Editor’s Note: Sunday Stew is our new, regular feature – showcasing original, short-form fiction and poetry from South Seattle’s stable of talented writers and poets.
The Perfect Pair
Writer’s Preface: This story relates the tale of a South Seattle area male youth – growing up during the late 90’s- when the most important thing on your mind (besides girls) was a hallowed pair of Air Jordan shoes.
He brings the ball down the court…
3…2…1!!!! The game ending horn sounds!
I awoke from my dream to hit the snooze button on my annoying alarm clock, and wiped the crud out of my eyes.
“Hello world.” I said to myself, as I stared at the collage of Air Jordan posters plastered on my wall. To be like Mike!
My fantasy was cut short as my mom frantically knocked on my door to assure I was awake and getting ready for school. The daily routine of a high school sophomore.
It was Friday, and just so happened to be the same day that the white/red Air Jordan 12’s were released in stores! The Holy Grail of foot wear! Plus, it was pay day!
Shiiiit! My mom thought I was going to class? Yeah right! I was going to pick up my paltry $160 check from the mall and grab my first pair of Jordans with my own money.
This was an epic moment for a young Jedi in training. This story predates the internet era, so back then there was no way for anyone to know about shoe releases months ahead of time, unlike any present day eight year old who can spell G-O-O-G-L-E, unless you knew an insider who worked at the local Foot Locker. I just so happened to have a cousin who was a wage slave at the one nearest me, and was always my first call before I left home for the day.
Oh yeah, we didn’t have cell phones back then either… We had these little boxes called pagers. Simple devices that allowed you to leave a number to call back….that’s it! If you were clever you could write simple messages 31707 (spells love upside down) or use codes like 69 and 911 (I’ll leave their respective meanings open to interpretation).
Anyways… I digress. Back to the story.
So I skipped school and rode the bus down to the mall to grab my check from my job at Corn Dog on a Stick. As I entered the food court I saw a guy walking out with the Jordans I wanted! I gave him the nod of respect. A sign of admiration for his shoe game, that only a true sneaker aficionado would understand.
I said wassup to my peeps at work, grabbed my check and headed off to the bank to cash it. It was only about a block from the mall, but it somehow seemed further that day as the sky pummelled me with raindrops.
The five minutes it took to cash my check seeming like an eternity, and as soon as the last greenback was placed into my hand I made a beeline for Foot Locker.
The closer I seemed to get to the store, the warmer the small wad of money in my pocket became. It was almost as if it was being nuked in a microwave.
I actually patted my jeans about 10 times along the journey to make sure the cash was still securely in there.
Just a few more feet and I would be at my destination, then suddenly by pager blared a text from my cousin Rick at the store – 911!
I assumed his boss was giving him crap about holding my pair. I put some more pep in my step, and made like I was running for the gold in the one hundred meter dash, finally crossing the finish line through the store’s doors. Boom!
I smashed right into Rick. “Wassup cuz?” He asked.
“I just paged you.” he continued as the cash in my pocket had now turned radioactive.
“Man, the GAP has these sick pullover jackets that fit in a pouch for $25. They match the new Jordans perfectly. We should cop some and rock them to school together.”
Rick was towards the end of his lunch break, so if we we’re going to go – to that epitome of 90’s middle class commerce – we had to go then and there- before I had the opportunity to purchase my treasured moccasins.
I was down, even though normally matching fits is a no-no in my book. But, I told myself I’d make an exception this time to floss with my folks.
“Damn, I hope I have enough for both…” I said to myself as we made our way. As I looked at the pullover’s unsympathetic price tag Rick could sense my hesitation. “Come on, you know we’d look fly in them!” I had to inflate my bravado in order to mask my now precarious financial situation. We purchased the jackets. Oh, to be sixteen again…
As we strolled back to the Foot Locker together, I gazed down at Rick’s shoes, so as to visualize myself wearing them. It wouldn’t be much longer!
I rushed passed girls who seemed to want a little bit more attention from me, at least that’s what Rick told me, as there was one thing, and one thing only, on my mind.
We finally arrived back at his store. The moment was NOW!
Rick went into the back to grab the last pair of white and red Jordan 12’s in size 11. Standing and waiting in the center of the store, it felt like God had just placed his hand on my shoulder. This moment was priceless for a young buck. It was like being christened a full fledged Spartan warrior after enduring the rigors of training since boyhood! Okay, maybe that is a stretch, but you get the point.
So I broke bread and counted out my remaining cash. The shoes came out to be $138.48…. Ah shit!I bought that jacket. I only had $135!!!!
My heart began beating like a marching band at halftime. What the fu…? How? Why? Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!
I asked Rick if he had a few bucks I could borrow. “Naw man, I’m broke too. Sorry fam.” I felt like grabbing my face and screaming like Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone. “Please don’t do this to me God!” I murmured. His hand since removed from my shoulder!
I recounted my money. I was really going to miss out on these Jordans over $3.48!!! I repeat, $3.48!
I skipped school for this shit! In my moment of panic I lost myself in thought. I forgot where I was and who was around me. At that point it didn’t matter anyway…. Or did it?
Slap. I heard a handshake that awoke me from my moment of insanity to realize Rick is shaking hands with Shane. He’s a Senior and hoop star at my high school. I tried to compose myself, shaking off the tears I was fighting.
“Wassup J? I see you grabbed those new J’s.” Shane says to me. “Actually man, I’m short $3.48.”
He laughs and gives me a $5 bill. The money didn’t even hit my hand before it went into the register.
It felt like ten gorillas who were standing on top of each other had just leaped off my back. Woooo! Shane tells me not to worry about the $5 and gives me a ride home from the mall.
He changed my life with that simple gesture. You never know what you can do to change someone else’s life. It cost him $5 but to me it was priceless. I still remember staking out on Cloud 9 the entire rest of the year! Shout out to Shane! That was the first of many pair I’ve owned, and since then they’ve always been purchased with exact change!
Jerron Craig is a South Seattle native, as well as a husband, father, freelance writer and sneakerhead, who is just trying to use more than 10% of his brain to get paid.