The Shoe

The late May sun was warm and bright. I stood with my classmates in the rural schoolyard in southwestern Kansas with sweat trickling down my neck. I squinted my twelve year old eyes and cocked my head to listen to the eighth grade teacher, Mr. Creevey talk to us. Only a seventh grader, I didn’t want to mess up.All the boys, including my older brother, Dan stood in a line facing Mr. Creevey. It was the last day of school in the spring of 1967 and we were going to play games all day.The girls were in a line opposite of us boys. Their pretty, smiling faces carefully eyed us as they whispered and giggled making me feel self-conscious and shy. I watched them as nonchalantly as I could. I had no idea what we were about to do and I nervously shifted from one foot to another.Mr. Creevey had the girls each remove one shoe and place them in a big pile at his feet. He then turned to the line of boys. “When I fire the starting pistol, run and grab a shoe!”I still wasn’t sure what we were doing. But now I had my orders. I got ready. Mr. Creevey lifted his arm in the air and began his countdown. I wiped the sweat from my eyes and looked at the older boys. There was no use in trying to beat them, I decided. Many were stronger, and bigger than me. Besides, what would I do with a girl’s shoe anyway?The gun fired and I got to the pile of shoes almost last. I jumped on top of the heap of writhing, wrestling boys. I reached in my arm and grasped a delicate, brown loafer. I didn’t know whose it was, but at least I had one. But other hands were trying to grab that same shoe and it seemed to be alive.It would be pulled one way, then another, violently swaying underneath the mass of adolescent boys. I didn’t want to be the one with no shoe, so I doggedly kept my grip. Boys were screaming and pushing and shoving, trying to grab just the right one. I almost thought I would lose my hold when suddenly the shoe popped out into my lap. I clutched it and ran backwards towards Mr. Creevey.”I got one!” I told him with excitement as I waved it in the air. Boys grabbed at the shoe as I spun around.”Hold on to it!” He ordered me with a grin. I held the prized piece of leather with both hands and started to notice the glares from the older boys, including my brother, Dan.Eventually the pile dwindled down and boys resigned themselves to whatever they could find. Mr. Creevey then had the girls find the boy with their shoe. I stood in line and began to shiver as girl after girl walked by me, scrutinizing the footwear in my hands.”Linda!” I heard a popular girl say as she looked me up and down. “Guess who has your shoe.” She spun around and her ponytail flipped in the fresh spring wind. I felt my legs go weak.The girls all seemed to be laughing as Linda walked up to me with a shy smile. “I guess that’s mine.” She pointed at my hands. I held out the loafer. “Your name is Paul, right?” She asked me.