FootstepsFoliate Oak Literary Magazine 2016
by Paul Beckham
I hear them and look around. I should either get off my meds or increase the dosage, but my doctor has no appointment openings for three months and he won’t prescribe over the phone. By then, the dead could be walking beside me. I show up at his office and stay from eight-thirty in the morning until five-thirty at night hoping he’ll step out and see me, but his receptionist tells me he already left. I leave too and buy a noise filtering headset, but the footsteps still come through. I walk miles with the footsteps following, and go see my mother at the Assisted Living and crawl in bed and under the covers with her, like I did when I was little. Unfortunately, I am now persona-non-grata at Harmony House. “Fight fire with fire” my previous shrink advised but he wouldn’t say any more.
Now that dusk is here, the footsteps seem more pronounced. A huge boot hangs from a post over a door and with all the walking I’ve been doing my feet are sore from my worn down heels, so I go in and ask the cobbler if he has time to replace them while I wait. He tells me that my soles are good and there’s no reason for my heels to be so run down and he’ll put metal plates on them and they’ll last longer. You must be a heel walker he says with a row of nails held by his lips. I nod for lack of an intelligent shoe answer. Haven’t put these on in years, he tells me, while he nails one metal to each heel. Before leaving I take a couple of steps with my new metals and the clacking sound brings me back to my younger years when they were all the rage.
Once outside, I hear the footsteps again. I wheel around and walk towards the sound, sparks shooting from my heels as I go, and the footsteps now quickly walk the opposite way. I’ve chased them away. I buy a Creamsicle from a Good Humor ice cream truck at a park’s edge and look for a bench to savor both my ice cream and my victory. I finally find one that doesn’t say, Wet Paint.