The Bougie Chronicles - Episode 7: Shoes
Kerry looked down at Jim’s scuffed-up shoes. He needs a new pair for running, she thought.
Can’t have him wearing those old, ratty things.
That thought was interrupted when Jim yelled, “Fools!”
He was watching the television as the news reported on the latest protest at the capitol. “Don’t they realize that there is a pandemic going on?”
“They don’t care,” Kerry answered. “They are just being selfish.”
“Yeah, well, their selfishness is killing people. They should all be arrested - or better yet, get the virus.”
“That won’t exactly help out our healthcare system,” Kerry responded drily.
“If they want to protest, then they should be denied treatment if they get the virus. People need to be accountable for their own actions. I can’t believe that anyone would be so narcissistic as to put other people at risk like that.”
“Of course, they are narcissistic. They are nothing but a bunch of MAGA-hat wearing, racist rednecks. What did you expect? People like that don’t have any sense. They need to just stay home. They are putting everyone at risk because they want to get their hair done or eat at Fuddruckers!”
The telephone rang interrupting their conversation and Jim went into his home office to take this very important work call.
As Jim left the room, Kerry shook her head at the television, then picked up the remote and turned it off. She was tired of watching these idiots and their protests.
When she heard a knock at the door, she set the remote down and moved to answer it. As she opened that door, she saw the delivery driver walk away.
“Thank you,” she called out to him, and reached down for the package he had left on her stoop.
Thank God that Amazon is still delivering, she thought silently.
She brought the package into the house and opened it.
Yea! She thought looking down at the collection of garden gnomes inside the package. I can spend the afternoon placing these around the yard. It will give me something to do other than watching the constant coverage of the pandemic.
Maybe she could get her son, Johnny, to help. For the last month, Johnny had been doing nothing but playing video games in the upstairs rec room, but Kerry could not really fault him for that. Ever since the schools closed and the lockdown began, he had been unable to see any of his friends. At least, these online games gave him some semblance of normalcy and social interaction with others. But, he did need some fresh air and working in the garden with her might be just the ticket for that.
Before turning to her garden, however, she had to go to the store. She poked her head into her husband’s office to wave goodbye.
“Hold on,” Jim said into the phone and put it on mute. “Where are you going?” he asked Kerry as he eyed the mask.
“I am heading down to the grocery store,” she replied.
“But this is your fourth trip this week.”
“I know, but I forgot to pick up ice cream and I wanted that for dessert tonight.”
“Why don’t we just order in?”
“We still need dessert,” she said as she grabbed the keys to her BMW out of the little basket at the front of the door, then selected one of the masks that hung from the hooks above it.
Kerry donned her shoes and walked out that door.
Sue almost slipped on the wet pavement when she walked up to Mary’s front door. The bottom of her shoes were worn from years of working on her feet. But this was the most comfortable pair she owned and she just couldn’t give them up. The the exact level of arch support her feet so badly needed.
“I am so glad that you came!” Mary said to Sue as she opened the door and looked around checking for the other woman’s car.
“I parked down the block like you asked,” Sue responded as she entered the house and Mary closed the door behind her while taking another look to ensure that nobody saw her visitor.
“You can’t be too careful,” Mary said. “The neighbors around here are pretty nosy and it would not surprise me one bit if one of them called the police to turn us in.”
“Well,” Sue responded, “I have learned how to be careful. I have been doing this for two weeks, now. It’s the only way to keep working.” Sue shrugged her shoulders as she said this last part.
“I am so glad that you are! I haven’t had my hair done in a month and my roots are showing. I don’t what I would have done if you stopped doing these haircuts.”
Sue smiled at Mary, but behind the smile was anger. She was not angry with Mary. After all, it was people like Mary that enabled her to make a living — people who were willing to break the rules — and without them, Sue would be like so many others: desperate and without a way to earn money. She would continue to serve her black market clientele until she got caught and no longer could.
“Make sure you take your shoes off,” Mary said. “I don’t want to track gunk into the house. The maid may not be able to come this week. ”
Peeking through the sliver of window that could be seen between the almost-closed curtain halves, Tina watched Sue enter Mary’s house.
“That’s the third time she has had somebody over this week,” she said aloud to nobody in particular. “And her visitor isn’t even wearing a mask! Are they trying to spread the virus?”
Tina glanced down the hall and wondered about her mother. The older woman was ninety-one years old and would not survive a bout with this contagion. From that other room, she heard her mother have a coughing fit and Tina froze in place.
