These Boots Are My Boots

by Tomi Shaw

Have you ever noticed before any one person does any one thing, good or bad, they wash first?  Did you know the one common component of cleansers whether it’s Milk & Honey bubble bath, Skin So Soft cleansing gel or cucumber melon fingernail polish remover is fragrance?  Tucked somewhere in the ingredient list of sodium laureth sulfate, dimethyl adipate, citric acid, blue 1, yellow 5 and water is smell-pretty.

Remember when you were little, back thirty odd years, and your mother poured a slim bright pink line of Mr. Bubble into the water gushing from a shiny silver faucet, remember bubbles were magic?  Before you knew about chemicals, the fluffy mounds of prismed nothing were magic—bathing transformed, a blessing and Mom a God.  With her nose buried in your wet curls, mussing them after having just combed them, she pronounced you clean, saying, “you smell so good.”  All this right before she tucked you in your bed.

Somewhere along the line washing became the thing you do before you do whatever it is you’ve planned, the thing you’ve got an itinerary for, the thing you do before you do anything, good or bad.  I know, however, that you know the scents are fakes, and if you’re wearing all those chemical compounds, those fragrances at battle with each other, those reactions waiting to set each other off into rashes and pimples of incompatibility, you should not be allowed to call yourself clean.  But you do, you do proclaim yourself cleansed.  You smell good, don’t you?

I do.  I’m cleansed, in these terms, in terms of being fragranced.  Right now—milk, honey, cucumber and melons.  Mother’s milk?  The land of milk and honey?  Honey like manna?  Melons ripened ready to burst?  Irony is the cucumber; they’re male.

Once cleansed, you can dress.  Slide into the costume of the day, for the event of this moment, on this, your last day of this way of life.  After this act, you’ll never be the same.  That’s the whole reason for it.  Change.  Depending on who says what and how they say it, on who does what and how they do it, regardless who walks away or who doesn’t, this will be the last day of this life.  Tomorrow will be brand new.

Did you know the pointed toe of the cowboy boot didn’t come into being until the 1940s when streamlining became the haute of the day?  Do you know the difference between the Wellington and Hessian?  A boot maker’s child knows.  Did you know, pre-1900s, boot makers were primarily of German or British descent?

German descent.  And Cherokee blood.  Me.  Cowboys and Indians had a baby.  Some great ancestor of mine, a boot maker carried off some other ancestor of mine, a care giver, stole her from her wigwam, her sacred pipe, her communion with the four directions, the Father Sky and Mother Earth and The Great Spirit, whisked her away and raped her, getting her with the white blood of the north mingled with the red blood of the south.  Me.

Me and him.

Now you can dress, in the outfit you spent your bath time thinking about while renewing yourself in aromas, minute upon minute, mentally pairing this top with that bottom and this or that pair of shoes, trying to put together the perfect statement, the perfect fuck-off in cotton and polyester blends.  The final choice being the dusty pink, silk-screened t-shirt with the picture of the turtle and the words “speed demon” topping the dirty-blue jean mini skirt, finished off with cowboy boots.  The statement:  everything he loves and loves to hate.  The song:  These Boots Were Made For Walking.  The fuck-off:  my fag-hag earrings.

Make-up today is war paint.

Have you ever noticed when you’re really hungry, I mean haven’t eaten in 24 hours hungry and the last thing you did eat was a little bit of a pork chop sandwich before you couldn’t eat any more because the indigestion you got from crying and trying to eat at the same time felt like it lived in your throat, have you ever noticed when you’re that hungry it doesn’t matter what’s in the house, you can’t find anything to eat?  You’re shakey; you need to eat.  Never mind four fun flavors of breakfast cereal, from Fruity Pebbles to Puffed Wheat, Golden Grahams to Oatmeal Crisp in the pantry, you don’t have anything.  Never mind waffles, jalapeno poppers or Hot Pockets in the freezer, you don’t have anything.  Never mind left over cottage cheese and tomatoes, macaroni and cheese, potatoes au gratin in the fridge, you have nothing to eat.

