Remembering The Feeling
I was a little disappointed when I saw the old buildings were now gone that I had known as a young boy. Every one of them replaced with a high-rise. It had been a long time since I had been to Jacksonville, Florida. I had driven to town hoping to see the old barber shop where my hair had been cut as a child. The orphanage would bring us kids downtown for a free haircut by the new barbers being trained.
As it was very early and hardly anyone on the street, I parked my truck and decided to try and locate a telephone to see if the Florida Barber College had moved to a new location. Hopefully it was sill in business.
As it was rather cold, I put on my coat and began searching for a telephone. After walking about a block I saw an open shoe store. I walked inside and asked if I could use their telephone book. Not finding a listing for the Barber College I picked out the number of a local beauty salon, hoping their might tell me if the barber college was still in business. The number was busy so I decided to wait and try again in a few minutes.
“How about moving on down the road?” said the salesman, in a loud, harsh tone.
I turned to see if he was talking to me.
"Damn homeless guy always wanting to use our bathroom,” he replied.
I saw a poorly dressed man standing outside the store, gazing through the large plate-glass window. The salesman motioned at the man, with his hand, in a backward motion, telling him move on down the street.
Several more times I tried to dial the number but it was continually busy.
“Like a cup of coffee?” the salesman asked me.
“That sounds great. Thanks.”
As he and I stood talking the front door opened and a young man about twenty came into the store pushing his self in a wheelchair.
The salesman sat down his coffee cup and walked toward the young man.
“I need a new pair of shoes,” said the customer.
As he turned the corner there was a blanket across his lap. I was shocked to see that the young man had no legs.
The salesman stood there having no idea what he should say.
“A gift for a friend?” I asked the boy.
“No,” he replied. They are for me,” he continued, with a smile on his face.
I just smiled back and watched to see what would happen next.
“What type of shoe would you like?” asked the clerk.
“How ‘bout a pair of cowboy boots. You got any cowboy boots in here?”
The man pointed to the back wall where three or four pairs of boots were displayed.
“Let me have a look-see at those black ones in a size 10.”
The salesman, sharply turning, headed off to the backroom.
“Isn’t this fun?” the boy asked me.
“You mean going into a shoe store, when you have no legs, and seeing the response?’ I replied.
“Of course not.”
I moved my hand to let him know that I did not understand his question.
“When I was a kid, my parents use to buy me a new pair of shoes every year. That was such a wonderful feeling. Something I have never forgotten. The smell of the leather and the pride I felt when I walked around the store showing off my new shoes.”
The salesman came walking down the aisle with a large box. He sat it down on the floor, took out a single boot and handed it to the young man. The boy closed his eyes. Placed the boot against his nose, tilted his head backwards and drew in a large breath.
I did not know what to say as tears began to fall on the young man’s cheeks.
“What type of accident did you have?” I asked him.
“Farm accident,” he said, as he tried to clear his voice.
“MOVE ON DOWN THE ROAD,” yelled the salesman, as he once again motioned his hand at the homeless fellow looking in the window.
The youngster looked at the old man and then turned to face me.
“Will you walk out there and see what size shoes that fellow wears?” he requested.
Slowly, I walked to the front door opened it and asked the old man to come in.
“What size shoes do you wear?” the boy asked the man.
“I don’t know,” he replied, as he looked down at his old tennis shoes.
“I would say about a nine and a half,” I replied.
“What’s your best hiking boot in nine and a half,” the boy asked the clerk.
The salesman turned and once again walked to the back of the store.
The homeless fellow stood there looking down at the floor.
Within a minute, the clerk returned with a pair of hiking boots, the insides lined with wool. The boy reached out, took the boot, placed it to his nose and drew in a large breath. Once again, tears came to his eyes.
“Sir, would you mind trying on these boots for me,” the boy asked the old fellow, as he held out the boot.
The old man sat down, slid off his tennis shoes, using his feet, and took the boot. The boy motioned for the clerk to aid him. The salesman slid his small, knee-high seat in front of the man and began tying the boot straps.
The old man’s eyes never left the floor the entire time. After the boots were tied the young boy asked the gentleman if he would walk around so that he could see the boots at a distance.
“How do they feel?” he asked the man.
“They feel wonderful,” replied the man.
“I’ll take’m,” the young boy told the clerk.
“Those are $189.00 boots,” the clerk advised the boy.
The boy pulled out his wallet and handed the clerk two one-hundred dollar bills.
Do you want the cowboy boots?” the salesman asked him.
“I don’t think so.”
“Don’t you have to use the bathroom?” I asked the old man.
He stood up and walked toward the back of the store. The clerk motioned his head, giving him the okay.
“I see buying a new pair of shoes still gives you that good feeling you talked about,” I told the young man, as I smiled.
“Yes it does.” he said “And now I have someone, and feet to share it with.”
~ Roger Dean Kiser ~
The books, stories and CDs of Roger Dean Kiser, author, child advocate.
[ by: Roger Dean Kiser Copyright © 2007 (email@example.com) -- submitted by: Roger Dean Kiser ]
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