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Author Luís Rafael Hernández
 translated from the spanish by Tobias Hecht Photography Zalami


The clamor of children grew more faint.

“It’s good you came to get me early. Mom always takes 
forever. Why don’t you pick me up every day?”

“I had today off. But I’d like to come and get you every day.”

The boy smiles and squeezes his father’s hand. They cross the street and walk in silence. The father grabs his son’s hand again. “Let’s cross, this is the dumbos’ side.”

“Why is it the dumbos’ side?”

“Because it’s where the sun hits. People who walk on the sunny side are dumbos.”

The boy laughs and repeats “the dumbos’ side…the dumbos,” as if he’d memorized a new lesson. Cars drive right past them, and his eyes follow the speeding colors.

“And the ones who go by car, Papa?”

“They’re like us, only they don’t need to walk.”

“But they’re on the sunny side.”

After a while the boy stops again and points at his left shoe. “Look, there’s a hole in it.”

His father examines the worn-out sole. “Why did they wear out so fast? I bet you weren’t taking care of them. You kids at school, with all your running around.”

“But I take them off at school when I play.”

“I’ve seen how you twist your foot around when you sit down. That’ll break ’em, I’ve told you a thousand times.”

“Mama has too.”

“You have to learn to take care of things.”

“If we had a car I bet my shoes wouldn’t fall apart. How come you don’t buy me a new pair?”

“How come? Because there aren’t any…there aren’t any shoes anywhere.” Worried, the boy lowers his gaze.

“It’s no big deal,” the father says, patting him on the head. “I’ll take them to the shoemaker and they’ll look like new again.”

The son stops and looks at his father gratefully, even admiringly. “Before Mama sees, so she won’t notice what happened.”

“Maybe, but we have to get going.” The father walks faster, not noticing how hard the boy works to keep up. They turn right. “What a great truck,” the father says, pointing toward the street. But his son has his eyes fixed on a store window.

“Papa, they have shoes. Will you buy all of them for me?”

The father is speechless, dazed by the shiny glass, the colorful ribbons, the lights—unlikely wonders on display. “Those shoes aren’t for sale,” he says finally. “It’s a museum.”

“Oh,” his son whispers, “a museum.” He glances back at the window overflowing with new shoes, so many he couldn’t even count them. “What a beautiful museum, Papa.”

Translation of “Zapatos,” first published in Words Without Borders, August 2009. Translation © Tobias Hecht. For more international fiction, see wordswithoutborders.org.

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