Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mission accomplished

My 211 students challenged me to write about red shoes for at least 500 words. Seems some of them think red shoes cannot generate that many words. Ha! I say. Here is my response:

I Need Red Shoes

Just this last week I was dismayed to realize that my favorite shoes, a pair of low-heeled red pumps, are no longer safe to wear. The heels are dangerously loose and the leather has stretched, making wearing them an act of faith. At any time I could be sitting on a desk, having friendly banter with a class, swing my legs, and send one red shoe flying at an unsuspecting student. The time is coming to let my beloved shoes go.

The time has also come to take the next step in my relationship with red shoes. When I first met my red shoes I was on an out-of-town school trip with a group of high school sophomores. As I held the shiny shoes up, a fellow teacher sternly told me, “English teachers don’t wear red shoes!” I put them back. Then, several days later, called my brother and asked him to find them for me. He did.

Now, it is time to find their replacement. While it is true that in my closet are several pairs of shoes, including black high heels with a peek-a-boo toe, gray snake skin heels, black and brown and tan pumps, a very funky pair of boots, and a numerous assortment of flats, there are no other red shoes. I want red shoes.

Red high heels are not a frivolous whim, not a passing whimsy, not impractical. They make a statement. Begin with the color: Red is the color of passion. We all look forward to red letter days, painting the town red, and walking the red carpet. Only the most passionate souls work up the temper to see red, and it is a devil-may-care person indeed who lives in the red.
Red is the color of power. Just ask the Germanic god Thor, who had red hair, as did the Celtic Queen Boudica, who took on the Roman Empire in the first century A.D. While I don’t intend to take on an army, red heels cause me to stand a little straighter, walk a little slower, and smile. A lot. To say nothing of how they brighten up the closet floor in the midst of so much neutrality.

Red is the color of life. The click of a good heel is just satisfying. The click of a good red heel puts everything in its place and all is right with the world. Red heels remind me that life needs playfulness. And, red heels will help me lose weight. It has been shown that the “mere perception of red…enhances the human metabolism by 13.4%”, something few diet pills can deliver.

And the structure of heels is absolutely essential to my safety. Anyone who has watched Single White Female knows what a heel to the eye will do. Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character used black stilettos. Certainly, they did the job, but if she had been wearing red stilettos in that iconic scene—the image is almost too powerful to behold. The point is if I find myself in a predicament needing a weapon, heels are custom made. No fumbling in my purse for the mace or dropping my cell phone in a panic. The sole of a good pair of heels will fit perfectly in my palm, the height just right for wrapping my fingers around the vamp, and the weight solid enough to get the job done.

When my red pumps take their final walk, I will embark on the hunt for three inches of closed-toe red heaven. Not too shiny, no fancy adornments; no pinstripes, no designer name emblazoned on the heel. Just let the heel stand for itself. And when I find these shoes, they will call to me like the Lady of the Lake and become my Excalibur and Rocinante all at once. My God, I don’t want red shoes—I need red shoes!
647 words. Yes!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Duck and Cover

As a young girl
living in Oklahoma
OOO—klahoma, where the wind
comes sweeping down the plain,
there were two things I learned well—
duck and cover.

When the alarm would sound
echoing down the halls
we would scurry
single-file, down the stairs
of the gray brick building
and under the symbol,
three equilateral triangles
inside a circle, over the words
into the safety of the gray basement,
lines of children against gray walls:
side by side
on our knees
arms crossed
over our elementary heads,
ducking and covering,
waiting for a hollow voice
to echo down the stairs
telling us we were safe
once more.

In our youth we didn’t understand
that, in the case of a tornado,
our practice could save our lives,
but that symbol over the door,
those three equilateral triangles,
symbols of perfection,
could never protect us
from the searching claws
the fiery, fearsome, vicious claws
of the atomic bomb.

This was the Cold War,
and this was our practice in
a need to be in
when control existed in the finger
pushing the button,
miles and worlds away.

Many tornadoes touched down
in those years—
but never The Bomb.
I guess it was still good practice,
all the duck and cover.

Times in life the alarm has sounded
and I’ve searched frantically
for that triad symbol
ignoring the thought
the tickling, taunting, tearing thought
that the symbol is nothing
but wishful thinking.
That the best I can hope for this time—

This time
let it be a tornado;
I can duck and cover.
Let it pass over me
throwing its tantrums,
a poltergeist of dirt,
a tiger coiling in shadow,
but unable to reach me
in my deep place, fetal position, knees up, head covered.

So far, this far, it’s only been tornadoes
in my life
mighty, terrifying storms;
but I know how to duck and cover.