Sunday, August 1, 2010


Jolene by Deborah Poe

Jolene was inebriated to the point of hallucination. Was it a meteor shower above, or was the sky falling. Whatever the case, it seemed an apocalypse in indigo.

Sure, she’d had songs written about her. She’d seen signs in the stars. Had held hands while Dolly sang on stage in a navy blue pantsuit. At the show, Jason had his hand on her chest, as they both swayed among the midnight fans. She always believed he had loved her as much for her breasts as for the song that shared her name.

Tonight she was as far from Parton’s stage as she was from him. For the latter, she was grateful. She was thinking of her mom who had birthed her under a cloudless sky in east Texas field, with the newest boyfriend in one hand and a cigarette to ease the pain in the other. So the story went. Before her mom passed, she begged Jolene to set up the record player. She must have played Dolly’s forty-five fifty times before her mother threw her arms in the air and finally forsake this world.

Tonight, Jolene lingered under cobalt light, a streetlamp seemingly intoxicated with upstate New York. Barry brought her to this party in the middle of nowhere, and she had slipped out. Barry wasn’t that different than Jason she realized as she made her way down the black pavement in her two-inch, open-toed heels. Despite the slate color that matched the air’s bite, the shoes were seasonally inappropriate.

Four boys were coming up on her; they were probably 16. If they were more antagonistic, she wouldn’t have crouched at water’s edge. In the middle of this deathly silent neighborhood, they paused then passed. The worst thing they did was look at her; then they laughed. Bent down, she took out her compact, looked at her lines of grey eye shadow and then slammed the compact down against her hand. Glass shattered.

Barry was a lot like Jason in that he’d belt out her namesake song in bizarre contexts. Barry did so when things got tense where he was. Barry too was a heavy drinker. She pulled back her bottom lip with top teeth when she thought this and persuaded her body to sit up straight. The palm of her hand was bleeding, and she scraped it across the dried leaves to try and clean it off. The lake was already iced up two feet out.

The boys passed by, and the winter meteor shower took off. The boys had started screaming, when she heard from down the hill Barry’s version of Jolene. Jolene, Jolene. Jolene, Jolene. She heard Barry’s ex approve of his singing with an exaggerated howl, annoying even from this distance. There was a pregnant pause.

It was lip numb cold. She was too old for this. Jolene took a sip from the plastic glass she’d sneaked out. The boys were well on down the road, she noticed. She could see the tallest swinging a baseball bat and clowning around, a many-limbed shadow.

Jolene burrowed into her fake mink coat. She gazed at her steel-blue shoes and considered the white stitching along their edges. She looked at her hand again.

She heard the crunch of leaves and didn’t turn around. She could feel Barry’s breath down her neck before she turned. Fuck, Jolene. He was trying to hold his voice down. He dragged her up from underneath an arm and then lit a smoke. A heel came unhinged. Jesus, careful, she mumbled. Why the fuck did you have to go off like that, he said. His car wasn’t too far away. He’d parked at the bottom of the hill, by the basketball court, so they didn’t have to walk back up to the house.

She stumbled and felt the shoe disengage from foot. When she cried out, she had the J— out of her mouth, almost saying Jason instead of Barry. Barry pretended not to notice and tugged her close. He didn’t catch the careful earlier, thank god. She pulled the jacket tighter, forearms cradling her belly.

She reached for his cigarette and scowled, I couldn’t handle the party. She tossed her head back, standing lower on one side, and exhaled in a singsong voice, here you come again.  You could have your choice of men Jolene, he countered. She turned; kicked off her other shoe, and it went sailing back over the ice. She didn’t have far to go without her shoes. And the pity factor would work in her favor, when she told him the news she’d been dreading to disclose.

She flicked his cigarette a few feet away, and hobbled toward the car. Can you drive, he asked, and threw her the keys. She unlocked the doors and got in. As she put her seat belt on, she told herself this was not the night to tell him anything. Not at all.


A Small Blue Thing by Alan

The shoe that broke the camel’s back was tossed out the 4th floor window onto Mermaid Avenue two blocks away from the premiere party. One lover had had enough. The other lover, apparently, couldn’t get enough. This was grounds for said tossing. The windows were open. The lovers were, if nothing else, very environmentally conscious, and therefore in constant reconfiguration of proper ventilation.

Out the window and into the street where the noise from the premiere swept through the streets of Coney Island like a wild summer storm, seven guys were having a deserved moment in the metaphoric sun. It was evening. Several onlookers danced outside the fence, outside the glow. Some shot photographs. One wandered off.

It is in these moments that we lose ourselves and enter the dreams of others. Gerry left the celebrity and followed the shoeless woman. A plane flew by overhead. Something about a “new show”/“tune in”/“next week.” Neither noticed. When she found the shoe, she looked up protectively as if it was hers to have lost. As if someone else were waiting for her to do so. As if someone had planned it but didn’t have the right. What did they know about being hungry? she thought. Other questions. Then silence.

Gerry followed her over a bridge, past cities, through mountains, for weeks, a month, seasons. Always a few steps behind. Always with an eye on the shoe. And when she took it off from time to time, on a hill or behind some locked door, he would not think of her but of it. A small blue thing. A space to enter. Grounds for a kind of divorce he could never build up the nerve to consider himself.


