The Boy in the Box – Part II

Mrs. Quigley waddled in just as the school bell rang. My teeth hurt. I don’t know if it was the bell or the waddle. But something was different that morning. Looking around the room, something wasn’t right, but I couldn’t identify it. Then Mrs. Quigley explained.

“Children, Billy Almquist will be absent from school for a while. He will be keeping up with his schoolwork from home and attending class through this special electronic intercom system.” She pointed to a gray box about the size of a toaster, sitting on a desk in the front row. She paused while the rest of us tried to figure out what she was talking about. “Say good morning to the class, Billy.”

A tiny, tinny voice sounded through the little box. “Good morning.”

Wiggly Quigley then turned to us and said, “Say good morning to Billy, class.” We all dutifully but tentatively chanted good morning to the invisible boy.

As I sat there that morning, I felt terrible because I couldn’t remember what Billy Almquist looked like. Based on my last name, I sat in the last row on the far left side of the room. Billy’s desk and the speaker that stood in for him were in the front row on the far right. It’s strange that you can look at a group of objects for a long time and think you know them all. Then one of those objects—in this case a boy—disappears and it’s as if it never existed. That’s how it was with Billy. It almost didn’t matter that he’d been replaced by a box. I remembered he was small and quiet, but for the life of me, I couldn’t picture his face.

I felt wicked bad.

For the rest of the day, I stared at that box trying to conjure up an image of Billy, but it wouldn’t come to me. He was just a box now, not a boy. My inattention in class wasn’t unusual. Mrs. Quigley never called on me because I never knew the answers. It’s to her credit, I suppose, that she had it in her power to embarrass me at will and she never did. My failures were known only to her, me, and (once a term) my parents.

That night I rummaged through my keepsake box. It was a shoebox from a pair of Oxfords my father bought for his “good shoes”. He wore them only to weddings and funerals, in place of the penny loafers he usually wore. None of the boxes my shoes came in had nearly enough room for my many childhood mementos. This in spite of my relatively short time to collect them. (A few years later, as those souvenirs multiplied, I would upgrade to a box that had held reams of mimeograph paper.)

In that box I found our class photo taken earlier in the year. Fortunately the pictures, all smaller than postage stamps, were laid out in the same order as the desks in our room. My eyes scanned up and down the rows of uncomfortable looking kids. Decked out in clothing and expressions we would never wear in class, we all looked as unnatural as aliens.

At the back of the class was Freddie Bruce. Two first names but the heartthrob of third grade. I’d had a crush on him as long as I could remember. I imagined him singing along with Jan and Dean, “Li-Li-Li-Li-Li-Linda” and thinking of me. To my dismay, he was usually thinking of ratfink Karen. At least I assume he was because he was always staring at her. Even in the class picture, it looked as if his eyes strayed slightly in her direction.

But I was looking for Billy. In the top right space where the now empty desk sat, there he was: Billy Almquist. Of course! Short blond hair with a cowlick that shot up like a sheet of water hitting a seawall. A bow tie that was too small for his neck and teeth that were too big for his mouth. His smile was too wide to be genuine. (The school photographer that year was a stitch and he got all us kids to make goofy smiles such as we’d never worn before nor would again.)

The guilt of not remembering Billy’s face was lost in the guilt I felt at not figuring out he was missing from class in the first place. I wondered—I still do wonder—if I would leave such a faint impression if I were to disappear one day.

For the rest of that week, in the moments before class began, I sat alone with Billy in the room, strangely self-conscious. I’d occasionally hear noise, even voices, coming through the speaker. One voice sounded like it must have been his mother. Her voice sounded hoarse and hesitant. I couldn’t make out anything she said, though. By Friday, I was curious enough to sit near the box and listen more closely. I’d always scoot back to my seat if I ever heard anyone coming.

All that weekend, I could think about nothing but Billy Almquist. What was he like? What sickness did he have that would keep him out of school so long he needed to be present as a speaker and microphone? How long would he be out? Perhaps he’d miss the rest of the year; there was only a little more than a month left. The idea of Billy so consumed me that when the ice cream truck or “the whip” ride stopped in my neighborhood, I didn’t even leave the house. My mother started to think maybe I was sick. Would she consider getting a speaker at school for me?