Under these circumstances, order a pizza with thick crust, extra cheese, onion and mushrooms.  Meats will add too much grease that won’t sit well on your stomach right now.  You could puke if you order pepperoni or sausage right now.  Have it delivered and tip the guy well.  I mean, who knows, this could be the last gratuity you ever give.  Make it mean something, make it make the hung over college kid’s eyes widen, bulge even.  Eat half the pie before you leave.  Force yourself, plug your nose with a clothespin if you have to so you can’t smell all the bread yeast and processed, melted mozzarella.  You have to stop shaking.  Onions are medicinal, don’t you know?  Eat.

Before you leave.

Don’t forget the tomahawk.

In my experience, driving to events is the worst part.  It’s the part where there’s too much time with nothing to do but keep your eyes on the road (although it’s a road you’ve driven a thousand thousand times, a million, a life-time), distracting yourself from thinking because you’ve rode this road so often you could do it blind.  Actually, you have even, driven this road to his place, driven it blind.  Blind with roses tinting your sunglasses.

Sing your songs then.  The one the boots are for—Nancy Sinatra’s.  Forget that you only know the choruses, sing them, litanies, mantras.

Never mind the teachings of Native American healing, one half of your ancestor’s methods in repair.  Forget sacred herbs burned on grandfather rocks in the sweat lodge.  Don’t remember quests for vision.  You have vision already, and no daughter of the four directions, The Father Sky and Mother Earth, no child of the Great Spirit would do what you’ve set out to do on this day.  We shared the pipe, smoked sacred herb…together.  A child, having shared, would not do this thing, would not break the promises made over prayers lifted from earth to heavens in waves of smoke, connecting sky to ground, one to the other.

The thing this day was birthed to become comes from the other half of my ancestral blood, the half destined to steal, to cheat.  Sing Silent Lucidity and Youth Gone Wild.

Once there, sit for a moment, gather yourself, breath in the air of milk and honey, melons ripe.  Before you commit to this walk, think it all through one last time.  Feel it.  Tally up every injury, tick mark every insult, list the pros and cons.  Remember the pressure of his weight, of his force, the heaviness of his will, unwelcomed.  Remember the sound of his satisfaction, the noise of shattered sunglasses tinted rose.  Remember his coming was your parting.  Remember what he left grows in your belly.

Your boots were made for this walk, your tomahawk for this blood, your soul for this scalp.

When you slide the key he gave you into the lock, and you do the jiggle jiggle thing and hear the click, go slowly.  Inch by inch open the door.  He could be waiting, fists ready.  Go quietly, surprise must be on your side.  Unless…he’s half on the couch, half off, wasted.  The bottle lying on the floor, the spoon on the table, the dust…maybe he’s dead.  Stare until you see his chest move, breath in, breath out.  Then you can rage, you can storm, boots kicking cans and pizza boxes and the bottle and the spoon and the dust and just once him.

Here is your choice now.  Do what you came to do.  In this state, he’s easy.  The tomahawk slices through skin and hair follicles before he knows anything, then you can walk out the door, blood drops trailing your steps.  Get in the car and drive away, forever…if you’re not caught.

Or you can see what you should see, not what you want to.  He’s gone already.  Never mind breath in, breath out.  You can tidy a bit, throw things away, including bottle and spoon.  You can dust with Pledge, lemon scented.  Make things smell good.  Light a cucumber-melon candle.

There’s a little bit of history in every one thing.  Did you know that Billy the kid, circa 1879, wore a medium high-heeled Hessian boot?  Not cowboy boots.

After you drag, push and pull his body fully onto the couch, you can throw the afghan you crocheted over his legs.  When you kiss him on the forehead he won’t remember.  You will.  Then you get in your car and drive away, on a road you’ve never driven before, with no rose tinted sunglasses just songs and sun, the heat warming the milk and honey in your skin, and you drive away.  Forever.

Tomi Shaw‘s work has appeared in Absinthe Literary Review, Outsider Ink, Pindeldyboz, Smokelong Quarterly, Snow Monkey, Penthouse, The Blotter, Literary Mama, Edifice Wrecked and elsewhere, with works coming soon to The Rose and Thorn, Gator Springs Gazette and The Dead Mule. She has guest edited for All Story Extra and is currently co-editor of PrairieDog 13 Magazine. More about Tomi Shaw’s work can be found at