The Shoe Tree
by Roger Nelson
Sandy and Babs were running along the Riverfront trail as they often did,
when suddenly Babs yelped, “Ow!” and stopped. She sat down on the grass and
took the shoe off her right foot.
“What's the matter?” Sandy asked.
“I think a stone got in my shoe or something.” She took her sock off and there was a red spot on her big toe. “Well lookie here, I got a splinter in my toe. How in the world did that happen?”
“Maybe you kicked something when we got off the trail back there.”
“Yeah, I did kick a stick, but I didn't think anything of it at the time. A splinter must have worked its way through the mesh on my shoe.”
“Let's see.” Sandy picked up Babs shoe and examined the toe. “Yup, there's still some wood left. You must have kicked it pretty hard.”
“I did. It was more like I stubbed my toe on it and it almost tripped me.”
“I got the wood out of your shoe. Did you get the splinter out of your toe?”
“Yeah. I'm OK now.” Babs put her shoe back on but when she tried to walk “Darn, my shoe still hurts my foot.” She stopped and took it off again. “We're not very far from home. How about if I just walk home barefooted?”
“OK, we can do that. In fact, I think I'll take my shoes off too.”
They stuffed their socks inside their shoes and tied them together by the laces for easy carrying, then slung them over their shoulders and carefully walked back to Best Street barefoot.
“I wonder how the Spartans made out on their game tonight,” Sandy, an avid Michigan State University fan mused. “The Wolverines were favored to win.”
“Yeah, they probably lost,” Babs said. “But wouldn't it be great if the Spartans upset them?”
“Go Green,” Sandy yelled.
“Go White,” Babs answered.
And they they spontaneously burst out in song, no words, but singing nevertheless the Spartan fight song, and when they finished were laughing. Sandy said, “I hear that song often enough, but I never learned the words.”
“Yeah, they sing it at the games, but the band always drown out the words. I should look the words up some day.”
They were almost home and the laces on Babs shoes started to cut into her shoulder, so she carried the shoes in her hand by the laces. When they got to the corner of Pennsylvania and Best Street, which is were Babs lived, on the north east corner, Bud, Bab's husband, came out of her house all excited and said, “The Spartans won tonight. In overtime. It was a great upset.!”
Babs screamed, “We won! We Won!” and in jubilation threw her shoes up in the air and Sandy threw hers up too.. As they looked up to catch the shoes when they came back down, their faces took on a look of surprise to see them hanging from one of the branches on the big oak in the front yard.
“Now what?” Babs asked with a worried look on her face. “Those were my good trainers.”
“Mine, too,” Sandy said, “But that tree is way to big for me to climb and even with a ladder, I'm not going that far out on a limb to get them down.”
“That tree is huge. It's not worth cutting the tree down for them.”
Bud said, “If you guys had been wearing your shoes instead of going barefoot, those shoes wouldn't be up there.”
Babs explained about hurting her foot and said, “We didn't intend to throw them in the tree, it just happened. When we threw our shoes into the air, it was like the tree reached out and grabbed them. There's just no way we can get them down. I guess I'll be going to Playmakers soon to buy some more.”
“Well it's a great day to celebrate,” Bud said. “The Spartans won. Throwing a pair of shoes is the tree is a lot better than participating in a riot or setting a sofa on fire in the street like some fans have done in the past. In fact, I think it's kind of neat. Come to think of it, I have an old pair of running shoes, I'll toss them up there, too. Then every time I look up in that tree I'll remember this win.” Bud went in the house and came back with a pair of running shoes. He tied the shoes together by the laces and tossed them up. The shoes nearly hit him when they came back down. The girls laughed when he dodged them.
Babs said, “Those old shoes smell so bad, even the tree doesn't want them.”
“That's ridiculous,” Bud said, and he tossed them again. “Yipes!” he said as he nearly got hit when they came back down. “What is this? Discrimination? The tree only takes girly shoes?”
The girls were laughing even harder.
Bud threw them up again and said, “Third time's the charm.” But they came down again.
“It's all in the wrist,” Sandy said. “Let me show you.” She picked the shoes up off the ground and tossed them up, and this time they stuck.
Bud shook his head and said, “I don't believe this.”
The next day when Sandy and Babs started their morning run, Sandy said, “ Look at that, three more pairs of shoes in the tree.”
“Crazy,” Babs said, “I wonder who's adding to our collection.”
While they were musing, they saw a youngster come up and toss another pair into the tree.
“Hey, stop!” Sandy yelled. “They ran up to the kid and asked, “Why'd you throw the shoes into that tree?”
