Robert slid the door open to his old man’s closet and ticked on the light. The clothes inside were nondescript – nothing even to really differentiate one shirt or pair of pants from another. Lots of plaid and denim. He ignored what was on hangers and hunkered down to sort through the shoes at the bottom. They weren’t here. The damn boots weren’t here.
He started throwing what he didn’t need over his shoulder. Dress shoes in black? No. Sneakers in that shade of white that screams “I’m old?” Definitely not. Soon every pair was thrown into the empty bedroom behind him, but the God damn boots weren’t anywhere.
Without even deciding to, Robert found himself punching the closet’s wall. A heavy box tumbled down on his hand. He cursed loudly enough that the family downstairs could probably hear while he put his right hand over his injured left. Maggie burst in.
“Baby, did you just – oh, my God, is that blood?”
The two of them looked with despair at the growing stain on his freshly cleaned dress shirt. Robert swore again, quieter this time. His wife darted away and returned with a wet washcloth, which she used to dab his hand.
“What happened, Robert?”
“Just a box. It fell, and – God, how am I gonna cover this up for the viewing?”
“We’ll worry about that later. Did you find the shoes?”
“No, they’re not here.”
“Well, do you really need them?”
“Yes, dammit, they’re important!” His tone took Maggie by surprise, and Robert softened. “Sorry. They just gave them to him back when he was working at the factory. He loved those boots more than anything.”
“Maybe not anything,” Maggie said, removing the top from the box that had half opened in its fall. Inside were all the sports ribbons Robert had ever won, along with pictures and school newspaper articles.
The box gave Robert pause. Before a tear could roll down his cheek, he shook his head. “He wore those damn boots every day of his life, and he kept that stuff hidden away in a closet.”
“But he kept it,” Maggie said, and she led her husband downstairs to clean up his shirt.