fiction

The Glory of Cleats

Maybe it was West Side Story or maybe just the great sound that cleats made, but when I was in grade school, I fell head over heels (get it?) for cleats. The tough 7th and 8th grade boys who smoked also wore cleats, so you could always hear them coming.

blackshoes1If you don’t know what I’m talking about, maybe it was not a big thing in your part of the country, but the shoe repair shops where I grew up would nail a metal cleat on the very back edge of a stacked leather heel to prevent it from being worn down. At least that was the ostensible purpose for them, but mostly the tough boys (the ones who got expelled from school and didn’t give it a second thought) had them on their shoes so that you would know how cool they were. They were half moon-shaped, but rounded on the ends, and the shoemaker put a nail in each end to fasten the cleat to the leather heel while the shoe was propped between his knees or placed upside down on the shoemaker's last.

I didn’t want to be a tough kid who smoked in the bathroom, but I did covet those cleats. At one point I saved up enough money from an after-school job to pay for some cleats. It could not have cost more than two dollars, but it was a lot of money to me. My plan was to go to the shoe shop on Saturday afternoon when the shoemaker was not so busy, and have him put on blackshoes2some cleats while I waited for them. I handed over my well worn black oxford shoes. They had the separate sewn toe cap with very thick leather soles. I sat in a well-worn leather chair with chrome frame with my socked feet barely touching the floor while the shoemaker worked his magic. It was all over in five minutes. All over except for getting into the house without my mother knowing I had thrown good money away on cleats. My plan was to try to walk around in the shoes as little as possible while my mother was around. I would take them off as soon as I got home and walk on my toes in the morning until I left for school. If she did catch on, I knew what to say.

cowsinstreetIt took her all of three minutes, after I got home and removed my shoes, to walk into the living room where I was watching TV. She held the shoes like a dead skunk. I gave her the surefire argument that it would save the heels so the shoes would last longer. She shook her head in an emphatic no. I would not be wearing these shoes anywhere, she told me, until I had removed the cleats. My cleat-wearing career was over before it started. I would have to wait until rubber heels came into style and then we put thumbtacks in the heels. Life is cruel that way.

 

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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