Keeping the Magic Alive

by Tobie Shapiro

The man had been tearing through the closet in ten-minute sessions of escalating deranged frenzy. The woman observed with decreasing detachment.

“Honey. Stop.”

His argument: “If I quit now,” he looked up with obsession in his eyes, “all this was an embarrassing waste of time. If you love me, don’t tell me to stop. Help me look.”

Her retorting counterargument: “Your shoe did not walk away by itself. So you know it has to be in the house somewhere. This means that it will turn up eventually. Relax and let the shoe present itself to you in its own time. Please.”

“I said to help me.”

“I am helping you.”

His anti-torting, counter-counterargument: “It HAS to be right around here. That’s where it was a second ago. I put it right here. It was here, next to the right shoe. If I don’t find it now, it will get shuffled around and obscured by the normal family rush, the kids running around chasing each other, and you chasing after them. If I don’t keep at this, people will come and go and I won’t be sure that it hasn’t been moved. Got to find it now. Got to. Got to.”

She shifted her weight to her other leg and looked down at him, the crease tensing between her eyebrows.

He looked up, squinted at her, refusing, “Gottagottagotta!”

Her reassuring argument in favor of hiatus: “The more you keep at it, the more crazy you’ll get. You’re not thinking quite straight already. If you take a break—I didn’t say give up! Who’s saying anything about giving up? If you take a break, you can put your mind in order, calm down, and apply a methodical approach. You can also tell everyone to keep their eyes out for it. Someone’s bound to come across it. This way, you’re just making yourself crazy. You won’t find your shoe when you can’t think straight.”

His crazed rebuttal to her sane advice: “It’s eating me alive, this fucking shoe! It was right here next to the other shoe. I can’t give up! I know it’s here! It’s got to be here! Where the fuck could it have gone?! Why don’t you cut out the judging, shut up, and help me find it?!”

The only sane person in the room: “Do you really need that particular shoe? Right now? You have other suitable shoes. The important thing is to have a pair of shoes that goes with that suit well enough to pass. In the meantime, the missing shoe is not going anywhere.”

“Harrumph!” He pronounced it precisely. “Har-RUMPH!”

“Have you eaten anything? Did you get enough sleep? Maybe when you’re more rested and you’ve got something in your stomach, you’ll be in a better mood and your mind will be back to functioning smoothly, like the clear-thinking, creative, problem-solving mind we all know so well.”

“Go to hell,” he mumbled clearly, not quite under his breath.

“You like yourself better when you’re fed and rested. You know you’ll find the shoe. It’s not important that you find it right this instant. Please. You know I’m right. Make a conscious decision as part of a proactive strategy to order a temporary hiatus in the shoe search now. Will it make you feel better to designate the exact time when you take up the search again?”

Obsessed, exhausted lunatic frying in his own fixation: “Yes, I have other pairs of shoes that would work. But I want these shoes. I want the Wall Street Mahogany Leather Wing Tips. No, I didn’t sleep well last night, but I never do, and a power nap of twenty minutes is not going to fix that. And in answer to, ‘Did you eat anything?’, I had three cups of decaf and a bacon-wrapped, chocolate, old-fashioned donut at Cloud 9 Donuts on Wilbur Way this morning. Now get out of my way while I search the bedding. Got a knife?”

Scary whack job’s best friend: “Nix on the knife, Claude. Can you hear yourself?! What you’re going to do is take a nice long shower and reverse the charge on your ions. Come on. Take off the shirt and give it to me.”

In the same snarling frenzy with which he was clawing around for his shoe, he stood, growled fiercely, then wrestled out of his shirt. He stuffed it into her hands, where it hung by a sleeve.

“Now the pants. I’ll hang them all up right here on the hook and watch over them. The boxers, Claude! There’s a fresh, clean towel on the rack in the bathroom. Do you want me to heat it up for you?”

“There’s no need to be sarcastic.”

“That wasn’t sarcasm. I’d do it; you know I would. While you’re showering, as a special favor, I’ll look for your shoe, okay? Let that be my job. I’m a mom; moms do this better than anyone else in the world. Your job is to get in the shower and drain the anxiety. Take as long as you want. I even give you special dispensation during this crisis to sing ‘Gotta Do it My Way.’ Now get in there.”

The lunatic’s spell had been broken, and he slumped willingly into the shower. As soon as the hot water started flowing and the stall filled with steam, Claude’s muscles began to relax. He took the washrag and his favorite bar of Y-Chrome Soap (“For men only. Y-Chrome Soap: the world’s only technologically designed soap with revolutionary XYY. Be double the man! Use Y-Chrome’s scientifically formulated cleaning and revirilizing system. For Men Only!” Music swells, subliminally projected sound of a woman sighing, “More! More!”). He soaped up his whole body. Claude felt obsession’s grip on him begin to drain away. The compelling call of the lost Wall Street Mahogany Wing Tip began, bit by bit, to fade. The hot water cascaded from the five thousand synchronized showerhead jets in an enveloping caress. He let the warmth pour over him and watched the soapsuds flow to the central brass drain set in the granite tiles. He saw this all as a metaphor, this circling river, his anxiety being washed away. What was it that was so damn urgent about that particular shoe that it had to be found that moment and no other? Did he need it right away? No. He had a closet full of well-constructed, expensive, and handsome shoes. He opened his heart and his throat and began to sing ‘My Way.’ “‘And now, the end is near, and so I face the final curtain. My friend, I’ll say it clear…’”

When she heard his familiar tenor echoing in the shower, she was relieved. Alone in the house, she was serene as she went to the very back of her walk-in closet, pushed aside a full-length winter coat, gently brought out the missing mahogany wing tip, carried it to its matched partner, and sat it down next to it. His car keys she removed from his pants pocket, took them to her closet, placed them on the floor behind her full-length winter coat, then sat down in her favorite chair to read a book.

Category: Short Story, SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing, Uncategorized