It was inside, right leg crossed over top of the left, carefully holding a cigarette in-between his thumb and middle finger, when he remembered how white his shoes used to be. Had it really been so long since they were clean? He still called the pair of sneakers his “white shoes,” but given the scuffs and the dirt that had gradually accumulated over the toes, the adjective didn’t seem to accurately portray the noun.
The laces were still white, so the man figured that if there is always a silver lining, that was it, white laces on his non-white white shoes.
He had bought the non-white white shoes last year, at either Bon Marche’s or Nordstroms, or some other department store, where the employees wear too nice of clothes and have too nice of smiles that inadvertently scream “I’m paid on commission,” making their too-niceness a little less nice.
Back then they had really been white, stark, glaring, like the stars that he and the rest of humanity so often observed, an overwhelming feeling of ineptitude, too white for him to even look at.
And so, for the year, he didn’t look at them, he simply wore them. He wished now that he had looked, taking care to notice every bit of gunk and dirt that had soiled his once-white shoes.
But, as is with everything and everyone else, one day we look down and realize that our shoes are covered in dirt and we never even paid mind to stop and watch it happen. The accumulation of dirt is never sudden, but the recognition of dirt is.
Well, thought the man, at least the laces are still white.
Story by Mason Ahrens
Look at this Dad—this Cool Dad. This Nice Young Dad of Yesteryear.
Like, maybe thinking, Okay, yeah, time to kick the habit, now that I’m a Dad and all, right? Even though I adore it, the ritual, the sense of consuming-something-but-not-really. Burning money, burning lungs, decadent-like: pure expenditure. The whole languid ‘aesthetic’ of it. Not to mention the way it calms me down when I’m stressed, which ironically is more than ever now that I’ve got this new responsibility, haha!—this little life I friggin’ love? So I’m cutting back.
And he does, to the point where he maybe just has one at the odd social thing after a couple beers, that’s it. Swear to God. He can keep it to that, being someone who’s remarkably stable but who still understands the value of a little measured indulgence now and then, you know?
So, for example, after years of dutifully attending all those recitals and games and graduations etc., maybe bringing along one of those big bulky video cameras at some point—the kind that used to cost an arm and a friggin’ leg, as he’d probably put it—before it’s just another artifact, he catches you lighting up a Pall Mall Blue, let’s say, behind the garage. Your Cool Old Man. And you know what? None of this ‘smoke a whole carton to learn your lesson.’ None of this weeping and gnashing of teeth. His response is tranquil, aphoristic; the worldly wisdom it conveys in that moment is ineffable. But let me tell you: you’ll always remember that time he said that thing, maybe get a tattoo of it down the line? Just a thought.
And then, I guess, you move away for school or a job or whatever, but you keep in touch. You visit now and then, less.
Your grandparents start going, maybe even an aunt or uncle or two, and he starts having to watch his cholesterol, maybe gets a little melanoma once or twice but it’s fine, relax, they removed it all. And even though he’s, you know, increasingly faced with his own mortality, decrepitude and death etc., he never minimizes your own dumb problems re: being an adult out in the world. He just sits there, somewhere far away, maybe in that old chair with the faded floral upholstery, maybe a bit grey with some rubbed-in ash, maybe pock-marked by an ancient cigarette burn here and there, thinking about having one but not, nodding along and smiling and listening to the sound of you.
Story by Carson Hammond
The man was a liar. I couldn’t tell straight away, I found out gradually. He seemed alright when he came to pick me up at Uni. Or maybe I was just too jet-lagged to tell because I’d covered 8 hours of time difference west to east that day.
The woman was great. No mistaking that. Showed me my room for the semester of studying abroad and said dinner would be done in 45 minutes. I could already smell the first whiffs of something good.
It took me a week to settle in. The woman and their daughter helped me, I only saw the man around dinner. Apart from that he worked, read, and slept. His lies began to show up. Boasted of his daughter then treated her like an idiot. Claimed to be interested in me and hid behind the paper.
Two weeks after arrival he suggested I go with them to their house by the beach. I said sure. Even looked forward to it imagining sea view, an airy house, getting sand in my shoes. I missed all that already after two weeks in the apartment.
From the woman’s scepticism I should have known different. As it turned out I found my own disappointments, a whole string of them. Too short beds, small house, damp smell and no sea view. At least it was warm and sunny. It was nice outside.
There was a constant murmur like a distant train. Asked the man which train it was. He almost laughed outright, mocking me. That was no train. It was the waves. Couldn’t I tell?!
The woman suggested a walk, I said yes. Anything to get away from that liar. Waves crash, any fool knows that. I’m from San Fansisco, I know waves.
He was right and wrong at the same time. It wasn’t really open sea, what he called waves was just the water licking the sands all subdued. It was the sound I heard.
It was still a train because there was nothing to do except walk and think. It was this train of thought.
Story by Maria Bache Andersen