Thursday, February 19, 2015

Decision Revisited

A new short story.

It was Tuesday evening, which meant it was the church youth group's Bible study. The church's teenagers began arriving at the house of Alan the youth pastor and his wife, Wendy. Some of them were being dropped off by their parents, others had walked.

The young guests removed their shoes as they entered, as they knew that Wendy and Alan asked for shoes-off in their little house to protect their carpets.

One of the members of the youth group stepped into the house. She was a pretty blond girl of sixteen, by the name of Emily.

Emily was wearing a pair of towering high-heeled shoes.

"Nice shoes," commented Alan after she stepped inside.

"They're new," replied Emily. "My dad bought them for me the other day." Emily's parents were divorced. She did not see her father as often as she would have liked, but he seemed to make up for it by buying her lots of presents.

Emily began walking down the hallway. She made no move to remove her shoes.

The girl gave Alan and Wendy a pouty look as if daring them to ask her to take off her stilettos.

Alan looked at Wendy in a silent inquiry as to whether to say something to the girl. Wendy shrugged, as if to say this was typical Emily-behaviour and to be humoured.

Emily was staggering in her new shoes. She was clearly not used to walking in high heels. Wendy stifled a laugh.

"Sexy!" said one of the boys, looking down at Emily's shoes. "Shut up!" said one of the other girls, while another boy gave him a playful thump.

Emily sat down on the sofa in the living room where they held their Bible study.

A girl called Hannah, who was sat on the floor near to the sofa turned to Emily.

"You should take your shoes off, Emily," Hannah chided.

"I don't want to! These shoes are new," replied Emily.

"OK, people, can I have your attention?" announced the youth pastor.

The noise of chatter died down slowly.

"We're going to be looking at a passage in the Bible tonight. But first we need to find it. I've written the reference on a piece of paper that is hidden somewhere in this room. You need to look very hard to find it," instructed Alan.

"If we can't find it, can we watch television instead?" asked one of the boys.

"No!" replied Alan and Wendy together.

The young people immediately began busying themselves looking through every corner of the room. All except Emily. She remained seated on the sofa. Perhaps she was starting to worry about damaging the carpet and thought it best to remain still.

Wendy sighed. She supposed she should have just asked Emily nicely to remove her shoes when she had first arrived. It was rather too late now. If she did it next time, she would just have to be straight with her.

Eventually, the paper with the passage was found; lodged carefully between two CDs.

"It's Isaiah 53:1-10; if you've got your Bibles with you," announced Wendy.

Wendy then proceeded to read the passage in a brightly coloured edition of the New International Version.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

Alan then gave a short summary of the passage, explaining that the passage was a prophecy regarding Jesus Christ, explaining that it foretold Jesus' suffering and death on the cross.

"On the cross, Jesus paid the price for our sins," said Alan. "He was punished for all our cheating, all our stealing, for all the bad language we used and for all the lies we told. Have you ever been mean or disrespectful to somebody? Jesus was punished on the cross so you could be forgiven."

Throughout Alan's short sermon, Emily looked very uncomfortable.

One of the girls asked a question about whether forgiveness was automatic or whether repentance was needed. Alan gave her a careful reply. Once that was done he took out his acoustic guitar and began leading the young people in a worship song.

During the song, Emily slipped off her high-heeled shoes and tiptoed out to the hall. She then pattered back in her bare feet now looking far more cheerful than she had when she came in.

Wendy gave her a warm smile. At least something of the evening's message had sunk in.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Visiting the Vicarage

A short story I wrote a while ago.

Phoebe Walker, wife of the Rev. Martin Walker, was dusting when the doorbell rang.

Phoebe pattered over to the vicarage door and opened it to find Helen Lewis. Helen was a slim, dark haired lady in her forties. She was wearing a floral dress and sandals.

"Helen, it's nice to see you," said Phoebe.

The visitor stepped into the house.

"I've come to show you the Sunday school rota I've drawn up. I wanted to check it with you first," said Helen, as she entered the hallway. "We definitely need to get it done before the term starts and before everyone goes on holiday. I know Mary is planning on going to France for three weeks and Louise is away most of August. We also need to put Tina on the rota now that she said she could help.."

What Helen was saying barely registered with Phoebe. All she could think about was the sight of Helen's sandaled feet moving across her carpeted hallway, desecrating and despoiling it.

Phoebe took her eyes off Helen's feet.

