Soul Food

Holes in the soles of my soul In retrospect, I should have known better. I should have been wary of the advice of a stranger, especially when that stranger is squatting on the sidewalk with a set of bongo drums. I only stopped for a moment to groove on the rhythm he was pounding out with the palms of his hands, but suddenly the sound stopped. He regarded me with what seemed to me a look of suspicion, then rose to his feet. He circled me slowly, scrutinizing my face.

"Hey man," he said, "where's your sole patch?" His voice was a hoarse whisper.

"My what?" I asked.

"Your sole patch, man. Can't groove without a sole patch." His eyes were fixed on my chin.

I wasn't sure what he meant. I'd heard the phrase before and knew it had something to do with coolness, but beyond that it was a mystery. I nodded, and began to walk away. He was shouting the words, over and over, as I crossed to the other side of the street.

"Sole patch! Sole patch!"

Later that afternoon, I was pushing my shopping cart down the aisle at the local market when the bongo man's words resurfaced in my mind. Maybe, I thought, he knows something. Changing course, I headed for the fish aisle. Salmon, halibut . . . filet of sole! I shrugged, and dropped the fish in my cart.

That evening, I sat in my kitchen contemplating the situation. I was in unknown territory; I was unsure how to proceed. Then I remembered something. The bongo man had been staring at my chin when he gave me the advice. Encouraged, I opened the kitchen drawer and found a pair of scissors. I cut the filet to make a two-inch square—a reasonable size for this application, I thought. The second problem was how to keep the fish attached to my chin. A phone call to my grandmother resulted only in disappointment; she didn't much like the idea of loaning me her denture adhesive and hung up before I could make my case. Discouraged, I returned to the kitchen and sat staring at my little square of fish. What to do?

Suddenly, the light went on. Construction adhesive! If there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's that if you have something you absolutely, positively must attach to something else, construction adhesive will never let you down. Excited, I sprang from my chair, knocking it sideways onto the floor. I found my old toolbox in the closet, and in it the coveted tube of multi-purpose construction adhesive.

Examining my handiwork in the bathroom mirror, I could feel the new cool beginning to take hold. It hadn't taken the adhesive long to set; my new sole patch was firmly attached to my chin as if it had always been there. I raised one eyebrow and winked at my reflection. Time to hit the pavement.

Strutting down the sidewalk in my white ankle-length overcoat, the envy was palpable. Everyone was looking at me. The boombox on my shoulder played the Chili Peppers' Walkabout, an appropriate anthem, I thought, for this evolutionary night. I tipped my fedora to the ladies on the corner; I couldn't hear what they were saying, but I knew they were complimenting my patch. Turning up the volume, I began to dance as I made my way through the crowd. Then I noticed the cats.

It wasn't just two or three cats. They seemed to be everywhere, and more were falling into line every second. Forty cats, maybe more. I quickened my pace, but the cats kept up. I broke into a trot, but they easily matched my speed. Throwing my boombox to the sidewalk, I began to run. Looking over my shoulder, I saw cats emerging from alleys and side streets, tails in the air. That was when I tripped on a crack in the sidewalk, and was instantly engulfed in a sea of feline claws and teeth, tearing at my chin. I screamed.

When I came to, the nurse was saying something but I couldn't make out the words. I tried to speak, but she shook her head and put a finger to her mouth. A man in a white lab coat appeared, and exchanged a few muted sentences with the nurse before approaching my bed. He smiled.

"You were lucky," he said. "Most people wouldn't have survived this sort of thing. You'll be fine in a couple months, give or take."

A couple months? My hand reached for my face, but encountered a bandaged mass.

"We were able to reconstruct the chin," said the man in the white lab coat, "but you sure didn't make it easy on us. I'd suggest avoiding that industrial adhesive next time."

I couldn't see the nurse, but I could hear her laughter. The man smiled and shook his head as he turned away. As I listened to the fading echo of his footsteps in the hallway, I knew he was right. I had been a fool. Next time, I thought, I'll do things differently. Next time I'll use Velcro.


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