Short Story: The Shoes

This story was my entry in the Your Story 68 Competition on writersdigest.com.  We were given the following picture and asked to write a 750-word story.

Beach swim shoes drying on wood fence on Florida Beach

“The Shoes”

Enna raced along the concrete path as quickly as her new shoes would take her.  They were slightly too big; the merchant hadn’t had her size.  Even if they had, she didn’t know what her size would’ve been.  All she knew was that she’d never seen shoes that color.  

What would you call a color like that?  Brell?  Clariss?  Pellum?  Something that sounded bright and vibrant and happy.  She’d grabbed the ones that looked to be the right length and width, jammed them on her grimy feet, and quickly walked away.  She’d started running when she heard the shop owner shout after her.

Winding her way through the streets, Enna could hear the officials shouting behind her.  She knew they were running faster than she was; she knew they were gaining on her.  If she could just reach the fence, she might be able to get away.   The shoes weren’t worth enough for them to follow her to into Mitra.

She dipped and dodged through the crowd, ribbons anchored to the corner of tents dancing around her in the breeze.  Strings of beads of every color blurred in her vision as they hung from doorways.  Flowers spilled from pots along the street.

Suddenly, Enna nearly crashed into a woman as she rounded a corner, having hoped to lose the officials that were chasing her.  She swerved at the last moment, just grazing the woman’s red dress – the color of blood.  The fabric was softer than anything Enna had ever felt.  It she hadn’t been running for her safety, if she hadn’t been on the wrong side of the fence, she would have wanted to run her hands along the dress, to feel the smoothness of the fabric, to listen to it rustle.  If possible, she would have waited until after it rained so that she could wash the grime off her hands before handling it.  You didn’t want to soil fabric that beautiful.

“What in Kalat’s name??” the woman in the red dress exclaimed in a shrill voice.  She stumbled sidewides, more from being startled than from the actual force of the collision.  Enna stuttered-stepped but then continued on her way, determined to reach the fence with her new shoes.

Her momentum having slowed, she thought about taking them off and carrying them.  She hadn’t worn shoes since she was six years old.  The five pairs of shoes that her family of eight owned were either too small for her, or she was too small for them.  Some day, though.  She secretly hoped that her sister’s feet kept growing so that she could have hers once she was older.  She secretly felt guilty about that.

Enna reached the end of the concrete path; she was almost there!  It was just sand and grass between where she stood and the fence that separated Mitra and Tajil.  She ventured a peek behind her, seeing the brown hats of the officials bobbing through the crowd; they were about to reach the sand as well.

Having turned to look at her pursuers, she didn’t see the clump of grass in front of her.  One moment, she was flying in her new shoes, nearly to freedom.  The next moment, she had a mouth full of sand.

Stunned, she didn’t move for a few seconds.  Then Enna felt rough hands grab her arms, picking her clear off the ground with no effort.  “You little thief,” said those rough hands’ rough voice.  Enna looked up and could see the fence – only a few more seconds away!  All of the officials were behind her, one of them holding her by her upper arms,  another coming up and yanking the slightly over-sized shoes from her feet.

Then they were moving.  They got nearer and nearer to the fence, slowly making the walk through the sand.  “You Mitran scum.  You know better than to come over here.  Stay on your side,” the voice growled.

Enna was flying again, but this time in a much different way than before.  The man had thrown her over the fence, and down she came, landing hard on her shoulder and getting a mouthful of sand for a second time.  She laid there for a while, then turned to look back across the fence, back to where she’d just been.  The officials were already headed back toward Tajil.

Enna stood, dusted herself off, and walked slowly back toward the barren, dusty place that was her home.  Back to where she belonged.

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