The Blue Shoe

She’s here again, the woman with the one blue shoe. I try to help her every time but she doesn’t want to listen to me. Every day for two months she showed up at the doorstep, carrying a picnic basket and wiping the back of her right hand against her pale, freckled cheeks. I would come down the stairs, invite her in for coffee, try to free the basket from her blistered hand, but she never paid me any attention.

Then one day, she disappeared. For seventeen years. The tenants changed during that time; the families with small children and puppies moved out, the single people with their beer pong and sex toy parties moved in. So when she came back after all those years, on what would have been her daughter’s 21st birthday, her sadness was accompanied by confusion.

“They’ve all moved out, I’m afraid, Charlene. Paul moved to Dallas five years ago when Evan went off to college. They’re doing well, though. Evan sends me a birthday card every year.”

For the first time, she let me help her. We sat on the top step and looked at the rose garden which was just beginning to bloom. I pried the scratchy picnic basket out of her hand and peeked inside. Two tuna fish sandwiches with mustard smeared on the crust of one, a bunch of purple grapes, two green apples, and one blue shoe, with a tiny bow on the single strap and 4T etched into the bottom.

“It’s not your fault Charlene. You only turned away for a second.” She nodded and continued to cry. “Who are you talking to, Ms. Beene?” a twenty something yelled to me as she hopped down the steps right through where Charlene was sitting.

She jumped into her car before I could answer.