Maureen comes down the hall, picking her way through shoes that lay scattered by the front door. Look at it: Leaves and dirt, and dog hair and his goddamn work thermos. The rubber tip of her left crutch got wet in the bathroom. It squeaks against the laminate as she goes. Not supposed to put any weight on that cast boot of hers. Armpits are killing her. A hopping tripod. She thumps to the entrance of the living room, and looks in at Eddie who’s looking at hockey on TV. The coffee table is littered with takeout boxes, crusty with congealed sauce and shriveled noodles.
She looks from Eddie’s profile to the television. The sound is off. Her mouth twitches. “Are you ever going to—”
His eyes stay on the screen. “What, baby?”
He exhales slowly. “I just got home from work.”
“I know. I’ve been here all day— all day, all crippled! I would appreciate it if you could just — Forget it.” She readies herself to retreat.
Eddie puffs his cheeks and peels his eyes from the television just as she sets her crutches back one at time. “Mo!” he calls just as her left crutch lands in a black sandal that buckles and slides. The same black sandal. The same pitiless slide.
Maureen drops her cast boot for balance then pulls it back, crying out as she slams down to the floor.
Eddie scrambles off the couch. He’s on his knees beside her, a hand on each of her arms.
“Leave me alone,” she says. “Your shoes and thermos….and goddamn shoes.” She fires the black sandal at the wall. It lands on the floor with a mild clack.
Eddie looks at the shoe. “Same ones you had on when you—”
“I know that.”
He takes her arms. “Come on, lemme help you up.”
He lets go.
With her good foot, Maureen kicks the nearest crutch out of her way. Then, sliding on her butt, she pushes herself backward toward the front door. She turns the handle and flings the door open to the autumn darkness.
Eddie exhales. “Where you goin’, Mo?”
Crisp air cuts the stale of the hallway, and the two of them listen to the hiss of dead leaves as they shimmy in the breeze. Maureen snatches the sandal, drags herself onto the threshold and hurls it as far as she can toward the road.
Eddie scoots over and sticks his nose out the door. He nods. “Not bad.” Reaching behind him, he hands her a knee-high patent leather boot. “Five bucks, if you can hit the mailbox.”
Billie Livingston is the award-winning author of four novels, a collection of short stories and a poetry collection. One Good Hustle, a Globe and Mail Best Book selection, was Longlisted for the 2012 Giller Prize. Her story Sitting on the Edge of Marlene has been adapted to a feature film. The Crooked Heart of Mercy is Livingston’s most recent novel.
(Photo: *Shoes*, by Allison Howard)
“Free the lions from their cages
Free the lines from these pages”