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The Purple Sneaker – conclusion

Purple high-top tennis shoe on beach.

The Lost Shoe Series

What follows is the conclusion of the first story in The Lost Shoe series, “The Purple Sneaker.” Every story in the series by Ann Hutchinson begins with a single shoe left behind on the path, the road, or in any public place. These are the stories behind those forgotten or lost shoes.

The Purple Sneaker – part two 

“My uncle loved purple tennis shoes. He even bought enough to last a lifetime, knowing they’d get discontinued. Do you remember his name?”

“I wasn’t on his ward. I just heard the nurses talking about it. They were tripping on the color of the shoe, and fighting over what they should do about the paramedics losing its mate. I can find out tomorrow.”

“Thanks!”

“Don’t get your hopes up, Dee. It could be anyone.”

“I know. But hope is all I have. Carmen, hope, and dear friends like you.”

“Mommy!” Carmen called from the living room.

“Jill, I have to run.” They said their goodbyes and Delores hung up and walked to the living room. “What is it, Carmen?”

“Can we stay her till Abuela comes home? I don’t want to go back to Seattle. I hate that school, and that nasty boy Bradley.”

Delores sat next to her on the couch, buried her head in her soft curls, and quietly sobbed. She could feel her daughter’s little body go tense.

“Oh, Mija.” She covered Carmen’s face in kisses until she giggled. Delores wondered if she should make Carmen understand about death or let her hang onto her delusion a little while longer. She had told her that Abuela died. Carmen was with Delores at the funeral. Death is a hard concept for five-year-olds to grasp. Delores choked back a bitter laugh. I still can’t believe she’s gone.

*****

“Gray, I’m so sorry. Not the weekend we imagined.” Lalo gestured to his bandaged leg, elevated in a sling.

“Yeah, well, I do wish we’d gone to breakfast at Jeffrey’s, instead of you going on a run,” said Gray.

“Go figure. I thought the run would do me good. Wasn’t so good for my health after all.”

“You going to press charges against the shepherd’s owner?”

“I don’t know,” said Lalo as he went to raise the bandaged arm up to run his hand through his hair, then stopped and winced.

“You, know, they need a respiratory therapist here. We could do some virtual house hunting while you’re laid up.”

“Really?”

“Sure. We could buy something outright, if we sell the place in the city. With no mortgage payment, you wouldn’t need to make as much money. You could go back to The Press Democrat. I hear they’re hiring, too.”

Lalo’s jaw gopped open, his eyes grew and his brows raised. “Were you planning this? How do you know they’re hiring?”

“I might have popped onto to job boards and real estate sites . . . you know . . . just in case.” Grayson broke into a grin.

Lalo squeezed his hand and tears glistened in his eyes. Grayson leaned down and kissed his forehead. “Anything for you. You know that. And I love it here, too. It’s not like it’s a hardship.”

“I don’t know what to say.”

“Yes?”

“¡A Dios mio! ¡Si! I would love to be back here full time.”

*****

Empty hospital corridor with wooden doors, plastic chairs along one wall and a blue wall with windows at the end.

Delores barely slept a wink after Jill told her it was Lalo. She had called a friend on the night shift and called her at 10:00 pm. She left Carmen with Jill in the cafeteria and went up the elevator. She kept scratching the back of her neck. An old nervous habit from her childhood. Would he be the same? Would he blame me? She knew that was the scared little girl talking. But with the prospect of seeing Tio Lalo, that’s who she had become. Small, scared, hopeful, ashamed. She had to see him. Had to know. He was all the family she and Carmen had left.

The length of hall to his room stretched out and time slowed. Her hands were sweating. She paused right before the open door. Two men were talking. She recognized her Tio Lalo’s soft baritone. They were lovers having a moment. She didn’t want to interrupt. Then her breath caught as she heard the other man say, “And I love it here, too. It’s not like it’s a hardship.”

She moved to the doorway, still not interrupting. But she had to see her Tio. The other man released him from an embrace and sat down in the chair beside Tio’s bed, his back to her. Tio looked over his shoulder and spotted her in the doorway. His brows furrowed, his eyes squinting behind his black-framed glasses. Then his mouth opened as if he was going to speak. He still wasn’t sure, but looked hopeful. She stepped into the room.

“Dee? Dee? ¡A Dios mio! ¡Look at you!”

Grayson stood and turned to the woman in the doorway.

Lalo opened his arms and practically shouted, “¡Ven aqui mi angelita!”

Delores ran to her Tio like she used to and buried her head in his shoulder as he embraced her with his good arm.

Lalo introduced her to his husband. “Now we’re definitely moving!” Grayson said.

Delores knew everything would be right in her world again. She and Carmen could stay in Mama’s house and they would have Tio nearby. Tears streamed down her face.

When they all caught their breath, Lalo asked, “But how did you know I was here?”

“Oh, Tio. Your stupid purple shoes! We saw one on the footpath and Jill said someone had an accident in purple sneakers. Who else could it be?”


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