Was my fascination with Billy motivated by pity or compassion? I didn’t even know the difference between the two back then. I’m still not entirely sure of it. Maybe it was simple curiosity. Whatever it was, I was anxious for Monday to arrive. It was the first time that had ever happened. And it would never happen again throughout my shaky scholastic career.

I made a complete and detailed plan to get to class extra early and make contact with Billy through the speaker. I ached to get to know him.

Monday’s dawn found me up and dressed in my best but still scruffy jumper, as if I were going to meet Freddie Bruce at the ice cream stand rather than to face another week at school. To my mother, this was further evidence that I was indeed ill. She went so far as to try to take my temperature. Before she had a chance to slip that glass tube in my mouth—I had a deadly fear I’d bite down on it, cutting my mouth up with the shards of glass, mercury dripping from my chin like some monster from “The Outer Limits”—I shot out the screen door so fast, I never heard it slam behind me.

Looking back, it’s hard to believe how far I walked to school. I would never let my child walk alone for the half mile I traveled every day. But on that day, I was in such a hurry I skipped most of the way. Why? Was I developing a crush on a box?

I got to the school before most of the staff. If they’d seen me, they might have questioned my presence at such an early hour. The few that were there were preoccupied with preparations for the day and paid me no mind.

Settling in at the desk where the speaker sat, I heard nothing. Pressing my ear against it, there was still no sound. Was Billy OK? A brief inspection of the box revealed the problem. The sound was off. That wasn’t part of my plan. My hand shook as I reached out to turn the knob to the on position. The loud click it made startled me, but not nearly as much as did the voice that came from the box.

“Is someone there?”

It was Billy’s voice. Although I’d planned to try to speak to him that morning, it wasn’t supposed to happen this way. I wanted to initiate contact. My mouth hung open as I stared at the steel box.

Some rustling. Then his voice, “Has class started early?”

I couldn’t wait. “Hi, Billy.”


[←Part I can be found here.][Part III can be found here. →]

The Boy in the Box

[This is the first episode of a multi-part post that will comprise a short story I wrote about a year and a half ago. It meant a lot to me at the time because it captures an era of history and, more specifically, of my life that is forever gone, except in faded recollections. If you are a child of the 60’s as I am, I hope some of it rings true and awakens pleasant memories. If not, accept it as a snapshot of a more innocent and less technological time.

Additionally, it has come to mean even more to me since the time I wrote it. I’ll explain why after the final post in the series. How long that series will be remains as much a mystery to me as it is to you.]

The Boy in the Box

Part I

The classroom was empty that Monday spring morning, as it always was when I got there. My badly-worn, too-small black patent leather shoes clicked on the bare vinyl floor in time with the oversized clock that ticked loudly on the wall.

I always tried to be the first one in class. I liked to watch other people enter almost as much as I hated others watching me. I tended to slouch. There was no way I’d be in the running for the 1963 Benjamin Thompson Elementary School 3rd Grade Good Posture Award. That ratfink Karen won the girls’ prize every year even though she picked her nose when no one was looking. No one except me.

Besides being a sloucher, I wasn’t a very good student. And I talked to myself a lot. Still do. When Mrs. Quigley wrote on the blackboard with her back to us and she heard talking, she didn’t know it was usually me. Without ever turning to face us, she always said the same thing. “I hear talking back there. I know no one is talking in class because that’s against my rules. I can only assume you’re talking to yourself. You know what they say about people who talk to themselves? They’re either crazy or they have money in the bank. Now, I know none of you has money in the bank, so…”

She probably thought the giggling she heard was the class reacting to her terribly clever remark. Actually, we were laughing at her big behind swinging back and forth in her flowery dress as she scratched the chalk across the blackboard. Behind her back—as we so often were—we called her “wiggly Quigley”.

She was right, though. I was talking to myself and I didn’t have money in the bank. Maybe I was crazy. But do crazy people know they’re crazy? It never occurred to me that simply having the presence of mind to consider my mental state was proof enough of my sanity.

Or was it?

Sitting in that third grade classroom, I listened to the chaos in the hall where confused and half-crazed kids raced to their rooms. Unlike me, most delayed their entrance as long as possible. Arriving, they wedged themselves into tiny chairs that were permanently attached to equally small desks. The legs of the chair-desks made jarring, unearthly sounds beneath us as they skidded across the floor, as they did whenever careless urchins threw themselves into their seats. Textbooks and workbooks were stuffed into all our desks. My desk also contained crushed copies of every test I’d taken all year. I never brought them home to my parents, as I was supposed to. I was in no hurry to reveal my lack of academic progress to them and they never asked. They’d find out later when my report card came home. If it came home.

