The Story of Patent Leather Shoes.
The door bell rang two times, stopped, then rang again. I wasn’t expecting anybody. Coming downstairs, I saw a shadow move across the frosted door pane, then hands formed on the glass near the edges where the beveling was clear. I looked out the living room window. A guy was standing there on the porch, writing on a clipboard.
He was wearing a dark blue windbreaker with the zipper done up to his neck. It seemed strange on such a hot day. Out on the street, there was an extended pickup with the loading ramp pulled down at the back. It was covered in racing decals.
Two kids were riding their bikes around it, jamming on their brakes when they got alongside. The guy didn’t look at them. He rang the doorbell again and glanced at his clipboard. He was starting to leave when I opened the door. He turned and smiled and lowered his sunglasses.
His teeth were too white for his face.
“You’re here,” he said. “I didn’t think anyone was home.”
The guy was around fifty, hair combed back in an old pompadour. He came back up the steps and flipped through some order forms.
“Gilroy?” he said.
“That’s my wife’s name,” I said. “Mine’s Andrews.”
“It’s here as the husband,” he said, holding out the clipboard. Down at the bottom was my name in a print. He tapped it with his pen.
“That your wife’s writing?”
I looked and nodded.
He wrote something in the margin and clicked his pen.
“Okay. Got that out of the way. Your wife around?”
“She’s not here,” I said.
He looked past me down the hallway.
“I guess I could leave the samples,” he said. “Most of the time we like both parties present. It’s better that way. Will you two be here this evening?”
“She moved out,” I said.
He frowned and glanced down. A sample case of upholstery swatches was at his feet. That’s when I noticed he was wearing patent leather dress shoes.
“I’m supposed to show her these samples,” he said, glancing at his clipboard again. “Appointment for April fifth. That’s today. See here? April fifth.”
“Samples for what?” I said.
“A couch. Your wife wants it recovered.”
“You’ll have to talk to her.”
He thought about it for a minute.
“Can I use your phone? I have to call this in to my boss.”
I pointed to the phone in the front hall.
He went over and picked up the receiver.
“She leave a forwarding address?” he asked.
“Okay. Let me see what my boss wants me to do.”
While he was talking on the phone, I stood in the living room. I heard him read off the order number. “She left,” he was telling his boss. “The husband doesn’t have a forwarding address. What do you