Short story from Carol Pierce

Middle aged light skinned woman with short curly red hair, reading glasses, a blue patterned blouse and white jacket. Earrings and necklace.
Carol Pierce
Grandma’s Shoes 
	My seventy-two-year-old grandma is coming home from the rehab facility today in her terry cloth slippers.

	When mom and I arrived at Caring Touch Health & Rehabilitation at ten o’clock on a sunny June morning to pick her up, grandma was sitting in a chair in her room, fully dressed, pocketbook in her lap, and a plastic bag labeled “patient’s belongings” on the floor beside her.
	“Grandma, where are your shoes?” I asked, searching through her closet and drawers.
	She shrugged and looked down at her pink, open-toed slippers. “I asked two aides,” she said. “They couldn’t find them anywhere.”
	I stepped out into the hallway. A few feet from grandma’s room, an aide was filling a cart with bottles of shampoo and lotions, tubes of toothpaste, and other toiletries. She wore maroon scrubs and white sneakers, and her long black hair was pinned up on top of her head. She had large hoop earrings, a cross on a gold chain around her neck, and long nails painted a dark blue.
	“Excuse me, Ruby,” I said, reading from the aide’s name tag. “Would you please bring my grandmother her shoes.”
	“They disappeared,” she said, without looking up from the cart.
	“Shoes don’t disappear,” I said, emphasizing the words “don’t” and “disappear.” “Obviously, someone took them.”
	“You can file a lost item report with Patient Services,” Ruby said, still filling the cart.
	I glanced over at the nurses’ station. My mother was talking to the discharge nurse, so I went back to grandma’s room. 
	“I’m upset about your shoes, grandma. It angers me that someone would take something belonging to a patient.”
	“Don’t worry about the shoes, Allison. I have others at home.”
	“But they were your favorite. You’ve had them for years. How many times has mom taken them to the shoemaker for repairs? You’ve had the heels replaced, the bottoms resoled, and the stitching resewn, many times.”
	Grandma smiled. “I did like them. They were so comfortable. I could walk in them for hours.”
	I looked into grandma’s sparkling blue eyes. “They were a part of you.”
	When we got home, my mother made lunch, and then grandma took a nap. An hour later, she awakened, put on her black pumps, and informed us that she was going for a walk. Grandma particularly liked to walk up Sixth Avenue to Bleeker Street and then over to Abington Square Park. Whenever I walked with her, it took us about forty minutes because grandma stopped a few times to rest. Sometimes, she went to the library to view the newly acquired fiction titles and to read magazines. Other times, she stopped in the stores along Sixth Avenue to browse. On those days, she often came home with a surprise for me—a shirt, a pair of jeans, or some earrings. She took the item out of the bag with a dramatic flair and waited to see my expression. If I exclaimed “I love it,” and rushed to try it on, grandma knew I’d keep it, but if I politely said, “Thank you, grandma,” she said, “Allison, I’ll take it back and get you something else.”
	Later that afternoon, when grandma returned from her walk, she was limping. 
	“What happened?” I asked, taking her arm and helping her to the couch. 
	“My feet started to hurt as soon as I got to the corner.”
I removed her shoes and saw that her pinky toes were red and blistered, and there was raw skin on the backs of her heels.
“I haven’t worn these shoes in so long. I like them, but I forgot how uncomfortable they are.”
“I’m so sorry,” I said and brought her a basin with warm water and Epsom salts.
	After breakfast the next morning, grandma put Band-Aids on her toes and the backs of her heels and wore a different pair of shoes. We left together, and she insisted on walking with me a few blocks to the university. She was already limping, even after walking only the short distance. It didn’t surprise me that even though her feet ached, grandma would not allow herself to be deterred. As a young child in Hungary, she had walked barefoot for miles on long dirt and pebbled roads every day from her small village to get to the one-room schoolhouse, three villages away. I suspect it was during those years that grandma learned how to withstand pain.
	“I can see your feet are hurting,” I said and kissed her goodbye. “Maybe you should go back home.”
	“I’ll be okay, honey. I’m not going far.”
	It was almost five o’clock when I got home from the university, and grandma was sitting in the recliner in the living room, feet up, and stockings off, reading the newspaper.
	“How were your classes?” she asked.
	“Good,” I said, and walked over to give her a kiss. I looked at her red and swollen feet.
	“They must hurt a lot,” I said.
	“Not as much as yesterday.”
	“Walking in those shoes can’t be any good on your knees, either.” Grandma had spent six weeks recuperating at the rehab facility after knee replacement surgery and a subsequent infection. At the time of her discharge, the physical therapist had reviewed with her some home exercises, and the doctor had emphasized the importance of walking every day to regain her strength and improve her mobility. It infuriated me that grandma was not able to do what she needed to, to aid her recovery just because an employee at the facility, entrusted with her care, took advantage of her. How could an employee do this? From where did the person get this feeling of entitlement? 
“Mom said she’s trying to get you an appointment with a podiatrist. It’s ridiculous that you can’t wear any shoes but the ones that were taken. I’m sure the podiatrist will be able to suggest the right shoes.”
	Grandma stayed home for the next few days to rest her feet. 
	I was in my room studying for a chemistry exam the following Wednesday evening when grandma came home, carrying a shopping bag.
	“I had an appointment with the foot doctor,” she said, taking a seat in the kitchen. “He’s wonderful. Filed down my corns. Then showed me on his computer the styles of shoes I should wear that won’t aggravate my hammertoes and bunions,” she said, bending down and removing the shoes she was wearing. “I was so excited to purchase new shoes that I took the bus to Macy’s. Oh my! So many beautiful shoes… And some ugly ones, too.”
	“Show me what you bought,” I said, peering into the bag at her feet.
	Grandma took out a box and showed me a pair of textured black pumps.
	The shoes had a good arch, a low, wide heel, and a non-skid sole. “They’re very pretty.”
	“And so comfortable. Just like my old shoes.”
	Then she reached into the bag and removed another box. “I can wear the black ones and these beige ones through the fall,” she said.
	“These are beautiful, too,” I said. The shoes were open-toed, a combination of woven leather and suede, had a strap across the top, and a wedge heel.
