kids, a dog, and two jobsBen was an
ordinary guy. In a crowd you could scan past him
five or six times and not notice that he was
standing right there in front of you. Around the
neighborhood he was usually recognized by who he
was withSpots, Ben Junior, or one of the
nondescript man, an everyman, but a nobody. Got
still wasnt paying, but it would, he said.
The other job, selling shoes, was 'research,' he
said. It stretched the household income, but more
important was that it got him out of the house.
His wife and teenage daughter, whod read
all of his recent work, finally suggested it.
nondescript man is a writer who cant write.
Only a few
weeks into the new job and Ben had filled several
pocket-sized notebooks from the dollar store with
bits of writers material. Shoe sizes, foot
odors, missing/extra toes, corns, bunions were of
interest in the early pages. By page 11, Ben had
moved on to capturing the subtle shades of
customer behavior between the polite and the ill-mannered,
the modest and the showy, the parsimonious and
the spendthrift, and the carefree and the morose.
Moods and attitudes and demeanor Ben cross-referenced
with the shoes customers bought.
nondescript man and failed writer sets out into
the world to find something to write about. Next.
But that wasn't
the extent of Ben's research. You see, Ben liked
to wear new shoes. And he had nearly half of an
entire store to choose from. Every day, every
lunch hour, he would slip into a pair of new
unworn shoes he'd had his eyes on that morning.
For twenty minuteshis best estimate of a
milehe would walk, climb steps, maybe run
after a bus, and jump over spilled garbage on the
sidewalk, always taking a different route.
nondescript man and failed writernow a
student of shoe store personalities and their
footwear preferencesis quirky. Whats
to the shop, Ben cleaned and sanitized each pair
of shoes, because his footprint was
supposed to be figurative and abstract and
uncontaminated but equally because he was fussy
quirky, but not quirky and disgusting is what
were supposed to think?
customers as they tried on shoes that he'd worn,
he liked to imagine what it would be like to walk
in his shoes. On his daily walks he wondered how
the new owner of his shoes would carry himself.
Would he walk with a precise, measured and
decisive step? Would he walk tentatively, weaving
left and right, stopping occasionally to look
around him? Would he swagger with arrogance and
bad taste, projecting an exaggerated image of
Now we get
why this nondescript man is a failed writer. And
his failure as a writer spills over into this off-stage
compulsion to control real people in the real
world. Clever. Next.
Ben never interfered by suggesting the
possibilities that lay ahead. After all, he said
(to himself), people have to make their own
choices. Nevertheless, Ben took pleasure in
considering his influence.
are characters, and characters are people, so
give them their freedom.
was important to Ben, and they were flattered
that he remembered them. He had a gift for
recalling faces and names and stories, and his
customers marveled at his incredible memory. Of
course, Ben didnt share from his notes or
his lunch hour walks.
nondescript writer creates descriptive characters
and conceals from them their reason for being in
his head. We got that already. Next.
manager retired, Ben rose quickly through the
ranks. Although it was never his ambitionwhich
remained to become a successful writerhe
accepted the offer to manage the shoe store.
nondescript writer morphs into a nondescript
shopkeeper, trading characters for customers,
plots for business, art for reality? Tragedy.
One day Ben
noticed that one of his employees was wearing
store shoes when she went out for lunch.
creative urge forsaken but resurgent? That it?
It was more
entertaining when Ben was a cross-dresser,
it lacked authenticity. This one at least sounds