by Jean Reyes
San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts
This pair of shoes shielded him from the muddy piles of melt that were haphazardly shoveled to the side at six in the morning. A little ant struggled until drowning, neighbor to a leaf that had no crunch. A wooly scarf half-frozen in slush had its corner tucked naturally under the brim of a stiff gentleman's coal-black fedora. The carrot had disappeared and reappeared in the grip of a famished young rodent.
Pavement gaps shaped uniform streams that fed the edge weeds and edge of lawns. Crystalline film laced the glass and peppered the ends of the young squirrel’s tail who wouldn’t see spring. Its body was damp with snowflakes but the tail was cold and lifeless; snow didn’t melt. Its burnt amber fur slicked rich as silk on the torso, and as its fur plumped towards the tail, an ombre of silver shimmering ice cast its shadow of death. Even within Death’s grip it also had a solid vice around a dead snowman’s long, lying nose, a large chunk truthfully missing.
This pair of shoes sheltered his nine toes from the December puddles. Its off-grey laces had a talent for undoing themselves. The gummy wires ran into his ears and belt swayed like a rope bridge secured to toothpicks. The shoes that untied themselves to maintain their loose ends. The wires that tied themselves into monkey’s fist and fish hook knots couldn’t bear but strangle themselves. Trapped and bound in a paradox, singing a conundrum of loose leaf thoughts.
Scrape, across the top with the windshield wipers up, beckoning the sky to fall and the sun to melt. Scrape, just below the first, the frozen layers crack and jerk, some flying off to pursue their dreams. Scrape, just across the bottom of the glass. Shoveling snow off a windshield, a spray of snow dust settled. Brush, away the ice from the hood of the Mustang’s cold steam muzzle.
He sits in his car to revive his nine toes, lifts the cheap stuffed flour tortilla to his teeth, and sinks them in like a pen on paper. The rubbery egg scramble and sad sausage hash threatens to crumble without the thirsting hydration of a sauce, the hot kind. His gas station, glass bottle, watered down beer was sweet with a bitter bite. Against the burn on his tongue and burn of the sun, he ate with a pace. With a pace like Guns and Roses. His food was growing colder and drink was growing warmer. Laces were getting looser and so was his grip. Chest feels tighter. Hurt feels stronger. Heart beats faster. A cough would help the choking.
A mini handprint appeared on the passenger side window, just above the peg of the door lock. It had been so lightning and light it must have been a ghost. The flesh of the print tugged on the door handle and a pop from the car gave way. “Hi, Daddy,” chimed the apparition.
“Darlin’, you scared the daylights out of me. I thought a ghost touched the window!” he laughed with his hand on his chest. The scramble was still making its way down the right pipe this time. He reached for his drink to expedite the process.
“Later when you pick me up, can you bring me a yogurt straw?” the creature mewed. One scraggly limb at a time, it hooked its way into the car and took its place shotgun. Spidery appendages clawed at the seatbelt and with a click it had trapped itself in place.
Once the burrito mash had settled down in his stomach, “You don’t like the yogurt cups?” This pair of shoes kicked the ride where it mattered. He stabbed the smooth key into the throat of the Mustang. It suddenly awoke with wide eyes, roared and hummed in response to the twist. Its blood fueled through its system like adrenaline to the wound; it rumbled and reared, and ran.
“The cups are messy. Yogurt straws are easier to clean up.” The little spirit had hauled a little sack with it like a shadow or excess baggage. The Mustang was beginning to lose its stability as it lost blood in the rush and panic; the gremlin grew grim. “Daddy, the light was red.”
He looked over to his side, not to the lights. There was a haze all around, but not a haze. It seemed like smoke or black frost in the air, but it couldn’t have been. As if someone had taken and dripped a pen into a glass, the murk diffused, but not dissipate with tendrils that caressed the Mustang from inside. It bled into the air conditioning where it was meant to be jetted out, seeped into the stickshift by the D, hugged his hands to the wheel with a cocoon of silk, and laced the glass like a vintage photograph. It was only then he clearly saw the bulling eyes of a creature much bigger than any Mustang. For only an instant, he paled the shade of a ghost, and the big creature’s eyes only grew much, much bigger, closing in like a box from the side he had chosen to look at instead of the overhead lights. The box was completely dark when it sealed. In the darkness, he could have sworn he felt scuttling and heard the nibbling and crunches of carrot.
What mysterious fog had he seen that day? What had overcome the vehicle if not the cold? Perhaps the icy roads, slippery from melting and refreezing snow, or slower reflexes from the low temperature and sleepy muscles. Perhaps it was not. That day, someone couldn’t hold themself together and decided they needed to ‘loosen up’. Funny thing about loosening up is that’s why many people slip up. A shoe will fall apart when its laces are too loose. Tension is good, not too much, but enough to hold things together. There is nothing you can ingest to
Children are undeniably walking hazards. They’re death on short, chunky legs. When you leave them alone for a certain amount of time, they die. When you’re with them every minute of the waking day, you will want to die. They latch onto you and there is no true escape. Even very young, their ‘curiosity’ puts them in perilous predicaments, or shoots your blood pressure higher than the heavens. When someone loosens their laces more than they need, the shoe falls off, and they lose their Sole. Keep your laces tied tight. D for Drive. D is for December. D for Dangerous. D for Darlin’, Daddy, and Dark.
D is for Don’t Drink and Drive.
Jean Adelaide "RhedRion" Reyes is one of the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts' recent graduates for Creative Writing and will be joining the Class of 2023 at the University of California San Diego for Pharmacological Chemistry. She takes pride in her cooking, deadpan humor, and pen killing.