The Incognito Parallel -10-

"What t'heck are mary janes?"

incognito.gifby Wanda Cunningham

Chapter 10
Shoe Department

Chapter 10
Shoe Department


We walked through the aisle that had nail polish and Mom picked a couple of bottles. One was called Peachy Pink and the other was called Asphalt. "One for me," she held up the one that looked the color of a dirty street, "and one for you." She held up the pink one. "Unless you'd rather pick your own?"

I shook my head. I'm not sure what expression I had but Mom laughed and said, "I promise it won't hurt." Then she got two more bottles, base and quick drying topcoat. "We'll have a nail painting party tonight," she said as she dropped them into the basket. She added some of the finger sander boards and a package of little orange sticks that I had no idea what they were for. The package said 'orange sticks,' which was no help at all.

We made another stop in jewelry. Mom looked at various bracelets and earrings and finally shook her head. "Most of this stuff is too old, we'll have to find a mall or something."

"Too old?"

"For the new me," she said.

"Oh." I guess most of it didn't look like what a goth teenager might wear.

Mom did look at some things and picked out three sets of beads. The black set was all crunchy shapes like found rocks, even though they were plastic. Another set of big purple ones were flattened like fish linked nose to tail. The other set was smaller and had pink and blue and clear beads, some round like pearls and some cut like little gems. I had a funny feeling about the last set but Mom didn't say anything so I didn't either.

I looked back at the glittery stuff and wondered if they had anything else that a girl my age might wear.

"They must have a mall in this town," Mom said. "We'll go there later."

We went straight back passed the grown-up ladies underwear to shoes next and Mom picked out a pair of black high top sneakers in her size. We went around the corner of the shoe rack and found the kids' shoes. "These are pretty cheap shoes," she complained.

I thought that was funny so I smiled but Mom didn't mean the prices were cheap, she meant they looked cheap. "We could wait till we get to the mall?" I said, feeling a bit shy at looking at girl's style shoes, anyway.

"What do you want? Sandals, sneaks or mary janes?"

I didn't know what mary janes were so I just shook my head.

She looked down at my feet, "Those are okay, I guess. Sneaks are sneaks." She grinned. "Unless you want pink or glitter?"

I shook my head again. I didn't see any pink sneakers that I would want to wear. They really did look pretty cheap and I had a good pair of crosstrainers on. They're not easy to find in my size, since my feet are small even for my height.

She looked at a few pairs of kids shoes and picked out a pair of sandals. The staps were light brown with flower-shaped gold buckles and the lining on the sole part was shiny pink. "These aren't bad?" she asked, holding them out to me.

I nodded, barely moving my head.

"You don't like them?"

"They're okay. I guess." They were girl's shoes, it was hard for me to say anything about them.

She made a face. "Well, they probably won't last a week. Flipping cardboard soles, I think. You want to try them on?"

"Those are threes," I said. "I wear a one."

"A one?" she said. "I only wear a five or six, myself. Oh, yeah, kid's sizes and women's sizes aren't the same."

"They aren't?"

"Nah," she said. "I remember when I switched to women's shoes, my shoe size went down two sizes."

"That's goofy," I said.

"Men's sizes are different, too," she said.

"Goofier," I said, grinning at her.

We laughed. It was a lot of fun to laugh at things with Mom. Dad and I had fun together, too, but we didn't laugh as much or at the same kind of things. Mostly, we played ball or watched sports on TV. Or sometimes we went to see a game, live. Once I went with Dad to Chicago and we saw the Cubs and Cardinals play at Wrigley Field.

When I saw how green the field was and the ivy growing on the brick outfield fence, I kind of thought I understood something about why some people liked to go to church. I liked the ball field at home, too, but Wrigley Field is something special.

I wouldn't be going with Dad to any ball games for a long time, though. I realized how much I was going to miss my father and I looked around quickly for something to distract me before I started crying.

I saw a boy over in the boys' jeans looking at me. He looked about ten or maybe younger and he just stared at me for a moment then looked away.

I reached for Mom's hand again but she had shoes in it.

Mom had found a boxed pair of size one sandals and gave them to me. "Try them on," she said. They were girl's sandals, just like the one's we'd looked at a minute ago but in my size but I didn't think about that right away. Seeing Mom holding them out for me to try on was the kind of distraction I needed.

