Lisa Johnson Mitchell was born the daughter of a Texas hairdresser who subsequently pulled out all of her hair by the time she was six. She...read more is afraid of clowns and mimes. When she was 10, she was bitten by a dog, then it died three days later. Her friends and family now know not to bite her. True story. But so is this:
Lisa Johnson Mitchell has been an ad writer for over 20 years in New York and Dallas. She produced a documentary film about a famous, Dallas homeless man, "His Name is Bob" that you can see on Google Play. She is a graduate of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Her story, "Leota Fogg," was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Glimmer Train Fiction Open and placed in the Semi-Finals of the ScreenCraft Short Story Contest. Currently, she is an MFA candidate at the Bennington Writing Seminars in Vermont.
Everyone in my family wore corrective shoes except my mother. She was blessed with nice arched feet, the feet of those women who never had pimples or passed gas. Her feet were smooth and peachy, slender and soft.
Mine, on the other hand, were boney and flat – flat like soft corn tortillas, and yes, the clichéd pancake. I don’t like to think of feet and pancakes in the same sentence or the same place. Kind of makes me sick.
When I was about six, my two brothers and I would be scooted, well, kind of shoved – we didn’t want to go – into our Cadillac that looked like a big white nurse’s shoe. We’d all go downtown, together, to the Corrective Shoe Store in downtown Dallas.
On the way, I threatened to open the door and throw myself out of the car. My dad, unblinking, immediately hit the modern lock-all-the-doors button. Luckily, I didn’t succeed or I wouldn’t be here today to share the story of my big, loud, stiff, shame-inducing shoes.
Inside the store, there were shoes everywhere! Beige, white, black, school marm, puddle jumping, bus driver, trash man, cafeteria worker, and so on. You name it. It was the biggest collection of ugly shoes I had ever seen. I kind of felt sorry for the shoes, they were so ugly.
To be fitted, we put our feet into cold, steel measuring contraptions. I would scrunch my toes to shorten my foot so I didn’t have to get such big shoes. But the salesman always made me relax my toes and I ended up with what I perceived as the biggest, blackest, heaviest tie-up corrective shoes I had ever seen. Like black pot-bellied turn of the century stoves. I had to put my feet in stoves! And then try to walk.
My brothers were just little babies and they had to not only wear little baby corrective shoes, but the kind that had a brace, a long bar, that held the shoes together so their feet would grow straight and proper and not turned in, pigeon-toed. My brother Dan had kind of a little open-toed sandal number. His baby toes stuck out all white and doughy and puffy. They were so cute. I just wanted to pinch or bite or eat them.
My other brotherTom wore Oliver Twist lace-up ankle booties. Along with his little short pants, he looked rather proper, English proper! And, to further complement the 60’s fashion trend of the day, both boys had Beatles bowl cut hairdos. Mother loved it.
When I was eight years old, I remember running around the blacktop at school during gym class. It was awful. We’d all line up by height. All the cute bitsy blonde, teeny-weeny Slim Jim girls would be in front. I’d be in the back at 5’6” with size eight feet. A giant Woman Child, I was. We’d stand in these rows like at the grocery store check-out line. Boys in one line. Girls in another. I was taller than a guy who went on to play for the Dallas Cowboys.
Mr. Steele, our red-faced alcoholic teacher, was dressed in white from t-shirt to sneakers – just like Mr. Clean. He would let the girls do their lap first followed by the boys. He’d give us a loud, “GO,” and we’d be off.
I, of course, was at the end wearing black corrective lace-up shoes, the kind I saw in pictures that my relatives from the Depression era wore.
I could not compete with Sarah David in her super-cool red-striped track shoes. As I ran, I could hardly move my feet – it was like I was trying to run in water. Hot water! Texas summers were deathly hot.
By the time I arrived back at the starting place, everyone was back in line waiting for me. The coach would yell, his face squinty, like an Angry Strawberry Head Man. “Come on sister,” he’d yell in front of everyone.
I begged my mom to get me some of those super cool Sarah David red-striped track shoes and she did, finally. I wore them to school the next day with beige ice-skating hose. I finally felt cool. Until I got my period at a Girl Scouts camp during a tornado.
Every night, my dad would come in and ask me to pour glasses of prune juice for my brothers and me . Since they were wee little babies, my dad was overly concerned about our bowel movements … always asking if we had a BM. How many? What were they like? What was the color? How thick? How Thin? What was the shape? Pebbles? Acorns? Chunks? Long snakes? It was just horrible to have to talk to him about this. I wanted to say, “Dad, I didn’t take a picture of it.” Actually, if we had kept mini-photo albums of our movements, that would have pleased him.
My grandmother, his mother, Mamaw Dudie, lived with us. Her name was Ludie Belle. I couldn’t say that so I said, “Dudie" (pronounced like the poopy). And it would prove to be prophetic.
