900 soldiers

He’s like 5 feet tall, my father. Funny how he used to look like a giant to me. At four years old, he was my best friend. When he could, he’d take me swimming and buy me clothes while he did his rounds as a bus driver on them dirt roads, from Santa Ana to Sonsonate.

He’d let me dress him up and put make-up on him, and if he wasn’t paying attention I’d pierce his ear with one of mom’s gold earrings.

Most of his history is a mystery to me, as he’s quite the reserved man when he ain’t dancing.

My father’s father wasn’t a very kind man; typical of his generation, harshly brazened, womanizer and thief.

He made my father go to school barefoot and shredded him with whips for his kid mistakes. So of course, as a grown man, my father became obsessed with shoes. He’s a size 8 ½, his foot is wide.

So when this man next to me asks what my father would like for Christmas, it’s shoes. It’s always shoes.

So we buy cheap wrapping paper, and for the first time ever I decide to wrap their presents instead of handing it to them in the bag they came in. We get him comfy slippers from Target cause he’s older now and all he wears nowadays are comfy things. But he looks less than pleased, his closet is full of expensive boots, tennis shoes, slippers, and penny loafers. But he puts them on and realizes that, this might not be so bad after all.

I can hear his old feet dragging on the cold floor while I’m watching Saturday Night Fever. He sits next to me and smiles at Tony on the television, in his youth he was Tony. Danced like Tony. Dressed like Tony, and had odd jobs like Tony.

“I worked at a shoe store, where the owner trusted me with his shoe shop and sent me on long road trips to some of his richer clients. I’d always say yes to a job, no matter how tired I was or what plans I had that night. I always said yes to a job. So because I had showed to be a hard worker, he sent me off to one of the hardest jobs I’ve had. He told me to go to a military station on some remote part of the mountains and measure the feet of 900 soldiers. And I did. I measured all of their feet and brought back the results, and made charts of how many of each size, and went back to deliver them when they came. I always said yes to a job. Always.”

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