by Jim Hester
I was doing a bit of house cleaning when I came across an old, cheap writing pad mixed among a stack of New York Times Magazines. The magazines held crossword puzzles that I had vowed to finish someday when I was more erudite; when I had a better grasp of obscure nineteenth century Spanish playwrights; when I was fluent in arcane phrases of the Bordeaux region as if I were indigene de Ginride; when I could tick off the names of the Muses and their less prominent sisters in my sleep. Something told me time was running out so I ditched them. But the writing pad gave me pause. It had eight pages left. Seven pristine and one (on top) with only a ridiculous phrase about a rodent and dungarees penned, no doubt, long ago during my period of withdrawal from butter pecan ice cream. A period my loving family is careful not to mention, or even allude to, during holiday meals.
The paper was ill suited for my favorite Waterman so I supposed only pencil would do if I were to use it up. In my consideration, I remembered my kind, but eccentric, grandmother and I cleaning out the backroom closet. She found a pair of her old shoes from about the mid-Roosevelt era (Frank not Ted) and was about to drop them into the wooden, shotgun shell crate (Remington) that I had to tote laboriously to the burn site located downwind from the bird dog kennel. The shoes were part of a plum colored sling vacks with clunky heel--grossly unstylish then but had she saved them for another twenty years or so, my younger sister could have proudly worn them at Ole Miss. Later on, when I began to notice such things, I realized there are only three styles of women’s fashion shoes. Two remain passe’ while one, slightly altered from its previous jour de runway, rules the day. (When I learned the properties of matter in high school physics class, I realized that women’s shoe styles likewise can neither be created nor destroyed.)
Grandmother drew the shoes back from the gaping maw of the ammo crate/refuge bin and abruptly dispatched me to Grandfather’s workshop to retrieve a claw hammer. With no puzzlement at all, I ambled off--stopping to drink from the water faucet near the well house, tossing a green walnut high and far toward the flower pit to hear it smack the sharply angled tin top and startle the chickens, and possibly another little boy preoccupation or two before I returned with the hammer.
Grandmother placed each shoe, in turn, on the sturdy edge of the crate and lashed with the hammer until the heel came off. Then she picked up all the pieces and plopped them in the crate and handed me back the hammer in a manner that silently communicated put this hammer back where you found it.
As I ambled off again, I understood her reasoning, even though my age was only in single digits. If the shoes didn’t completely burn up, no one passing near the burn site could question her for ditching a perfectly intact pair of shoes. Grandfather’s best friend and hunting companion, Mr. Wade, for instance, couldn’t casually mention at the supper table to gossipy Mrs. Wade that Grandmother had burnt a perfectly good pair of shoes. Damn right. Be ever careful with your reputation.
So what to put on the few pages left of the notebook was my next problem. Perhaps a few inane poems or snippets of plays . . .
USADS writer Claude Jones writes of his friend, Jim Hester: "Jim is a native of Pontotoc, Mississippi, and now resides in Birmingham, Alabama, where he is a computer programmer. The influence of growing up with an extended family supporting his insatiable appetite to learn is evident in his writings and philosophy of life. He combines knowledge gained from the stories heard during his youth with a quick wit and independent thinking. His stories are driven by a mastery of words and phrases that entice the reader to become engaged with his characters."
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