open slowly.


She looked up and saw a security guard towering over her.  He wore a hat that was too small for his head and had a radio in his hand ready to notify someone if he needed help.


“I have to ask that you put your shoes back on.”

“Why?” She said.

“Well, it’s a public area. And shoes are required for sanitation reasons.”

Ala looked past him at a young woman changing a baby’s diaper on the floor.  A man next to her was sleeping with a stream of drool dripping onto his shirt.  Another man ate from a cardboard container and picked at his ear. It was hard to believe that she could be singled out as being the most disruptive out of these people.

“What about them?” She said, pointing at the group.

“What about them?” He said, shifting his weight, growing impatient.

“They’re clearly not taking sanitation into account.”

“They all have shoes on.”

“You mean to tell me that I can wipe up shit in the middle of this sea of people, but I can’t take my shoes off for a minute?  Even though I’ll have to take them off for security?”  She heard her voice getting sharper.

“Yes,” he said, smiling. His teeth were brown around the gum line and it bothered her. She didn’t like taking criticism from people whom were themselves making the same mistakes. She had always had difficulty with supervisors that she didn’t feel matched her intelligence. Now it made her furious that a man was referring to her as unpolished, when he himself seemed to have poor hygiene habits.

She picked up one of the sandals and stood. Her intention was to smack him across the face with the dirty sole.

“Is there a problem?” Danno said, approaching with the boarding passes.

“Yes.  He won’t let me take my shoes off for a minute even though all of those foul people over there are doing whatever they want.” This she said too loudly and summoned several dirt looks.

Danno smiled at the guard and gently removed the sandal from her hand.  Dropping it to the ground, he said, “Do me a favor and put you shoes on.”

“Why?” She said, knowing that she would be putting them back on, but feeling ashamed that the security guard was going to get his way.

“So we can get on with the trip. Come on. Just do it. Please.”

She rolled her eyes at the guard and sat back down.  Danno nodded at him as he strutted away.  Ala nearly broke one strap by tugging it roughly across her foot. She straightened her dress and swung her purse over her shoulder.

“I got our tickets. There’s only one issue.  We couldn’t get on the same connecting flight from Seoul,” he said.

“Oh really?” She said, deflated.

“You’ll get there before I do.”

“How long will we be apart?”

“About twelve hours.  We’ll be so exhausted at that point, you’ll barely notice. I did my best.”

“I know. Thank you,” she said.

“We are carrying on, so security should be quick.”

She followed him into the snaking line and waited, making sure she did not make eye contact with anyone.

“And how are you today?” A man checking their tickets asked.

“We’re fine, thanks,” Danno said before Ala could respond.  She could tell he felt like she was yanking him into the quicksand with her.  She wouldn’t be surprised if he tried to drug her before they boarded the plane to avoid any confrontations.

They found a table by the window in the club cafe.  The glass slanted forward enough to be able to see planes taking off.  The linens and china were elegant and Ala felt under dressed.  She put on a pair of sunglasses and arranged her hair so that she had more of a side part.

Danno ordered a bottle of white wine for them since it was so hot and a platter of oysters.  Ala worried that her stomach would turn if she had only that before flying and decided to order a chicken salad as well.

“Are you excited?” He said, beaming at her. Among her anxiety, she had forgotten how much she looked forward to spending each day with him.

“I can’t wait to get there,” she said.

“What’s the first thing you want to do?”

“Meet you at your gate.”

“And after that?”

“Visit the Bogyoke Market and buy hats.”

“That’s a great idea.  I read that it’s common for scalps to start frying within the first hour.”

“The book used the term “scalps frying?”

“Of course. Crouton?” He dangled his fork in front of her face.

“No thank you,” she laughed. “But what are you going to do while we’re apart?”

“Work, no doubt.”

“From Asia?”

“Of course.  I used to work out of Guyana years ago.”

“Don’t you think you’ll want a new job?” She said, toying with the hard boiled egg on her plate.

“Well sure, but not until I learn Burmese.”

“What about working in tourism?” She said.  He placed his hand over hers on the table.

“Believe me, you won’t want me to have a different job.  No one will bother us. That’s the beauty of working remotely.”

“Alright,” she said, finishing her wine. He leaned across the table and kissed her.

They lingered at the magazine stand so that they wouldn’t have to pace around the gate.  Ala bought several books and a large blanket.  Danno bought cough drops and a neck pillow.

“My throat always hurts during plane rides.”

“Maybe they’ll serve some nice warm fish soup to soothe you.”

He grabbed her and, pinning her arms to her sides, blew against her neck.

“Stop!” She squealed.

The cashier rolled her eyes as she handed them the bags.

The first six rows of the plane were empty and Ala hoped the stewardess would permit them to move up to first class, even though it was unlikely.  She settled into her window seat as Danno tucked the blanket around her legs.  Takeoff was smooth and the few people on the flight were quiet. Ala drank ginger ale to settle her stomach and was soon asleep.

Waking up, she looked at the black sky out the window.  She liked the idea of flying over the ocean at night, of being midair in the pitch black. Danno was asleep next to her and she was wide-awake. She wanted to wake him and pull him into the bathroom after her, something she had never done. She felt like a restless honeymooner.

