The silver bells on the door jangle, signifying a customer. Wiping the last semblance of dinner from the counter with a cloth, I smile at her fleshy face. Hers is more a smirk, crushed between cheeks that have enjoyed many a meal.
"I need a pair of shoes to make this dress look good," he voice more demanding than a simple request.
Her dress will need more than I can give, but I humbly respond, "Of course madam. I think we have just the ones to accent you beauty."
She brightens a bit, following me toward the back of the shop, where we keep the shoes for one of her girth. The wood creaks as she settles into a chair, her well worn flats clattering to the ground as she kicks them off, allowing her feet to sigh. I do my best to keep my dinner in its place.
Showing her several shoes, she sends me back to the shelf repeatedly, not happy with my selections. Finally settling on a pair, she extends her foot, expecting me to place the shoes for her viewing. Lowering myself to my knees in front of her, I am unwrapping them when her cell phone rings and she begins talking outlandishly to whoever happen to be on the other side. Her voice whines loudly and I wince in displeasure.
Taking her foot in my hand, dry pads catch on my fingers, prickling my disgust. One shoe in place, I display it for her approval, but she is lost in her conversation, paying me little attention. The odor, the texture, he voice all work together to crumble me and I envision ways I could use the cell phone to rid me of her presence. Ghastly thoughts. Gruesome. They make me feel slightly better, until she extends the other foot.
She walks down the aisle, still talking, getting a feel for the shoes and I nod, placating her, wanting her out of the shop. I gush over her, but it is all for naught as she shakes her head, forcing her feet back into the shoes she came with, heading for the door. Watching her leave, I smile, then turn to go wash my hands, though I wish I could wash my body.
My big break came from a surprising benefactor. I was working in a shoe store at the mall. A rather dreadful place, though I did not know it at the time. I was not used to much, so having a job meant existing. I was on my own at this point, returning home one night to find the trailer empty. A note on the counter explained she had shot my father during one of the trysts and was now living with another friend.
While the shoe store was not much, I worked diligently to impress and that is what Mr. M- noticed. He was flustered as he entered the store attired elegantly in black suit, with black striping. Two men were with him, moving quickly to keep up with him. They never said anything, just stood to either side of him, surveying the store. Their stature said enough.
He said he was traveling and was on his way to an important meeting. The shoes he was wearing were scuffed. Some business transaction having gone awry. That it just the way he said it, "business", and for some reason it stuck with me. He carried an air of someone important.
I could tell he was not used to being in a place so far below his standards and I made every effort to make him feel comfortable. My attention was his, despite the mewling families looking for shoes for school with the faces of characters. I escorted him to a corner of the shop away from the commotion and begged his pardon while I cleared the shop.
Most customers left the shop willingly as I shooed them out, but one barrel chested man, there with his two kids decided to stand his ground. He stood toe to toe with me, thrusting his chest out like a rooster, spittle sprinkling my face as he berated me. Obvious by their smiles, the kids were used to their dad bullying his way. When his finger poked my chest something inside me snapped, I smelled the urine, felt my arms tighten.
Sweeping my arm, my fingers wrapped his wrist, cranking his arm behind his back and propelling him forward, head first into one of the shelves. Boxes of shoes fell heavy from their perches, pummeling him, his children's eyes growing large. As he struggled to release himself from the pile, I crouched and in a cold even voice told him to leave once more. His eyes cut from me to the men seated in the back, now watching him intently.
As I pulled the barricade down, closing off the entrance behind the embarrassed man and his family, I knew this would probably be the termination of my employment with the shoe store, but I was determined to make one last impression. Returning to the suited men, I apologized for the display of aggression, which they waved off and within a half an hour, Mr. M- settled on a pair of our most expensive shoes in the store.
He placed his old shoes in the box, handing them to one of the men, ordering him to dispose of them. I offered to take them, but was told that was not necessary. The second man paid for the shoes, while Mr. M- walked back and forth letting his feet settle into their new homes.