The Pumpkin by Johanna

It was difficult to slouch in heels. Forced upright, she didn't tire as easily. The reapplication of lipstick was her jolt of espresso. She couldn't go home if she had on a fresh coat of cherry red. So she continued to dance with the charming man who she found she had so much in common with. She noticed when he glanced at her left hand and found no ring or tan line that he smiled. She thought she might stay in this state of enchanted grace ever after, until she realized the crowd had dispersed.
“What time is it?” she asked.
“Midnight,” he responded, looking at his Rolex.
“Oh, crap, I'm sorry, I've gotta go!” She grabbed her clutch and ran for the exit doors.
“I'll call you!” he yelled after her as she left the club and hailed a cab.
The babysitter answered the door. “I'm so sorry I'm late. I lost track of time.”
“That's okay Ms. Tremaine. He's asleep now. Bobby was a prince all night. No problems whatsoever.”
“Thanks so much.”
After the babysitter left, she wiped remnants of lipstick from her mouth, kicked off her heels and collapsed on the bed. Drifting into sleep, she suddenly realized, I forgot to give him my number.


Disembodied by Lyle

Shoe, out of context -- or rather off the foot on which we assume such a shoe should reside. That or on the rack where it waits to be bought, to be worn, to be replaced. It is like a shoe that has been shucked into the closet after a long day of work. But in such a copse it is a different context entirely, so it is not like a shoe that has been removed after a long day of work. We then think trash or, better yet, for this story, murder. Not trash so much, think think think, because it doesn’t look destroyed, eaten, unravelled (though all trash has to start somewhere) and so we move to murder. In what other state, but that of panic, would such a shoe be displaced? The body, we are ingrained to think from crime dramas and news reports (those grainy shots of bodies half hidden in the weeds) and books about serial killers, must be somewhere close. Just off camera. Just outside the frame. We can sense its weight almost bowing the edges of the picture -- or forcing it to flicker and project, movie frame, and pan over. There. In the slightly pixelated weedy twigs at the edge of the image. Partially covered by leaves. Her feet (one bare, of course) protrude from the fallen dead foliage. Her calves, knees, thighs silken and smooth. Blue dress hiked up from the fall. Torso and chest still covered but one strap snapped. Lipstick, deep red, evenly lines her lips, but her mascara streaks down her face. From exertion or tears. Her hair is done up still half in a bun. Not far off, through the undergrowth, a highway. And beyond that, a field of budding wheat. Then the sky. All of this is outside the photo. But where is the wound? Where is the crime? No wound. No crime. Only a shoe -- somehow out of context.


Unrequited by Forrest

It meant either not being fair to Bertie or us looking for her shoe we had to find in the woods. It meant either not looking for the shoe we had to find in the woods or racing Larry back home. It meant either not racing him back home or downing him into muddy leaves some more. It meant either not downing him into muddy leaves some more or watching him damn us. It meant either not watching him damn us or finding the rest of Bertie out there. It meant either not finding the rest of her out there or stopping Larry’s mouth up with her fishnet stockings. It meant either not stopping his mouth up with her fishnet stockings or him playing electric guitar with two-finger chords. It meant either him not playing electric guitar with two-finger chords or us setting ablaze the soft mountain that was Bertie’s chemise collection. It meant either not setting ablaze the soft mountain that was Bertie’s chemise collection or Larry making another heartbox out of a boneyard August. It meant either him not making another heartbox out of a boneyard August or us being to fair to Bertie.


Untitled by Bill

Wouldn't know my name. Could not catch hers. Crouched down and plucked at the weeds, ripping them up one by one. Everyone kicked quietly at the ground, the leaves, the fields tamped down as lines dispersed when the band goes home without setting foot on the stage and the lights stay dark. Staying by the window despite the chill, dreaming awake of places we will never have the chance of running back to.  Rendering the word locked away from itself, climbing stiffly into bed still wet with the curtains blowing, dreaming of elsewheres without ever falling asleep. Dusts off her hands and knits her fingers together, curling her legs underself, seemingly to effect pose, but more to warm her feet.


And The Future Is by Beth
We bought the shoes together, while shopping at T.J. Maxx on a Friday night with Mandy’s mom. I loved Mandy’s mom, partly because she looked like Demi Moore in Ghost, but also because she was younger and cooler than my mom. My mom would have laughed if she saw the shoes, and also if she saw my bangs curled into a poofball by Mandy’s mom the next morning (it had deflated by the time she came to pick me up). But Mandy’s mom was used to things like this from Mandy. We put our money together to buy the shoes, but agreed that Mandy would have custody, because I didn’t want my mom to laugh at me, and because Mandy’s house had better floors for practicing our runway walks.

When we were eleven, Mandy was Debbie Gibson and Exclamation perfume and a tiny flower of a body that got heat rash when her parents grounded her and she had to stay inside one week that summer. She was a note-writer, a pink-pen user, a girl who used stars as punctuation.

But she was also born on Halloween, and dressed up as a sluttier witch every year. She bought me a Ouija board for my birthday when I was thirteen, then borrowed it the next year for a party I wasn’t invited to and never gave it back. And then she was on drugs, and then she was pregnant, you know. You know.

In high school, Mr. Floyd said to never wear shoes you can’t run in, and that’s me now. Maybe it’s partly because of Mandy, although I hardly ever think about her anymore. But when I see that peekaboo heel alone in the woods, I sit down in the wet leaves next to it, touch it gently like I touched Mandy’s heat rash, keep it company for a while.