Eight Cents a Toe


There were more shoes in his cart than a centipede had feet.

“Dang,  sir,  ” I started, eyeing the blue platform pumps hanging over the push bar, “What are you going to do with all of these shoes?”

“What I do, no business to you,” he snapped in a thick Belizean accent.

You think I had asked if he was wearing women’s underwear. The man pulled a suede pump off the pile. “This one no match. Can I have for half?”


“No sir,” the cashier replied, “Everything is already half off today at Unique, so no more discounts. That’ll be eighty six dollars.”

“Eighty?” he whined. “Robbery.”

I quickly did the math. Mr. Payless was getting over a hundred pairs of shoes for eight bucks, or about eight cents a toe. The cashier continued, “Now will that be cash or credit?”

“Cash.” He handed the bills over the cashier, who gave them a quick scribble  with his counterfeit pen.

“No funny money!” the man grumbled.

As I watched the him fill three large bags with sandals, pumps and sneakers, my mind went crazy trying to think what this guy was going to do with the all of shoes. Maybe he sells them on Maxwell street. Or maybe he runs a dog fighting ring and lets the pit bulls rip the shoes to threads. Or maybe he works with undocumented immigrant families in the community. I had seen clean needle vans in Uptown, maybe this guy had a clean shoe van for the refugees.

I leaned over to the cashier and asked, “What do you think he’s doing with those shoes?”

“He brings them back to his country to sell.”

Sell? That’s nice. And probably for full price. I sure hope he’s including a can of Tenactin with every purchase.”

I didn’t buy any half price shoes that day, just a few collector “State” plates, the kind grandmas purchase while touring the country on a motor coach vacation.


I purchased five states for two and a half bucks. That’s almost as good as the Louisiana Purchase.



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