"Kid. I like you. You got class," Mr. M-'s words swelled me with pride, which I think he saw as well.
Surprisingly, the man I had assaulted that evening never called my manager. Two weeks later, a man came into the shoe store and offered me a management position at a new shoe store opening in an open air mall that was just being constructed in a more affluent part of town. This is how I came to work for Mr. M-.
Returning from the bathroom, toweling the excess water on a cotton hand towel, I hear the phone ringing. Hurrying across the shop, I answer, "Good evening, M & Sons, how may I assist you?"
It is Mr. M-
"I will close up right away."
"Yes sir, goodnight."
Flipping the sign on the door to closed, I turn the lock driving the bolt into the jam. Drawing a curtain across the windows, I proceed through the aisles to the door that leads to the back room. I retrieve a small leather carry bag, one a man might use for shaving, and a pair of gloves. There are a few other things I will need, to honor Mr. M-'s request.
The shop was crowded with affluent families, shopping for school, checking out the new mall and all the stores, when she walked in. I was busy helping customers, flitting here and there, making sure everyone knew where to find what they were looking for and did not notice her at first. After a while, I saw her moving up and down the aisles in the background, periodically cutting her dark eyes at me.
She was beautiful and I was charmed at the attention, but had little time to spare and expected her to be gone by the time I finished with the other customers. One after another I helped them make their purchases and seeing the last one out the door I settled on the stool behind the counter for a moment to catch my breath.
She surprised me, stepping from behind one of the end caps, her raven hair fluttering with the movement, stealing the breath I had been seeking. Slowly she cross the floor, her lips curling into a smile and when she asked for help finding a particular shoe, I decided inwardly that I would do anything she asked of me.
Her leg was silk as I held it to slip on the pair of heels she selected. I looked to her for approval and though I meant to ask her how it felt, I asked her if she would like to have lunch with me. She laughed, not an ugly laugh, but inviting as she said, "Yes, I would. By the way, my name is Jill."
Lunch led to dinner, later that evening. Jill had been married once before, a short lived affair with a man that was everything to her, until he broke her heart and slept with another. The last year had been a time of healing, of putting the pieces of her life back together. Some friends had encouraged her, at dinner, just a few nights ago to start dating again.
A few months later, we moved in together. I could not believe that someone so incredible could fall for one like me, but I was not going to complain. Jill was the best friend, I never had, and a voracious lover. After making love, some nights, she would cry as I held her.
We shared an affinity for the outdoors and would take long walks in the park, our fingers entwined, conversing about our lives, our future. I felt I could tell her anything.
Love had found me and there was no way I was ever letting go.
Exiting the shop through the back door, I turn in the direction of the parking garage to the east side of the shops, walking hastily in the shadows of the building. There is no one else in the back lot to impede my movements and I arrive at the structure to see the obese woman from the shop making her way down the line of cars. Her flats scruff on the concrete as she drags one foot in front of the other, drowning out the soft clicks of my foot steps.
Most of the cars are moving up the ramp to higher levels, but she has parked on the lower level, easier walking on her already overburdened legs. Arriving at her van, a Chrysler Town and Country, she slips between it and the small sports car in the adjacent spot. She has not noticed me when he phone rings once more and retrieving it from her purse, she puts it her her head again.
She is surprised when my hard fingers crush hers against the phone, keeping her from answering. I use that moment of shock to drive my knee into her ample stomach forcing a sharp intake of breath. Twisting the phone from her grasp, I release the cover from the battery compartment, driving its tapered edge into the flesh of her throat, wrenching it across. Her hands instinctively grasp the parted flesh, her breath a wet wheeze from the force of the blow.
Retrieving an injector from my pocket I press it to the tender spot at the base of her skull and thumb the button. She convulses, her body rippling in waves, and I wait for her to stop before placing the phone somewhere that I think will surprise the coroner when he does the autopsy. I can see the confused look on his face and would love to be a fly on the wall.
Some people just need to know when to stop talking.
(to be continued)