The Wrong Boots
by Kate Feld
Location: Gullivers, Oldham Street
Marie had been looking for cowboy boots for a while, so when she spotted a sweet pair of red ones in her size, just battered enough, for £10 at Age Concern, she was pleased. She was going to a gig that night and she decided to wear them with her black skirt. Look at my boots, she’d say, and tell the story of looking for the boots and finding them. Then everyone would admire her for being so good at buying things.
The boots made her feel strange. Maybe it was the way you had to walk in them – leaning back, viewing the action from a slight recline. It was like she engaged the world on different terms wearing these boots.
Marie walked into the pub and spotted her ex sitting at the bar. This was a man she’d carefully avoided for five months, moving through rooms as if he wasn’t there. But tonight the boots walked her up to the bar right next to him, and ordered a double bourbon.
Huh, the brain thought. It was intending to get a beer.
The boots turned her to face him, and before she knew what was happening, they were talking. They were always so good at the talking. It was the other stuff they weren’t any good at, and the brain, increasingly alarmed, tried to bring this knowledge to her attention. But the boots were not interested.
When it was time for the band to play, the boots hurried her legs ahead of him to the stairs, so he’d have plenty of time to admire the boots – and what was inside them – on the way up.
The brain was mortified. Oh God, are you kidding me with this?
Of course, the boots made sure they sat next to each other. While the two of them watched the band, the heels of the boots drummed impatiently on the floor. The boots were restless. These boots wanted to dance. These boots wanted less talk and more action.
In a panic, the brain flicked back through its memory banks, calling up images. The text messages fired at phones like missiles. The drunken fighting, the tears, the jealous rages. The worried face of her best friend saying why can you not just stay away from him? You’re no good for each other.
The boots just laughed. And? they said.
The brain decided: it was time to shut this down. Marie stood up and walked quickly to the door. The beat of her boots on the wooden floor was furious. Louder than the music. The band trailed off and everyone at the gig turned around to watch her walk out the door, down the stairs and out of the pub.
On Oldham Street, the sound of her boots on the concrete was a sound that could eat up the whole night. The boots stalked down Dale Street, then crossed Newton Street without waiting for the light to change.
As Marie walked, her brain was getting the measure of these boots. The brain was adding it all up and coming to the conclusion that maybe they weren’t such a bargain. So very quickly, before the boots could do anything about it, Marie walked to the edge of the canal, took them off and hurled them in.
Quiet came down on the city. She took a deep breath. Then with the soles of her feet cool on the ground, she walked the rest of the way home.
Nobody saw the boots emerge from the canal ten minutes later – first one red cowboy boot, then the other – and stomp down the pavement after her.