"Have you forgotten something, Helen?" asked Phoebe.

Helen looked back blankly.

Phoebe couldn't believe that Helen had forgotten about the shoes-off rule in the vicarage. She had visited plenty of times before, including coffee mornings with a whole bunch of ladies in their stocking feet. Not to mention the huge pile of shoes, sandals and boots she had just walked past.

The vicar's wife gave Helen the look she always gave people who forgot to take their shoes off. She looked down at Helen's feet, then looked up at her, making a faint smile with gritted teeth. It usually did the trick.

"Ah, of course. I forgot," said Helen with a smile. "You have to take your shoes off here. I'm visiting the Mosque. Or is it a Gudwara?"

Phoebe was a little irritated at Helen's sarcasm.

"We get visitors every day. We don't want to wear out the carpets," said Phoebe.

Helen did not move away from where she stood on the carpet. She seemed to be standing her ground.

Phoebe looked down at Helen's feet again and stepped forward.

Helen was forced to retreat towards the door. Instead of removing her shoes, she gave a laugh.

"Very sensible, Phoebe. What with the weather being so awful," she said.

The woman was of course being sarcastic. The weather had been delightful over the past week with sunshine and not a drop of rain.

"Whatever the weather, the streets are never clean," replied Phoebe.

Phoebe knew the game Helen was playing. She wanted her to say It's okay, you can leave your shoes on.

Helen looked down at her feet, as though contemplating removing her sandals.

"I'm only going to be five minutes," she said.

Helen seemed to be testing her limits, seeing how far she could push the other woman. Her eleven year old niece had behaved the same way when she had stayed at the vicarage for a week, straining at the boundaries of her aunt's patience.

"It won't take you long to put them back on again," replied Phoebe.

Helen gave Phoebe a pleading look. She was still hoping that Phoebe would say It's okay, you can leave your shoes on.

The visitor lifted up her leg, as though about to slip off her sandal. She gave Phoebe one last desperate look, trying hard to look a little like Bambi just after his mother had been shot.

Phoebe remained silent.

The defeated Helen removed one sandal and dropped it to the floor by the door.

The vicar's wife was starting to look forward to the prospect of unruly children at Sunday school.

Knowing the game was up, Helen finally removed her other sandal.

Phoebe wondered if perhaps Helen did not want to be barefoot.

"Did you want to borrow some socks?" she offered.

"No thanks. As I said, I'll only be five minutes, I'll be fine in my bare feet," she replied, giving a loud sigh.

Phoebe smiled, elated at having stood her ground. Was that really so painful?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

From Here to Saint Valentine's Day #8

Things we love about having a shoe-free home.

All the family together with their shoes off.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Thursday, February 12, 2015

From Here to St. Valentine's Day #6

Things we love about having a shoe-free home.

Shoeless parties- they're fun!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

From Here to St. Valentine's Day #5

Things we love about having a shoe-free home.

A safe indoor environment for children to grow up in.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

From Here to St. Valentine's Day #4

Things we love about having a shoe-free home

Equality: No matter how important or famous you may be- the shoes-off rule applies to you.

It's not a surprise that removing shoes is strong in social democratic Scandinavia and in former Communist Eastern Europe.

Monday, February 09, 2015

From Here to St. Valentine's Day #3

Things we love about having a shoe-free home.

Keeping nasty stuff out of the house.

Animal excrement, lead paint, weed killer, toxoplasmosis- we don't want that tracked into our homes.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

From Here to St. Valentine's Day #2

Things we love about having a shoe-free home

You can put your feet up on the sofa without having to take your shoes off first.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

From Here to St. Valentine's Day #1

Things we love about having a shoe-free home

The feel of carpet under our feet

(Series suggested by Itinerante)

Wednesday, February 04, 2015


I was in London today, having some training in professional boundaries. Boundaries are those rules and conventions which professionals like myself maintain. Things like not accepting phone calls from clients outside work hours, not mixing up work and politics, not lending money to clients are all boundaries.

Beginning the training, the facilitator asked us to offer examples of boundaries that we encounter in everyday life. I offered up the example of requiring shoes-off in homes.

Having a shoes-off rule is an important boundary; it marks out the fact that the home is the owner's private space and that it must be respected. One cannot expect to enter another person's home without taking into account the wishes and preferences of the person living there, however welcoming they may be.

Sunday, February 01, 2015