Allergen Warning: Profanity
A pink palace in a sea of perfectly-manicured green lawn, the large "shoe-shed" at the back of Beverly Meeks’ property was a beauty to behold and a testament to depraved matrimony.
Originally a mid-sized industrial chicken coop, the customized shed now held the footwear trophies of her successful behavior modification experiments on her husband, Dan, throughout the 17 years of their marriage (he remained oblivious).
Yards of unending styles and colors “popped” – metaphorically – as the door opened, along with automated display lights and the hiss of humidity-controlled air, which was closely monitored from her control panel at the house. Each high-end pair additionally had its own special humidity-free box which housed it on the shelf.
Equating shoes with superiority, Bev was very into her hobby.
Dan, disinterested in all things “girly,” had never even been in the shed since he completed renovation on the Pepto Bismol eyesore. As far as he knew, it was a simple (if garish) “she shed.” He would never have suspected that it now contained over 300 pairs of shoes. Bev handled the bills, or he would have at least called into question the $25,000 shoe rider on their homeowner’s policy at some point.
Bev had just garnered her latest round of catalogs from the mailbox when she was accosted by her neighbor, Sandy The Whore (as Bev thought of her). Though she didn’t know Sandy well, Bev suspected all women of wishing they could try on Dan for size. As it happened, Sandy had been trying him on for the past three years.
“Hello, neighbor!” Sandy chirped. “I realize we’ve said Hi a couple of times before, but we’ve never actually met. I’m Sandy, from next door.” She extended a hand and beamed a megawatt smile.
Bev obviously knew who she was and where she lived (since she had been training her cat, Felynx, to pee in Sandy’s yard for months now), and she wanted no part of it. However, her aggression tended towards the clandestine, so she gave the proffered hand a shake. “Bev,” she responded while slyly checking out Sandy’s shoes. Not even close, she thought smugly. She threw in a little kick of her own bejeweled espadrilles as a flaunt-taunt. She didn’t care that she was the only one participating in this bit of peacockery: she was winning.
“Well, this is going to seem a little out of the blue, but Chuck and I are putting together a 4th of July barbecue this weekend, and we’re hoping we can count on you and your husband to join us?”
“Certainly! We’d be delighted!” She spouted, with well-disguised contempt. “What can I bring?”
Sandy visibly loosened. “Well just anything you’d like, actually: we’re providing grilled salmon and roasted corn, so whatever you want to bring would be appreciated, and no pressure of course – if you'd rather just bring yourselves, that's fine, too!”
No chance in hell she’s one-upping me, thought Bev. “Nope, be happy to bring some potato salad; it did win first place at the county fair one year.”
“Great!” exclaimed Sandy The Whore, and they bid adieu.
The Saturday of the party arrived a few days later and found Bev tearing up the shed, just trying to find the perfect pair. She wouldn't have said that would be a problem, but she was beginning to worr… Ah ha! Just the ticket, she interrupted her own doubts, triumphantly pulling a polished acetate box from the shelf. It was the neon pink and purple leopard print pair she ordered last fall at the successful conclusion of her “Thesis:Snack Attack” experiment.
Back in the house, she pulled on a form-fitting black sundress with pink straps, then coiled her silky blonde mane into a messy bun, securing it with a hot pink ribbon to complete the look. She deemed herself “immensely doable” as she admired her look in the mirror. Suck it, Sandy.
Bev had to drag Dan out of his leather recliner in order to get them to the party, and they were already running a few minutes late. It wouldn’t matter: she would get to make a grand entrance, so it all worked out.
Unfortunately, most everyone was already on the deck when they arrived, so no grand entrance: only Sandy was there to greet their arrival. At least it gave Bev time to check out her shoes, which were some boring T-strap sandals that looked like an afterthought from a HaulMart grocery run.
It’s like she isn’t even trying, thought Bev unkindly – but triumphantly, nonetheless.
“Delighted you could both make it!” Sandy chirped, pulling Dan into a hug first. Bev’s eyes narrowed, though she returned the hug that Sandy initiated a moment later. “Please feel free to go on out while I finish up here: Chuck’s already got the fire going, so we’re just about to start grilling.”
Outside, Bev plopped down next to Jill, happy to get off of the 3” heels that made her so clearly superior to the others. Jill was okay though, thought Bev, as Jill handed her a cold one. Jill had lived on the other side of Bev and Dan’s house for the past five years. She seemed a little nutty, but completely harmless, so Bev let her live.
