Short Story

Boots

A short story by George Beavis.

From the author:

I have been trying, emphasis on trying, to write about my experiences in Vietnam in a way that I hoped would be more understandable to other people. I think, or hope, I have learned some ways to do that. 

If I have it has only been the result of each of my classmates and the way they have approached each of the tasks and the creativity each has shown plus the encouragement of Michael January, Samuel and the other CM people.

Without their encouragement I would have just left it hanging and not put the effort into it.  It is by no means a work of art, but I feel good that I rewrote it, reworked it and the ideas. The encouragement helped me to keep going on it and I feel very good about that. Who cares about the story. Not me. I do care that I was encouraged and “finished” it!!!!

Boots 

by George Beavis

Watching the news and the camera panned over a dead body covered by a tarp. A foot with a brand new boot sticking out. 

I remember my laces were being pulled tight and wrapped around my ankle twice and knotted. 

After that, we knocked about for a while and then went for a walk. I got pretty wet and muddy. By night time we were back where we started. I was taken off the foot and set on the ground. That didn’t always happen. Sometimes we were so tired we were never taken off and set on the floor. 

Days marched by like that in an endless line until one day when we were out walking and a big explosion knocked us down. 

I woke up in a dark closet. When the door was left open I could look around. My partner, who I considered “Left” wasn’t near me. It got dark again and I was scared. After a while, my eyes began to adjust to the dark in the closet. I looked around and saw other boots lined up. Some singles. Some pairs. 

I just sat there all day for maybe months, so I was able to study the other boots even in the darkish light in the closet. Some were brand new and never really got a chance to even have their soles broken in. Some were badly worn, their toes all scuffed and scared, with their soles worn thin. 

A few boots away was a pair that were all spit-shined and regulation-like. Probably never worked a day in his life, you know the type. I bet he was fragged. 

Mostly we just sat in here and no one paid any attention to us like we had outlived our usefulness. One time someone came and got one of the singles, threw it in the trash then slammed the door. 

** 

I hated that locker. It gave me the willies. If I saw a boot belonging to someone I knew had died, I would throw it out. I didn’t throw out pairs ‘cause it seemed a shame when there was still life in them. When I got ready to rotate back to the states I snagged a pair that looked pretty new and stuffed them in my bag. 

I didn’t try them on until I got back home. I thought they might be good for camping or hiking. I wasn’t trying to be a poser or anything. When I put them on I knew I had made a bad mistake. All the lumps and bumps of the original owner’s feet were still there on the inside. Just walking around in them they reminded me with every step that they weren’t mine. I took them off and set them in the garage for a few years. Every time I saw them they would remind me of that bloody closet and all the dead boots. I eventually threw them out. They were just like an albatross hung around a sailor’s neck to punish.

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