A SHORT STORY
Sadie's comfortable, round-toed T-strap
shoes were getting shabby, but she
couldn't get through to Fishman's Shoe
Store, where she always bought them.
Special to The Jewish News
Friday, September 5 1986
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
adie, sitting in the velvet-
cushioned chair by the window,
crossed one fat, veined ankle over
the other. On her feet were sturdy black T-
strap shoes with a low wide heel. Her feet
did not quite reach the floor. She looked at
her daughter. "A recording?" she said.
"What do you mean, a recording?"
Marian took off her glasses and rubbed
the bridge of her nose. "A recording. An
operator came on and said. 'The number
you have reached is out of service,' " she
said in the tone in which one addresses
Sadie's fingers fluttered on her lap. She
pressed her fingertips together. "You must
have dialed wrong. Try again."
"I did try again, Mama. I got the same
Sadie held out her hand. "Let me see."
Heavily, Marian crossed the room, tucking
a strand of grey hair behind her ear. She
handed her mother a leather address book.
With a gnarled finger, Sadie traced down
the page of F entries. "Here it is," she said.
"Fishman's Shoe Store. Area code 212,
929-5604. Is that what you dialed?"
"That's what I dialed, Mama."
Sadie closed the book and held it tight-
ly. She looked out the window. Through the
filmy white curtains, passersby looked
muted, dream-like. "What does it mean?"
Marian stood before her, hands on well-
padded hips. "It means their phone is out
"But --2 '
"Where do you keep your New York
Sadie pointed to a closet in the hall, then
watched as Marian opened the door,
eached up and, with a complaining sigh
that Sadie was not sure whether she was
meant to hear, fetched a wooden step stool
from the kitchen. Marian handed Sadie the
thick yellow pages directory; there was a
dull thwack as she caught it against her
She opened the book, licked a finger,
turned pages. "Shock Absorbers... Shoe
Repairing... Shoes-Orthopedic... Shoes-
Retail..." She ran her fingers down lines of
tiny letters, too small to read; why did the
phone company have to print them so lit-
tle? She murmured to herself as she
scanned the lines. "Firletti's... Firman's..."
Her own murmuring reminded her of some-
thing. What was it? Something, a sound,
music? She paused, her finger on Firth. Oh,
yes, it was Abe, Abe praying. He used to
bow his head and say the words low and
quiet, having a conversation with God. She
trembled slightly. Eight years since he'd
Shaking her head, she went back to the
list of shoe stores. When she came to the
place where Fishman's should have been,
she stopped. Fishbottom's, Fishkin's, Fisk
Shoes. Pointing with her finger, she read
over them again, leaning close to the page.
No Fishman's. "It's not in here," she said,
looking up at Marian, who was wiping the
dust from Sadie and Abe's 50th anniver-
sary picture with a tissue. •
Marian nodded, crumbling the tissue.
She took the phone book from her mother's
lap and put it away. The closet door closed
with a click. Sadie looked out the window.
It couldn't be. The store had to be there.
It couldn't have disappeared. She had been
buying her shoes there for 35 years. First
the older Mr. Fishman had waited on her,
now his son, who was himself no youngster.
Every fall she and Marian went into New
York and she bought a pair of black shoes
for the winter, size 5E, the same round-toed
T-straps year after year — well, sometimes
they had a tassel or an extra row of air
holes, but basically they were the same.
And every spring she bought the same
shoes in bone, for the summer. Winter and
summer, black and bone. The pairs of shoes
lined up in her closet like toy soldiers, and
when one pair got worn out it was replaced
with an identical pair, new recruits taking
the places of the dead and wounded.
She turned back to Marian, and there
was a glint of determination in her grey
eyes. "We'll go anyway?'
"What?" said Marian, standing in front
of her mother's chair and staring at her.
"We'll go anyway. They must still be
there, they must. So their phone is out of
order, so what? We'll find them."
Marian put her hands on her hips.
"Mama, are you crazy? Don't you see? The
store must be closed. The phone is discon-
nected, it's not in the phone book."
"The phone company must have made a
mistake. You know how unreliable they
Marian rolled her eyes. "Mama, listen to
me. The store isn't there anymore. They
must have gone out of business or some-
thing. And I'm not wasting a day taking
you to New York to look for a shoe store
that isn't there."
Sadie pursed her lips again. Her eyes
filmed over with tears. For a moment,
Marian looked away, her hands clenched;
then, pulling the other velvet-cushioned
chair closer to Sadie's, she sat down.
"Mama, listen," she said, leaning foward
and speaking soothingly, "I tell you what.
I'll pick you up tomorrow before lunch and
we'll go downtown. We'll go to that new
diner for lunch — you know, the one with
all the plants in the window. I've heard it's
very good, and it's right down the street
from Anderson's Shoes. They have nice
shoes there, Mama, sturdy ones just like
these, cute styles for spring. OK?"
Sadie shook her head. "They don't have
the kind of shoes I like. Everything is fan-
cy. I don't like fancy. And besides, they
don't know my feet. Mr. Fishman knows
Marian slapped her hands on her thighs.
"Mama, it's ridiculous. You want to go on