How often do you pass a single discarded shoe on the pavement? Children’s shoes, usually, but tonight as I drove home along the freeway I passed first one, then two boots which were lying in the emergency lane. The first had landed and was positioned, upright on the tarmac. In the split second that I had to take it in, I noticed that it was tan coloured, made from a sort of fake suede material and that the smooth edges at its point indicated that it was a steel-capped boot.
For a split second, I thought it was just a random boot, and then I saw its other half – the second in the pair, lying on its side with is sole facing me. The white dust of plasterboard was encrusted through and across the tread.
And I wondered to myself, how did these two boots come to be lying by the side of a busy freeway in a capital city?
1. Larry had offered her a lift home from work and she had said yes, but that she would sit in the ute’s tray. As they pulled away from the site she felt as thought a weight was lifting and she knew that she was not going back.
She did not mind the work. It was hard, but she would take that over sitting behind a desk any day of the week. She had promised her dad that she would stick with the job until she got the qual.
‘Once you get that, nobody can take that away from you,’ he had said.
Today she had qualified. Finally someone had decided that she was ‘competent.’ Not brilliant, or very good, but just competent and now she could quit.
The ute hit the freeway and the sun hit her face as they picked up speed away from the city. She looked down at her feet in their steel cap boots as she bounced around in the back of the truck. They were heading into the tunnel.
She reached down and pulled at the laces, freeing the bow from each boot, loosening the laces on first one boot and then the other, she used her left foot to prise her right boot off her foot. Then gripped the heel of the left foot the her right toes and wriggled out of the other boot.
Her toes felt good to be out of their boots, she wriggled them inside her socks, feeling the wool scratch against her skin.
On impulse she picked the boots up from where they lay on the floor of the tray. And hurled them one at a time over the side and onto the tarmac below.
2. People always used to laugh at John, but the building site is not place that tends to be forgiving about wardrobe issues.
John did not see it as a big deal, but the lads found it less difficult to let go.
‘Slipping into your stilettos, John?’ One would ask as he removed his boots at the end of a shift.
‘These boots are designed to protect my feet,’ he would answer, ‘and I like my feet protected, so I look after my boots.’
John was a careful man. Everyday, without fail, he would remove his boots, place them on the side of his truck, then pack them into his toolbox once he had replaced them for the sneakers on his feet which he wore to drive home.
‘Only as far as home, though,’ they joked, ‘then he gets into his pink slippers.’
But John did not mind.
That afternoon, he got the call from his mother-in-law as he was packing his truck.
‘John! The baby is coming, Cheryl’s at the hospital now – Drive John, drive!’
John looked down at his feet, dumbfounded in the enormity of the moment. They were in socks, suspended in limbo between boots and sneakers. He would arrive at the hospital twenty minutes later to welcome his son into the world clad in nothing but socks on is feet, but right now, this was the last thing on his mind.
He jumped into the cab of the truck and drove like the wind to welcome his new son into the world.