Old Shoes

I had just started eating my lunch, when I saw the old man shuffling towards me, scattering the cluster of pigeons that had congregated hopefully at my feet. I stared at him apprehensively, taking him to be a beggar, but needn't have worried: he sat down quietly at the other end of the bench and stared across the park at a family picnicking in the distance. He wore faded slippers and a large, grey overcoat that did all but hide a pair of pyjama trousers.

My curiosity aroused, I glanced over at the family: a well-dressed couple, and a young girl of around four who was attempting cartwheels around the picnic blanket. The mother spoke to her and she stopped, running back to the blanket, her face red with exertion. Her mother offered her a drink, which she took and gulped down.

"My family," said the old man.

I turned to him, a little startled, and smiled politely before returning to eating my cheese and pickle sandwich.

"Do you have family?" he asked.

I shook my head, wondering if perhaps the rest of my sandwich was best kept for later.

"Better that way," he said. "You spend all your life on them, and then when you grow old, they put you away to gather dust, like a pair of unwanted old shoes."
flash short story


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