Shoes in the Wall
by Olivia Fitzsimons
They took his shoes, they slipped them from his feet and placed them in the wall, beside the lintel of the door. They cut the wattle away as I lay drowned in my bed, potions forced down, my jaw shoved shut. They pinched my nose, held me firm, whispered words at my ear, to help me sleep, to calm me, to still my soul.
They patched it up, shoes hidden from sight, and let it dry. A different hue of plaster marks it there.
I touch the wall and stand for hours, my grieving fingers burnishing it with a little of his lightness. I watch my children come in from the hedgerow and yearn to hear his shrill giggles arriving long before him, the bob of his head a glorious glow, melting with happiness and some winsome flower or weed clutched in his palm for want of me.
Love or fear or both stayed my husband’s hand though he heeded all advice that came dripping from their barren mouths and hearts. They say they know best. I care not much. I would have killed him. My womb is where my last child lived inside me and no other will lie there. I am closed, my heart buried beside those shoes, my body a cavity for sorrow.
My son’s shoes are a fine butter leather, I do not know the name of the hide they came from. They cost a pretty penny. My husband scolded me but I ignored his protestations. Far too good for a country boy with notions they said, jealous eyes darting over the fine stitching, modest heel and sturdy sole. I rub the wall to a patina now trying to return those shoes to me. I touch the spot each day and try to wear the wall away. Those feet will not come running back, slipping from my memory like last summer days to autumn. Hardening my heart to god and all his saints. I’m no believer anymore.
They say the fairies will not take anyone else and we are free from death, but I would give them all gladly to see his barefoot figure light my way against the dark nights gathering ahead.
Olivia Fitzsimons is a Northerner living in Wicklow. She won the Friary Runner New Writer Showcase CISS 2018 (fiction) and has placed in multiple other competitions. Her writing has been published in the Honest Ulsterman, Crannog, Boyne Berries, The Bangor Literary Journal and Cabinet of Heed. She is a Words Ireland Mentee and currently working on her first novel. You can find her on Twitter @oneflawediris.