Quiet Shoes

You can’t just buy magic shoes at an ordinary place. It’s not like you can walk into a department store and browse their new fall line of seven-league boots. For that sort of thing you really need to search the deeper depths of eBay or something. I happened to stumble on mine by luck, as though my slip-ons already had a touch of the fairy about them. I wouldn’t even have bought them normally, they’re sort of plain and gray and a bit scuffed around the toes, but when I tried them on they felt so close and comfortable on my feet that I loved them at once. I took them off, paid for them, brought them home, and promptly forgot them at the bottom of my closet for a couple of months.

The first time I wore them, I barely noticed anything odd at all. In my gray shoes I walked to the library at the end of the day, when the world sighs and settles into the beginnings of night. It was starting to be dim and yellow in the streets, so it didn’t seem strange to me that people were bumping into me a lot. I got to the library I leaned into the door so that it rang the bell, and people looked a little puzzled at the sound. The book I needed was way up on the top shelf so I stood on the soft toes of my new flats and coaxed it closer with the tips of my fingers until it fell and hit me in the forehead, pages splaying open.

The only thing that day that was really weird was the librarian at the desk. I stood there, leaning on the fake wood, staring at the librarian’s profile for maybe ten minutes. In that time I coughed, shuffled, sneezed, thunked my book down, and started saying “Excuse me?” When I spoke she glanced over and looked right past me, sweeping her eyes across the room and then turning back to her book. I kept saying it though. My tone went from the politely inquiring pitch of the barely bothered to that nasty hook of a voice that dips and sways on the dangerous edge of making a goddamn scene. I leaned and shifted around, picked up a foot out of its shoe to curl and uncurl my toes, and nearly yelled it at her. My “ExCUSE me!” echoed in the library and she whipped around to look at me.

In the haughtiest tones I think she could probably muster, she said, “Yes, dear, all right, you don’t have to yell.” I shoved my book toward her and waited while she scanned it, then slipped the shoe back on my foot and whisked myself out of the library. I walked home bumping into people again, but I figured that all the elbow-brushing and shoulder-swiping was just me being so annoyed.

It was maybe another week before I really figured out the power of those gray shoes. I mean, that I figured out that it was the shoes and not just everyone ignoring me. It must’ve been the day I fought with Andy – that’s my husband – because at the end of my yelling I kicked off my shoes until they flew and thumped into the wall and I cried. He’d been ignoring me while I ranted, getting dinner together while I delivered a tirade, calling my name out every once in a while when I was right in the middle of a sentence. It only made me angrier, of course, and I told him what a selfish ass he was, how rude he was being, and how pissed I was right as he must have just been so confused by hearing my voice faint in the distance and not knowing where I was.

Once we figured it out I was a lot less mad. Well, Andy really figured it out. He went and picked up the shoes and put them back on my feet as I was sobbing like Cinderella’s freaking prince in our little apartment that smelled of Ramen and laundry. The gray shoes fit back on my feet and Andy’s eyes just went round. He looked right through me. He figured out a way to focus on me so he could see me, after a bit. If he really tried, concentrated on my face, he could see me, but apparently if nobody’s looking right at me and thinking about it I just slip right past their vision. I tested it a lot.

Even when I jump up and down my feet make no sound on the floor in those shoes. The soles tap into the linoleum, or the marble or wood or concrete, and there’s no noise at all. It’s eerie if you’re paying attention, though of course if I’m wearing the shoes nobody else is really paying attention.

I don’t wear the gray shoes that often. I don’t want to scuff them up any more and I don’t want to abuse the magic that lets me duck under people’s notice and sneak around a little bit. I walk in the gray shoes sometimes, not often, when the night is creeping up the horizon and everyone’s glance slides right past you anyway, shoes or no. I don’t do it so often because I don’t need it that much. It is useful every once in a while, though, when there’s some reason that I want to step lightly.

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Noisy Boots

The boots clattered down the stairs with a brisk knocking noise and, when they reached the bottom, paused as if deciding where to go next. Lisa looked up expectantly at Kat, who said, “Those are the ones you just bought today?” Lisa nodded and Kat smiled. “They’re really cute. Definitely have a personality to them.”

“They do, don’t they?” said Lisa. She pried them off her feet and tossed them at the foot of the stairs. Her feet in their polka-dotted socks made no sound as she led Kat into the kitchen. They were there for quite a while. They talked about shopping, and what to do for dinner, and other sundry bits and pieces. From where the boots lay, splayed on the floor, their voices rose and fell like strange low music.

Eventually the two women returned to go back up the stairs. Lisa frowned. “Huh,” she said. “Weren’t those tipped over or something?” Kat looked too at the boots, tidily lined up against the wall, and shrugged. They went upstairs, their toes slipping with little whispers on the wood of the steps. Several minutes passed, and then the music of their voices drifted downstairs. They stayed hidden upstairs until nearly seven, and then they slipped and slid down the stairs again, talking.

Kat arrayed herself on one of the kitchen stools, her skirt tucked neatly under her. Lisa opened the refrigerator. Her eyes grew wide, and she stopped speaking mid-sentence.

“What is it, hon?” Kat asked.

Lisa shook her head, and pointed. “How did they get there?” Kat leaned to look, and her eyes widened too. Crowded on the middle shelf were the boots. One had a carrot sticking out its top. Kat jumped to her feet and went to stand next to Lisa, who said, “Do you think someone’s in the house?” Her voice quavered, but then steadied. “I mean, though, why would someone put my boots in the fridge?” She maneuvered them off the shelf and put them down, letting them drop gently onto the floor.

“You know what?” said Kat. “I think I’m going to run upstairs, bathroom. Be right back.” Lisa nodded and sank into a chair, her head propped on a hand. After a minute, there was a faint thud. She started, but she didn’t see anything.

Kat walked out of the bathroom, smoothing her hair, and almost tripped. There on the floor, entirely innocently, sat the boots. She backed away from them and called downstairs, “Hey, Lisa, want to just go out for dinner?”

Lisa nodded, her gaze fixed at the spot on the kitchen floor where the boots weren’t. Then she coughed and yelled back, “Yeah, sure. I’ll just grab my coat and heels.” Behind Kat, the boots stood taller, relieved, but she was already starting for the stairs and didn’t see anything. Another minute later, the slam of the door echoed through the house and reverberated in the empty rooms.

The boots clattered down the stairs with a brisk knocking noise and, when they reached the bottom, paused as if deciding where to go next.