“One Shoe, Purple” by Rhonda Gold
Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.
This week, we’ll go to Boonville, New York for dark memories of the Erie Canal. Next week, join us as we travel to a cabin in the Great Lakes State with D.S. Levy.
One Shoe, Purple
by Rhonda Gold
Boonville, New York
I live in a place where the Erie Canal sliced like a razor blade through the middle of our town. From that time on we were the extra bits of fat that are cut away to let the meat breathe.
The Erie Canal was slow, but it was slow the way an athlete’s heartbeat is slow. That Canal moved a million barges of lumber down toward the city and down to wealth.
Our town was stripped, one day at a time, one log at a time, until the edges of the Erie Canal grew swampy and cattails poked up at the edges.
Some people at the Canal blame the sun getting closer to the earth, which is our way of saying that the industry has made this planet hotter.
But others always remember that there was a song made for the Erie Canal. And in there, low bridge, everybody down. It is the everybody down part that we always remember.
And no night at the Canal ends without someone singing that part, loud and with a rasp and with a memory that we used to be the engine of this country, and a knowledge we will never be again.
Anything that changes in this town is noticed.
That is what happens when you are part raccoon body at the side of the road. That is what happens when you are the carcass of raccoon, which is what we are and which is what the workers on the Erie Canal barges would find.
They would find the raccoon bodies and tie their tails on to stop signs. The tails would lift high in the Upstate New York storms.
But nobody cared about the raccoons.
A raccoon has the most delicate paws, and teeth that can make you bleed out in one bite.
At one time, the Erie Canal was the engine of this country.
Yes, they stripped our bounty, they sliced and shoved all that was gold into a funnel and sent it on a barge.
But if you owned a part of this country near the Erie Canal—the sharp surprise of pinesap; the surprise of the Lady’s Slipper, bulb open like a sea horse belly; the weight of summer heat—all these you owned.
Now we sit on the great veranda of one of the great houses built by a lumber baron. The railings are broken. The boys along the street grab spokes and jab at each other until someone bleeds.
Everyone knows that the Erie Canal will never come back. It flows, empty.
We talk about how New York City took everything from us.
We stare at the road. We yell at the children, who stay on the street until they can join us on the porch.
One purple shoe, a thin shoe, with a great spike of a heel. That shoe turns and turns itself in the rough Adirondack wind, somehow staying right on course.
I think it is like a dead animal, maybe a fat woodchuck, that is hit on the road and then flipped and flipped again by the logging trucks that plow through our neighborhood. Those trucks could be replaced by the Erie Canal.
The river is still flowing.
And if anyone took any time, like I do, they would find the Herkimer diamonds on the side of the road, bits of quartz that boiled the blood of diamond hunters (and still does). My mother always loved her big diamond and only after my father died did she take it to the jeweler and when he said Herkimer, she cursed and was never the same.
The purple shoe was probably hard to walk in. And maybe only in the back alleys that lead through screen doors in the summer, when the heat sits on the face of the hills around us, would a woman prance around in purple heels.
Another three trucks and that purple shoe will be ground to dust, purple dust that will make its way into the Erie Canal. And these days, just sit there.
I have time.
I have sharp eyes, even when everything has been sliced and dulled around me.
I have the other shoe.
RHONDA GOLD, under various pen names, has appeared in publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, and the North American Review. She lives in New York City and is a member of Jonathan Santlofer’s Crime Fiction Academy at the Center for Fiction.
Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:
—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected] paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Apr 14, 2014
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