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By Otis Twelve

The Shoe Horn Blows at Midnight

April 23rd, 2023

It seems more and more common of late that random thoughts will pop into my head post-midnight without reason or warning.

Thus, I often find myself awake during prime sleeping hours—N.B. by my definition prime sleeping hours” are any hour that includes darkness, clouds, eclipses, power failures, or windows covered with heavy black velvet drapes.  Now, when these invaders arrive, Im not agitated awake, Im just vaguely awake.  Im half-thinking awake. Wandering around the rarely used brain cells under my mastoids awake. 

I am bemusedly wondering about this, that, or the other random thing that has appeared unbidden among my cranial neurons and pushed rudely to the front of the line in one cortex or another, so that my mind suddenly switches from meandering around a pleasant REM state that includes Halle Berry, the Super Bowl, and chocolate cake donuts to a half-conscious state notable for the intrusive power of the mildly obsessive trivial detritus of my misspent life.

For instance, just the other night without warning or preface, it occurred to me:

I havent seen a shoe horn in decades. 

Where did they all go? Have they closed all the shoe horn factories? Is there a small town in the Rust Belt where old veterans of the show horn labor union meet at a run-down café near the now abandoned, derelict shoe horn plant to share memories of the glory days when they ran three shifts year-round producing the finest shoe horns for domestic and foreign markets before the bottom fell out and the global glut of shoe horns killed the industry and threw everyone out of work?  Was it all part of the collapse of American organized labor and the blue-collar middle class? And what about all the ancillary jobs?

Did the well-liked salesman Willy Loman sell shoe horns?

The salesman at the Buster Brown Shoe store always had a shoe horn handy. Is that why they closed all the Buster Brown stores—because they ran out of shoe horns? Or was it because of the radiation poisoning?

I remember the X-Ray machines at those stores. Youd stick your feet into the machine and when you looked though the viewer you could see all the bones in your feet and how they moved when you wiggled your toes to make sure the new shoes fit properly. It was decades before those radioactive fluoroscopes attracted serious government attention and they realized that unless the little corner shoe store was managed by J. Robert Oppenheimer, it would probably be a good idea to limit childrens exposure to mutagenic gamma rays to the slightly unstable Strontium-90 present in their chocolate milk as a side effect of atmospheric nuclear testing in Nevada.

Did hundreds, maybe even thousands, or tens of thousands…did millions of children end up with foot cancer as a result of the Buster Brown shoe fitting fluoroscope? Did all the resultant legal action cause the end of the dream?

Is that why all the shoe horns disappeared?

All I know is, after thinking about all this, I have finally made an appointment with a podiatrist. I spent a lot of time looking at those skeletal images of my feet back in that innocent bygone era…a lot of time.

I hope Im okay.

This article originally appeared in the April 2023 issue of Omaha Magazine.