"Okay," I said. I sat down and pulled off my trainers and slipped my feet with socks into the pink-lined sandals. After fastening the buckle, I wiggled my toes in my socks. They seemed to fit but my socks looked kind of dirty, I guess I'd got dirt in my shoes playing.

"Stand up," Mom said.

"They fit," I said.

"Walk around," she said.

So I walked around a bit feeling a little silly like I always do when trying on shoes.

"Think they'll still fit if you're not wearing socks?" she asked.

"Uh?" I bent over to see how many holes there were in the straps to see how tight they would go. How else would I know? I hadn't worn sandals for several years since I started playing Little League every summer.

Mom laughed.

I looked up at her, sideways.

She smiled. "Honey, don't bend over like that in public. You should squat down." She leaned close and whispered. "It's more ladylike." She grinned and winked at me.

I know I turned bright red. I remembered that the shoes I was trying on were girls' shoes. I squatted down quickly.

A lady sitting in another of the chairs trying on shoes, laughed. "Wait'll she discovers boys in a year or two. She'll snap right out of that tomboy phase and you probably won't be able to get her out of her pretty dresses."

That made me think about the boy I had seen looking at me and I turned my head to see but he was gone.

Mom laughed, then choked a bit on something that fell into her throat from the back of her nose and started coughing. I jumped up and led her to one of the chairs so she could sit down.

"Oh, dear," said the lady.

"It's just a cold," Mom managed to say. She got tissues out of her purse and worked at not being an oolie for a bit.

The lady lectured me, "You've got to take better care of your mom, sweetie." I didn't like that much, what business was it of hers? She probably just meant to be friendly but it came across as nosy.

"Yes, ma'am," I said. "But she's my sister." I really only said that because I wanted to make the old lady back off but it must have made Mom laugh more and cough more. It got pretty disgusting to listen to the noises she made.

"Oh," said the woman. "Maybe you'd better take her to the ladies' room." And she pointed the way.

I saw the sign, it was right at the back of the store between the shoes and the baby stuff. Mom saw and nodded between coughs. I helped her get up and get started. We left the basket sitting there on the seat chair since we hadn't paid for any of it yet and Mom had her purse on her arm.

I steered her between the racks of shoes and the displays of baby clothes back to the little hallway toward the restrooms. She had one hand on her purse and the other with a tissue over her mouth. She coughed and coughed, making faces behind her hand.

The noises had gotten even more disgusting, like she might be thinking of throwing up. I found the right door and pushed it open, leading her inside. That's when I remembered that I was still wearing the girl's sandals I'd been trying on.

And I was in the ladies' room.

Of course, I'd been in there before; only three years ago, in fact. It was at a Little League game and I had collided with the left fielder who was covering third base while the infielders rushed a bunt. I had a bloody nose and Mom had yanked me into the ladies' room to put cold, wet paper towels on my head. Coach had put a pinchrunner in for me so I was out of the game.

This wasn't nearly as embarrassing as that was but it did feel a bit odd.

Two teenage girls were yakking near the sinks. They made faces at us. The brunette had on a black, short skirt and some stupid looking sandals with big heels and a yellow top with birds and flowers on it. She had a head scarf the same color. The blonde had on a pink top with a big silly looking hippo wearing purple eyeshadow on it, cut-off jeans and more stupid looking sandals. She had a pink and purple headscarf or band in her hair.

They had a lot of make-up spread out on the stainless steel counter above the sink and they both had on too much eye makeup.

"She's sick," I said which was a stupid thing to say with Mom gagging and coughing. I tried to steer her toward a sink but she pulled away and headed into a stall. Just as well, I didn't really want to see whatever she coughed up.

"You need any help?" one of the girls asked.

I wasn't sure if she was talking to me or Mom but Mom answered. "No. No, thanks. Where's my purse? Oh, I've got it."

The girls glanced at my feet then smiled at me and I remembered again that I was wearing sandals I hadn't paid for yet. I wondered how they knew that then I figured that they must have been wondering if I were a boy or a girl and decided based on the shoes.

I blushed. "I guess we're going to buy these shoes," I said to Mom.

She laughed. "Okay. Maybe you'd better run back and make sure no one puts your old ones back on a shelf." She pushed open the stall door and stuck her head out. "I'm okay, honey."

The two teenagers laughed. "You were trying on shoes?"

Nice to know I'm not the only one who can say stupid things. I just nodded and headed out the door of the restroom.

* * *

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