Short story from Santiago Burdon

    Converse Black Label Gym Shoes 

My mother possessed an arsenal of proverbs, idioms and cliches, which she used to comment on  almost every situation. I became increasingly annoyed with her trite statements that never actually answered a question or solved a problem. Just some pointless remarks that didn't offer a solution.

Let me give you a couple of examples so you have a better understanding.

"Mom, I don't know what to  buy with my birthday money?" I'd ask.

"A fool and his money are soon parted."  She'd answer.

After getting mixed up in some trouble.

"I promise it won't happen again mom. I'm sorry."

"A leopard can't change his spots."

You get the idea.

I think she felt it made her appear educated by using them in conversation. I always respected my mother and loved her dearly.  I just couldn't take listening to any  more worn out, unoriginal and overused sayings that I didn't consider clever or helpful. 

I desperately needed Gym Shoes for my Physical Education class in High School. I had worn a pair of wrestling shoes handed down from my older brother during Junior High School that were two sizes too big. I was razzed and teased by my classmates constantly. The worst part was having  to wear them at dances held in the Gym. No " Street Shoes" on the wood court floor. 

There's a huge disadvantage being the youngest boy in a family with three older brothers. Besides being told what to do all the time, getting pushed around or being pummeled whenever they felt like it, most of my clothes were hand me downs. Occasionally my mother would even sneak underwear my brothers had worn into my dresser drawer.  I became wise to her high jinx and I threw them in the garbage. I seldom received new clothes which didn't bother me all that much because shopping for clothes with my mother was torture. Her fashion sense was trapped in the fifties. There wouldn't be any tie-dyed or paisley shirts, bell bottom jeans or pointed toe shoes if she was buying. I always ended up looking like Beaver Cleaver or Opie Taylor.  

I waited for the perfect moment to approach my mother with my request for new gym shoes. The old man left with my sister over to my grandparent's house.  My older brothers were gone leaving just her and I in the house. I asked if she needed help preparing dinner. She accepted my offer although with a hint of suspicion. 

" Yes, that would be wonderful. Could you cut up some carrots, celery, tomatoes and  cucumbers for the salad? And while you're doing that you can tell me what you've wanted to ask me all day.  Don't cut off your fingers, be careful." 

There was no pulling one over on my mother; she had  honed her skills from raising my three older brothers.

" Mom, I really need gym shoes for P.E. I'd like a new pair of my own that 

fit me. Please."

" What's wrong with the shoes you have now? You didn't seem to have a problem with them in Junior High."

" Mom, they're wrestling shoes, they get dirty real quick and they're two sizes too big. I gotta stuff 'em with socks or toilet paper to make 'em fit. I can't run or jump and do stuff while wearing them."

" Honey, I'm not sure we can afford them right now. I just paid for  your brother's high school class ring. And the dentist bill came due as well."

I expected her to use that excuse and  I had prepared for such an answer.

" Mom, I've saved nine dollars from my birthday and from mowing lawns. We can use that and you can help  pay the difference. Please mom, I really need gym shoes." I whined.

"I don't want you to have to use your own money. Let me think about it and mention it to your father."

" Well I need them on Monday or I'm not going to class. I'll take the demerit and detention.I'm not wearing those wrestling shoes and let people make fun of me. I put up with it all through junior high and am not going to do it again." I screamed.  My anger was getting the best of me. Then it happened, she did the one thing that sent me into a complete raging maniac.

" Listen to me. I cried because I had no shoes and then I met a man with no feet." She preached.

 "Oh ya, well I'd ask the man with no feet for his shoes since he didn't need them." I hollered.  "What  the fuck does that have to do with what we're talking about?"

I had completely lost it. The words just spilled out of my mouth without thinking about what I was yelling. I could see the result of my tirade in my mother's face. 

" What did you say? Who do you think you're talking to mister? Don't you get fresh with me! You will treat me with respect.  Do you understand? I  never want to hear that kind of language out of your mouth again. I don't appreciate your response to my proverb. You know that verse is in the Bible, Jesus Christ said it."