“Are you okay, Mother?” she called out.
The other woman called back, “I’m fine; just a tickle in my throat.”
Tina reached down and gave one quick pump of the large bottle of sanitizer she kept by this window and lathered it across her hands and up to her elbows, then across her face for good measure.
From down the hall, she heard her mother cough again, and she began to seethe at the women across the street.
“How dare they put us all at risk this way!” she said.
She reached down and picked up the phone intent on dialing for the police. As she looked at the glowing numerals, she wondered, Okay, I will call the police, then what am I going to do?
She put the phone down and donned her sandals, intent on going across the street to confront the two women about their selfishness.
“Dammit!” Cyndi yelled as she slammed the phone down.
“Still can’t get through?” Peter asked.
“No. I have been trying for hours this morning and for the last week, but the line is always busy.”
“Lots of people applying for unemployment these days,” Peter responded.
“I know, but this is ridiculous!”
Cyndi’s anger morphed into frustration and tears filled her eyes.
“What are we going to do?” she plaintively asked her husband. “We have already pretty much sold everything we own.”
Peter took his wife into his arms, “I know, I know,” he said trying to comfort her.
“We only have twelve dollars left in the checking account. The savings is empty and the credit cards are maxed out.”
“I know, I know, “ Peter repeated stroking his wife’s hair.
“I can’t take any more! They gotta open us back up. We don’t have no money. What are we going to do about food?”
“I will go down to the church. I heard they were giving away packages to the needy.”
“We wouldn’t be so needy if they would just let us go back to work!”
“I know baby. I know. But what are we supposed to do? I am going to that protest today. After that, I will stop by the church. We will get through this with God’s help.”
“I am beginning to think that God don’t care.”
“This ain’t God’s doing,” Peter replied.
“It’s stupid!” Cyndi cried. “All of those people screaming and yelling that we need to keep everything closed down just don’t get it! They are retired or they have the luxury of working at home and are still making money. Those of us who can’t go to work are just getting more and more hurt! No job is ‘non-essential’ to the person relying on it.”
Peter felt the anger and frustration build within him. He was a failure who was unable to care for or support his family. Yes, there was a pandemic going on, but, he wondered whether the cure was worse than the disease.
A man could die from the virus, he thought, or he could die from starvation and it seems that the government don’t much care which.
He left his wife crying in the living room and went into the bedroom. He sat on the bed. Feeling defeated he placed his face in his hands and sat that way for a full minute as he heard his wife repeatedly dial the phone number for the the unemployment office only to have that phone line respond with a busy signal.
He wondered, If she doesn’t get through to the unemployment office today, then what are we going to do?
Shaking his head, he knew all that he could do was to make his voice heard. So, he grabbed his shoes and put them on his feet intent on heading down to join the protests.
Kerry returned from the store very excited. She had scored two tubs of ice cream and some extra toilet paper to boot! She would add these six rolls to the stash that was hidden in the closet; the one that held the other thirty-six rolls. She smiled at her own ingenuity. For the last month, she went to the store three or four times each week and on each of those visits she picked up more of what they might, someday, need — just in case.
When she entered the house, Kerry was surprised to find Jim sitting on the sofa watching the television instead of working in his office.
“I’m back,” she called out to him as she turned into the kitchen to store her haul.
Jim followed Kerry into the kitchen.
“Listen, babe,” he said.
“I got the ice cream!” Kerry interrupted. “Now, we are all set for dessert tonight.”
“That call I was on when you left . . .”
“I also picked up some more toilet paper. It’s crazy the way people have been hoarding things. They don’t have any sense.”
“Kerry . . .”
“And you would not believe the number of people in the store I saw who were not wearing masks. Fools.”
“Listen to me,” Jim interrupted her chatter.
“I went to Target instead of the the grocery store, and I got you these,” she held out a box of new shoes and handed them to Jim. “ I noticed that yours were a little worn.”
“Kerry stop!” Jim said.
Kerry looked at him quizzically, “What is it?”
“That call that I was on when you left . . . I was furloughed until the end of the year,” Jim said.
Kerry considered how overextended they were. A cursory look at their large house might lead to some to believe that they were quite wealthy, but the truth is, like so many, for years they had been living beyond their means.
She looked down at the new pair of Nike’s that she had just purchased, then wondered, What are we going to do?