STORIES

 

Here you can read the full text of "Hurricane Shoes," the title story in Kristie's debut collection, which first appeared in So to Speak. There are also excerpts of other pieces, which also appear in her collection.

"Huricane Shoes"

It is the first day of spring, the date Mother and I schedule our annual bonding a la spring-cleaning. We started this three springs ago, after my father died. That first year we collected his clothes and donated them to Goodwill, except for a pair of worn leather bedroom slippers Mother kept in her walk-in closet.

 

“Dear,” Mother says as she adjusts her silk-scarf anti-dust turban, “your hair has to be that short?” Mother’s shoulder-length hair defies what they say older women should do with their hair, but she keeps the color light blond, almost white, to go along with their guidelines.

 

“What is this?” I ask Mother. I tug a brown cardboard box from the closet’s corner next to Dad’s slippers. All of Mother’s shoes sit in beds of tissue in shoeboxes she’s covered with fabric and frills. The closet floor looks like a Hallmark gift-wrap display and stimulates my gag reflex.

 

“Hurricane shoes.” She tugs the hair at the nape of my neck.

 

I can’t believe she’s allowed an unadorned brown shipping box to share space with her shoe collection. Mother prides herself on being one of those southern ladies with a pair of shoes for every occasion. And a purse to match. And often a hat.

 

A pair of manly, rubber galoshes and a wild pair of olive green and tangerine pumps with three-inch heels inhabit the box. Neither is typical of mother’s style.

 

“Those are if I’m going to survive,” she says, indicating the galoshes. “And those are if I need to go out with style.”

 

I pick up the green and tangerine monstrosities. “But with whose style, Mother? Liberace’s?”

Excerpt from "Bridges"

“Watch me,” Kristin said.  She strutted onto the railroad bridge.  Spring had overgrown into summer, hotter and greener every day.  The tracks smelled of tar brought up by the heat.  A steep embankment stuck out under a few feet of the bridge, but Kristin kept going until all beneath her was water.  She turned to face me and thrust her arms up in the air—tadah, like a magician’s assistant.  “No big deal, baby.”

 

We were both eleven, then, and in Ms. Robinson’s sixth grade homeroom together. We had lived right next door to each other forever—our mothers even shared a hospital room after they had us.  My heroes ranked Wonder Woman, Kristin, then Sally Ride.  Kristin and I had always been best friends, and that year she spent a lot of time with our family, sleeping over and staying for dinner, after her mom died in a car crash when we were in Ms. French’s fifth grade.

 

Beneath my feet, the ground vibrated.  I listened hard, imagining my ears perking like a dog’s.  In the distance, I swore I heard the faint chugging of an approaching train.

           

“Kristin, come back.  Come fast.”

 

She shook her head and walked farther onto the bridge.  She jumped between the wood beams like hopscotch squares and whistled, showing off even more than usual because she knew how afraid I was.  Part of the reason I wanted to be her was she never seemed scared of things like trains or the hobos they said lived out by the tracks.  Back then I thought being fearless was the same as being brave.

           

 

“Quit it,” I yelled.  “I think a train’s coming.”  I put my ear to the ground like I’d seen Indians do on TV.  I didn’t hear anything, and yet I’d been so sure just a moment before. 

           

“I’m gonna cross.  You coming or what?”  Kristin shimmied her butt at me from halfway across the bridge. 

             

I put my hand on the metal part of the tracks because my father had told me you could feel the tracks move before you could see a train.  The metal hummed beneath my hand.

           

“Come back.  There’s a train.  I’m positive.  Come back.” 

 

Read more in Hurricane Shoes and Other Stories. 

Excerpt from "Da's Violets"

My father came to visit baby Grant and me one day, and he brought a houseplant with him.  An African violet.  I had busted him before—he’d been chatting up a spider plant in his bathroom.  He misted the spider plant with a spray bottle and whispered to it softly.  He’d been lonely in the year since my mother ran off with her podiatrist, so I hadn’t made a big deal of it.  I’d been pleased he was making friends and hoped he’d move up to people next. 

 

Read more in Hurricane Shoes and Other Stories. 

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