Back Story

Spinning Stories

The shoes hang from a wire, laces greyed, soles sun-bleached. They’ve been there a long time.

Urban creature that she is, M. says they are a street tribute to someone who has died, perhaps violently. I grew up with sneakers on phone lines and like to think otherwise.

I imagine three, maybe four, laughing boys at the beach — teenaged, but barely, wearing their privilege like their bathing suits: casually, comfortably, low around their hips — juggling skimboards, towels, and those shoes. They spend a long, luxurious day in the sun and then head home with skimboards, towels, shoes and, now, melting ice cream novelties bought for a small fortune at the concession stand just before closing. Something had to go.

– – – – –

A man was found dead in the street along my route to work. News shows covered the story of a quiet, well-liked man from a quiet, well-maintained neighborhood inexplicably murdered on his way to work in the wee hours.  A few days later, I noticed a plastic cup and candle under a nearby tree.

I lost track of the investigation, but something about the cup and candle stayed with me.

I imagine a man sitting against the tree, his knees drawn up in the chill air, a few days’ growth rendering his face indistinct. He is hidden from view by low-hanging evergreen branches – layers of shaggy indistinctness. A votive candle burns beside him, a warm lonely light on the darkened corner.

“Here’s to you, man. I don’t know what we had, but it was something,” he murmurs from inside his cup of bourbon.

– – – – –

When my brother and I were small and visited my grandfather, we liked to dig for treasure. We would paddle with Gramps up the creek to a sandy bank we called Money Beach. Using string and elaborate rituals for divining location, we’d scour the ground for exotic coins. We always found them.

“Pirates used to sail up the creek and hide their treasure in these woods,” Gramps whispered, eying the scrub oak and pines as if Long John Silver himself was about to emerge from their depths.

Maybe it’s genetic?


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