feet lead to restless minds," Mr. Hall tells our class, pointing to
Evelyn Wells who, in second grade, spends afternoons in front of our class
with Merriam Webster's Dictionary weighing down her small, arched feet.
Evelyn reads comic books and her hero is a mouse. While reading them, she
swings her legs and shakes her feet, almost like she's trying to break
into the panels that hold her stories. Mr. Hall tells us that we need to
let go of our fantasy worlds; "Are you mice, or are you men?" he asks.
That's a silly question; no one here is a man.
I watch Evelyn from the front row of where I sit. She stares over me,
never moving except to blink, which she does only seven times a minute. I
think I can hear tiny bones underneath the huge pile of words snapping
like Pixie Sticks in between classroom snickers. Her toes must be webbing
under the pressure, or worse, her feet are flattening like Julian
Divacio's, our neighbor, who, in spite of being a man, disqualified as a
It is 1967; at home Mama takes a pill every day to prevent another baby
from bursting through. She has five of us that are restless, while dad
comes and goes like most. Today I come home and tell mama that Evelyn
Wells spends afternoons covered in books, and she says from behind her
cover, "You could learn something from Miss Evelyn." I look at the
book Mama's reading, In Cold Blood, and I think of Evelyn's
feet turning cold underneath the weight of words everyday. What happens
when blood turns cold?
I go to the basement and grab all of Mama's books off the shelf, tie
them together with my jump rope and balance them on my feet as I sit
facing the photos of my parent's wedding. Dad's shoes glare floppy,
shiny and new. I think of the mouse. Mama's are hidden underneath white
chiffon and layers of lace. Their faces stare over me, and their eyes
never blink. I try to sit still for what seems as long as Evelyn's
afternoons in front of us all, counting the seconds and my blinks. My eyes
weigh down with water, and my feet feel numb. I am practicing to be a
soldier for Mr. Hall's army.
The next day after class I ask Evelyn if her feet are numb, if the act of
staring makes things seem smaller than what they are, like when you look
in the rearview mirror of your mama's car at what's behind you. I
think Evelyn might learn something from me. I tell her that Merriam
Webster defines Mickey Mouse as, "insignificant, lacking importance,
annoying petty." She looks me in the eye for the very first time, a
cold, bloodless look before brushing past me. Then her restless feet, like
weapons, lead her out of the room embracing her comic books, only to
reenter her world of fantasy where mice lead men.
work is copyrighted property of Suzanne Nielsen.