The dishes rattled on the shelf as a pair of black shoes bounced off the cabinet.
“I HATE MY SHOES!”
A banging bedroom door, again, rattled the dishes.
“Why don’t you buy the child a new pair of shoes?” the father, an aging man, asked his wife.
“Because,” the mother replied. “It’s not the shoes.”
“It’s obvious the child doesn’t like these shoes.” Picking up the small pair, the father studied them a moment. Nothing special, just black patent leather with a small nylon bow.
“It’s not the shoes.” The mother repeated her words before walking into the kitchen.
“What else could it be but the shoes?”
The father glanced over at the now empty hallway as if expecting a reliable answer from his wife. Her wisdom never failed him before. Why was it failing him now? All he had to do was drive the child to the store and buy a new pair. A simple and obvious solution to an otherwise unpredictable situation.
“It is not the shoes,” the mother said again, from inside the kitchen.
Staring out the window, the father grinned at he watched several young children run down the sidewalk. They seemed happy enough. Why wasn’t his daughter happy? Hearing his little girl crying, his heart almost cracked in two. No, the solution was a simple one. Tonight, he would purchase a brand new pair. He thought about his wife’s words, It’s not the shoes.
“It has to be the shoes,” he whispered.
The following afternoon, a pair of bright red shoes flew through the air before bouncing twice on the sofa.
“I HATE MY SHOES!” The child’s voice screeched through him like fingers against a chalkboard.
“I just bought her those shoes last night, and she loved them.” Scratching his head, the father frowned.
“It’s not the shoes.” The mother, stirring the simmering stew, had ignored her daughter’s outburst.
“If it’s not the shoes, then what is it?”
Tilting her head to one side, she replied, “Why don’t you ask her?”
“Maybe I will.” Puffing out his chest, the father knocked twice before opening his daughter’s door.
“May I ask what’s wrong with your new shoes, child?”
The little girl wiped her eyes. “I hate them!”
“Last night you said you loved them? What’s really bothering you?”
The little girl stared at the shoes now held by her father. The sparkling red buckle brought a small smile to her otherwise teary face.
“Jessica said my shoes are stupid and ugly, and so am I.” Wiping her nose with the back of her hand, she sighed.
“And who is Jessica?”
“A mean girl on the bus.”
“Do you really hate these shoes?”
The child thought for a moment. “No…”
“I see.” He paused before adding. “Does Jessica have pretty black or red shoes?”
“Is Jessica nice to you?”
“Then is Jessica worth listening to?”
The child stared up at her father. Holding back a chuckle, he grinned. Fine lines running down her face, along with puffy eyes and lips, radiated an angelic haze that warmed his heart. His love and devotion for her matched by no other. It was his job to protect her. To comfort her.
“Do you like these shoes?”
Nodding, she replied, “Yes.”
“It’s not the shoes, then.”