Mark Patrick Morehead
Billy didn’t want to be a Doofus. Maybe a scientist, or a zookeeper, or a musician. But definitely not a Doofus.
Unfortunately second grade was nearly over, and he had not found a white coat or a microscope, or a guitar, and he had missed the fieldtrip to the zoo.
And now this... a knot.
Things were leaning toward Doofus.
That morning his big-fat-jerk brother Todd had tied his shoes for him, just like every morning. “Okay, Doofus,” Todd said, holding his shoe. “You twist the ears around and pull the rabbit’s tail just like this. Even first graders know that.”
Doofus. That’s what Todd called him. Todd even called him Doofus in front of mom and dad and the other kids, just like it was his name.
School had been okay — until gym. The mats were down for tumbling and Mr. Knopf made them take off their shoes. Billy carefully left his tied and he put them in the bottom bin. After class, he raced back to make sure nobody untied them.
Probably Marilyn. She liked to mess with him.
They had untied both his shoes and moved them to the top bin. Fear gripping his heart, Billy took the untied shoes and pulled them on. He tied the left shoe first. He got the loops just right, like nice round bunny ears, but when he pulled the tail... the strings zipped into a tight knot. The snarled ball stared up at him and seemed to say, “Nice going, Doofus,” with a squeaky little Todd voice.
He didn’t even try the right shoe, he just tucked the laces under the tongue and hoped Mrs. Green didn’t see — she had a rule about keeping shoes tied.
He made it back to the classroom, but as he sat fidgeting in his chair, the knot kept taunting him. He couldn’t even think about anything else. They had a test in spelling, but he left his blank. He got called to the board in math, but he couldn’t add seven and thirteen. Mrs. Green called Marilyn up and to finish it for him and he was sure one of them would notice the big fat knot and the untied shoe.
They didn’t, so he sat picking at the knot through history and reading, but the knot just got tighter. In geography he tried a pencil. It left black streaks on the shoes, and after two tries the tip broke off. “Smooth move, Doofus,” the knot seemed to say. He had to get it out before Todd saw.
By two o’clock the knot was so tight he didn’t think Todd could get it out, maybe not even mom and dad.
The last class was crafts. Billy took scissors and paper from the cart. Should he just cut the knot out? What would Todd say if he saw chopped up shoelaces?
Billy set his shoe on the table.
“Go ahead, Doofus. Cut me. I dare you.”
He stared at the knot. It seemed to wink at him. He wanted to cut it out — snip, snip — no more knot. But the shoes were new. Mom had gone on and on about how nice they were, how expensive, such grown-up shoes. Maybe he could use the tip of the scissors to get the knot loose.
No sooner had he started than Marilyn called out: “Mrs. Greeeen, Billy has his shoe on the table.”
Mrs. Green looked so disappointed. How could he come to school if she started calling him Doofus?
“And just what are you doing?”
“I just — ”
“Never mind, just put that shoe back on your foot. Honestly, what would your mother say?”
The bell rang a moment later and everyone started home.
Instead of running to the bus, Billy sat outside on the grey stone steps and pulled his shoe off. What could he do? Todd was going to have a field day when he saw the knot. Billy would be a doofus forever.
The door opened behind him. It was one of the fourth grade girls. Becky. Becky Margrove. He tried to hide the shoe, but it was too late.
“Problem with your shoe?”
“Let me see.” She took the shoe and sat down next to him. With long delicate fingers she pulled at the knot, but had no better luck. “That’s a good one all right. Hmm.” She reached up into her hair and pulled something out. “Bobby pin,” she said.
With deft fingers she slid the little pin under the knot and with just a few tugs it came undone.
“There you go.”
He took the shoe back and stared dumbly at it as she stood up and pulled her backpack on. “I... uh...”
“Don’t worry about it, you’re welcome.”
He stared at the shoe. He didn’t want her to see what a Doofus he was, but she seemed nice so he forced it out, “I don’t know how to tie it.”
“Hmm. Show me what you did.”
His face burning with shame, he looped the loop and pulled the rabbit’s tail — and had another knot.
“I think I see the problem. Watch.” She pulled the laces tight and held them out, then made two loops. “Make two bunny ears. The bunny runs around the tree, then jumps in a hole. Now close it up tight. See? You just pulled the end. You have to pull the whole ear.”
“But my brother said to pull the end.”
“Todd? That jerk, he was probably messing with you. Pull both ears. You try.”
So they did it again. And again. He got it right both times.
“Heard you were late for the bus today,” Todd said.
“Yeah, but look.” Billy pulled the bows loose. Then, while his brother watched with teasing eyes he tied his shoes, first the left, then the right. Both shoes, tied.
Todd stared down a moment and big grin spread over his face. “Nice job, Doofus. Whose shoes are those, anyway?”
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About the Author
Mark Patrick Morehead
Mark lives and writes in Colorado with his patient wife, two goblin boys and a menagerie of animals great and small. His work has been featured in The Drabblecast podcast (episode 78), Fusion Fragment and Ideomancer (Vol 5, issue 1). He is currently working on an epic zombie novel, which he blogs about at Zombie Proof Fence. He hopes to complete this novel without grabbing the wrong shoes...
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Copyright © 2009, Mark P. Morehead.