Al Batt: The shoulder devil made him free the halluces

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, March 26, 2024

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Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

My neighbor Crandall bought a pair of nice shoes from one of those man cave stores. He had never owned such spiffy shoes. They’d been within his comfortable price range because someone had worn and returned them. The shoes were so uplifting, he thought he might use them to run a marathon — not the length of the race but the width. The footwear pair was a smaller size than he normally wore, but he figured he could cram his boats into them. That’s what a shoehorn is for.

Al Batt

The new shoes put a pinch on his feet, concentrating their efforts on his big toes. Being stubborn, Crandall wore those shoes for a couple of weeks before deciding to return them. A store clerk reminded him he’d purchased used shoes at a ridiculously low price that didn’t allow returns. Crandall thought he’d be unable to return them, but he tried. He’d found hay in a needle stack before.

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A couple of vexing days passed before my neighbor decided to either relegate the shoes permanently to the far corner of his closet or take them to a thrift shop. When we wrestle with temptation, we sometimes imagine a tiny angel and devil, each sitting on a different shoulder, trying to pull us in different directions. The angel represented conscience and the devil temptation. The angel, perched on one of Crandall’s shoulders, championed the thrift store idea.

The devil came up with another plan and convinced Crandall to cut a hole in each of the shoes where it would give his big toes room to stretch.

Mary Oliver wrote, “Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” After Crandall shared his tale of woe, I recommended he take $150 of his moldy money and buy a pair of bigger shoes.

He couldn’t do that. It wasn’t the money. It was because his big toes had never been happier. He added, “I wouldn’t take $150 for one of the holes in my shoes.”

My shoes had no holes cut for the comfort of my halluces while I spoke in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The weather was nice with occasional gusts to lovely. I told stories in a large auditorium. The next day, a new friend took me to a restaurant. The waitress greeted me and said she’d heard me bloviate and directed me to a particular table by saying, “You need to sit here. This is the chair Andy Griffith used to sit in. It was his chair. He was quite a storyteller, too.”

My head swelled to epic proportions. The food was terrific and I was mentioned in the same thought as Andy Griffith. I contemplated cutting a hole in my traveling hat.

The next day, another new friend suggested we eat at the same place for breakfast before I headed to the airport. I agreed without telling her I’d already sampled the food there because I wanted to go back.

I was greeted warmly when I entered the eatery by a different server, but she told the same story. She’d heard me speak and led me to a table, pointed to one chair and said, “You have to sit there. Andy Griffith sat there every day. He wouldn’t sit anywhere else. He could tell a story, too.”

My head didn’t swell as much as it did the day before because she’d sat me at a different table in a different chair, but there was still some noticeable melon swelling.

As I got into my rental car to drive to the airport, another new friend gave me a bag to put in my checked luggage. She called it drunken raisins — golden raisins soaked in gin. It’s a remedy as old as time, at least the time kept on my watch. The folk remedy gained traction after radio broadcaster Paul Harvey mentioned it on his show in the 1990s. Many people claim that eating gin-soaked raisins may help relieve arthritis pain. According to proponents of this folk remedy, eating nine drunken raisins soaked in gin each day can reduce pain, stiffness and swelling. Others dismiss it as ineffective and anecdotal.

But why did she give it to me?

I think she hoped it might help my swollen head.

Al Batt’s column appears in the Tribune every Wednesday.