“It was a nice movie,” said Mother.
Douglas murmured, “It was …”
It was June and long past time for buying the special shoes that were quiet as a summer rain falling on the walks. June and the earth full of raw power and everything everywhere in motion. The grass was still pouring in from the country, surrounding the sidewalks, stranding the houses. Any moment the town would capsize, go down and leave not a stir in the clover and weeds. And here Douglas stood, trapped on the dead cement and the red-brick streets, hardly able to move.
“Dad!” He blurted it out. “Back there in that window, those Cream-Sponge Para Litefoot Shoes--”
His father didn’t even turn. “Suppose you tell me why you need a new pair of sneakers. Can you do that?”
“Well . . .”
It was because they felt the way it feels every summer when you take off your shoes for the first time and run in the grass. They felt like it feels sticking your feet out of the hot covers in wintertime to let the cold wind from the open window blow on them suddenly and you let them stay out a long time until you pull them back in under the covers again to feel them, like packed snow. The tennis shoes felt like it always feels the first time every year wading in the slow waters of the creek and seeing your feet below, half an inch further downstream, with refraction, than the real part of you above water.
“Dad,” said Douglas, “it’s hard to explain.”
Somehow the people who made tennis shoes knew what boys needed and wanted. They put marshmallows and coiled springs in the soles and they wove the rest out of grasses bleached and fired in the wilderness. Somewhere deep in the soft loam of the shoes the thin hard sinews of the buck deer were hidden. The people that made the shoes must have watched a lot of winds blow the trees and a lot of rivers going down to the lakes. Whatever it was, it was in the shoes, and it was summer. Douglas tried to get all this in words.
“Yes,” said Father, “but what’s wrong with last year’s sneakers? Why can’t you dig them out of the closet?”
Bradbury, Ray. Dandelion Wine (pp. 20-21). HarperCollins, 1979.
Artwork (enhanced photo) by Merri Cyr.