“Eleanor Put Your Boots On”

I wrote this short story in my freshman year of college just for fun. I was obviously pretty into Franz Ferdinand at the time. I was inspired by this song so much so that I created a story out of it because that’s what you do when you’re all angst-y and tipsy and living in the dorms.


 

He was a construction man. He had scarred knuckles, blackened fingernails and a permanent frown embedded in the wrinkle just above his eyebrows. He wore heavy boots stained with dirt and kissed by over zealous dust clouds. His breath was long and choked, his smile broken by a pained back and a hardened voice. He was a construction man.

Eleanor had soft palms, manicured nails and a permanent smile embedded in the dimples that circle the edge of her small mouth. She wore light red flats that clashed with her daily outfit. Her breath was young, her voice full of life.

In his stained boots, Eleanor saw stability. The boots gave her Daddy the power to hold big things, climb to the highest points and stay strong in the depths of the ground. So, for her tenth birthday, she asked for stained boots so she could be stable just like her Daddy.

Underneath the pink flowered wrapping she found her stained boots. They were yellow and a bit big. She put them on right there and then and became a construction man’s daughter.

Every day Eleanor wore her stained boots. She wore them to the lunch table where she ate her shaped peanut butter and banana sandwich. She wore them on the wooden bench in church and got scolded because the other girls wore flats. She wore them to Timmy Anderson’s birthday party and his mom made her take them off before she came into the kitchen. She wore them to Coney Island and ate a hot dog with Uncle Jackie.

In her stained boots, Eleanor ran and climbed the taller trees that only the boys dared to go up. She stomped through tall grass and tip-toe through streams. Eleanor never fell in her boots and soon her nails grew a light brown and her soft palms roughened.

When Eleanor was twelve she came downstairs in a blue dress with white flowers on it. She was going to go play with Timmy Anderson and Lola James. She sat on the bottom step, the twelfth step, and reached for her stained boots. They were now mud stained, more brown then yellow. The boot would not fit her foot. Eleanor pulled on the boot desperately trying to get it on as two ugly sisters once did to a glass slipper. When she could pull no more and exasperated breath was drawn out of her, Eleanor ran upstairs and found the white converse Uncle Jackie bought her.

Eleanor put the blinding new shoes on. She no longer ran, she stepped. No more climbing, just giggling. Stomping and tip-toeing turned into prancing and playful gestures. The light brown color that consumed the underside of her nails was now covered in a baby pink nail color.

The construction man’s hands shook with lines of dirt. His hair was sprinkled with white and his teeth now completely yellowed from cigarettes. His voice was now cracked with a chronic cough and the pains of the day dragged his grin to the ground. He still wore his stained boots.

In a closet he kept Eleanor’s stained boots. Darkened with dirt and mud, sprayed with grass stain and smudged with a bit of her blood from a scratched ankle. The construction man’s daughter had grown from boots to converse to heels. And while they all fit he hoped that one day Eleanor would put her boots back on.

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Days 1-6: 1-2

I wrote this piece for a creative fiction class I took while studying abroad in Auckland, New Zealand. My professor was a pretty harsh critic, she’d call me out in class and workshops; nothing I wrote was good enough or even good for that matter. But I gained a lot from her class including a tougher skin. This is an excerpt from a final project, we had to recreate a scene from our past or current reality and dramatize it, embellish the details. I think she called it “creative non-fiction”.


Day 1:

My eyelashes are crusted and cemented to each other. My eyelids are heavy, so very heavy, but I lift them. How many hours had it been? How many days? Centuries? My head has turned into stone and my limbs sawdust. I bend the tips of my fingers like I do after a vivid dream, registering my awaken body and announcing my return to the warmth of a blanket-covered reality.

But there is nothing warm about this reality. The tips of my fingers are numb and lifeless, registering nothing except cold. I am cold. I am really, very cold. I try not to dwell on my fingers and instead focus on the symbols around me, desperately looking for any clue as to where I am.

I’m not sure if I can move my head but I am able to look down. There are three blankets layered and tucked around my useless body all the way to my chest. My arms are out and I can see my fingers moving. They’re still trying to register my consciousness. I see a shiny, silver needle stuck in a cluster of goose bumps on my forearm and the tube it’s linked to climbing up and up. It finds its end at a clear plastic bag filled with an unknown liquid.

Then there’s a voice. Duff Goldman. The fat guy from “Ace of Cakes”. What the actual fuck is he doing in this ice tundra full of gray lines and off white shapes? And if he is actually here, which who knows at this point, he better have brought me a cake with an explanation about where I am and why his show was cancelled written in curled icing. It was the best thing Food Network had to offer since “Barefoot Contessa”.

A sudden heaviness on my left hand interrupts my thoughts of overly decorated cakes and fat bald men. I shift my half opened gaze to the left and meet my mom’s blotchy nose and brown eyes the size of saucers. The ice tundra suddenly comes into focus. The gray lines and off white shapes materialize into the familiar set of “Grey’s Anatomy”. It has all the realism of a modern hospital but there is that artificial veil that convinces me McSteamy is in the other room telling some girl she’s “his person”.

Those brown saucers have thin layers of tears draping them. My mom pets my hair and her speech rises, its shaky and gurgled. There is something about a surgery, tumor, ovary…the gurgling goes on for a long time.

Finally the gurgling stops and I still have not a real clue as to why I am here, covered in goose bumps or why Duff was in my room. My dad appears out of nowhere at my mom’s shoulder. I swear they’ve morphed into a two-headed dragon, which offers somewhat of an insight on parenthood.

I want to see my parents, not as a two-headed dragon but as my individual caretakers, supporters, friends. I try to move, to sit up, knowing when you shift your position during a test the answers become clearer, your brain wakes up again. I desperately need mine to get its shit together.

But when I shift I know my face contorts even if I can’t feel it. There is a striking, stiff pain in my core that stretches to the edges of my legs and neck. My entire mid section throbs and the tightened skin over my stomach burns and prickles as if someone had just thrown burning coals on it. The scream hitches in my chest and catches in my throat, but like a broken down VW bus it never makes it out.

The two-headed dragon’s faces meld into a single one of worry and confusion. A button is pushed near my left hand.

A man runs in. McSteamy it’s got to be. He flips a switch near my head and I feel a damn opening somewhere. Somewhere a river has been released and it’s now rushing though my veins. It smells like rubbing alcohol.

Then darkness.

Day 2:

The grey and white shapes configure themselves into real symbols that show I’m in a hospital room. A real one this time.

I look up and there is only white. Cold. So very cold. I try my fingers again. It works! I can feel them and they ache. My lips are chapped, throat is dry and my toes are curled.

My upper body is rising. Oh My God, I am Frankenstein’s monster. The two-headed dragon is going to show me my reflection and I’m going to be a poor manmade replica of humanity. I never really felt that green was my color.

As my body is risen without consent so I reach an upright position I see my dad and wait for him to start shouting “Its alive! Its aliveeee!” and then fall into a euphoric seizure by my bedside.

Instead I get a “Good morning Pookah! Glad to see those beautiful eyes again!”

I vomit.