Weekend Prompt: In Your Father's Shoes

Hey writers,

WD Editor Jessica Strawser and I are gearing up to conquer a critical chunk of our Nov/Dec issue today, so I’ll cut my usual screeds and ramblings short(er), and wish you an excellent weekend. I’m planning on jaunting down to the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville tomorrow, and there’s a high likelihood some prompts will arise next week from my (often bizarre, if not curiously charming) old Kentucky home’s festival. Think rooster crowing contests. Miniature horses. Lynn’s Paradise Cafe Ugly Lamp Contest. Yes.

Yours in writing,


PROMPT: In Your Father’s Shoes
In 500 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring:

You put on your father’s shoes, take a deep breath, say a quick prayer, and walk outside. His hat never quite fit right, but still, you wear it.

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9 thoughts on “Weekend Prompt: In Your Father's Shoes

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  3. J. Alvey

    I do not say prayers any more. That one, the one I said that day, it didn’t come true and that was the end for me. I pretended, of course, until I was old enough to renounce my faith to the world in the way that older teenagers do: defiantly, loud, and with utter conviction, but it was that day that I truly renounced my faith, June 12, 1970, when I said that prayer and walked through the door, all of 12 years old, in his boots, wearing his hat, and with that prayer still caught in my throat.

    My dad did not wear a fireman’s helmet. He did not wear a baseball cap, neither for a living nor in leisure. He did not wear a fedora, not that I ever saw. He did not wear a helmet or a beret, unless he did that somewhere else as well, which was possible.

    No, when I saw him, if he was wearing a hat he was wearing a sailor’s cap, like the kid on the Crackerjacks box, the hat tilted jauntily to the side just a bit, just enough to get away with, I suppose, wearing white from head to shin, where the boots began, except for the kerchief, the long, black, silken kerchief around his neck, tucked under the flap below the nape of his cleanly-shaven neck and the black slashes on his arms indicating rank and time in service.

    He was a secretary. He never said it to me that way. To me he said he was a Yeoman, and it was always capitalized in the way he said it: "I am a Yeoman!"

    He was a secretary. He wrote things, he administered files, he did what secretaries do, I think, even if he did those things for important people by then, for admirals.

    When I saw the fellows with the long hair jump him in front of the house, when I saw him strike back with fury and a certain degree of knowledge about self-defense, gleaned I suspect not from Navy training but from his days in Golden Glove boxing, I at first thought that all would be well.

    All was not well. He was outnumbered and out-gunned. One of the so-called Peace-Niks had pulled a gun and was aiming it at him as he lay upon the ground bleeding, red stains budding like roses on his uniform.

    I put on his combat boots, the ones I never saw him wear: he was a secretary. I put on his hat, a hat that slipped over my ears and nearly covered my eyes, grabbed the .22 rifle he’d given me for my 12th birthday just a month before, said a prayer that all would be well, and that my dad would be safe, and walked out on to the porch.

    I shouted, but they ignored me, and I pulled the rifle up to eye level, the tiny circle of light through the target ring above the barrel telling me where the bullet would go, just as we had practiced, and I pulled the trigger and closed my eyes. Or closed my eyes and pulled the trigger.

    There was no kick. It was a .22, and I was 12.

    There was silence. My dad stayed on the ground, an errant .22 bullet, small as it was, nestled somewhere in his brain, somewhere through his ear, which bled out profusely.

    They ran.

  4. Mark James

    After the funeral, I found my Dad’s shoes. We’ve all heard ‘don’t judge a man ‘til you’ve walked a mile in his shoes’, but who’s ever done it?

    I sat on his bed in the small apartment he’d lived in almost to the end, looked out the window, and wondered what I’d do without him in my life.

    His hat, the one thing Dad never left home without, was on his nightstand. It was the only thing there. Dad said he didn’t need alarm clocks anymore; not like he had to be anywhere. And he called the radio ‘a noise box with babbling idiots and music so bad, a man can’t think right’.

    The hat was black felt with a tiny brim. I tried it on. Just like always it didn’t fit, kept trying to slip off my head while I tried to slip my feet into his shoes.

    Outside the sun was close enough to the horizon for the sky to be a mild orange. Until the end, when hospitals and beeping machinery took over, I’d taken care of Dad. Came to see him everyday, took him to chemo, got his tea, did his groceries.

    His shoes fit just right. That shocked me a little. I’d never tried them on when he was alive. In the fading light of day, I walked over to the window, stepping slowly in my father’s shoes; his hat, that always clung to his balding head, wobbled delicately with each step.

    On the playground across the street, kids ran and screamed; swings shot them into the sky like some forgotten secret of flight. So this is why Dad walked so slow when I was little. His shoes were awfully heavy. Yeah. I guess with shoes that heavy, three kids to think about, and a wife who found a better offer, you’d go pretty slow.

    He never called Mom his ‘ex-wife’. I’d always hear him tell people, ‘she was my wife ‘til the divorce.’ It was like he couldn’t bring himself to do what we do on computers everyday – “X” her out – open another window.

