The Thing on His Shoe
by Andrew Dicus
He leaned very, very close; he furrowed his brow. What? What was it, that, on his shoe? Some gummy black oil, some tar, some anonymous pap had found its way from the streets of New York to the side of his shoe. Some black pap that was not gum, tar, or rubber. Some tacky pap, caked in dirt, sullied even more by a hair or two lodged to the tacky black smear.
He lacked the audacity to smell of it, to bring his face near enough; he looked at it, though, close and hard. He went into his kitchen and found a butter knife and set to scraping it. One broad, effective scrape, from top to bottom, proved -- at first -- effective. The thing began to roll at the blade's scrape, slowly but cleanly unsticking from his shoe -- but then some snap, a pop, really, from inside the thing, both a feeling and a sound, like a release of built-in pressure, and clear, tepid liquid spurt from the thing.
It stung his face mildly, and his left eye more fiercely: he stammered quickly to the bathroom to wash his face in hot soapy water, and then to wash his face again in hotter, soapier water. He flushed his left eye, snagged in a flustered stupor of shock and mild disgust. He returned to the shoe, which still leaked an odd liquid, one thin silvery stream like web sprung from where the sole of his shoe met the black gummy substance, but what it meant he couldn't know. He gaped, sat on the floor, stood up again, and placed the shoe (he carried it such that the stream pointed away from him) into his tub, where it leaked and leaked and leaked, and he knew that something awful had occurred here. He washed his floors twice, looked out the windows into the cold, and then went to bed.
The next day it leaked still, more profusely now (by a little) and his house smelled dank and mouthish. He drew a sigh, put the shoe in a plastic sack, put the plastic sack in a duffel bag, and took the subway to Brighton Beach. He rode standing, the bag on the floor at his feet, the din of the train clack-ack, clack-ack, clack-acking his thoughts into silence. And when he got there he took up his bag (there was a puddle where it had been) and he took it to the sea.
He stood for some time. He had plenty of time. The urgency of things had leaked away. He kicked at the sand for an hour or two and then he made a decision. He took up the bag. He recoiled with some sadness and then cast it as far as he could fling it. It plashed into the ocean, bobbed, and then sunk. He swallowed hard. He knew that in a hundred years, a hundred of hundred years, the thing would issue enough liquid to swallow the world through and through. It would leak and leak and leak and swallow everything.
The wind pushed his meager hair about on his head. He did not stay for long after that. He crept slowly home and did not take off his coat. He ate his supper there, alone, in the dusk, in his coat.
About the author:
Andrew Dicus lives in Brooklyn, studies in Manhattan, and teaches at Queens College. His fiction can be found in Hobart, Monkeybicycle, and a few modest collections tucked away somewhere in Chicago and Reno.