KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 11: Spring 2019
Flash Fiction: 620 words

Sole Man

by Sheree Shatsky

He was a collector of lost soles.

A shoe needn’t be brand new to step forward, that he truly believed. In fact, he found the thrift store shoes he typically bought well broken in with a few good years of life left.

He looked for certain qualities. He examined the sole first, feeling about its history for evidence of poor wear and ran a finger along the edges, holding the shoes level to his vision, checking out the lines. He was a sort of shoe psychic, predicting future candidates for hip replacement by use of his look-see method. He divined the in-toed from the out, the knock-kneed from the bow-legged, and had a gift for guessing height, the tall from the short, easy really, as those with lesser stature routinely stood on pointe, leaving a distinct crease across the toes of their shoes. Any shoes bearing bad mojo were blessed with the sign of the cross and tossed aside as unworkable.

He pulled and wagged the tongue next, as if demanding the shoe offer defense of its merits. Loafers were lined mute on the rack and he passed the tongueless shoe by, thinking those with too much time on their hands leaned toward slip-ons. Pulling up the tongue and tying shoelaces in a brisk, productive way gave the employed time to think about the upcoming work day. He preferred a good boot, but athletic shoes with a thick tread put in a good day’s work just the same. Truth was, he bought more sneakers than boots (people tended to hold on to their boots) and he’d spend more than a few minutes bending Nikes or Adidas in half, observing the spring-back action upon release. He refurbished the shoes at home and, at the end of the day, hit the streets.

Timing was everything. Panhandlers peaked at rush hour, working the intersections with no mercy. He welcomed traffic, prayed for a logjam and the chance to get good and stuck, a happy captive of the money hustle.

Those many called beggars he called entrepreneurs and they worked trapped drivers like a good preacher, never asking for a donation but expecting one all the same. The best on the walk passed by eyes downcast, yet could radar a forthcoming donation with a quick-as-a-blink reach at the window. Instincts, he guessed, experts at reading body language—whom to approach, whom to avoid—admirable skills of employ in all walks of life.

The panhandle stroll along the median choreographed with the flip of yellow to red, cardboard signs in hand, held low enough to read. He liked reading the signs. Will Work for Food. Homeless. Need a Job. No Food.

He had his own sign, a decal smoothed across his front windshield. Do Not Ask Me For Money. The sign worked so well, those walking past his car jumped back startled as he lowered the window.

The reach was automatic, the God Bless You forming on their lips.

“What are you, size nine?” Not waiting for an answer, he reached over to the shoes organized in an old wine crate and handed a pair out the window. “Go forth and conquer,” he said. His work done, he closed the window in wait for the green light.

He had a knack for getting the size right, judging by countless observations through the rear view mirror. The sign went down and the shoes went on, tongue pulled up, shoelaces tied in a no-nonsense way. Only once did shoes make their way back to him, leveled at his back bumper. The sole man figured, character and personal taste often paired similar, which he summed up nicely with a decal on his rear window.



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