"Everyone has a shoe story"
It is with some measure of excitement that I’m sharing another segment with you of my novel, “Shoe Milagros.” In the first installment, the main character, Dorothy Hess, dies and goes to heaven only to discover that her heavenly home is a giant shoe. Her grief is overcome by the joy and peace she feels in the sky, but she soon learns that her stay in heaven is tenuous at best. The following conversation is between the deceased and an angel named Cynthia. Keep in mind that Dorothy’s earthly fortune was made from the manufacture and sale of footwear:
“I’ve come to tell you about heaven,” Cynthia said smiling. “but you’re not exactly in heaven yet Dorothy. You’re in a way station of sorts, a place of transition and possibilities. We have some options to discuss."
“Options?” Dorothy asked, feeling her stomach tighten in an earthly way.
“Yes, you can go back as a cat, or a dog, a bird, or a baby, or even a flower bulb might do the trick. You’d make a great Iris . . .”
“Go Back?” Dorothy said beginning to understand what Cynthia was suggesting. “Go Back? But I just got here.”
“Dorothy, don’t take this the wrong way, but it’s because of Leo. When a parent has a child on “The Lost Souls List,” it’s impossible for them to truly leave the earth behind. You were sent here so that all of this could be explained to you and to give you a taste of heaven. This will eventually be your final resting place, but with a child on that list, you’ll be tied to the earth for another 15 years, if not more. After that he’ll be on his own, but right now he still needs you.”
“But Cynthia, he never listened to a word I said while I was alive. Why would he listen to me now? I don’t mean to sound pessimistic, but that boy must have been dropped on his head by one of his nannies or something. Doesn’t take after me—not for a minute. They always blame the parents in these matters, but I swear I never made him feel unwanted . . . ,”
“If we go to the room of memories, I can show you what happened to Leo. I can even pinpoint the exact moment when he decided that money was more important to you than he was. You never had time for Leo, but he tried to imitate what he thought he understood about you, namely your worship of the almighty dollar.”
“I didn’t worship money, at least not at first, but I had no choice after Harry died. Overnight I became a single mother with two small children and a factory to run. Two hundred workers were depending on me for their livelihood’s. If you think Harry left things in order, I’ve got news for you . . . Why, I started out ten thousand dollars in debt, which was a fortune back then. I had the wolves howling at my door . . .”
“Dorothy, please calm down. You’re not on trial here. Besides, there is a special dispensation for single mothers in heaven and all has been forgiven. God knows you were juggling the pain of losing Harry and the torments you suffered with Alejandro, and then there was the factory and two children. No one expected you to be perfect, but the fact remains that Leo, and even Primitiva, were damaged in the bargain.”
“Is she on the 'Lost Souls List' too?” asked Dorothy, feeling a sharp pain in her heart.
“No Dorothy, but she was almost put on the list of “Listless Souls.” She hasn’t exactly been sinking her teeth into life, now has she? It’s one thing to resist temptation and quite another matter to shy away from every experience that life has to offer, other than shopping, going to work, and playing with her dogs. Although Primitiva is not as lost as Leo, she could use your help as well. Close your eyes, Dorothy, and think about Leo. Now ask his soul to let you feel what Leo feels in the depths of his heart.”
“I don’t know about this meditation stuff . . . ,”
“Just close your eyes and concentrate on your son so you can know what it feels like to live inside his skin.”
Dorothy was quiet for a long time. Then without warning, her eyes filled with tears. She began to sob uncontrollably as she felt his emotional bankruptcy and shame. Leo was convinced that he was unlovable—thought of himself as being in the way—and even believed he was the source of his mother’s pain. Large sums of money made him feel important. He was terrified of poverty because without money he thought he would be nothing.
“How could this have happened? I was so blind. I have to go back, Cynthia. I’ve been a horrible mother—my poor Leo!”
“No, you weren’t. You were a human mother with a complex set of problems to deal with on your own. Granted, you could have made other choices, like getting therapy for your pain, but no one really went in for therapy back then. It was a time of denial and facades. As I recall you were too busy digging the factory out of debt to notice that your children were growing up like weeds without a father or a mother.”
“When can I go back?” Dorothy asked still wiping the tears from her eyes.
“There is another way Dorothy.”
“I mean, you might have to go back for 15 years or 15 minutes might be enough.”
