If asked, my dad could write a book about the characters that come strolling into his shoe store. The range of crazies, strange cookies, and loopy folks that wander in to "buy shoes" come in all different shapes and sizes.
Most recently he had an old grumpy couple. The woman whined that the shoes my parents had special ordered for her "weren't pink enough". Her husband looked at the shoes and the picture in the catalogue that she picked it out from. "It's the same shoe, Ruth!" he yelled. "No, look at it. Look at the picture. The one in the picture is more pink. You can't tell me that this (pointed to the shoebox with a crooked finger) is the same one! I ain't buying it!" My mother, who was standing behind the counter, shrugged and my father said, "Well, ma'am, I don't know what to tell you." Her husband told her to "buy the goddam shoes already." She continued to gripe about it's lack of pinkness. Then her husband turned to her and told her to "Die, already!"
Then there's Captain Magic. My father tells the story best. An old man came in with the help of his wife. He could barely hold himself up, the left side of his body had completely failed him and his wife, who was considerably shorter than he, held up the other half. Together they hobbled in and he bossed her around as she did her best to fit him with shoes. "No! Not that way; pick up my foot! No, my other foot!" My dad stepped in to help. The man insisted he'd "walk" with him to find his size but my father told him that the store wasn't open that long.
When they finally found a pair that fit him just right, he was a happy man. His wife went up to the counter to pay my mom and he called my dad over. "Come here," he said and put his hand Dad's arm pulling him closer. "Nah, come here!" he said in a loud whisper. He was sitting in the chair and my dad was getting tugged down so low he practically had to sit on his lap. "I thought he was going to kiss me!" my dad later reported. When my father was close enough the man let him in a little secret, "You know, they call me 'Captain Magic'." "Oh yeah?" Dad asked. What the hell was this guy getting at?
He called over to his wife at the counter whose back was facing them. "Hey, honey, what kind of face does his wristwatch have?" She described my father's watch. He pulled on Dad's arm, "Gimme some money; a bill!" he demanded. Instead wanting my father to pay him for his parlor tricks, he just wanted a single bill for his next act. Dad handed him a five. "What kind of dollar bill am I holding?" he asked his wife and she answered "a five." The he asked her to list the serial number and she went on to do so in perfect order. "Wow, that's fantastic," my parents said.
Captain Magic is a retired magician. He used to preform with his wife as his assistant on cruise ships.
Feeling very proud of himself, he smiled. "You know," he said struggling to pull himself up from his chair, "I feel so good....I think....I can walk in these!" He got up, all six foot five of him and walked much like Frankenstein. He stomped one foot in front of the other and announced, "I feel like a new man!" Those words were immediatly followed by him falling flat on his face. The thump of his large body hitting the floor was so loud you would have thought someone had just chopped down a redwood.
Many weirdos have graced the store's presence and more will follow Captain Magic. But the store will be closed soon. My parents are getting ready to hang up the shoehorn. And maybe if we're lucky, they'll write a book.