My mind wandered back to my school day preparations at home. Every morning I closed my eyes and randomly selected one record from the little robin’s-egg-blue vinyl-covered cardboard box that contained my collection of 45’s. This morning it was Leslie Gore singing “It’s My Party”. It wouldn’t have been my first choice. It depressed me when it came out and it depressed me that morning. (Fortunately, Leslie came out with her revenge just a few months later in “Judy’s Turn to Cry” or I might have given up on romance for life.) No, I was hoping for something a little lighter, like “Tie Me Kangaroo Down” or some Beach Boys surfing tune, but fate would have none of that.

The song turned out to be appropriate; it was a depressing day. Rain fell like cats and dogs and ran down the school’s pastel-paneled exterior walls. (The building was only five years old but it already felt and looked out of date and in need of replacement.) There was a spelling quiz. I lost a barrette. I forgot my lunchbox.

And it was the first day Billy Almquist was absent.

[Part II can be found here. →]


This is YALMP: Yet Another Lazy Man’s Post. Sometimes, you do what you must to meet deadlines, even self-imposed ones. Case in point, this post.

First, a funny email header I saw:


Hard to believe there’s room for any more clowns in corporate America.

Second, this being a writing blog, here’s a short story I wrote several years ago. I already published it in my other blog, Limping in the Light, before this blog was begun. Rather than copy it into this space, here are three links, each to a part of the story.

6 Hours

Part one

Part two

Part three

Enjoy! And Merry Christmas!

The Shoeshine (Part 3)

[The conclusion of a Haitian shoeshine’s story, begun here and continued in the previous post. Based on a minor character introduced in my book, A Slippery Land.]

The long line of customers at the mission was a mixed blessing. He was running so late, he decided to skip his usual next stop, Toussaint L’Ouverture Airport. No one would miss him there, where mobs swarmed the arriving passengers, grabbing luggage and asking for payment in return, offering rides on tap-taps, or simply begging for American dollars from any blans emerging from the sweltering terminal. Having been at this most of their lives, they knew the blans were probably charity workers already in a giving spirit. The shoeshine usually had to battle those beggars for position. He didn’t hold them a grudge knowing he was only one shoeshine box away from joining them. He didn’t need the reminder.

Cité Soleil

Cité Soleil

Proceeding to his next stop, he made sure to cut a wide swath around his old neighborhood of Cité Soleil. Although he’d arrived at an uneasy peace in his own heart regarding his old life there, he knew of others in that slum who would not be inclined to extend the same grace to him. He wasn’t proud of the life he’d led there or the things he’d done, some of which would follow him to his grave. While he was embroiled in those transgressions, he’d rationalized away his misdeeds, telling himself that he only did what he needed to do to survive and get out of the slum. He did get out of the slum, to be sure, but Cité Soleil was never completely out of him.

His next stop was part of his penance. A home had been established for a group of elderly men and women who had somehow survived the ravages of life in Haiti—the storms, the violence, and the final insult: the earthquake. His own actions had prevented some young men from ever having the chance to reach that age. Any of the residents who brought shoes to him would have them shined at no charge.

The old men whose shoes he shined knew that what he did was not free. A price had already been paid. They sensed in him the same turmoil they recognized in themselves. They had been young, too. A few had served as enforcers for the Duvaliers. Some younger residents were former activists in Fanmi Lavalas. On the streets years ago, they might have battled one another to the death. Age had allayed the differences weapons could not. The ideals of youth died long before their own bodies did.

The shoeshine had no political affiliations or inclinations. With the disappearance of his family, he’d become a one-man party with no representation in government he was aware of. He’d seen enough elections to prevent him putting any faith in that process.

The last shoe buffed to a sheen rarely seen on any other object in Haiti, he bade ovwa to the old men.

His last hope for customers was outside the church. A few harried congregants always neglected to shine their shoes. Seeing the gleam of other’s footwear would drive them to the shoeshine in a desperate attempt to prepare their outfits for an appearance before God, even if their souls still harbored pain and guilt. Something could be done about the shoes, at least.

