The Soupster shops for shoes.
Originally published March 15, 2001
“See,” the Soupster said to the sales clerk. “It’s way too big.”
The Soupster dangled his foot in front on himself and, indeed, his shoe — a rubber-and-leather waterproof slip-on — threatened to fall to the carpet.
“I don’t understand,” said the Soupster. “Surely I’m not shrinking? I’ve bought this style of shoe for years — always a size 9.”
“And now the nine is too big?” the sales clerk tried to confirm.
“Look,” said the Soupster and with a mere curl of his toe let the shoe drop off completely.
“Maybe they got a different manufacturer,” ventured the clerk.
“Or maybe they decided on a different sizing system from another country where people’s feet are smaller,” volunteered a young man whom the clerk and the Soupster noticed now, holding a heavy black work boot in one hand and a pair of beige leather sandals in the other.
“Actually,” said the clerk, “in that country you imagine the resident’s feet would be larger. The Soupster’s shoe is too big, not too small.”
“When I first moved to Our Town,” said the Soupster, “everything seemed really small. The roads and stores and houses. Then, it was like I moved into some new area of consciousness and suddenly the road didn’t seem to end too soon at all. It ended at just the right place.”
“I know what you mean,” commented the sales clerk. “For the first five or so years I lived here it seemed like I was always feeling short of people. Because I kept seeing the same people over and over again. Then, like you say — some new level — and I realized that because I knew so much about everybody, there were actually more people in my life. Not less.”
“Wow,” said the young man. “I had this cousin once from Tacoma. He was younger than me. You know how when you don’t see someone for a while, like since they were a kid, they look really big the next time you see them?”
The Soupster and sales clerk both bit. “Yes,” they said.
“Well, this cousin of mine kept shrinking,” said the young man. “Every time I’d see him he’d look a little smaller. He was always small, but he started to get really, noticeably smaller.”
“Did you share your perception with him or anybody else?” asked the clerk.
“Nah, I didn’t want to bum anybody out,” said the young man. “You know, in case he really was shrinking. Maybe he was always standing behind a dining room table or a television or something. But however it happened, I started to see only the top half of him. Like from the waist up.”
“What happened then?” prompted the Soupster.
“He disappeared completely,” said the young man wistfully.
“You mean, he totally dissolved into nothingness?” said the shoe clerk.
“No, he went to college in Arizona,” said the young man. “And he started hanging around with a crowd way too crazy for me.”