1st Place – July 2018

The Yellow Shoes

By Robert Taylor

“Mom, look at these shoes. They’re the same color as my new yellow dress, and they‘re my size.”
“That’s nice,” Mildred replies, looking up from the two dresses she has placed on top of a rack for observation, “but I thought you said you wouldn’t wear second-hand stuff.”
“But these shoes will match my new dress. I got to have them, Mom!”
“Don’t say you got to have them, Sandy. Say you must have them. Or better yet, say you don’t really need them at all.”
“But I do need them! I’m wearing my new dress to my birthday party tomorrow, and I need these shoes to go with it!”
Mildred places one of the dresses back on the rack, then picks up the second one.
“Mom! You’re ignoring me. May I have the shoes, or not?”
After holding the second dress up to herself, she places it back on the rack.
“Fine, Mom, don’t answer me. I’ll go put the shoes back. Thanks for nothing.”
“Sandy,” Mildred says, “do you remember the deal we made before we left the house?”
“Yep. The deal was if I came with you to this stupid second-hand store I wasn’t supposed to ask for anything.”
“Exactly, so why are you asking me to buy you something?”
“That’s easy to answer, Mom. I didn’t know these beautiful yellow shoes were gonna be here when I agreed on the deal.”
“Let me see those.” Snatching the shoes from Sandy, Mildred inspects them carefully, checking the uppers, the soles, and the heels. “There’s no price tag on these, Sandy.”
“That’s okay, they’ll tell us the price at the register. May I have them, Mom? Please?”
Mildred emits a long sigh of resignation. “I didn’t find anything I would wear, so I suppose I’ll get you the shoes. But since you violated our agreement, the next time I go shopping you have to stay home with Grandpa.”
“Oh yeah, like that’s punishment. I mean, thanks Mom.”
Mildred flashes the clerk a friendly smile as they approach the counter. “These shoes have no price tag. Would you tell us how much they cost, please?”
The clerk, a middle-aged husky woman with a streak of gray running through her otherwise brown hair, inspects the shoes. “I can’t sell you these, Ma’am. They’ll have to be shipped back to the warehouse to be re tagged. They’ll determine a price and send them back to one of our stores.”
Mildred glances down into Sandy’s face, noticing that her countenance has fallen.     “Ma’am, there must be something you can do. My daughter needs these shoes to wear at her birthday party tomorrow.”
After peering down at Sandy, the clerk turns her stern gaze directly at Mildred.   “I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do, Ma’am. I’m sorry.”
“I hope I’m not out of line saying this,“ Mildred says, “but You have the most beautiful eyes.”
“Thanks you, but flattery isn‘t going to get you anywhere with me, Ma‘am. There are rules and regulations we must go by, so I can‘t sell you the shoes and that‘s that.”
“I have an idea,” Sandy says, smiling up at the stern looking clerk.
“You could take the tag off of another pair of shoes, put it on these, then ship the other pair back to the warehouse to get retagged. Good idea, huh?”
“Young lady,” the clerk replies, her voice even more stern than before, “each pair of shoes has it’s own price tag. The price on each tag is what that particular pair of shoes is worth. I’m afraid your idea wouldn’t…”
“Oh,” Mildred interrupts, “so if the tag on each pair of shoes determines what that particular pair is worth, then this pair of shoes has no tag, so they’re worth nothing. Does that sound reasonable to you?”
“Ma’am, I’m sorry, but I can’t sell you the….”
“If they’re worth nothing, that must mean they’re free.”
Leaning forward, the clerk places her elbows on the counter in front of Mildred. “Ma’am, There are other customers waiting to check out, I told you I…”
“So,” Mildred interrupts for the third time, “if the shoes are free, I can take them on home and Sandy can wear them to her party.”
“If you take the shoes out that door you’ll be arrested for shoplifting.”
“I’ve never heard of being arrested for taking a worthless item. Come on, Sandy.” Grabbing the shoes from the counter, Mildred heads for the exit.