    I thought maybe Dad’s hat didn’t fit right because there were some things we never saw eye to eye on. Like how he’d ask me every year, right near the end of April if I’d picked out a Mother’s Day card yet. And every year I’d lie. Mostly because I couldn’t bring myself to tell him I’d roast in Hell on a hot day before I sent her a Mother’s Day card.

    I made my way back to the bed. The shoes weren’t a perfect fit after all; they squeezed a little.

    Sitting there on his bed with his shoes on my feet, and his hat on my head, I didn’t want to think of the little things I wouldn’t do anymore; didn’t want to know about the empty days ahead of me. Of course, a part of me already knew. The heart always knows, doesn’t it?

  5. Aaron Dougherty

    "The Santo Domingo Killer struck again last night," declared a reporter on the TV. "This time taking two teenagers as his victims in the Graceland park. Police are st-"

    Ivory turned off the television. She looked over at her father, and saw that his eyes had fallen shut.

    "I’m sorry dad, I know how you always hated listening to the news. Especially the violent stuff."

    She sat down on the floor next to her father.

    "Give me your feet," she said, and began to untie his left shoe. "I never did understand your stance on that. Wars on the other side of the globe never bothered you, but it was the end of the world if someone got hurt here in town. Now, give me your other foot"

    Setting the first shoe aside, Ivory began to untie his other shoe.

    "You remember how I wanted to be a cop when I was younger?", she asked. She lowered her voice to mock his authoritative voice and said, "Oh, but no daughter of mine is going to be some pig."

    Ivory snickered to her self. "OK, now for your shirt."

    She repositioned herself on the floor to remove his black woolen sweater.

    "Really though dad, I think I would have been alright with how things turned out, if it weren’t for mom. She may not have been the best woman in the world, and yes at times she was a bit nosy." She laughed again. "But don’t you think that was a little harsh?"

    Ivory paused for a moment in thought. "In the end, I guess you were right, she had to leave the family. But There were nicer ways to handle it."

    Once the sweater was removed, Ivory put it on over her blouse. She sniffed at the sleeve absorbing her father’s aroma, then began to remove his stained jeans.

    "What I really want to know, dad, is how you continued week after week. All while taking care of mom and I. I just hope I can keep it up like you did. You’ve always been my role model. You do know that, don’t you, dad?"

    She finished removing his pants, and put them on over her shorts. They were a little baggy, but would do. She stood, took a deep breath, then pulled her father’s body across the room to lay next to her mother. She took one last glance at her father, and remembered to take the mask off his face.

    "I guess I get it now. You may not realize it, but you taught me all I needed to know. Mom was your last, and you were my first. Neat how it all works out."

    She put on her father’s mask, then strapped on his shoes before stepping outside to find her second victim. The mask didn’t really fit right, but it was part of the family now.

  6. Megan Hyman

    Come Find Me

    He dressed in faded denim jeans, brown leather loafers, and white v-neck t-shirts, with a baseball cap, and that’s when he wasn’t working, And that was hardly ever. He went to work in a white buttoned down dress shirt, tie, and slacks with dress shoes. He would go to work at 5 am and be home by 9 pm. I came to live with him in my sophomore year of high school and by my junior year I had him wearing his jeans and t-shirts less and less. Everyday, by 11 am he would receive a phone call from the principal reporting my absence from school. I could still see his face.

    I never saw it then-but I could imagine it…each and every time he got that phone call his brow would fuse together and his forehead would crease with anger. I could imagine it because it had usually stained his face like a portraiture lost for words. He would yell, his nostrils would flare, his breath would get heavy and fast with every syllable. I wouldn’t utter a word or move a muscle for fear his breath would strike me or suffocate me. Instead, he would ground me. He never said for how long, but I didn’t take him seriously, or well, I did, but I never followed through with his punishment.

    The next day I wouldn’t even go home, and by 3 am I was standing on a darkened street sobbing into a pay phone with tears melting down my cheeks, “Can someone come pick me up” brazen enough to call home, I could feel the thickness of my words running off my tongue like molasses. Minutes later, my dad’s red Honda civic screeched up onto the curb waiting for me to stumble into the passenger seat to be met with the crease of anger that scarred his forehead underneath the brim of his old hat. Except this time it was somehow different. His blue eyes a bit darker this time, somehow empty, lifeless, his skin was pale and somber and his body looked frail and untouched-but, yes, his face still looked crooked. And this time, he was wearing his faded denim jeans, a white v-neck t-shirts, and his feet were sunk into his brown leather loafers. Then I realized, through the darkness, that he had come to find me. And I was losing him. I leaned over and clutched his hand. Drowning by the silence, he turned the key to go home. I scanned his face once more, this time noticing the paper thin line that didn’t bend up or down on his face just stood dancing with anticipation of what to say to me…where to begin.

    And then, through the darkness I saw him. Death. It was time. Taking his last breath I stood frozen. Afraid. Stained. Suffocated. I whispered, “Dear God, hold onto his cap and shoes… he’s gonna need to find me someday…”

  7. Walt Wojtanik


    We shared the same name. So stepping into my father’s shoes, to see his world through his bifocals, was something I had a bit of experience in.

