Earth Shoes
John Oliver Hodges

We ate in the kitchen, and all through dinner Mom kept bringing me out presents and making me open them even though I prefer to open my presents on Christmas morning, the right way. It was a lot of the usual stuff, lots of new panties and bras. I don’t mind about the panties but we’ve talked the bras to death. She kept saying “Oh Sarah, they’re just bras, don’t get excited. They’re good for you.”
“But I told you, I’m not going to wear them.”
“Oh Sarah,” and she would laugh, and I had a lot of good reason to be pissed. I was still pissed over the deodorant she left in my room for me, two different kinds of deodorant on my dresser, it’s the coolest dresser, I painted it blue and black when I was in elementary, with yellow stars and moons on it and comets.
Then we went to church where Mom played the bells. Four wide screen TVs in the foyer, the lobby or whatever. The pastor wears a headset, it’s so retarded. They’re trading all the windows out. Doing webcast. Pastor Bender. He’s into folky Christian goofball, super weird. That headset thing. Saying hi to everybody, always going, “Hi Sarah, how are you?” What a spaceman. You try to be nice. I videoed Mom. She was real cute, kinda. Hard bells. Two notes. Dong dong. Dong dong. Four ladies standing up there donging their bells. Mom was the best donger, hands down out of Breezer and Tina in their strapless prom gowns. Breezy even wore a G-string. Mom wore black pants and a white shirt and wedge heels. I’m videoing, and Dad’s like, “I don’t feel like greeting everyone,” and was looking around like he was trying to be incognito. Miss Smith walked up. Howard came by. My parents know so many people. This other guy who was like ninety came up and jived with my dad. Dad laughed to be polite. “How are you, buddy?” Dad said, hardy har har. The old man sat with us, and was in on the when-is- Sarah-going-to-get-married bit. “She’s choosy,” Dad said. Then Mom did the Silent Night thing where she wore a pashmina shawl and the crowd sang along, and a little girl dressed like a shepherdess played a flute.
Other people came over and tried to talk, and of course all the talk centered on me because nobody had seen me since last year, and everybody was wondering. At the first chance Dad ran for the car. He took me aside and said, “Get your mom, I’m in the car.” I looked around for Mom but couldn’t find her, but when I went back to the car she was there. We drove home, passing the Lighty House, blow-up Santas, icicles on the house, Rudolphs over the top. A ton of traffic in the neighborhood because of the Lighty House. “This damn Lighty House traffic, stupid ass, they should contain it,” Dad said.
We pulled into the drive, went inside and Dad went to bed and Mom tried to have a little talky-talk with me. She made us two cups of Sleepy Time tea and we sat at the kitchen table and she said, “So, any boys in your life?” I said, “Boys rhymes with noise, I just noticed that.” Mom said, “Oh Sarah,” and laughed, but it wasn’t natural, her laugh. It was a pained laugh. She kept trying to talk about it, but I changed the subject. I talked about Dad’s shoes, and how he ought to have much better luck with the earth shoes that I bought him for Christmas because the toes are higher than the heel. That should work out some of the tension in his feet. Mom got tired of listening to me and went up to bed, and I watched some TV in the living room. I turned it off with the remote. I hit the lights, went upstairs to the bathroom and brushed my teeth. Then I was in my room, where I lived from ten to eighteen. My room. They painted the walls, but my bed was glow-in-the-dark. Cool metal tubes on my awesome bed. Swirly. You turn off the light, it glows, and some tables in the room too, and my cool dresser.
I put on my new pajamas. Mom gives me new ones every year. These are pink with white hearts. I turned off the lights.
I didn’t pray unless it’s in a way. I thought of the mooing, my dad, when he called the cows earlier in the day. “Gif! Gif!” he said, and the cows came running. I looked at him and was full of admiration. My dad. Over fifty cows and some of them babies. His oldest cow might be ten, but most of them are really young. I didn’t pray. I just thought of the mooing. Cows have long vocal chords. That’s how they hit you the way they do. Cows force a bunch of air through the chords and there it is. When Mom donged the bells, she smiled. I did not say, “Now I lay me down to sleep.” I just laid there until I noticed that I didn’t like the smell of my new pajamas. I couldn’t stand the smell, so I took them off.

John Oliver Hodges writes fiction and poetry and has painted an awful lot and has spent a small fortune in Kodak film and chemicals used to process black and white photographs. His habits in fiction began after somebody threw a brick through his window and stole off with his Bronica SQ-A, the medium format camera that shocked him each time he released the shutter. In 2010 he received a writing degree from the University of Mississippi,and since then has lived in Flushing,
NY. He teaches writing at Montclair State University, and the Gotham Writers’ Workshop.

Here are links to some of his other works:

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