“May I help you, Miss Barton?”
The somber voice of Silas Stone, owner of Cobble Stone Footwear, startled Bonita.
“ I need some sturdy boots to tromp around in at a campground. I’ll just browse a minute.”
Silas moved on to men’s shoes.
“Good morning, Sir. Need help?”
Cooter Simpson, hard working meter reader, just wanted his feet to stop hurting. His son, Little Cooter, told him to get some rubber-soled shoes.
“This can’t be the real price for these sneakers,” he chuckled with good will. “Why, that would be highway robbery.”
Silas frowned. Cooter turned to look at some soft slippers. (Why did Thelma have to visit her mother today?)
A load of kids from the orphanage kept Joy French, salesperson extraordinaire, happily busy. She handled this giant centipede of sock-feet with great patience.
Silas slipped into his office for something to soothe the burning in his stomach. He telephoned Babbie, his bride of three months.
“Why’d you call, Silas? Anything happening?”
He propped his feet on Grandpa Maxwell Stone’s antique desk and removed a cigar from the humidor in the bottom drawer; not to smoke, just to look at and wonder if it was contraband.
“ B.B. Barton is looking for boots to wear to some kind of camp place. Cooter Simpson thinks he wants sneakers but claims the price is highway robbery.”
“Uh huh…uh huh.” She was snapping chewing gum, a sure sign she was not really listening.
Silas married too soon after Mary Rose died. Babbie Lafollette had come to town on the afternoon train from Little Rock to visit her fourth cousin, Jenny Pace, who directed the choir over at First Church.
Just when he decided to tell Jenny he could sing, Babbie had appeared out of nowhere and had him lassoed and branded before he could say penny loafer or galoshes. If he had just counted to ten backwards and done the times tables in his head he might have had a chance to think.
“Hey Silas, Darlin’,” Babbie whined, “Didja’ hear me?”
He had to admit, she was easy to tune out. “I’m sorry, there must be a bad connection here.”
He knew she felt trapped in the cozy little cottage that he and Mary Rose had so loved.
“ I said a guy brought me some kind of pretty Ivy. I’m gonna call the mowing fellow, that Mr. Greenjeans, to plant it to climb up that old ugly trellis where y’all had them yellow roses.”
“What guy? That trellis isn’t ugly, and what kind of Ivy did you say?”
“Oh piffle. I think he called it somethin’ funny, like cuddlezoo.”
Silas Conway’s feet came off of that polished desk so fast he nearly threw himself into the humidor drawer.
“WHAT? That is Kudzu! It grows with lightening speed and takes over everything in its path. You think it’s pretty and all of a sudden it chokes the life out of …”
Silas stopped in mid sentence as if a light bulb had come on over his head.
“Uh Babbie, I called to tell you I’m leaving on a business trip.”
Miss Blabby telephoned Estelle over at Nadine’s Beauty Spot and Nail Emporium.
“I don’t know, Estelle, it seems kind of crazy to me why Bonita Barton would be going to boot camp, and why in the world does she need BBs. Don’t’ they give ‘em real bullets?”
Poor Nadine was getting brain strain from all the gossip she was trying to absorb.
“You know Cooter Simpson from the Power Company? Why Honey, he told Silas he was going to ROB him if he didn’t put some sneakers on sale, and I don’t know why they can’t just give them silly kids some second-hand stuff.”
Silas returned in full speed, damage control. The orphanage received a lifetime coupon for free shoes. He was still a little fuzzy about whether Bonita had joined the army, but he sent her some red hiking boots; Cooter got two pairs of sneakers.
Gene, of Greenly’s Lawn Service, removed and burned every inch of Kudzu. Silas gave him a generous check and a humidor full of expensive cigars. He may have passed them to his strange Uncle Fidel.
It was rumored that bigamist, Blabby Babbie, was reaping what she sowed, serving five to ten and singing the prison blues in her tacky standard issue shoes.
Silas and the lovely choir director ended up in perfect harmony in their grapevine-less covered cottage with a trellis of sweet yellow roses.
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