There it was, whenever she needed to validate a statement or fact the Bible was the source from where it originated. Then adding that Jesus had said it meant it was an irrefutable fact.

I wasn't going to contradict her statement although I knew the proverb wasn't in the Bible and Jesus never said it. All it would do is piss her off even more and I was already in deep shit. . It wasn't often when my mother became angry, but when she did the heavens would shake.

"You've really crossed the line Santiago. If I told your father about this he'd make sure you never used that word in this house again."

"I'd appreciate it if you didn't tell him. Besides I picked up the word from him. It's one of his favorites and he uses it for everything. I'm really sorry for saying that mom. Just lost my temper and took it out on you. Please forgive me. "

"To err is human, to forgive is divine." She lectured.

Did she really just say that? Throwing gasoline on the fire. Now she's got me doing it. No! I was one step closer to insanity.

"Are you finished there? Why don't you go to your room and think about what you did. Go on."

" Mom I'm fourteen years old and you're sending me to my room? Don't you think I'm too old for that kind of punishment?"

"You get to your room right this minute. Don't you start disobeying me. I'll call you for dinner. Now go young man."

Sure I'm a young man and she's sending me to my room. I thought it was ridiculous to send me there with my TV, record player, radio, games and books. What a harsh punishment.

"And no TV,  music or games. Read a book." She hollered up the stairs.

" No wait, no reading books either. I forgot you like that."

"Can I do my homework that's due on Monday?"

" Yes, that's good. Do your homework. I'll call you for dinner in a couple of hours."

" Thanks mom."

"Your father just pulled into the driveway."

"Mom please don't…"

"Don't worry, I'll keep it between us "

" I dashed over to the heat vent connected to the dining room to listen to what was being said.

"Where's Judge?"

"Did you buy them and in the right size?"

"Yes I did."

" He's upstairs doing his homework. And look at you Jocelyn, did you get new shoes? How pretty." I heard my mother say.

My sister got new shoes. What the hell is going on? I have to beg and plead for a new pair of gym shoes that are required for school and my sister gets shoes instead. Of course that sounds about right.

I was thoroughly pissed off but there was nothing I could do about the injustice I was subjected to by this family. Why is everyone so hard on me? I can't get a break.

I woke up to my brother shaking me and slapping my face.

"Get up, squirt, time for dinner."

"Okay, I'm awake, stop slapping me asshole." 

"Let's go. And just to warn you the Dad is in a pissed off mood. So be careful. You hear me?" 

"Ya thanks for the heads up."

I sat down at the table while my mother was talking.

"And Santiago helped with dinner and made the salad."

"Why, what'd he do wrong?" My brother George commented.

"I'll have everything except the salad." My sister said.

Everyone began to laugh.

I had just loaded my plate with manicotti and red sauce when the Old Man started his line of questioning.

"So Judge, your mother told be that…"

She ratted me out to the Old Man after she said she wouldn't. Damn it that just isn't fair. I figured it was best to confess so I'd have a chance to explain.

" It was an accident. I didn't mean to yell and swear at her. I lost my temper and it just came out. I told her I was sorry and would never use the word again. I feel horrible about what I did."

"What in the hell are you talking about? I was going to say I bought you some new gym shoes,  Converse Black Label Gym Shoes. Now what did you call your mother?"

"He didn't call me anything. He used profanity when he became upset, that's all." Mom said in my defense.

" I told you I'd keep it between us and wouldn't say anything. Now you went and opened Pandora's box."

On top of my screw up she had to add an idiom. 

"I don't know what's going on here . But could you at least say thank you and tell me you like them."  The  Old Man said. 

He handed me a shoebox but my brother intercepted it handing it off to the other then to my sister then to my mother. She got up and walked to me with the shoebox.  She gave me a kiss and the whole table erupted in a taunting chorus of awe.

"Sometimes Santiago you are your own worst enemy." She whispered.

"Oh hell yes. Converse Black Label Gym Shoes! Thanks mom and you too." I said looking at the Old Man.

"I'm gonna try 'em on now!"

"Did he say hell yes?" The Old Man asked.

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