The man wasn’t comfortable around the church. He kept as great a distance from the building as possible without endangering his business. He still believed in God, but his regard for His servants crumbled when his wife fell under the seductive power of the pastor. Other than tending the shoes of the people entering the building, he’d had nothing to do with the church since then.

A cemetery in the Haitian countryside.

          A cemetery in the Haitian countryside.

A stop at the church was always emotionally draining for him. He needed to rest before he returned home. On the way was a cemetery where he knew he could find quiet. He settled on a stone, hoping it didn’t mark the finally resting place of some poor soul. In his box he found the little treats the kids at the mission house had left him. He took one out and examined it. The colors on the packaging alone mesmerized him. What kind of country had these colorful goods in such quantity that mere children were giving them away? America was a dream. He knew distant relatives who had moved there. He tried to imagine their lives in a place where food was so abundant and opportunity lurked everywhere. How much better his life might be in such an environment, he couldn’t even begin to imagine.

To distract himself from such dreams, which tended to induce more despair than hope, he scanned the area where he sat. Each time he encountered the large, impressive monuments in the cemetery, he was amazed. Ornate wrought iron designs adorned intricately poured concrete structures. Many dwarfed his own home. It made him laugh to himself to think he might have to die to improve his living conditions.

Nothing was new under the Haitian sun. After consuming half the gritty, bland American bar, he wrapped the rest up and stuffed it back into his box. He rose and turned his back on the cemetery, ready to make his way home. In his imagination, his wife and son awaited him.

The author in Cité Soleil.

The author in Cité Soleil.

The Shoeshine (Part 2)

[A Haitian shoeshines story, continued from the previous post.]


His first stop after roaming along his own street was the orphanage, not because it was a likely spot to find customers, but simply because it was the nearest large building. Occasionally, the people who owned the orphanage would be there. Clean shoes lent them an air of credibility, or so they felt.

The shoeshine had come to know many of the children in the orphanage over the years. He’d even met some of their parents, whose inability to feed and house them had forced them to turn their little ones over to the care of this institution. The children were fed and housed, but whether they were truly cared for was another question, the answer to which saddened him.

He wondered how he would have handled the situation if his son had survived the quake but the boy’s mother had still perished. Could he have given up the only child he would ever have? Against his will, he had anyway. The memory of the little boy was so vivid, he swore he felt the child’s breath whenever a stealth breeze caught him by surprise. The man had never shed a tear for the boy since he died, although he remembered crying over him constantly while he was still with him. He cried as the boy slept, when he played, and when he sat on the roof of their home staring over the city, never knowing what thoughts passed through the child’s mind. Were they the same as his own? Where were those thoughts now?

No customers emerged from the orphanage so the shoeshine moved on.

His hopes for a good return from the mission house were high. He’d seen evidence of a team of young people from the US staying there. The Americans always carried plenty of cash. While he only charged his fellow Haitians a few gourdes, he could easily ask an American dollar for each pair of shoes from the blans. It was rare that their shoes actually needed cleaning, packed away as they had been in luggage few Haitians could afford. It was an unspoken agreement of a metaphysical transaction. They would give up what to them was worthless to clean not their footwear but their consciences.

His English was limited to the few expressions required to accomplish the deal. “One dollar.” “Two shoes.” “Thank you.” Few of the team members made an effort to expand communications, so he appreciated all that much more the ones who did. They would approach him with smiles and ask in their American accents, “Konben?” A few would actually try to bargain with him. While he went along with the game and didn’t begrudge them their amusement, it annoyed him all the same.

The teens had come to help build a school. He appreciated the Americans’ misguided attempts at assistance, but he’d known more than one construction worker who had lost their jobs to visiting American kids. Despite the fact that one Haitian worker could accomplish as much in an hour as a team of American youths could do in a day, they kept coming like some invading force, taking opportunity captive.

The house was alive with activity. Through the screened windows, the shoeshine saw the teens scurrying back and forth, exhibiting the same degree of purpose as that shown by the ants that crisscrossed the walls of the building with no apparent goal.

One white face glanced out from a hole in a wall and saw him. A young girl who couldn’t have been more than fifteen approached him. She held out a bag in her hand. With a shining smile, she told him, “Kado.” A conflict of fear and gratitude contorted his face as he took the gift. Looking inside, he saw a brand new tin of black polish. His smile of more gaps than teeth was sincere, but he couldn’t help thinking of the man he usually bought his polish from. This was one less bit of income his friend would receive. He felt bad, but wasn’t about to turn down this meager windfall.

