Sunday, February 15, 2015

Visiting the Vicarage

A short story I wrote a while ago.

Phoebe Walker, wife of the Rev. Martin Walker, was dusting when the doorbell rang.

Phoebe pattered over to the vicarage door and opened it to find Helen Lewis. Helen was a slim, dark haired lady in her forties. She was wearing a floral dress and sandals.

"Helen, it's nice to see you," said Phoebe.

The visitor stepped into the house.

"I've come to show you the Sunday school rota I've drawn up. I wanted to check it with you first," said Helen, as she entered the hallway. "We definitely need to get it done before the term starts and before everyone goes on holiday. I know Mary is planning on going to France for three weeks and Louise is away most of August. We also need to put Tina on the rota now that she said she could help.."

What Helen was saying barely registered with Phoebe. All she could think about was the sight of Helen's sandaled feet moving across her carpeted hallway, desecrating and despoiling it.

Phoebe took her eyes off Helen's feet.

"Have you forgotten something, Helen?" asked Phoebe.

Helen looked back blankly.

Phoebe couldn't believe that Helen had forgotten about the shoes-off rule in the vicarage. She had visited plenty of times before, including coffee mornings with a whole bunch of ladies in their stocking feet. Not to mention the huge pile of shoes, sandals and boots she had just walked past.

The vicar's wife gave Helen the look she always gave people who forgot to take their shoes off. She looked down at Helen's feet, then looked up at her, making a faint smile with gritted teeth. It usually did the trick.

"Ah, of course. I forgot," said Helen with a smile. "You have to take your shoes off here. I'm visiting the Mosque. Or is it a Gudwara?"

Phoebe was a little irritated at Helen's sarcasm.

"We get visitors every day. We don't want to wear out the carpets," said Phoebe.

Helen did not move away from where she stood on the carpet. She seemed to be standing her ground.

Phoebe looked down at Helen's feet again and stepped forward.

Helen was forced to retreat towards the door. Instead of removing her shoes, she gave a laugh.

"Very sensible, Phoebe. What with the weather being so awful," she said.

The woman was of course being sarcastic. The weather had been delightful over the past week with sunshine and not a drop of rain.

"Whatever the weather, the streets are never clean," replied Phoebe.

Phoebe knew the game Helen was playing. She wanted her to say It's okay, you can leave your shoes on.

Helen looked down at her feet, as though contemplating removing her sandals.

"I'm only going to be five minutes," she said.

Helen seemed to be testing her limits, seeing how far she could push the other woman. Her eleven year old niece had behaved the same way when she had stayed at the vicarage for a week, straining at the boundaries of her aunt's patience.

"It won't take you long to put them back on again," replied Phoebe.

Helen gave Phoebe a pleading look. She was still hoping that Phoebe would say It's okay, you can leave your shoes on.

The visitor lifted up her leg, as though about to slip off her sandal. She gave Phoebe one last desperate look, trying hard to look a little like Bambi just after his mother had been shot.

Phoebe remained silent.

The defeated Helen removed one sandal and dropped it to the floor by the door.

The vicar's wife was starting to look forward to the prospect of unruly children at Sunday school.

Knowing the game was up, Helen finally removed her other sandal.

Phoebe wondered if perhaps Helen did not want to be barefoot.

"Did you want to borrow some socks?" she offered.

"No thanks. As I said, I'll only be five minutes, I'll be fine in my bare feet," she replied, giving a loud sigh.

Phoebe smiled, elated at having stood her ground. Was that really so painful?


Itinérante said...

I really like short stories! And floral dresses hehe! The mention of good weather made me happy (it's raining here! ) =)

Matthew Celestis said...

I have posted a couple of other short stories on this blog.

Greenstone said...

Bare feet are much worse for carpets than shoes are. And it extremely rude of Phoebe to insist on no shoes when the weather outside is nice.

Matthew Celestis said...

Greenstone, that bare feet are bad for carpets is often asserted but is not necessarily the case. In some cultures where they have very fine carpets. such as Iran or Arab countries, people go barefoot indoors.

Even the natural oils on feet can deteriuorate carpets, this is unlikely to be as much as the engine oil, cat pee and grit brought in on shoes.

Bob said...

My wife recently went with a friend to the home of a woman she did not know. The woman answered the door in slippers. After the introductions and before she removed her coat my wife removed her shoes stating that she did not want to walk on the carpeting with shoes. It was a perfectly nice and dry day and the reason my wife took off her shoes was the fact that the hostess had slippers on.

Matthew Celestis said...

Very good of your wife.

Grit on the ground will be around whatever the weather and it can ruin carpets and flooring.

Greenstone said...

I think carpets and flooring are meant to be walked in with shoes on. If not, the floors are defective.

When the weather is nice, I expect visitors (unless they are close friends or family) to keep their shoes on. When it is raining or snowing, I appreciate it if they take their shoes off or at least wipe their feet on the welcome mat really well. But I would never ever insist on someone removing their shoes. In my humble opinion, this is rude and tacky.

Mat said...

I'm amazed when people call the home-owner rude for asking guests to remove their shoes. Their house! Their rules! Surely, what they say goes! Dry shoes are not as clean as some may think. I remember my father wearing what looked like clean shoes in the house. They were almost smooth soled with very little grip. A little water had splashed onto the white tiled floor of the bathroom. Where he'd walked through this was very visible. The water had reactivated the dirt!! It was so noticeable that it had to be cleaned!

Mark said...

As a child and teen we used to go to church home groups at the vicarage and everyone removed their shoes. It was never problem and added to the informality of the occasion. We were either bare foot or in socks. We were also imbued with the notion that cleanliness is next to godliness.