Fiction: Katie M. Flynn’s “A Gift from Your Leader”

On the night of the election, I write a little satire piece about Trump involving Russian-speaking elves, hit send, and the next morning I’ve got an acceptance letter waiting in my inbox!

Six weeks later, I have twelve more Twitter followers, and there’s a pair of shoes waiting for me outside my apartment door. The shoes are black and shiny and look my size. I pick them up—they have the cheap hard feeling of plastic. With them is a note that claims to be from the White House and is signed: Your Leader, Donald Trump. The note is brief, just the one sentence: Put the shoes on! Some joke, I’m thinking, as I carry the shoes downstairs, leave them on the street.

The next day, I return from work to find the shoes inside my apartment. When I enter, the shoes speak to me, or rather he speaks to me through the shoes: “You tried to smear me, you’re fake news, now put the shoes on.” He is the president, and these shoes are in my apartment, but I do not put them on. I put them in the hall, close the door. Then I open the door and throw them down the stairs. A moment later, there’s a knock.

A woman in a suit wearing an earpiece behind her slick blonde hair holds the shoes out, the gun at her side showing, and she tells me to put them on. Still, I don’t put the shoes on. The shoes speak again, “You attacked me personally, you’re a failure, put the shoes on now!” He’s using his You’re fired! voice and it doesn’t sound like a recording and I’m terrified and I put the shoes on.

The shoes take me to work. They take me to the bathroom at regular intervals, sometimes inconveniently, as in when I’m talking to Sheila the sales girl about the Apocalypse Now party she’s hosting since the world is pretty much over. The shoes take me home after work. They take me to the couch. My computer—I stare at it on my desk, think of writing—but my shoes, they won’t let me. Instead, I turn on the television because what else is there to do? I wait for the shoes to take me to the fridge because I’m freaking starving or for him to talk to me again. Ever since I put them on last week, they’ve been silent and I lie in bed at night, pulling the duvet up to my chin so I can see their shiny tips, to make sure they aren’t muffled.

The shoes take me on a date, not with Sheila who has a dimple in her forehead and smells like corn syrup, but with that clingy girl from the third floor whose name I can’t remember as she’s telling me that in high school she was famous for her laugh, her cackle, she calls it, though she’s not laughing much these days, not since her brother the depressive almost killed himself the other night. “Really,” I say, “tell me more,” dipping a chip into guacamole the color of mint gelato. And she does, the whole long troubled story, about his terrible teeth, the near decade of orthodontic work and shame, how she’s always felt guilty for being born with a perfect smile. Halfway through her third margarita she admits in a whisper that she voted for him “just to see what would happen.”

After dinner I have indigestion, and I don’t want to, but my shoes make me follow her up the stairs to her front door, even as she tells me she’s tired, she’s got Soul Cycle at six, and hey, what are you doing? The shoes press me up against her, and I’m apologizing, trying to explain, these shoes, they came from him, he’s making me—but she’s hitting me and the shoes press me up against her no matter how she squirms, back against the wall, scratching at my face.

In the morning, the shoes keep me home from work. They keep me home for the rest of the week. No one from the office calls to see if I’m okay. The shoes don’t even make me sit on the couch and watch television. They let me wander around the apartment, let me apply ointment to my face, though I’m still not allowed near my computer. At one point, I swear I hear them breathing, but they do not speak to me again even though sometimes now I speak to them.

When my face has nearly healed, the shoes take me to work. I’m nervous about seeing the girl from the third floor or anyone else for that matter—of course she would tell everyone. But no one looks at me sideways, no one glares. They smile, happy to see me, ask if I’m feeling better. “Food poisoning!” they say and I nod like I know what they’re talking about.

I’m sitting in my cube when I see her, the girl from the third floor getting off the elevator and coming right for me. She’s a bit off balance, no she’s limping, and I huddle over my computer, hoping she’ll pass me by, but she stops right at my cube, and that’s when I see them, her heels, impossibly high, a nasty red welt developing on the top of her foot where the shoe rubs. She says my name. “Oh hey,” I say like an idiot. Through gritted teeth she asks me, “So how about round two tonight at my place? This one’s on me,” and I know it, her heels—they made her say it. I try to tell her I’m sorry with my eyes but I lose focus as she drives the spike of her shoe into the hard plastic of mine.

At the hospital, the nurses are a mismatch of scrubs and busy hands. They have to cut me out of the shoes, and I apologize for the smell. The air on my toes, cold and tickling, I nearly giggle with the relief. The nurses tell me they understand, it happens, but don’t worry! We have a fresh pair waiting for you.

 

 

***

Katie M. Flynn’s stories have appeared in Carve MagazineHobartJoyland Magazine, MonkeybicycleSuperstition Review, and elsewhere. She was the winner of Colorado Review’s 2017 Nelligan Prize for Short Fiction. Recently, she finished her first novel about love, revenge, and uploaded consciousness, the first chapter of which is forthcoming in Indiana Review. She lives in San Francisco and can be found on Twitter @other_katie.

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