Zee said she knew school time was coming
when he brought out the ball of string.

He put one end on the tip of her big toe
and gently stretched it out
until it reached the back of her heel.
Then he snipped it off with his penknife
and put it in his pocket with ones
from her brother and sister.

Tomorrow he would go downtown
to the Red Parrot shoe store
and buy three pairs of brown lace-up oxfords.

Zee hated the clumsy shoes,
but knew she could not go with him
to pick out a pair she liked.

There was no place in their town
for little brown feet to try on shoes,
stand at the water fountain,
go to the Ladies Room.

She would almost have braved
the snubs and stares, the requests to leave
if she could have had a pair
of red and white saddle shoes.

Janet Taliaferro