Dan came out shortly thereafter – Bev noticed the delay with ire – and fist-bumped Chuck, shook hands with Frank, and sat down with his own beer.
Frank was a neighbor whose farmland bordered the back fence lines of all of their homes, and he raised turkeys. Apparently, The Turkey Life chose him, because he wouldn’t shut up about it:
“Naw, the females don’t gobble, that’s just the males – them’s the ones with the snood, that long-looking thing on their face,” he was pointing out to the assembled group. “Y'know, at least with the wild ones, people are mistaken that they can’t fly. Anyways, mine are mostly female; you can tell by their poop,” he was saying.
Just at that moment, Sandy brought out the corn; she wrinkled her nose but avoided commenting. Setting the cobs next to Chuck at the grill, she grabbed a seat.
“Female poop's more curly, and males are more J-shaped,” continued Frank. Sandy desperately eyed Chuck. “Now, during breedin’ season…”
“Welp,” said Chuck, cutting him off, “You haven’t convinced me to take up turkey farming, but you’ve certainly worn me out about it!” Polite laughter ran through the group.
Chit-chat resumed until Chuck spoke up again several minutes later: “So, I guess you’re all wondering why we’ve put together this shindig, to which I ask: what do you think about a neighborhood watch group?”
“Watchin’ for what?” asked Frank guilelessly.
“Well, anything! If you see something unusual, you’d let the rest of us know so we could be on guard.”
“We need a group for that?”
Chuck could tell this was going to be an uphill battle. “Look, they have them in all the neighborhoods these days. Anytime there’s specific danger, some of us could pair up to check it out. Strength in numbers! Anyway, think about it.” General nodding ensued as the subject was dropped.
The salmon and corn now grilled to perfection, the party retreated inside the house to dine. Murmurs of conversation encircled the table as dishes were passed and plates scraped clean.
Bev couldn’t help but notice that Sandy had changed out of shoes altogether. I KNEW IT! She thought. Can’t handle the heat, huh, sister?! She internally crowed as she helped herself to her fourth beer of the night. She briefly considered slowing down on the beers, but she was very concerned about what footwear Sandy might trot out next, and it kept her on edge.
She couldn’t help but notice that Sandy was matching her beer-for-beer. What was her angle?!
Bev was broken from her biting reverie by the men exiting the table to set up a fireworks display outside, leaving only the three women. She must have missed something, because Jill was already shuffling a bunch of "Biblical Tarot" cards and talking about needing some dried sage flakes to cleanse the deck. It was all very confusing, but fortunately Jill decided to do Sandy’s reading first. From what Bev could tell, each card had two separate interpretations; she vaguely recalled Jill asking her previously if she’d sit for a reading. Looked like she was going to, after all. Jill was getting started:
Jill drew a card. “Your PAST card is “The Lovers.” This card represents Choice.” Bev sucked in a huff as she chugged the last of her beer. Jill was unrelatedly giggling as she proceeded: “The picture on this card is two hippies just about to "get their groove on," if you know what I mean. I think this might literally be Sonny and Cher in their heyday, except Sonny is inexplicably drawn like he's on steroids. It's sorta creepy.
"Anyway, the user manual says the positive Tarot meanings for this card are both "Happy Marriage" and just "Marriage". Having been there several times, that about sums it up! Negative meanings are "Failure of a Test" (sometimes leading to the one that's "just Marriage") and "Infidelity," which generally leads to no marriage at all. This card pulls no punches.”
Bev was not liking where this was going. Not at all.
Continuing on, Jill said, “The Biblical verse for this is Genesis 2:4-25, but I feel it necessary to point out that The Good Book is rife with so many multiple simultaneous marriages that it's hard to choose just one example of what we in the modern western world like to call bigamy. So I don't think this card is gonna tell us what to do: you're not the boss of us!” she proclaimed snarkily, tossing the card back into the pile.
Sandy tilted back her chair and laughed at Jill’s humor, to which Bev took great offense, because it was Sandy. Coincidentally, however, Sandy happened to notice Bev’s heels while she was tipped back.
“Wow, Bev! I love your shoes!” she said. Bev pulled up short. Was she being serious, or was this code for Fight Me? She said nothing.