“How can I solve my children’s problems in 15 minutes if it took all those years to screw them up?”
“We don’t use the term “screwed up” here Dorothy. We prefer the term “Spiritually Challenged,” or we say that someone is in need of serious healing, “INOSH” for short. At any rate, with the grace of God, you’ll have 24 hours to come up with a plan. It’s not an impossible riddle, although I can’t imagine what you’ll do. Leo will be the hard one to mend. Primitiva just needs a cup of faith, some inspiration, and a dose or two of romantic love with an honest man. Good luck Dorothy. I’ll be back in the morning, and if you haven’t come up with a solution, you’ll have to go back as Primitiva’s cat or something, or maybe even as her daughter, but then you’ll be on earth another lifetime.”
WE SKIP AHEAD HERE . . .
Dorothy’s plan to save her children was spicy and bordering on brilliant. Divinely inspired, it was an idea without the limits of earthly thinking. Infused with special powers and wonderful possibilities, the plan would start out simple, rope her children in, and then launch them into experiences that would change their lives. They would never suspect that her guiding gifts were post mortem.
Dorothy was glad to escape the fate of coming back as Primitiva’s cat or as a bulb in her daughter’s garden, although the latter was a tempting possibility. After feeling Leo’s emptiness, a dose of springtime sounded refreshing. How could she have thought of him as lazy, or worse, criminal, when he had struggled his whole life to stand tall beneath the weight of crazy sorrow and self loathing?
PRIMITIVA FINDS A SMALL KEY BEHIND HER MOTHER’S PHOTO. IT IS A KEY THAT OPENS DOROTHY’S STEAMER TRUNK . . .
Earthbound, Primitiva was busy sorting through her mother’s possessions—a task shrouded in curiosity and grief.
“Open it Tiva. Open the first box. You’re driving me crazy.”
“All right, Sena. Keep your shirt on.” Primitiva picked up the box marked ONE and carefully held it in her hands. She turned it around slowly to take a good look at it. The box was wrapped so beautifully she hated to tear the paper. A random pattern of ginkgo leaves was stamped on the pale Japanese rice paper that encased the shoe box. You could tell that the ginkgo leaf stamp was hand carved because of the random black marks that edged the fan shaped leaves. Little strips of gold leaf were embedded in the paper to add some color. Even the ribbon had been carefully chosen. It was made from a natural fiber, hemp I think, and secured the package with two small red paper fans. Out of all the places Dorothy had traveled, she was most impressed with her visits to Paris and Japan. “I’ll open it tomorrow.” Primitiva said, frustrating her best friend and assistant who rolled her eyes.
“You amaze me at times. How can you stand waiting to open these boxes Tiva? If it were me, I’d rip them all open today—right now.”
“But look at it Sena. The box is so delicate and the fans are so sweet. I want to keep it on my nightstand at least for tonight. I’ll open it in the morning, or in a few days. I think I’d like to take a picture of it before I open it . . . In fact, please get me the camera from the car. I never want to forget the way she packed this trunk.”
All of the packages were indeed little works of art. Some were covered in taffeta and lace, while others were wrapped in Oriental fabric. One was covered in faux leopard fur and tied with a rhinestone cord. Another was encased in dried clay. Tiva would have to use a hammer to open it. And her favorite, buried at the very bottom of the trunk, was a box wrapped in black velvet and fastened with a pin that formed the letter “P” in diamonds. Primitiva suspected that the one wrapped in brown leather with a train whistle on it, was for Leo. An ominous black box with a white skull printed on it, and a blue box with stars that said “Dream” across it, were also meant for Leo.
Sena, (Primitiva’s best friend} and Primitiva ogled the boxes until the fatigue of the day set in. “I’ve got to go home and get some rest.” Primitiva finally said. “I’ll see you at the museum at 10, Sena. The contractors are coming to give us a final bid for the new cases my mom.
WHAT KIND OF SHOES DO YOU THINK ARE IN THE BOXES? I’LL INCLUDE MY E-MAIL IN THE NEXT INSTALLMENT SO YOU CAN SEND ME YOUR IDEAS FOR THE CONTENTS OF THE BOXES OR YOU CAN SEND ME YOUR PERSONAL SHOE STORIES. EVERYONE HAS A SHOE STORY.