“I think I’ll wear these when I go for my walk, tomorrow. At my checkup next month. I’m
sure the doctor will be surprised at how quickly I’m recovering.”
	When I got home the following evening, grandma was in the kitchen preparing dinner. 
	“Your mother is working late tonight, so I cooked for us,” she said, turning off a burner and placing chicken, broccoli, and roasted potatoes on our plates. 
	I washed my hands and sat down at the table.
	“Did you have the chemistry test today?” grandma asked. 
	“I did. Lots of formulas and some tough questions, but I think I did well.”
	I reached for a roll. “I’ve been wondering how you feel about what happened to your shoes.”
	Grandma looked up from her plate. “It would never occur to me to take anything that didn’t belong to me. Honestly, I’m surprised that anyone would do that. Maybe they really did get lost.”
	“I’m thinking of telling administration know what happened.”
	“Don’t make a fuss, Allison. If someone took the shoes, they must have really needed them.”
	“Maybe, or maybe not.”
“I have new ones. It’s just that I really liked those.” 
	I shook my head. “It incenses me!”   
	“Enough of this talk about shoes. I had a wonderful walk this morning. The sun was out, and it was not too hot. I stopped in the bakery and bought two pounds of fancy Italian cookies for the staff at Caring Touch. They were good to me. I want to show my appreciation.”
	“That’s very thoughtful,” I said, lifting the cover and looking inside the box. There were cookies filled with jelly and dusted with confectioner’s sugar, tri-colored and meringue cookies,
dark chocolate covered rolled wafers, and other confectionery delights. I helped myself to a rolled wafer.
	“I’m going to deliver this tomorrow morning,” grandma said, closing the box and moving the cookies to a nearby counter.
	“I’ll go with you. I only have one class in the late afternoon.”
	After breakfast, grandma and I took the bus to the rehab facility. The floor where she had stayed was busy when we arrived. Patients using crutches and rollators walked up and down the floor, aides by their sides. Near the exit, at the end of the hall, a physical therapist supervised a woman with ankle weights who was struggling to lift her legs. At the nurses’ station, two nurses updated patients’ charts and answered phones that rang incessantly, while a third dispensed medicine into small paper cups. Nearby, Ruby re-stocked a cart with toiletries, and another aide loaded a second cart with folded white towels.
	Grandma and I went up to the aides and chatted for a bit, then walked over to the nurses’ station.
One of the nurses looked up when we approached. 
“It’s good to see you, Mrs. Sullivan,” she said. “How are you doing?”
“I’m good. Doing my exercises and walking almost every day.”
“And taking your medicine?”
Grandma smiled. “Of course. I’m an obedient patient.” She placed the box of cookies on the counter. “Brought these for the staff. A little something to thank all of you for everything.”
“How sweet, Mrs. Sullivan,” the nurse said, opening the box. “Ooh. I love these with the
jelly filling. Think I’ll have one right now.”
A few minutes later, Ruby and the other aide scanned the assortment like children in a candy store, trying to decide what to buy. Ruby took a rolled wafer and a tri-colored cookie and then looked to a woman in a floral blouse, navy skirt, and light sweater, and red lipstick whose grey curls peeked out from under a wide- brimmed red hat. The woman appeared to be older than grandma and was sitting alone on a couch near the nurses’ station.
“Want a cookie?” Ruby asked.
The woman nodded. Grandma and I sat down on the couch next to her.
“I’m Margaret Sullivan,” grandma said to the woman, “and this is Allison, my granddaughter.”
“Good to meet you both. My name is Rosemary Cancel.”  
Ruby brought the woman some cookies wrapped in a napkin and then turned to address grandma. “Mrs. Sullivan, this is my mother, Rosemary,” she said. “She came to have lunch with me.”
“We just introduced ourselves,” grandma said, “but I didn’t know you were her daughter.”
I nudged grandma, then moved closer to whisper in her ear. “Look at Rosemary’s shoes,”
I said. 
Grandma glanced at Rosemary’s feet.
“I like your shoes,” she said.
Rosemary smiled. “Thank you. Ruby gave them to me. They’re not new, but they are extremely comfortable.”
“Would you mind if I had a look?” I asked and extended my hand. 
Rosemary slipped off her right shoe and handed it to me. I looked at the underside of the tongue and saw Margaret Sullivan written with black marker. I had labeled all of grandma’s clothing and personal items when she was first admitted to the facility. I moved over to show her where I had printed her name and then returned the shoe to Rosemary.
“It’s so important to have shoes that fit well,” I said. “It looks like these have gotten a lot of wear. I hope you enjoy them.”
I got up and walked over to Ruby who was now standing at the nurses’ station.
“Excuse me, Ruby. I noticed that your mother is wearing my grandmother’s shoes.”
Ruby said nothing, but the nurses raised their heads, looking first at me and then at Ruby. 
“You stole from my grandmother, and on top of that, you lied to both of us when we asked you about the shoes,” I said, glaring at her. “You should be ashamed of yourself.”
  Ruby was trying to turn away, but my angry stare followed her. 
“Have you taken things from other residents? From your colleagues?” I asked. “I’m sure this facility doesn’t want a thief working here. I’m going to report you to the administration.” 
Ruby still didn’t say anything.
“You sent an elderly woman home in her slippers! Tell me, don’t you feel bad about what you did?” 
Ruby nodded, then turned her back to me and walked away.
As grandma and I went to the elevator, grandma said, “Don’t report her, Allison. She probably doesn’t get paid much, and I’m sure she needs her job. She might be supporting her mother. I think what’s important is that you let her know that we know what she did. Maybe that’s enough to make her think about her actions.”
One afternoon, a week later, grandma’s shoes arrived in the mail with a note from Ruby: “Dear Mrs. Sullivan,
I am sorry for taking your shoes. I never did this before. My mother has problems with her feet. It is hard to find shoes. Your shoes were right size and comfortable. Please forgive me.”
	I laughed softly. “I guess we got through to Ruby, grandma.”
	“It’s amazing. I didn’t think I’d ever see these shoes again,” grandma said, looking them over as if she was considering a potential purchase.
	“And now you have three pairs of comfortable shoes.”
	“Let’s go to Caring Touch on Friday. I’d like to give one of the new pairs to Ruby, for her mother.”	



