Cat Box Shoes

By Clifford Root

I woke up and started getting ready for school as usual. The morning had a very thick fog due to the rain the night before. I was all dressed but could not find my shoes. I searched all over for them for a while and then realized I had left them outside when I took them off for some reason the day before. I only had one pair of shoes at any given time growing up, so that is all I had; I had to wear them. They were soaked, but it did not really matter to me if my feet were wet anyways. I put them on and caught the bus. I got to school and walked into homeroom with my squeaky sloshing shoes and took my seat. 

Sitting there I began to smell a horrible smell. At first, I did not know where it was coming from. It only took a few seconds for the whole room to be engulfed with this stench. It smelled like a cat litterbox that a hundred cats had used. I was horrified because I began to realize that my shoes might be cause of this. I got closer to them and began to sniff, the closer I got the more it smelled like a cat straight up took a dump in both my shoes. Oh my God, this cannot be happening to me. I was a very active athlete and leaving my old shoes out in the rain was a very bad combination. 

Everyone in the class began to smell it, and they began complaining. What the hell is that smell, some were saying. It seemed everyone was disgusted by it. I just wanted to get out of there. I did not want anyone to know I was the stinky kid. I really felt bad for Keith sitting in front of me. That smell must have been killing him, but that was not the worst for poor Keith. Everyone started blaming him for the putrid stench. I heard someone say, “Man, Keith, you stink.” I just kept my mouth shut while this unfortunate kid took my punishment. A terrible thing on my part, but I could not take the blame. 

I could not leave. I was trapped sweating in my seat until the bell rang. If I had left, the smell would leave with me, and they would all know. So, I stayed there dying from embarrassment. The clocks stood still as they usually do in these situations. Then three weeks later the bell finally rang, and I went straight to the nurse’s office and played sick. When I got home, I threw those cat box shoes out for good. I really do not remember what I wore for shoes the next day, but at least I did not have to wear those anymore. 

Looking back on this now it is hilarious. However, at the time it was happening it was the worst feeling I can remember having in class, and I still feel horrible for poor Keith. 

Course: ENG 095 Basic Writing and Reading Strategies, Spring 2021

Assignment: Journal entry

Instructor: Jane Carey

Instructor comments: When composing journal entries, Clifford always went beyond what was expected, and instead of creating a paragraph response, he would often write a page and a half of thoughtful and inspiring prose. His piece, “Cat Box Shoes,” was one of my favorites, and it was written in response to a prompt asking the students to write a journal entry about a best or worst K-12 educational experience. Not only is this brief narrative quite hilarious, but it also does a great job capturing the challenging social aspects of life in the classroom that students sometimes face.

Photo credit: “Air Jordan 5’s old and new (again)” by Ollie J (Creative Commons license)