A subtitled movie hummed from the screen in front of them but she had no interest.  She took one of the new books from the bag and into page three her eyes began to burn. She took her purse from under her seat and found her lip balm. Applying it, she saw the envelope and took it out.  She finished opening the flap and unfolded the pages.



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Excerpt 126

She knelt down and picked up the cardboard cover with her teeth, being careful not to moisten the matched. Ala had always been afraid of fire.  She refused to sit anywhere near her parent’s fireplace or any fire pits their friend’s had in their backyards.  When she was very young, her father left the grill on after removing hamburgers for a party they were hosting.  Ala had always wanted to help him cook on it and was always told she could not.  She lifted the lid and watched the coals infused with orange and blue flames change colors.  It was wondrous to her, something beautiful she had never seen and she reached in to touch it.  She lost feeling in three of her fingers and had to visit the emergency room.

There was no other option. She would have to create smoke and hope that it would reach an alarm.  She went to the pile of her hair and kicked it into a pile.  She dropped the matches and sat down next to them.  Without any visibility, the grabbed the booklet with one hand and brought two fingers over from her other hand to rip a match out.  She then laid the match on the ground and scooted onto her stomach.  The saliva on her tongue adhered to the match, but she soon realized that she would not be able to strike it without the tip bending. She slid it further into her mouth until her teeth hit just above where the tip began.

She kept her eyes wide open and speedily dragged the match over the rough cement. She heard the whisper crack and knew it was light.  She dropped it on the pile of hair.  While pungent, very little smoke floated up out of the flames.  The man must have smelled it because he whimpered and clutched his knees tightly against his chest.

It took five seconds for the fire to burn out, leaving a black smear on the concrete.  Discouraged, Ala walked over to the door.  It looked sealed, but she could see light through roughly one half inch of space at the bottom.  Smoke could seep through if there was enough of it.

She kicked her shoes, clothes and purse into a heap close to the door.  She then feared not being able to get out of the room at all if there was a fire barrier in place, and kicked everything to the center of the room.  Sweat dripped down her chest.  She began to feel faintish again from the lack of food, water and sleep on top of the high level of energy it took to move things back and forth without her hands.

When the pile was ready, she once again, sat on the ground, ripped out a match, turned on her stomach and positioned her head just so.  She struck the tip against the ground and tossed it toward the only possessions she had with her.  Her shorts caught on fire and then her bag. The flames were stronger and larger this time.  Smoke billowed up to the ceiling and the man began to cough.  She tried to hold her breath, as she could not use her hands to shield her airways from the smoke.  The fire roared, now being fueled by the whole pile. It was much more powerful than she expected.  She stepped back, watching the smoke make its way out of the crevice between the door and floor.

“Where are they?” She said.  “Come on.”



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Excerpt 111

Ala instinctively crouched down, planting her hand on the railing in order to peek up.  Had the gardener seen Danno leave?  Perhaps he knew she was alone.  There was no reason for him to be back after she told him his things were not in the house.  Fear curdled deep in her stomach.  His figure enlarged as he walked toward the window, closer to her.  She crawled on her hands and knees under the sill, trying to get to the back of the sofa.  She could not remember where she had left her phone.  Most likely on the kitchen counter.  If she got up now, he would see her going to the kitchen.

The house phone began to ring.  She looked up to see if the gardener was calling, and he was gone.  She crawled toward the kitchen and plastered herself against the back door before slowly inching up to look out of the kitchen windows.

She did not see him in the backyard, but saw that all of the dishes had been left out from the early morning breakfast.  She would have to wait to clear the table because Bruno could be lurking.  What did he want from her?  Perhaps she should call Emmanuel to let him know that a member of his staff was harassing her.  He would probably inquire about how everything else was going, and she wasn’t sure that she could adequately lie over the phone.  

Her stomach began to spin and she did not feel safe in the house any longer, at least not by herself.  She tiptoed to Emmanuel’s room and found a pair of her shoes, that did not require she wear socks, and slipped them on.  She retrieved her purse and phone and slowly made her way toward the front door.  There were no cars in front of the house, not to say Bruno hasn’t parked far away to throw her off.  She positioned the house key firmly in her hand and stepped outside, quickly locking up, then bolted down the porch steps.  She jogged, looking behind her frequently, to her parent’s house.  The porch light was turned on, welcoming her and she had never been so relieved to be going back to this house.

She let herself in and locked the door behind her, peering out to see if she had been followed.  The street was clear.  She sunk down on the bottom step to catch her breath and ran her hands through her hair.  The air was stiff and she fanned herself with a magazine from the end table.  The house has not been this hot the last time she was there.  She heard a whack, a quick high-pitched whip, coming from upstairs.

Her parents were surely still at this hour.  She heard a thump and then laughter.  She stepped carefully, not wanting to disturb the noise, or let her parents know that she was home.  Her parent’s bedroom door was open slightly, and purple light spilled out onto the carpet.  She approached and looked inside of the room, then stepped back quickly.  

A dozen naked bodies, all moving and squirming, were coiled together in a heap in the middle of the bedroom floor.  