    He was dad.

    The hats he wore gave him many distinct personas. A Notre Dame Baseball cap represented his obsession with the football program under the Gold Dome. Although a “Navy man”, his loyalty strayed. Unfortunately, his wandering manifested itself in other forms, many times over. His Jekyll (the doting father and husband) gave way to his inebriated, philandering Hyde when Friday paydays gave him the ability to disappear until the early hours of the morning. The proverbial bull in the china shop of my life always reared its head when most expected.

    His carpentry skills were well honed, a creative passion that passed from father to son, not once, but twice. My grandfather (also Walt) was a master carpenter. My father learned at his father’s knee; he expected nothing less from me.

    A musician, self-taught and promoted; equally adept at keeping a beat on his drum kit, or playing harmonious melodies on the console organ on which I taught myself to play. In the years prior to any Dr. Evil reference, I was his Mini Me. Again most unfortunately I was almost too good at being my father.

    My battle with a bottle was an embarrassment to my own common decency. Any vow to not be like HIM, fell on the deaf ears of the powers that be. My self-loathing due to the golden brew came to suck the passion out of my life. In those staggered footsteps I saw how destructive his vision must have been.

    But the true measure of the man became apparent when he had been diagnosed with liver cancer. The course my father took to find dignity and forgiveness in his unavoidable passing was again as enlightening to me as it had shone on the fabric of a good an decent man. In his simple declaration to me, “I’m dying, Sonny”, he came to an acceptance that gave himself the permission to spend the remainder of his time as the father and friend I always hoped he could have been. From diagnosis to demise, I found the four months to be an eternity in his presence. Quite the lesson; he loved us, he cared for us, he did everything he could to let his goodness outweigh its evil twin. All the man I pray to be; all the father I hope to become.

    I’m Walt Wojtanik, like my father, and his father before him. To ask me to walk a mile in my father’s shoes, is to ask me to merely live my life.

    All-in-all, I do all that I can.

  8. duane sosseur

    ….this one runs a little long but you get it anyway…

    “And that’s when I became a gambler”

    ….I held the money. He was a gambler, my old man….and a good one. Whiskey was the drawback. Oh he’d play good but they wouldn’t let him leave. Wanted a chance to win their money back, always…leavin’s the hard part. He wasn’t a cheat but he knew every trick and he’d watch. He’d know.

    …….Countless times he’d practice with me so’s I could lay a shuffle right down the groove. We’d go from town to town in that big Chevy and he’d always know where the games were at. Cadillacs
    would be parked out front, local big wheels and he’d come back over. "Shep let me hold a c note."

    …….Not if he was staggering. That whiskey puts something on yuh. "Get in, pa." He’d smile that charm smile of his, Didn’t make no damn difference to me. I’d open the door an push him in. "F**k that shit pa, we’re leaving." He wouldn’t fight me, he knew better. He didn’t get snakey like some folks do when they get drunk. They get them snakey eyes an they hit you out of the blue. Bad losers would be following him out sometimes. More than once I had to point ol Bessy after two or three am when they was shoving pa around outside. Snap that big ol double barrel right back and that’s the loudest sound you ever heard, yep. Ain’t nothing sobers a crowd like that does. He’d get in quick, carryin a bottle. "We’re winners boy." And he’d sleep drunk.

    ………..Hell yeah I’d roll him and take it all…you can’t trust no gambler with money. I held the money. From Suzy’s down in New Orleans to Chicago we cleaned up twelve thousand that year, and then it happened. After midnight, I took off in the car and got us a room, picked up some burgers from the diner and when I got back pa was outside on the ground alone. He coughed weakly, clutchin his gut. "We was winners, boy, we was winners." Blood leaked over the broken concrete. I cried.

    ………"Who done it, pa?" His hand came up and he touched my face. "Don’t you get ol Bess." He coughed weakly. "Don’t you do it! We was winners!" *cough* "We was winners god dammit." And then he died. Yeah, I got ol bess an pounded on the door. I had to know who followed him out. I had to know. The large bouncer went meek as a sheep on down the stairs an it got real quiet. Big Sam stood. "Don’t be a fool, boy." You could hear a pin drop.

    ………"WHO KILLED HIM!" I shouted, mean as anybody ever was. Tears streamed down my face. Big Sam’s voice was soft, "Don’t be crazy Shep. Put the shotgun down, what’s goin on?" He looked over at the dealer. "Benny go get Marge." The dealer scrambled past me. Sam looked me in the eye. "Them Jackson’s lost five grand and followed him out, boy. You don’t want to shoot us." I was shaking bad. "Now put that shotgun down fore someone gets hurt here." Sam said gently. Nobody moved, Marge come in and pushed the barrel up. She hugged me and I didn’t care if I was crying my eyes out. I don’t remember much after that, Sam took care of the funeral…heck the funeral director was there that night. With his buisness he never runs out of money. Them Jackson’s took off for Kansas city and that’s when I became a gambler.


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