by Linda Briskin

THE COWBOY BOOTS had been carefully placed at the edge of the sidewalk. Tooled and red, the leather scuffed, the toes curled up. They had the stillness of waiting, of certainty. She slowed the garbage truck and peered sideways. The boots were really there. An invitation. Not a garbage-induced mirage.

The junk she had seen at the side of the road: broken toilets,  soiled wedding dresses, their tulle ripped, old lampshades,  chairs missing a leg, stuffed teddy bears with matted fur and no eyes, food debris spilling from cracked plastic containers, mattresses stained with too much life, once-white dressers, drawers askew, a giant panda covered in Remembrance Day poppies, empty guitar cases, mirrors cracked and dangerous. But red boots, cowboy boots at that—never.

Usually she was surly, indifferent to life. Earlier that morning the sun coming through the blinds was an annoyance. She had grabbed a Pop-Tart on her way out, not bothering to toast it. She couldn’t work up the energy to be annoyed by the barking of the neighbour’s two terriers, irritatingly called Tik and Tok. She walked the two blocks to the garbage depot without registering the fresh morning air. Once there, a few drivers nodded at her but she ignored them. She hated their eyes on her. She’d given up on socializing years back, aware she had nothing to say and never got their jokes. She picked up her collection schedule and set out. The power of the truck, once a pleasure, was now an oddly unattractive extension of herself.


A sudden swell of desire: I want those red boots. She slammed on the brakes. The growl of the engine stopped and the chatter of squirrels filled the sudden silence. She opened the door and leapt down. As if she were meeting a new friend, she adjusted the suspenders on her faded denim overalls and ran her hands through her cropped greying hair. She crouched, knees cracking. The leather on the red boots was soft and happily worn, the heels down at the edge.

She untied the knotted laces on her garbage-collecting Timberlands and set one beside the other. They looked like her feet even when she wasn’t wearing them. Familiar, they were, comforting even, but she didn’t feel any attachment to them.

Like an awkward ostrich, she stood on the sidewalk in her threadbare grey socks with the white bands and blue stripes. She eyed the red boots. Of course they won’t fit. She was all too familiar with disappointment and didn’t expect even tiny miracles.

She pulled on one red boot and then the other. They hugged her feet like a welcome. A surge of uncommon joy. The blue of the sky, the yellow crocus heads breaking through in the garden next to the truck, the early green froth on the trees: it was spring.

She couldn’t resist clicking her heels. With a fist in the air, she hooted as loud as she could. An old couple, holding closely to each other, turned to stare. Unusually for her, she didn’t mind the attention.

She casually tossed the old Timberlands in the back of the truck and moved toward the front, tapping the side of the vehicle in a staccato rhythm. At the door, she grabbed the handle and was halfway into her seat when she stopped and stepped back down. She lifted one foot and looked at the red boot, almost smiling.

Slowly she returned to her discarded boots which were already sinking into piles of garbage. She leaned in and retrieved them, shook off a bit of apple peel that had stuck to the sole, and set her old boots on the sidewalk.

Two worn work boots, weathered steel toes pointing forward, sat waiting. Perhaps an invitation.

Back in the cab of the truck, the red boots were singing Patsy Cline’s ‘Walkin’ after Midnight.’ She found herself humming along as she drove to the next stop on her route.


Linda Briskin is a writer and photographer. In her fiction, she is drawn to writing about whimsy, fleeting moments, and the small secrets of interior lives. Her writing has recently appeared in Barren, *82ReviewMasque & SpectacleThe Schuylkill Valley Review, Canary, Tipping the Scales and Cobalt Review among others. As a photographer, she is intrigued by the permeability between the remembered and the imagined, and the ambiguities in what we choose to see.