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"Restless Feet" by Suzanne Nielsen

Suzanne lives in Minnesota.  She writes the "Cool Dead People" column at


© 2005 Suzanne Nielsen


"Restless 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 soldier.

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.








All work is copyrighted property of Suzanne Nielsen.






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