by Andrew Pepper
It was a typical day in the office, a "Casual Friday." A bunch of us were standing
around, talking about some work-related thing. I don't remember what it was. It hardly matters.
What I do remember, of course, is that, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that Norman's shoes
were looking at me.
Suddenly the voices of my colleagues became a meaningless drone. I stood transfixed. The large yellow eyes on Norman's shoes were regarding me with an unblinking stare. I shifted my feet nervously. I felt as if the shoes could read all my innermost thoughts, and were privy to my deepest secrets.
"Andrew? Andy?" The voice of my boss caused me to snap to attention. I had to admit that I had lost track of the conversation, but I was too disoriented to make up an excuse. I said lamely, "I'm sorry. It's just that Norman's shoes were staring at me."
For a brief moment, I hoped that everybody would look down at Norman's shoes, and see what I saw. Instead, I received three blank stares. My boss cleared his throat, and the conversation continued. I resolved not to look at the ground again, and thereby resumed my career.
Months passed. Perhaps even a year. Every once in a while, I would glance at Norman's feet on a Friday, to see if he was wearing The Shoes. When I would make eye contact with The Shoes, I would quickly look away. I never mentioned them to anybody. I was afraid that nobody else was able to see what I could see, and that I was, perhaps, insane.
Then, one Friday, a few of us were talking about the difficulties of dressing for Casual Fridays. Blue jeans were, for some reason, prohibited. Like many office workers across the nation, we were confounded by the one thing lacking in our wardrobes -- in-between clothes. Nicer than weekend ware, but more casual than our Monday through Thursday uniforms. Some people just chose to ignore Casual Fridays. I disclosed that I had a special pair of pants that I wore every Friday. To my surprise, I was not mocked or jeered. Emboldened, I then mentioned the shoes that Norman wore on Fridays. The shoes that bore into your soul.
When I finished my description, everyone was beside themselves with anticipation. We charged, en masse, to Norman's cubicle. But it was late in the day, and Norman was gone! And he took his shoes with him! I would have to wait another seven days to find out if anybody else was able to see the eyes in Norman's shoes.
The days crept slowly by. By the time Friday came around again, I was hoping that nobody remembered my revelation of the previous week. If Norman's shoes were, in fact, a figment of my fevered imagination, I decided I didn't want to know about it. But Friday morning found everyone tingling with excitement. With dread, I led my little entourage over to Norman's cubicle.
Norman, to say the least, was stunned by the sudden mob wanting to see his shoes. He spun around in his chair, and The Shoes were revealed! To my left, I heard a muffled sob. Then, behind me, an ear-splitting scream of anguish. Due to the chaos that erupted around me, I took little satisfaction in knowing that others were able to see, and be seen by, Norman's shoes.
The office was engulfed by about two minutes of uncontrolled frenzy. Norman, deep in the thrall of The Shoes, sat oblivious to the carnage around him. After what seemed an eternity, he spun his chair, turned his back, and continued working at his computer.
The panic subsided, but the damage was done. Three people had to be carted off in straightjackets, never to be heard from again. One unfortunate person had tried to gouge our her own eyes, using her thumbs. She later explained that, when she saw Norman's shoes looking into her soul, she felt that she wanted to blind herself, so that she never would have to see any such thing ever again.
Luckily, not everybody was affected so dramatically. I suppose it takes a certain amount of fortitude to be able to look Norman's shoes in the eye. When you look into Norman's shoes, you're being tested somehow. Those who are worthy are shaken, but essentially unharmed. Others, though, are driven to the brink of insanity, or beyond. What did they see when they looked at The Shoes? I don't know. I don't want to know.