Most of the kids just left their shoes on the steps with a dollar in one of them. A couple had bits of food, strange, colorfully wrapped bars of nuts and grains flecked with bits of chocolate. He would make the most of those scraps. One bar could be made to last for two meals if money or food were scarce, as they often were. There was no telling when the next team might arrive carrying more free goods.

To be continued…

The Night I Woke Up (Part 3)

[They say (correctly) that writing is rewriting. The current exercise is reinforcing that precept in a most humbling manner as I dash off this stream-of-consciousness true story from my youth. I’m already inclined to change much of it, including the title, were I given the chance. But I don’t have the chance. That’s part of the excitement of this challenge. What I write is what you and I get, for better or worse. So now we continue into the unknown and unchanged…

When last we saw our intrepid prepubescent protagonist (me), he was standing alone, “shaking the dew off the lily” (as Donald Miller so colorfully put it)  in a bright white box in the middle of the dark, unfriendly world of Florida swampland. As we left him, he was hearing the sound of footsteps coming from outside the bathroom window.]

Without question, what I was hearing were footsteps. There was no mistaking the rhythmic sounds of the crunching of yard debris underfoot. Worse, those sounds were most assuredly coming from outside. The house itself was completely devoid of movement and sound. As exposed as I was, I didn’t want to so much as twitch. But I had to. Those steps were getting louder and, by an inference even my underdeveloped mind could make, closer.

Crunch… crunch… crunch…

To minimize movement and draw less attention to myself, I dropped straight to the soiled tile floor in front of the toilet. The footsteps, seemingly drawn inexorably to the only light within a quarter mile or so – the bathroom window through which I was on display for all to see – continued without changing stride. Only the volume changed, increasing as the footfalls drew nearer.

Crunch… crunch… crunch…

My only hope was that I hadn’t been seen yet. Crouching on the floor in plain sight of the window above the bathtub on the opposite side of the room, I wouldn’t be out of view for long. The footsteps not only continued, they were without question following a beeline path to the little aquarium of light in which I dwelt. I’d soon be on display once more.

Crunch… crunch… crunch…

I pondered my next move. I could simply reach up, open the door, and sneak back to the relative safety of my guest bed. In retrospect, that might very well have been the prudent choice. Instead, pursuing a strategy that is best filed under the heading of, “It seemed like a good idea at the time,” I slunk across the floor and into the bathtub. By cowering there, I would be out of the line of sight of anyone or anything looking in that window, which was now directly above me.

Crunch… crunch… crunch…

There I sat trying to merge with the cast iron of the tub. The footsteps continued relentlessly and mercilessly toward that window, as if whatever was making them sensed my presence there. They grew louder and louder and closer and closer until at last …crunch… they ceased. They could go no further. They had reached the exterior side of the wall at which I crouched.

I was separated by a few inches of flimsy shingles and sheathing from something that for unknown reasons had emerged from the murky blackness behind my aunt’s house and pounded a path dead straight toward the room in which I was exposed. Shivering with fear, I listened. The living sounds of night were gone, the insects possibly as frightened as I was.

I heard nothing… except the labored breathing coming through the open window a couple of feet above my head.

To be continued…


Frog Pond Skater

This week is all trivia, all the time. Thus, my time for writing is severely constricted. To save time, I’m reposting something that first appeared on my other blog nearly five years ago.

This short story was written several more years before I first posted it.  I’ll give the same disclaimer I did then: If you think it stinks, we can all pretend I’ve become a better writer since.

The story is called “Frog Pond Skater”.


A Childe Hassam sunset descended upon Boston Common, the surrounding towers outlined in a golden haze.  She approached the skating rink – already overflowing with rosy-cheeked children struggling to stay erect while socially-challenged teens fell in each other’s paths – with a poise that was well studied but forced, already wearing thin even at her young age.  She seemed to be chased through the gate, leaving her three dollars with the attendant and barely acknowledging the greeting that came from within the badly weathered booth.

