In Anticipation of the Big Dump

department store at Christmas
Department Store at Christmas by John Falter, The Saturday Evening Post, December 6, 1952

Combine the 75 percent off after Christmas store sales with the imminent 12-inch snowstorm, and folks in our town sprinted to the stores and malls ready to load up on crap and toilet paper. On the third day of the new year, highways were bumper-to-bumper, parking lots overflowing, and tempers the only short thing around.

My students had presented me with a department-store gift card, and I was ready to spend some of my hard-earned cash. I tugged on my fur-topped waterproof boots to trudge to the car through the remaining slop from the last snow. My husband and I joined the throng of shoppers. As usual, he headed to the electronics department, and I sought out the bargain clothing aisle. Why, I don’t know. This department store notoriously caters to the under-30 crowd, and what used to fit me when I was 30, wouldn’t even come close now. But the gift card had my name all over it. Fully aware that there was nothing in the Juniors’ Department that I could insert a body part into, I located the Women’s Department. I was well aware that the sizes in this store don’t compare to the One-Size-Almost-Fits-All store where I normally shop. Still, I was hopeful, and selected a pair of stretchy black slacks. When I held up those pants with an elastic band, I realized right away that I’d need a different letter on the tag than I normally wear. In my preschool classroom the letters are alphabetized, but here, the next size after “M” wasn’t “N.” I sort of squeaked when I held up the “L” pants and noticed they were too tiny for my thunder thighs no matter how much Lycra they contained. I silently swore at myself for devouring the doughnuts, capitulating to the Christmas cookies, and gorging on the Godiva. Double digits on a clothing tag is one thing, but double letters would do me in. I wasn’t going to do it.

Leaving the carpeted area and plodding along the tile floor, I passed the teeny-tiny lingerie. I could have bought a set for my granddaughter’s fashion dolls. I turned to walk away and swore some more at my hippo hips and ba-da-boom boobs. I’d look horrible in a swimsuit if I didn’t start right away to amend my ways. I’d walk some of the calories off, I decided. I’d kick it into high gear, really walk up and down every aisle at a good clip. Imagining floating in the turquoise ocean I allowed myself to daydream as I hotfooted it and high-stepped through the crowd. I had visions of sandy beaches in my mind when I actually heard the sound of summer at my feet. Slap-slap-slap, the loud noise of flip-flops. What was it? I stopped. The noise stopped. I walked, and there it was again. Step-slap, step-slap. The flat heel on my left boot had dislodged and was flapping like a flag in a snowstorm. I came to an abrupt stop. Each time I walked people looked at me curiously. I gazed at the floor in search of a rubber band. I considered ripping off a hunk of duct tape, but I knew hidden cameras would capture my antics. Whenever a shopper approached, I stopped in my tracks and feigned interest in Ho-Ho-Ho holiday boxers or whatever hoopla was on end caps.

Shuffle-slide, don’t lift your foot and you’ll be able to make it to the door. I dragged my leg like a lame duck. I scooted to the card aisle and stopped to rest my cramped leg muscle. I perused several greeting cards, opened another one, and jumped when the dang thing blared an old-time rock and roll song at me. A singing card! Now I could say I’d heard everything. I shoved that $5 whiz bang back onto the shelf and shuffled off. I got as far as the office supply area. I looked for an open bag of rubber bands. No such luck. Then I spied the answer to my problem. A hot glue gun in a beautiful shade of ocean blue! I knew exactly what to do. I am notorious for using hot glue in my classroom to mount everything from cardboard to wooden shelves. I reasoned with myself. Head to the bathroom, find an electrical outlet and plug it in. Then, glue your heel back onto your boot. It’s not like you’re stealing. If security personnel follow you inside, tell them you will purchase the opened product at the checkout with your gift card. Flash it in their face. Be cool, don’t be obvious, or arouse suspicion, just reach for the glue gun and go. Now. Do it!

Glue gun in hand, I pivoted to the left, took two steps, and my entire sole dislodged. That rotten hunk of rubber suction-cupped itself to the floor like the no-spill plate on a toddler’s high chair.

I’ve walked out of my shoes before, but never off of them. Too embarrassed to follow through with my plan, I hung up my gun, certain that at any minute I would be apprehended for suspicion of shoplifting, certainly not shopping. I scanned the area. I waited for the grandma in the motorized “hot wheelchair” to speed by, and when the mom, with four demanding kids, screamed past, I refused to yield to traffic and joined right in. I limped along to the front of the store. I hoisted myself on a high stool and parked myself by the aromatic popcorn popper, tempted to spend my hard-earned card one way or the other. I resisted. Instead, I dangled my legs and watched shoppers come and go. My husband finally showed up. When he saw my expression he asked with concern, “What’s wrong?”

I grimaced, “We have to get out of here. Now!” I ducked my head and said, “I just lost my sole.”

He looked stricken. His eyes widened, and he said, “What the heck did you DO that was so bad in Target?”