This snap fiction story (what’s that?) popped into the world after I snapped this photo of two abandoned children’s sneakers, on the entrance steps leading to a front door somewhere along the canals of Amsterdam:
An Unexpected Namesake
Mr. Endrew had decided to start his last day with a cup of fresh coffee, extra sugar. He’d walked—slowly, because of the pain—to that street corner café. The one with the pretty waitress who wore high heels no matter the weather.
On his way home, his crutch caught something white on the cobblestone pavement. A shoe. A little white shoe, no laces. Didn’t children know how to tie laces, or were parents too busy to teach them? Convenience, he thought, is, in the end, the delay of enlightenment.
“Miss!” he said, stretching out his arm to a passer-by in a unseasonably optimistic yellow tartan poncho.
“Can I help you?” An Italian accent.
“Yes please. Could you pick up this shoe for me?” Bending down was no longer an option, but what is both obvious and irreversible is best left unsaid.
“Of course,” the girl said. She must be in her early thirties, Mr. Endrew thought. Old enough to guess at her limitations, but still young enough to think she might be wrong.
“Thank you so much.”
As the girl continued on her way, Mr. Endrew held the shoe in his free hand and inspected it with residual curiosity. A child in a stroller must have taken it off and thrown it away, unbeknownst to his parent. They’d arrive home, discover the missing shoe and regret staring at their phone the whole way. They’d throw away the other one and order a new pair on their computer.
This is the way of things, he thought. Everything is replaced. No reason to be nostalgic; regrets are barren. He had made his choice and it was a sensible one. There are paths one need not walk down.
“Excuse me.” The voice startled him. It was the same girl, the same sunny poncho. “Were you looking for this one too?”
She smiled as she handed him a matching child’s sneaker.
“Oh,” said Mr. Endrew, “yes, I do believe so.” He looked her in the eyes. She was beautiful, as youth always is, and unpresumptuous in her generosity.
He placed the shoes side by side on the steps leading up to—he checked—no. 1099. He held out his arm and shook the girl’s hand.
“You are very kind.”
“I found it down the road and thought you might want it.”
“My… my name is Michael.”
She smiled, “I’m Micaela. We are omonimos! Goodbye, sir. I must go.”
As the girl walked away again, Mr. Endrew turned to the pair of shoes, now reunited. They were still lost, he thought, but they had also been found. He had no use for them—but who knew where their journey might yet lead? He decided to leave them there.
He took a deep breath and began the final stretch back home. The children would arrive in thirty minutes or so, and the doctor a few hours later. It’s curious how time, by definition, matters until the very end, thought Mr. Endrew. He felt grateful, and restful.
In the distance, he caught a final glimpse of Micaela’s poncho as she turned a corner and walked out of sight.
• • •