“Mom!” Sandy pleads, “please don’t do this! I don’t want you to go to jail! I decided I don’t even want the shoes.”
***
Frank Miller, the store’s manager, stares across his desk at Mildred and Sandy. Taking a final puff of his cigarette, he snuffs it in an ashtray. “Mrs. Martin, just tell me one thing. What in the world were you thinking, walking out with our merchandise right in front of one of our employees?”
“I guess I just lost it. You’re clerk was being rude and unreasonable, so I just lost my temper and walked out with the shoes.”
Well, Mrs. Martin, we have a very strict policy as for prosecuting shoplifters. We can’t just look the other way and allow people to steal us blind.”
“I understand that, Sir, and I’m sorry I took the shoes out of the store. I’ve been under a lot of pressure lately, trying to raise two kids with my husband gone. It’s hard to make ends meet, you know? I came here to find me a couple of dresses to wear on my new job. I didn’t find anything, so I just wanted to buy Sandy those shoes to wear at her birthday party tomorrow, but your clerk wouldn’t sell them to us, so…”
“Mrs. Martin, I don’t mean to sound uncaring, but every shoplifter we catch has a sob story to tell. Our policy is to prosecute, regardless of the reason behind the crime.”
“You have the most beautiful eyes,” Sandy says, peering up into the man’s face.
Frank is totally taken aback. “Well, thank you, little girl. You have a pair of lovely blue eyes yourself.”
“Thanks,” she replies with a giggle.
Frank leans back in his chair, extracts a pack of cigarettes from his shirt pocket, lights up, takes a deep drag, then slowly expels the smoke. “Mrs. Martin, normally I wouldn’t hesitate to call the authorities and have you arrested, but the thing is, I can tell you’re not a thief at heart, and there were extenuating circumstances behind what you did. So, if you’ll just pay for the shoes we’ll forget the whole affair.”
“I appreciate that, Sir. But how can I pay for them if they have no price?”
Frank leans forward, turning his gaze on Sandy. “I’m sure coming up with a price won’t be a problem, but right now there’s another problem much more serious than the price of the shoes.”
Mildred is confused. “What do you mean, a more serious problem?”
“Well, you said this young lady’s birthday is tomorrow. How old will you be, Sandy, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“I’ll be eleven.”
“The problem is, Sandy, you’re having a birthday tomorrow and I haven’t gotten you a gift. What would you like for your birthday?”
“Oh, it’s okay, Mister, you don’t have to…”
“How about a pair of yellow shoes?” Frank pushes the pair of shoes across the desk in Sandy’s direction.”
“Wow, thanks Mister! Thanks a million!”
“You’re welcome, Sweetie. Happy birthday. And Mrs. Martin, I hope things get better for you, and please try to keep your temper under control.”
“I’ll work on it, Sir,” she replies, rising from her seat.
“That was nice of the man to give me the shoes,” Sandy says as they exit the store.
Mildred replies while extracting her keys from her purse. “Yes, Sandy, it was a nice thing he did.”
“He sure was nicer than that old crabby woman at the register. Just think, he could have had you sent to jail.”
Mildred casts Sandy a look that reminds her of the clerk in the store.
“Sandy, if you say one word about this to anyone, and I mean anyone, you’ll be grounded until you finish high school. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Mom. You’re saying I can’t say anything about this to anyone. Except my best friend, Erica, we never keep secrets. And maybe Grandpa, he…”
“I mean anyone, Sandy! If you tell a living soul you’ll not only be grounded forever, I’ll take those shoes back to the store.”
Sandy looks up into her mother’s eyes with a sly grin on her face. “Mom, that man was saying all shoplifters at his store would be sent to jail no matter what, then he suddenly changed his mind and let us go.”
“Yeah, so? People have a right to change their minds.”
“I guess flattery does work on some people, huh Mom?” Sandy says with a giggle.

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