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Excerpt 73

“Would you like one more drink? It’s such a beautiful night.”

“If you’re sure,” he said.  “But I’m not sure  how much more charm I can bring tonight.”

She led him to the backyard.  The pool glowed as the veiny shadows danced up on the cement sides.

“Have a seat. I’ll make you a drink,” she said for the first time in her life.

He took off his suit jacket and bent down softly, making sure the chair wouldn’t scoot out from under him.

Ala watched him through the kitchen window as she poured too much of the vodka from the freezer into glasses and splashed ginger ale on top.

She took a sip and could barely get it down, but decided it was good enough if they were already buzzed.  She walked out carefully, now back in her mules.  She loved the way he looked, reclining back on the bamboo lawn chair, and deep relaxation spreading across his face.

“Here you are.”

He took a sip.

“Wow—the old standby.” She winked and set her glass on the glass table next to his chair.  She felt feverish, without any traces of sickness, just a pressing heat running up and down her whole body.  She knew she couldn’t sit down, she would explode, or self combust.  Her greatest fear for the moment was that he would say it was time to go, to wrap up the night.  That couldn’t happen.  He had unbuttoned part of his shirt and had removed his shoes and socks. He certainly didn’t look like he was going anywhere. She couldn’t be sure though.

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Excerpt 71

“Alright.”  She bent forward to step out of both shoes and picked them up.  She felt his arm around her back and the other scooping up her legs.  She nearly lost her breath.  She had never been carried before and could feel his heart beating through his warm shirt.

“You don’t have to carry me.”

“We’ll be there in no time.” She closed her eyes and felt the predictable thudding of his feet hitting the ground.  They approached a white barn with the yellow light she had seen from far away pouring over the entrance.  He opened the door for her and she stepped inside.

There was a stage with a three-piece band and a singer wearing a black sequined tunic.  Milk crates were turned on their sides and people sat on them, swaying to the jazz music.  The bar had large canisters set up with fruit floating in between the bubbles.  He saw a beat up chair in the corner and they had a seat, sharing the cushion.  Ala couldn’t recognize the song, but when the next one began, she knew it was Bali Hai and perked up.

He took her hand and led her to the middle of the floor.  They swayed more than danced and she felt her cheek resting on his shoulder.  He placed his hand just above her hip and, she noticed, kept it there through the song.  When it was over, they went to the makeshift wet bar and had Fizzy Drops, which to Ala tasted like Lemon Drops with champagne.

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Excerpt 70

She winked and took a bite.  It was, of course, as decadent as she knew it would be and she forgot about her vow to diet all summer long.  Her watch caught her eye and she registered that it was ten thirty.  She had no idea it had gotten that late.  He saw her.

“I don’t have to bring you back yet, do I?”

“I don’t think so.  But the deal was dinner.”

“What if I promise you something just as charming as this dinner?”

“I can’t really imagine it.”

He paid the bill and waved goodbye to the old woman, now wiping down the countertop.

They walked outside and all around her was deep black except to a tiny yellow light coming from a few yards away.

“That’s where we’re going.  Should we drive?”

“I wouldn’t mind a walk,” she said, pushing the imagery of what she now looked like in the dress after that meal, out of her mind.  They took eachtother’s hands, more out of not being able to see where they were going, than romance. She felt herself stepping on all kinds of grass, hay, and bugs, something that felt like a potato, and realized that wearing mules wasn’t the smartest plan.  She also hadn’t planned on being in the middle of nowhere in the dark either.

He most have sensed this and stopped.

“Take your shoes off.”

“What?”  The heat was swelling up around her and because she couldn’t see, she wasn’t sure which direction his voice was coming from.

“Go ahead, take them off.”

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segment 48

She read the last two sentences several times.  She wondered if he meant ten thousand American dollars and if he realized what he was actually offering.  Ten thousand dollars to water some plants sounded ridiculous.  She could never accept this offer with a clear conscious.  She laughed to herself and turned the light off.  Burrowing under the covers, something sharp scratched her leg.  Alarmed, she sat up and turned the light back on.  She tore off the blanket and recognized the book about the healing temple that she had brought home from the library, which now seemed like days ago now.  She opened it and took a look at the map again.  Maybe taking a pill before the flight would make it manageable. She thought about this while drifting off.

Ala woke up before six and decided to go running.  The sun was out already and pouring into her stuffy bedroom. It seemed that no matter where she went this morning she would be hot, so better to burn calories.  She dug her running shoes out of one of the boxes marked “miscellaneous” and stuffed her swollen feet into them.  Her parents bedroom door was closed and she tiptoed down the stairs quietly. Filling her water bottle, she heard a buzzing sound coming through the window screen.  She looked in the backyard and saw nothing out of the ordinary, yet the buzzing persisted.  She tried to follow the direction it was coming from, which seemed to be the Neely’s yard next door.  She pushed on the gate and it swung open.  The buzzing got louder and she nearly stumbled at what she saw in front of her.  Glasses and plates were strewn throughout the yard.  The grill was left open, pieces of shrunken pineapple left on the grate.  Wadded up napkins covered the deck. A large swarm of flies floated above a platter of black congealed guacamole.

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