Ficlet

Dec. 19th, 2011 07:39 pm
lostakasha: (Castiel)
[personal profile] lostakasha
Title: Fractured in the Echo and Sway
Fandom: Supernatural
Rating: G
Character: Claire Novak
Warnings: None
Word Count: 1,023
Summary: The first time she heard the song on the radio, Claire and her mother were pulling into a strip mall parking lot in Hood River.

Notes: This is what happens when I have to polish my shoes. Lyrics and title by Elvis Costello.

Feedback would be lovely.

The first time she heard the song on the radio, Claire and her mother were pulling into a strip mall parking lot in Hood River.

The interior of the ancient Corolla went dim and then swam back into focus; back rigid, jaw set, her mother snapped at the radio knob furiously, just as quickly the audio cracked, loud as lightning, and died.

“Let’s get this over with,” Amelia rasped, shoving the driver’s side door open. Claire knew that look, could read the shock of grief in the stretch of pale skin over her mother’s hollow cheeks, and although she could barely breathe for the pounding in her chest, she followed, obedient, and trailed her into Payless Shoes.

~@~


Every Friday night after supper Claire’s father would shine his dress shoes. As her mother did the dishes, she’d sit at the kitchen table and play with the brushes and chamois cloths in her Grampa Jimmy’s shoeshine kit. Her dad would apply generous coats of Kiwi black polish to a pair of worn Florsheim oxfords, now and then pretending to swipe the bootblack on the tip of her nose.

“Like this,” he’d say softly, gripping a strip of worn felted cloth in long fingers. “Back and forth, back and forth.” Always methodical, he’d buff away years of hard wear: heel, sides, toe.

She remembers the tiny shoe repair shop in Pontiac and the rail-thin Jamaican cobbler with the crooked smile and rheumy eyes, his calloused grip on her hand as she struggled to lift the shoes up to the counter.

“Your father is very smart,” he said, and she can’t recall his name anymore and feels vaguely ashamed that she was scared to talk to him, overwhelmed by the crowded little room and the reek of leather and creosote. “Feet come first.”

“My only carriage,” her father said. She remembers how the cobbler tossed his head back and guffawed.

“Good man, Jimmy. Good man,” he said.

~@~


There was always music in the house, in their lives, despite how different her parents’ tastes in music were. The arguments over style were gentle and kind; fond teasing and feigned snits over Annie Lennox (“your father’s secret English girlfriend”) or Coldplay (“good thing your mom’s pretty because she’s tone deaf”).

Her mom’s taste ruled the roost, so Claire was reared on generous doses of Maroon 5 and Jimmy Eat World.

Alone in the car with her father she learned the wonders of The Police, Eurythmics, and The Clash. Singing along with Sting he sounded wild and alive – oddly foreign. Not at all like he did at Mass. So quiet. So stern.

O lord I am not worthy
That thou shouldst come to me
But speak the words of comfort
My spirit healed shall be.


(She would take her place between them on those late Saturday afternoons at Sacred Heart, gripping her white leather-bound missal, reciting her prayers. Even though she knew every posture in the weekly ritual, her father would guide her, fingertips resting lightly between her shoulder blades, prompting her to sit, to stand, to kneel.)

~@~


For Claire’s eighth Easter, her parents gave her a pair of red leather Mary Janes. They were the same shade as the lining of her new coat, and although her feet swam in them she loved them and held her breath as she shuffled along in them, toes curled, holding tight.

They skipped supper on that Good Friday, as it was a day of fasting and reflection, but at the usual time she found her dad in the kitchen, shoes in hand.

“Go get me your new shoes, bub,” he directed.

“Why? I haven’t even worn them yet,” she remembers countering.

“You never wear good leather shoes without polishing them first, honey. We’ll have a buffing contest.” He waggled a small plastic pouch containing a brand new shine cloth, shoe brush, and round tin of Kiwi clear polish. “You keep this in your closet for now, and one day you’ll have your own shoeshine kit.”

(She doesn’t have it anymore, but then she doesn’t have anything she used to have: not a permanent address, not a pair of real leather shoes, not a father.)

They sat side by side and worked on their shoes, father buffing away years of hard wear, daughter preparing her favorite new shoes: heel, sides, toe.

“That’s it,” her father said, and softly began to sing. “I used to be disgusted, but now I’m just amused. Since their wings got rusted the angels wanna wear my red shoes…”

~@~

The first time she heard the song on the radio, Claire and her mother were pulling into a strip mall parking lot in Hood River.

They were on the run again. Still.

It felt wrong to be stopping in such a lovely place, a place filled with adventurers and rosy-cheeked tourists, with snowcapped peaks and boundless blue skies, but her feet were already too big to fit into her mother’s sneakers, and her hiking boots from seventh grade pinched her toes raw, making it impossible to run.

And they would run, whether in a ‘borrowed’ Toyota or on a city bus or on their feet because they didn’t dare do anything else. But for all they could live without, Claire knew that neither she nor her mother could live without music. It didn’t matter what car they were in; after ignition on came the radio. Soft rock, mostly. Lite hits of the 80s, 90s and today.

Easy listening in a hard world.

The first time she heard the song on the radio, disappointment rushed her like whitewall rapids, hard and relentless. She’d believed that her father was the only one to ever sing the words, that he’d written the song for her.

The first time she heard the song on the radio, her mother nearly ripped the tuning knob off the dash and fled. With no choice but to follow, Claire limped out of the car and into Payless Shoes. Heel. Sides. Toe.

…when they told me 'bout their side of the bargain,
that's when I knew that I could not refuse.
And I won't get any older, now the angels wanna wear my red shoes.


~end~
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