Some of the youngest skaters saw her arrival and chirped with glee in anticipation.  Not a few muffled laughs were also mixed in but if she heard them, she didn’t let on.  Her fingers laced her skates with the deftness and care of a surgeon.  She left her shoes at the rink’s gate.  Though they would be unattended, she never gave another thought to their safety.  There was no tentative step as her left skate hit the ice.  Where others tiptoed to a safe starting place, her first motion was a perfect glide already in synch with the whirlpool of skaters that had begun at ten that morning and would continue unceasing but endlessly changing for several more hours.

She was as different from the rest of the skaters as she was a mystery to them.  What was this statuesque beauty with the perfect form and designer outfit doing amongst the tourists and assorted riffraff of the city?  Her subtly muscular body moved with the grace of light.  Those who were not in awe of her were trying to suppress an envy that was without pity.  In vain, women did their best to distract the attentions of their partners back to themselves.

The girl, oblivious to the stares and glares of the onlookers, made a couple of turns around the rink before, now fully warmed up, she headed for the eye of the skating storm.  Many of the children stopped their revolutions as well; this was the time they had been waiting for.

The girl paused in the center for a moment as if she didn’t wish to continue.  There seemed to be a struggle within her.  With a deep sigh of resignation, she threw her arms out and with a single move began a slow spin that increased in speed as she pulled her arms closer to her body.  A voice in her head screamed at her to go faster.  She must go faster if she was to get it right and faster she went.  Still, the axis of her spin never wavered and it seemed as if she was rooted to a single molecule of the ice.

The children, some of whom witnessed this sight every week, were no less impressed by it, their mouths open in naive adoration.  They were at least as amazed that she didn’t simply fly away like a missile or drill straight through the thin veneer of ice and the concrete slab beneath it, so fast was her turning.

She didn’t slow down as she gracefully raised and lowered her hands in perfect time.  Finally she threw her head back and extended her arms, reducing her speed to the point where her facial expression could once more be seen.  She wore the same joyless countenance that had clouded her face since she had arrived.  Most who observed it discounted it as nothing more than professional smugness, but if any took the time to look beneath the facade, her pain was evident.

The skater returned to the rotating mass of visitors, blending in as best she could.  Some of the children followed her, hoping to glean some of her magic.  They could see the muscles in her legs ripple under her tight leggings belying the ease with which she glided effortlessly over the ice.  Her movements were as smooth as the ice itself had been when it was first laid down, before it had been carved so violently by the hundreds of skaters who left their marks with their blades, hands, knees, and bottoms.  If it had occurred to her, she might have winced at the irony of this, if she considered how her life had once shined but was now also scarred, though much more permanently.

As if the thought itself threatened to invade her mind, she distracted herself by heading back to the rink’s center.  This time she didn’t hesitate before spreading her legs, toes pointing outward, leaning into the large circle she traced in the ice.  She leaned so far that the children thought that surely her defiance of the law of gravity would bring her face down onto the frozen surface.  When she straightened up, leaned back, and reversed the circle, the children sighed with relief.  Although they had seen her perform the maneuver many times, they watched her like they watched a much-loved movie, clinging to the suspense in spite of the fact that they knew the ending was a happy one.

The skater left the center stage as quickly and easily as she had entered it.  She may have been contemplating her next move or she may not have been thinking at all, but she never saw the teenage boy who was flailing his arms trying to keep from stumbling as he cut across the steady flow of skaters in the perpetual circle.

The boy was actually moving backward when he slammed into her broadside with his full weight.  Her legs came out completely from beneath her as she fell to her right.  She never had a chance to put her arms out to stop the fall and the side of her face hit the wooden fence that enclosed the rink.  The circle’s momentum never slowed.  A few of the people saw the girl fall but an hour didn’t pass at the Frog Pond without several such spills and they paid little attention.  The children were stunned.  The girl herself was stunned.  She hadn’t felt the cold of the ice on her skin in many years.  She sat for a long time as the pain began to overcome the initial shock.  She put her finger to her cheekbone and felt her warm blood as it slowly dripped down her face, mingling with the tear that was falling from her eye.  She had nothing to wipe her face with and she was not inclined to do so anyway.  Her body shuddered once and she lifted herself to her feet with great effort.

As she made her way to the exit, one little girl watched her slow progress and noiseless tears fell freely from the eyes that only seconds before were wide with wonder and delight.  The skater unlaced her skates with far less aplomb than she had tied them.  She put her shoes back on and as she walked slowly away, she never gave another thought to the safety of her skates, left unattended at the gate.