At that moment, Frank came in from where the guys were wiring the fireworks display and asked to use the restroom. Sandy pointed him to the half bath just inside the front entrance, then called back behind her, “One sec, Bev, you're gonna love these!” As she left the room, Bev's adrenaline was spiking. Surely she wouldn’t…
Alas, an unsuspecting Sandy did just that. From out of the depths of her closet, she brought forth a pair of Louboutin's famous black heels, 4” high with the trademark do-me red soles. That bitch! As if that wasn’t enough, she brought out four other pairs of the same shoe, in Passion Purple, Glamorous Gold, Raunchy Red, and Sexy Silver.
While Sandy couldn’t possibly have known, a damaged tendon in Bev’s foot made particularly high heels inaccessible for her, and thus sadly not a part of her extensive collection. She maxed out at the 3” size she was already wearing, and how dare Sandy drag out shoes she could never wear?! They were the Holy Grail Franklin Mint Set, and Sandy owned them all.
Immediately, Bev’s lid flipped; she was well past nuclear. Shucking off both her shoes, she threw them at Sandy and dead-nailed her forehead with both shots. Jill shrieked and scrambled towards the patio door, wine and deck in-hand. Sandy threw down, returning fire. Her arsenal was bigger, and soon Bev had been pummeled by the color options of The Master more times than she could count.
Bev lunged out of her chair and leapt on Sandy, clutching two fistfuls of hair. Sandy reeled and sat back down with Bev’s added weight on her, but – unfortunately – she was seated right in front of the potato salad bowl.
With Jill still screaming and cowering in the corner, Sandy uttered a guttural battle cry just at the moment Bev slammed her face into the potato salad and began mashing it around. Fumbling for a shoe within arm’s reach, Sandy found one and began pummeling Bev’s vitriolic maw with it, trying to free herself with her other hand.
In the midst of the action, dishes were knocked off the table and food flung around the room, causing Bev to slip on Frank’s weird macaroni concoction which had come to rest by her feet. Taking the opportunity, Sandy punched down on Bev’s head while they rapid-fired foodstuffs like they were in the Majors.
Bev eventually righted herself, and back Sandy’s head went into the potato salad. At that moment, the men arrived in a flurry from the back yard and managed to wrench the women apart, after verifying that the mess on the floor was from dinner rather than someone’s actual entrails.
Sandy wiped off her face, scowling at Bev. Chuck held Sandy in place and directed Dan to the ice chest so that he could get some ice on Bev’s swollen jaw. It was tricky without letting go of her, but he managed.
The room fell silent except for the panting; the walls and floor looked like the fallout from a frat house food fight.
Suddenly: “YEAOW!” The sickening screech came from just outside, and the five of them forgot their differences and immediately charged out, only to find Felynx in a smoking heap of blacked fur next to a soaked electronic fireworks controller.
“HOLY SHIT!” yelled Chuck. He barely got the words out in time before 27 massive and possibly illegal rockets lit up: a pee-induced electrical short caused the whole system to go off, and because all of the firepower was still laying on its side where the men had been assembling the display, the entire mass headed straight for Dan and Bev’s next door… lo, directly toward Bev’s shoe shed, itself…
“OH MY GOD, NO!” shrieked Bev primally as she watched an explosion of streaks and splintering timber suddenly go up with a concussive “whump”! Patent leather makes an especially good kindling.
By the time the fire department had come and gone hours later, very little remained of Bev's backyard shrine to shoes. “All that work!” she was repeatedly sobbing. Jill patted and rubbed her back as Sandy, standing in her own yard and with potato salad still clinging to her scalp, smirked triumphantly at what she considered karmic justice. Chuck was busy meeting with the sheriff’s deputy and trying to explain his way out of a felony charge, and Dan had simply retreated indoors to his chilly wine cellar, leaving everyone else to sort things out.
Bev gazed over the smoking ruins of her collection. Even the shoes that survived the explosion and subsequent fire were too smoke- and water-damaged to ever wear again. “W...wait…” Bev’s voice hitched through tears, “where are my new boots?”
Jill looked at her quizzically. “What?”
“My new red suede cowgirl boots. My prized possession! They were right on the front shelf. They didn’t burn up or there’d be something left. They’re completely gone.”
“That is weird,” said Jill. “And hey, what ever happened to Frank?”
Having left the party early on a covert personal mission, Frank was humming to himself as he pulled his latest pilfered prize from his weather-beaten knapsack. He had the perfect dress to match the dazzling red suede boots, and he’d knock ‘em dead at his next performance at C. Quinn's Lounge.