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by Robert Duffer

On the train the other day a boot scuffed my pant leg. It sat down, and with its legs crossed the boot sneered at me, the tip jutting up, the heel a height of condescension. I sat on both hands and got off the train three stops early.
    I have a thing for the female boot.
    It's not leather, either. Mukluks, Uggs, even moon boots with the jeans tucked in sing their siren song and my hands tremble and I begin to sweat. It's not the homoerotic heels, as one past lover had misidentified. Stiletto, kitten heels, stacked, quarter, chunky, even flat-soled, though varying in appeal, ultimately draw me in. It must be the embodiment of contradiction, form-fitting yet vague, rough and durable but sleek and sexy, the lines holding the curves.
    "She's a lucky woman," the woman in the department store said. I quickly replaced the Cole Haan knee high I had been admiring; it shook and knocked over the other boots on display.
    "Don't worry about that." She reset it like it was jewelry. A tickle ran through me. "You had your eye on the Marc Jacobs the other day, right? What size is she?"
    "A six?" She must've seen me the other day, eyeing boots from seam to sole, mistaking me for a husband looking for a price tag. I picked up a suede mid-calf with buckles. "I mean, her sneaker size is a six."
    "Right. Well, boot sizes can vary." She explained designers' tendencies, then schooled me with comparative measurements. She expected a response.
    I left.
    Later in the week it happened again. It sat next to me, linen pants protecting it like a lamp shade. It was brown leather, salt-stained but gorgeous. My hand fiddled with my laces, my bag, then reached over to its instep, my palm melding with the wrinkles of the leather. My body flooded with release, if only for an instant. "Fucking creep," the woman wearing the boot elbowed me in the ear. The crazy part is that I believed, still believe, that it aroused her too.
    I hid out in handbags until the clerk came on for her shift.
    "They're not for my wife," I pleaded with the sales matron. The glop on her eyelashes was palpable.
    "Oh," she finally blinked. "For you?"
    I said nothing.
    "Honey," she winked. "You're not the first."
    We glanced from the fitting area to the counter to the "employees only" door, seeking out the most discreet place.
    "Forget it, I don't care who sees."
    I went to the couch facing the busy entrance to the mall. "So," she started, hands behind her back.
    I interrupted. "The Paul Green pull-ons with the stacked heel and the rounded toe, the dark brown ones."
    "Nice choice," my new friend Lynn cooed. Her excitement might have been for me or the potential commission on a $679 pair of boots. Earlier in the week I had gone to Payless, got a second pair half off, bought some tights and felt nothing. I surmised it was the poor quality of the boot that had left me empty. The week didn't get any better: A student complained to Administration that I was staring at her legs; they coerced me into taking a personal.
    When she returned, Lynn's pants and heels were the only thing visible under all the boxes. "We'll find a fit," she said. It was one of those rare instances where I was grateful for my small stature.
    I slid the nylons over my shaved calf, which seemed too bulbous for the boot. She opened the first box and the boot rose from the tissue paper with the glory of royalty. Right foot first. Sweat ran down my side; we had trouble on the calf, then the ball of my foot felt pinched. It was snug, easy to walk in but the overwhelming sensation was disappointment. Again.
    We sized up and down, we tried suede, we tried felt, Steve Maddens and Coach, flats and hunches. Boxes littered the area and the slight crowd dispersed.
    "I'm sorry," Lynn said, sitting back on her heels. I closed my eyes. She excused herself to help another customer. My hands reached out to the original Paul Greens. I put them on, saw them leading me down the sidewalk, heard them clacking in a tiled hallway, on the train dangling over the aisle, stepping out of a cab door and emerging from the slit of a skirt. Stroking the boots, eyes still closed, I crossed my legs over my erection.
    "You OK?" Lynn stood over me.
    "Please," I insisted on switching positions with her, promising that I would buy something to make it worth her while. I guided boot after boot on her long and narrow feet, imagining the complementary outfit, picturing the ideal scenario.
    The boot called me to look at it: the style, the shape, the texture, a mere suggestion of the thing it covers, wanting my attention then chiding me for noticing it, crossing its legs, cutting me off after it knows it has me. The boot was a classic tease.
    "Whichever pair you want, are yours," I stood, both deflated and relieved. The boot couldn't be sexy on me, could never be sexy by itself.

About the author:
Robert Duffer's work has appeared in No Touching Magazine, Flashquake, Pindeldyboz, the Taj Mahal Review, and others. Publish his novel? Visit him at

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