She was the original Whole Foods granola lady. She read Prevention magazine and for dinner she ate beets, a leaf of Romaine lettuce and salmon croquettes. That was topped off with a cup of herb tea … hot water into which she’d drop an herb pill.
When I was about ten, I started having these mysterious, devastatingly horrible, sweat-at-night, put-hot-rags-on-my-sides-for-hours side pains. Mamaw Dudie was sure it was my colon.
So she and my crippled Aunt Addie Willie, who had her own corrective shoes with a seven-inch lift, marched me where? Dr. Carrington. The colonic lady.
It was 1970 and unlike today, where colonics are clean, hip and fashionable, having the procedure was like going into some sort of medieval torture chamber. The house was like Miss Havisham’s, covered with vines and dark inside.
Dr. Carrington was a tiny woman who wore a nurse’s-weird-caftan outfit and a jaunty crocheted beret. We walked into a dimly lit back room where I saw this long, narrow tin table. I remember getting on it and having to sit my bum on this silver, tinny cylindrical thing that resembled a garden hose with a tapered snout. It was cold like the toilet seats in the park during winter. Next thing I knew, water was gushing out of it and INTO me. I may have passed out because the next thing I remember was walking out the door.
In my decades-long quest to lose weight, someone suggested I get a colonic. “Did you know you could be carrying five to ten extra pounds in there?” a caring friend told me. Please remind me to boot this caring friend.
Anyway, I ended up going to this woman whose office was in an old, smelly and not-so-sanitary building, or so it looked. She asked me to change into one of those gowns you wear at the gynecologist’s office — the kind still to this day I can never figure out whether to tie in the front or the back. Even worse, they tear as you’re sitting there while your left tit hangs out as the doctor walks in.
When I was up on her table, everything seemed to be going fine. “I have the same kind of machine that Lady Diana had. You do know she had colonics three times a week,” Sandra said, smiling as she pushed this hose into my anus.
There was a clear box that my waste would go through and on to some other mysterious container. I didn’t really want to see the contents so I looked up at the ceiling. On it was a night sky ablaze with stars.
“Starry starry night…” I hummed. So wrong, I thought, my humming a song about Vincent (Van Gogh, I guess) during such an inglorious process.
As I stared at the Big Dipper, she played some kind of “lite” music that was thankfully NOT jazz. Jazz, especially the kind that sounds like someone is throwing pots and pans down a stairwell, makes me constipated. So I relaxed. And, when it was over, I really was a couple pounds lighter. I was delighted.
She and I had several more sessions. She tried to sell me some of her potions and tinctures, names of which I had never heard, such as Dragonfly mucus or Boll Weevil oil. Then she started talking to me more about my waste. Not in generalities, no, but when she saw it pass through the little window.
“OH, now there’s some old stuff. Yes, that looks like some very old stuff. Probably stuff from when you were in the first grade,” she said.
Crayons? Twinkies? Dirt? Ding Dongs? Barbie shoes? Tiddly Winks? What? I honestly didn’t want to know, but she went on.
“But what we’re really going for here is The Big One.”
What? What the hell? Please tell me you’re kidding.
“The Big One is where we get REALLY deep. We get all your really old childhood stuff and that’s when you have a spiritual awakening, a spiritual experience, an out-of-body experience.”
Excuse me, but I was already having an out-of-body experience.
Okay, I nodded my head. Sounds good. I didn’t want to move or question too much. She did, after all, have a hose up my ass.
She then started to push down on my abdomen. She had done this before to help things “move along.” But she did something she had never done before. She let out the biggest, nastiest, burp I had ever heard.
“Buuuuuuuhhhhhhhh,” she released.
I didn’t say anything. She’s human. She’s all about expulsion. It’s her thing. Leave her be.
Then it happened again.
“BuuuuuhhhhhhhuhHUH,” she opined.
Okay, this is a process. She’s into it.
It happened a third time and I asked what she was doing.
“Channeling out your negativity. All your bad stuff,” she said. I found out she was a Universalist minister and went to the University of the Internet. Something like that. So she was “ordained.” Ordained, all right. Ordained freak.
After this session, I had one more. It was the last one in the five I had bought. She asked if I wanted to continue. I said I’d think about it.
I got a call a few days later asking if I wanted to come back. I said, please check back with me. I was a chronic, pathological people pleaser. Could never say “no.” Then she called again. I said, I didn’t think so. Then she called again and again until finally I had to say STOP CALLING ME YOU ARE STALKING ME, STINKY BURPING COLONIC UNIVERSALIST PREACHER LADY. And I hung up. I didn’t really say that but it was something like that. And then it was over.
I do remember that I think I did have the Big One. Maybe it did help me purge the painful memories of my corrective shoe trauma and the cold steel Dr. Carrington nozzle that went up my bum. Maybe she did rid me of my negativity. But I honestly hope not.
Some days, my negative, pessimistic, sad self-loathing makes me really, really happy. And most of the time, I have to say , it’s the only thing that can get me through the crap.