Saturday, May 29, 2010

Johnny's New Shoes

            Johnny was an impressionable young man who—because of his stubbornness and lack of sufficient funds—always found himself one or two years behind the fashionable styles of the day that he was mislead into thinking he needed to conform to feel cool—or get laid. Whatever.
            He had sworn once—when younger—to never own a particular brand of basketball shoe, because it didn’t fit in with the scene with which he most closely identified. Lo and behold: several years later, they became all the rage in his scene. But in his stubbornness—he resisted.
            But after some time had passed and he felt as though his life could be augmented by a new pair of shoes—thus began his search for the perfect pair of that brand of shoe—the one he swore never to purchase, let alone wear.
He searched high—he searched low. He scoured the internet. Flew through shoe department stores. His hopes for finding that magical pair that would clearly lead to his becoming maddeningly popular were diminishing.
All until one day—when browsing a store in which he had not for some years—he finally found them. And on sale, too. It took only seconds before he fished into his back trouser pocket to retrieve his wallet. Out came the plastic. Swipe, went the plastic. Back into the wallet—its bed—it went.
It was a sunny day. And when Johnny got home, and he laced up those shoes. He put them on. And he went for a walk about the city in which he resided. He was so proud of those damned shoes. His face was beaming. Surely: everybody who saw him walking tough with those shoes must surely be jealous—that they didn’t own a pair of shoes like that. Surely: they must be thinking that this Johnny is quite something else.
That’s not what a group of what some people would call gangbangers thought, when they saw Johnny gallivant through their territory. The head honcho, a fearsome man, saw those shoes. And—just as Johnny thought when he first laid eyes on them—he wanted those shoes.
He and his cronies followed Johnny around the corner of a quiet side street. They caught up to Johnny. They knocked him down.
“Those shoes—I want them,” the head honcho said.
Johnny merely looked up in disbelief. He was a weak young man, not capable by any means of defending himself from the hoards of gangbangers encircling him and the head honcho.
But those damned shoes that made him something special, also gave him this: a sense of toughness. What he falsely associated with bravery.
He said no.
He tried returning to his feet, only to be knocked down again—this time with a pair on brass knuckles.
Seeing double—triple—quadruple—he attempted to return to his feet again. This time, not to brashly stand up to these men—but to flee.
He was allowed to his feet this time—he attempted to run. Attempted to break through the group around him.
Not wanting to bother with this worm anymore, the head honcho reached into his jeans. He pulled out a 9mm pistol. And he blew Johnny’s brain out all over the quite side street.
People are easier to search when they’re dead, he thought. And what did he care? Now he owned those shoes. And get this: not even one drop of Johnny’s blood—not one blob of his brains—stained those miraculous shoes.
The head honcho bent over to remove Johnny’s shoes. He kicked off his own. He unlaced Johnny’s shoes—his shoes—and slipped his feet into them.
His toes barely passed the tongue. He tried shoving—ramming—his feet in at any angle to get those shoes on. All to no avail.
So Johnny’s shoes didn’t fit. And if he wasn’t going to be wearing them—the head honcho would be damned if anybody else was.
The head honcho was done with this situation. So he called off his gang. They returned to their home.
And on the way, the head honcho put his gun back into his jeans. He lighted a cigarette. He took a long, deserving, accomplished drag.
And he tossed those shoes into a dumpster.
And he didn’t look back.

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