Carol Pierce was born and raised in New York City.  She holds a B.A. in English, an Special Education, and a Professional Certificate in Supervision and Administration from Hunter College.  She was a teacher and Assistant Principal with the NYC Department of Education for more than 20 years.An emerging writer, Carol enjoys the power of words and writing short stories that transport readers to other worlds.  Her stories have appeared  in Drunk Monkeys, The Write Launch, Griffel, and in Twist & Twain.  In addition to writing, Carol enjoys swimming and researching her Hungarian roots.

8 thoughts on “Short story from Carol Pierce

  1. I LOVE THIS STORY! Margaret is a woman we should aspire to be. Even after the theft, she is going to give a pair of her new shoes to Ruby for her mother. I could not stop reading, once I started! This story was mesmerizing from beginning to the end. Thank you for sharing! Margaret is my hero!!!!🙏🏼💗🙏🏼

    • Thank you for reading my story, Lisa. I am glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Great story!!! Great message for us all. Loved the way you weave in all of the intricate details about locations, places and of course food!! Great job!!!

  3. Thoroughly enjoyed “Grandma’s Shoes.” The world needs more
    “Margaret Sullivans.” Thank you Carol Pierce for creating this beautifully written inspirational story.

  4. Thank you, Arly for reading my story. So glad you enjoyed it and found it inspirational!

  5. Thank you Carol Pierce,
    Your story made me feel like I was living it! Did not feel like I was just an audience, reader or fan! Wow-so descriptive and real! Love the ending. Look forward to reading more of your stories.

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