Excerpt from Sizing Up Shannon. One of the stories in Saint Catherine’s Baby.
Shannon put the box of size six hiking boots high on the shelf. Even with the step stool, her five foot three, eighteen-year-old physique had trouble reaching the top. She pushed the end of the crisp cardboard container, with the end of her long purple colored fingernails, into its designated roost in the stockroom of Mr. Estrada’s shoe store.
As she stepped down and brushed the blond bangs away from her clear skin, the doorbell rang. A potential customer had entered the sixty-year-old city landmark. She smacked her lips together to moisten her bright red lipstick and parted the weighted curtain.
Shannon immediately recognized Mrs. Shorenstein and her five-year-old daughter Hanna. Shannon had sold her a pair of children’s shoes three weeks ago and saw the same shoes glued on to Hanna’s feet, with a layer of dirt and grime.
“Hello Mrs. Shorenstein,” exclaimed Shannon, extending her hand in greeting.
“Hi,” Mrs. Shorenstein replied. “How nice. You remembered my name.”
Shannon bent down and addressed Hanna. “Hi young lady. How are your tennies holding up?”
Hanna turned and climbed on top of the small coffee table covered with magazines. “See how good I can climb!”
“Hanna!” her mother said, “get down.” Hanna jumped off, fell onto the freshly vacuumed carpet and rebounded with an impish smile. Shannon bent over, picked up the magazine that had been carried off with Hanna’s surprise jump, returned it neatly to the table and stood to face Hanna’s mother. “I’m sorry,” Mrs. Shorenstein apologized. “She has such energy! I wish I could bottle it and take a swig whenever my battery was low.”
“No problem,” Shannon replied, with a half-knowing smile. “Does she need another pair?” she said, referring to Hanna’s tennis shoes.
“Actually,” Mrs. Shorenstein said, “I need something for work.”
“Oh. Really.” Shannon batted her eyes. “What kind of work?”
“Just a part time thing,” Hanna’s mother replied, “some secretarial stuff for an environmental group. Since Hanna started her first year at school I’ve got a little extra time. I used to work at Gleason and Soto. I’m sure you’ve heard of them. Remember that big toxic spill case in two-thousand-three?”
“Sure,” Shannon said, without much conviction.
“Of course,” Hanna’s Mom explained, “that was before this little firecracker came along.”
They both looked at Hanna who, right on cue, jumped from the floor to a footrest like a bullfrog. “Ribbit. Ribbit,” she croaked.
Shannon turned to Mrs. Shorenstein. “So, you need something nice, but comfortable, right?”
“Exactly,” she said.
“What size?” Shannon asked, taking in her customer’s well-rounded figure, ankle length cotton skirt and white blouse.
Mrs. Shorenstein saw Shannon sizing her up and smiled knowingly, her brown, middle-aged eyes understanding more than Shannon could comprehend.
“Size seven,” replied Mrs. Shorenstein, lifting her skirt slightly. “I’ve got pretty big feet.”
Shannon anxiously led the way to the lady’s section of the small, but well stocked showroom. Hanna climbed on to one of the chrome chairs stuffed side by side and jumped from one to the other, as her mother looked through the available selection.
“These are nice,” Mrs. Shorenstein exclaimed, picking up a pair of black, paten-leathers, with one-inch heels and a thin buckle crossing its front. “Got any of these in my size?”
“I think so,” replied Shannon. “Let me check.” She took the box and started towards the back.
“Oh,” she heard Mrs. Shorenstein exclaim, “and these, if it’s not too much trouble?”
Shannon retraced her steps, graciously took the additional pair and made her way through the ponderous, blue velvet curtain that separated “Employees Only” from the public eye.
As she was searching for the size and styles Mrs. Shorenstein had requested, she heard the doorbell ring forth its proclamation that another customer had escaped the rain washed city streets.
Shannon stuck her head out the curtain and saw an elderly gentleman in a tweed suit looking at the men’s loafers. “I’ll be right with you Sir,” she said loudly. He smiled and nodded, as Shannon returned to her search for Mrs. Shorenstein work shoes. Just as she found the right style and size, she heard the urgent “Cling. Cling.” of the front door opening once again.
Without looking towards the newest entrant, she made haste to Mrs. Shorenstein, where Hanna was hiding under the chair, acting like she was appearing and disappearing.
“Here. Try these,” she said, “I’ll see if I can find the other pair in just a moment.” Without hesitating, she quickened her step to the preppie young woman in pigtails who had entered on the last ring.
“Hello,” Shannon said. “Let me know if I can help.” Not waiting for a reply, she politely excused herself and went in the back room to search for Mrs. Shorenstein’s other request.
“Where is Leti?” she wondered, as she looked frantically for the right shoes. “It must be ten-thirty by now!”
Leti was the store manager. Not much older than Shannon herself, at age twenty-six, Leti had quickly impressed Mr. Estrada’s eldest daughter, Josephina, who had reluctantly inherited the family legacy.
Josephina saw that Leti had the passion for selling and gladly relinquished the time and attention it took to keep the competitive trade going. Leti was rapidly promoted to store manager. With her infectious personality and clever marketing strategy to a younger, more diverse consumer, she had doubled sales and increased net profit by thirty percent.
As the manager for the last six months, Leti had made a point of hiring young women, like Shannon, who needed some job experience and something to believe in. She remembered what it was like to be young, insecure and scared to death of not being liked or accepted.
Shannon almost shouted when she found the exact size seven in the correct color and style. She yanked the box from the middle of the stack. The boxes further up the chain fell and spilled their contents on to the old wooden floor. Leaving them where they lay, barely restraining herself from running, Shannon sprinted through the curtains. MORE