There they were on the floor. The brightly colored striped canvas mangled, wooden fragments lay strewn over the beige berber carpet. Dead, as if shoes could have a life. I picked up some pieces and cradled them in my hands. The pair I carefully and caringly picked to match the black sheath funeral dress. Not too high as to lose balance, not to low as to look casual. The ones in which I could walk behind the caisson that pulled the box carrying the ashes in the light blue tissued covered paper urn with Papier-mâché flowers.
Heat rose to my face. It had been a year, more than a year. It had been sixteen months but those shoes were special. They weren’t like the ones with the faux leopard skin he chewed up last week, or the gold strappy sandals the night before. They weren’t even like the $180 running shoes he retrieved from the top shelf and ripped to smithereens.
Tears, unwelcome, began to pour down my cheeks when I saw the beast. I screamed with a force let loose from the devil himself and stomped towards the scoundrel, picking up more pieces along the way. I charged, he ran, the couch blocking his path. I could see the fear in his eyes as my rage burned. Four letter words sprung from my mouth without control, the usual filter gone.
A whimper. A soft whimper came from the couch. But not from the mutt. I saw the seat cushion raised vertical to block my view; to protect him from my wrath. A boy, eight years old, sat on the white stained cloth covering the sofa’s frame. Hands shielded his face. Suddenly, I could see through his eyes the maniac that was me. Dropping the pieces, I turned towards the child and wrapped him in my arms. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, two sides of a coin. I kissed his forehead and apologized. Remorseful of my rant. Overwhelmed by my emotions, beaten, weathered, disappointed but not hopeless.
I sat next to him on the stained fabric, full of trash and cookie crumbs and dried my tears. Solace swept over me. They were only shoes I said, I should have been more careful. “Mommy shouldn’t leave things out for the puppy to find,” I told him.
“Yeah,” said the soft whisper in reply. “My feet must really stink because he only likes your shoes.”
“Yeah, your feet do kinda stink.” I sucked up the snot from my nose and laughed. Leaning over, I gave my sweet boy a fake tickle. He giggled.
“You have too many shoes anyway.”
We sat in silence for a few more seconds. I wondered what type of mother terrorizes a child and a puppy? My plight, my grief, my anguish is no excuse. I hoped that one day he might forget my tirade but at that moment, at that very moment, I knew he had forgiven.
“Yes, son, I probably do have too many shoes.”