The Shoelace--A Story

The Shoelace
By. A. Grant
Feb. 19, 2015

For weeks, Eugene had watched it fray and shrink, a half inch one day, an inch the next, both sides, one side. It caught on the screw on the back of chair leg of Hope's desk, as she tucked her feet around the leg, when she was concentrating on her writing or fractions or a suspenseful just-right book from her bin. Hope tugged. She yanked, freeing and further fraying it. Eugene sat behind and to the right of Hope.

Eugene and Hope had been in school together for 3 years, since Hope and her family had moved from Texas so that Hope's dad could work at the pharmaceutical plant where Eugene's dad was a Geneticist. Eugene and Hope played together at school, even though most of the time the girls went one way and the boys another way at recess. One Thanksgiving they were Pilgrim # 4 and # 5 in the 2nd Grade First Thanksgiving Play. Hope always came to Eugene's church's Easter Egg Hunt. And they used to stand in the lunchbox line on the way to the lunchroom, but now Hope always ate the hot lunch and sat at another table.

Eugene didn't know much about grown up stuff, like jobs, because he was just a kid, but he'd heard his dad talk about layoffs at the plant because upper management wanted to "start over" with their product line. And Eugene asked what that meant, and his dad said that many of the people who worked there had to be let go. And Eugene asked, what did "let go" mean. And his dad said, "Well, they don't work there anymore." And Eugene asked, "have you been let go? Layed off?" "No, not me," said his dad, "but, lots of more recent hires." "Dad? what does recent hires mean..." Eugene continued....But, his dad said, "Nothing for you to worry about, Euge. Let's talk about it another time."

The next day, it was gone, all together. No one else seemed to notice. But, Eugene had been watching it shrink. And now it was gone, and there were 10 little hungry holes. During Math, Hope didn't tuck her feet around her desk chair legs; she crossed one foot over the other, covering up the holes. Eugene thought this strange. All morning, she kept those feet crossed or the one tucked under her.

After lunch, they were at the book bins, "Where is your shoestring?" Eugene asked her.

Hope looked down, saying quietly, "It was too short to tie. So, I had to take out what was left."

"Why don't you get another one?" Eugene asked, suggested, counting those holes and imaging lacing them up, zig, zig, zig, like those DNA strands in his dad's genetics diagrams.

Quieter still, Hope said, "We can't this week, ... but Mom says, maybe next week,... maybe, if Dad's new job comes through."

Eugene didn't know what to say, which was a rare thing for him. 1, 2, 3, 4 , 5, 6, 7, 8 , 9, 10. 10 holes, he counted again. Why should she have to wait till next week? He wondered.

What's so hard about getting a shoelace? It's just like his own, he examined.

Hope chose a book, and passing Eugene, whispered, "probably, next week."

She sat, opened that book and crossed those feet again.

Eugene sat on the carpet to read, crisscross apple sauce. He held the book and read, and with his free hand, worked his double knot loose and then tugged, and pulled, tugged and pulled, tugged and pulled, tugged and pulled until it was free; he wound it up in a ball beside him.

The teacher announced that it was time for Science. Eugene put his book away, and walked over to his desk.

Hope put her book back in her bin, returned to her desk, and there was a white nest of string next to her science folder. She placed her whole hand over it, curled her fingers around it.

Eugene didn't notice what happened next, but in the line getting ready to go out to recess, he saw Hope hunched over, tying her shoe.

Let us pray: God, help us to be mindful of the needs around us, and willing to meet those needs as you have shown us through the person of Jesus. Amen.

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