“I heard it's supposed to bring good luck,” he said, before running off.
Sandy scratched her head. “That's a new one. I wonder how they figure that?”
“Who knows what kids think these days?” Babs asked. “But I'll tell you this, athletes are a superstitious sort. If they start thinking it'll bring good luck, there'll be a lot more shoes in the tree before long.”
That evening, Linc stopped over and Bud invited him in and they sat on the couch in the little living room. “What's with the tree?” Linc asked. “There must be a dozen pairs of shoes in it. This looks like something Sandy would do, but they don't really look like her style or size, though.”
Bud said, “They're not her shoes. Well most of them aren't anyway. One pair of them is.” Then he told Linc how the shoe tree got started.
Linc laughed. “That's some story. By the end of the year there'll be a hundred pairs in that tree. I reminds me of a shoe tree I saw in Haiti. That's where I found shoe-doo.”
“You mean voo-doo.”
“Isn't shoe-doo what dog doo becomes when you step in it?”
“Well, yeah. But I'm not talking about that shoe-doo. I'm talking about the shoe-doo as in magic.”
Babs heard them talking and came out of the kitchen. “What's this about magic? I have a pair of shoes that have been very lucky. Is this like having lucky shoes?”
“I'm talking about a type of magic. Shoe magic. Shoe-doo.”
“Well, hold on just a minute. Let me call Sandy. She'll want to hear about this.” Babs dialed Sandy on her cell and asked her over.”
“Now why did you invite her over?” Linc asked. “You know she never believes me.”
“Because she's my friend, and because she helped create the shoe tree outside, and she loves shoes more than anyone I know. She deserves to be in on this, even if she doesn't believe you.”
When Sandy arrived she said, “What's this about shoe magic?” and then sat next to Babs in an armchair.
Linc said, “In Haiti, there was a tree known as the shoe tree. I say 'was' because I'm not sure there are any more still there. It was a special tree with leaves that, if you use your imagination a little, were shaped sort of like shoes. Also, the seeds sort of looked like babies booties, and if you planted them, the resulting tree would have bark that was stringy but strong, like a grapevine, that could be woven into rope or used as shoe laces. And the wood itself was light and flexible and could be made into soles. Some fairly comfortable shoes could be crafted from the seedlings. It was said that a witchdoctor could make a potion from the sap that if you drank while wearing shoes made from the tree you could dance anything; polkas, waltzes, square dances or line dances, rumbas, cha chas, tangos, tap, or even ballet. You didn't even need lessons, it just responded to the type of music being played.”
Babs asked, “Did you get some of these shoes?”
“Yeah, I got a pair. My friends dared me to take the potion, and I thought it would be fun, so I did that, too.”
“Did it work?”
“Well, uh, sort of, I guess.”
Sandy asked, “What do you mean 'sort of'?”
“My friends told me I danced, but I don't remember any of it. See, you know how voo-doo turns people in zombies? Shoe-doo is like that, I went into a trance and all I could do was dance. I was like a dancing zombie. Even after the music stopped, I was still dancing to it. My friends got some slow music to slow me down, and then while I was dancing, they managed to cut the shoes off me. I stopped dancing, but I was still in a trance. When they nailed the shoes to the floor, the pain in my feet was so bad it brought me out of the trance. I probably would have danced myself to death if they hadn't done that. At least, that's what they told me happened. I don't actually remember any of it, except the pain in my feet. The pain was so bad, I couldn't walk for a week, but it gradually went away.”
Sandy asked, “Can you still dance?”
“Honestly? I don't know. I've avoided dancing like a plague ever since then. I still enjoy music, but I try not to tap my feet to it.”
“Do you have the shoes?”
“Oh no. We pulled them up from the floor and burned them. Then we cut the shoe tree down and burned it, too. That probably wasn't the 'green' thing to do, but we were a little angry at the time. We left the island in a hurry before the locals found out and got angry. I suppose it's possible there are still be some of the trees there, but I'm not going back to see.”
Sandy sat slowly shaking her head no. Babs looked at her and said, “What?”
“Another wild story, no proof, nothing that can be checked. And no shoes. I think I'll go home now. See ya in the morning for our run, OK?” She got up to leave.
“OK, in the morning. Bye,” Babs said.
After Sandy left, Linc said, “See, I told you she never believes me.”
Babs said, “But it was a good story. And we don't have any proof you were lying either.”
Bud said, “That doesn't explain all the shoes in our tree. Do you think the city will make us cut them down?”
Linc said, “What? And lose all that good luck for MSU? No way!”