By Cristina L. White -
I see the shoes first—aqua blue running shoes. Bright aqua blue. The shoes must be at least a size twelve, maybe more. The man is a short distance away, slightly elevated, because he’s standing on a narrow veranda. The veranda runs along the front of a building that houses professional offices.
I’m sitting in my car with the windows open, parked in the shade of an old elm tree. The man with the aqua blue running shoes is the only other person in view. My gaze travels upward from his shoes to his heavy black jeans, dusty and worn, and a black tee shirt. He’s tall, at least six feet. His back is to me, but he’s turned his head just enough that I can see his thick, dark beard. There are tattoos on his muscled arms, and on the back of his tee shirt, emblazoned in bright letters, the words Sweet Home Choppers. Sweet Home is east of here, a small town, that’s all I know about Sweet Home. If this man’s tee shirt is to be believed, there are bikers there, and he’s one of them.
In his right hand, held at an angle, there’s a checkered umbrella. I’m wondering at the incongruity of it—this bearded biker, all in black except for the aqua shoes, holding a red and white checkered umbrella. And then I see her. A little girl with soft brown hair, wearing blue jeans and a tee shirt, aqua blue tennis shoes on her feet. She’s beaming up at him. Now I understand. He’s wearing those shoes for her. She wanted their shoes to match, so he found aqua blue shoes to fit his big feet. And the umbrella he’s carrying, meant to protect her from the hot August sun—that red and white checkerboard pattern is her choice.
She reaches her arms out and he scoops her up and lifts her to rest against his chest. He walks toward the gray building with its double glass doors and shakes the umbrella out. With one swift motion, he pushes the tiny button that closes the umbrella. He smiles at his little girl.
She shakes her head. Yes.
He walks forward, the automatic doors swing open, and they step inside to the doctor’s office.
Cristina L. White writes poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. A featured writer in the 2020 and 2018 Literary Arts Oregon Writers of Color Spring Showcase, her work has appeared in various publications, including Orion Magazine, Willawaw Journal, and VoiceCatcher. Her most recent work is “One Cup of Rice” in the anthology Youth in Wartime. She writes, makes art, and tends a small garden in Corvallis, Oregon. You can find more of her work at cristinalwhite.com. You can find her on Twitter @zencrunch.