© Jaimey Perham 07/23/2012
In the end, everybody leaves.
The tired looking man with an aura of obscurity shined the black leather shoes of the businessman dipping a dirty rag in black wax rubbing the texture and repeating the process. The man in the suit and tie handed the shiner a crisp twenty dollar bill and went on his way into the sea of busy commuters destined for some random nine to five job in a small cubicle.
Robert Montgomery’s shop was in the subway terminal beneath Grand Central Station. Three large ripped stained leather chairs with a foot stand were contained in a square rectangle resting on the edge cement wall. Inside ancient bottles of exquisite different shades of dark color wax from around the world darted the crammed shop.
Bob was a man nearing the end of a long unforgiving career of shining shoes in the same location for the same type of person for forty years. In reality it was also the end of life for Bob. Bob had terminal lung cancer from smoking three packs of cigarettes since his shop opened. The anxiety and stress of the New York City overexcited his raw nerves that caused him to chain smoke like a ‘couple on their honeymoon’ stuck in their hotel room because of bad weather.
Bob lived alone in a Queens apartment 'where even ghosts don’t travel.' Never married, a few love interests here and there, but a real quiet solitary life of nonexistence he lived. For fun he listened to talk radio in his free time. He got to know the conservative personalities real well. Apolitical he did not take sides. He just loved the barking dogs go at it night and day.
The day the extraordinary incident happened to Robert started off as any typical early morning would down ‘in the basement’ of the capitol island to the world. Robert got to work exactly on time to the second. You can rely on him as one would rely on their Swiss watch.
He had a couple of regular customers. Tony from the transportation center downtown, John from the corporate bank, Billy from Wall Street all made their appearances. After he had a small lull he decided to glace at the local New York paper. Wow, another one fell into the subway track and got smothered by the orange line train down in Chinatown on the Grand street platform. Must be another suicide he thought.
When he looked up from his paper he saw he had a customer. The man strangely looked like a younger version of him.
“Good morning sir,” said Robert.
The man got comfortable in the stiff chair.
“Morning,” the customer said.
The two made small talk for a while. Then the stranger said something that caught Bob’s attention.
“Yeah, I’m looking for my real father. I think he works in New York.”
Robert over the last forty years has got to know many people in the city. A lot of men have stopped for a shoe shine at his shop. He might know him!
Bob asked for some information. The customer was twenty years old. His father was around sixty years old. He thought he lived in Queens, New York. He was a chain smoker. He also owned a shoe shining shop and his name was Robert.
Bob stopped breathing for a few seconds.
When Robert was forty years old he met a woman from Connecticut. She caught Bob’s attention. She was married, but they had an affair and the woman got pregnant. They decided she would raise the child with her husband and tell the husband the baby was his. They agreed the child would never know who their real dad was. Bob didn’t even know if it was a boy or girl!
“How do you know this entire information sir?”
“Not too long after my parents died I found a love letter from him in her things. The only thing I don’t know is his last name.
Robert finished shinning the customer’s shoes, and said he hoped the man finds his father. The man said thank you, and the customer went on his way.
A few months after their meeting at the subway shoe shine stand Robert Montgomery died.
Robert’s biological son never saw his father in person again. However, shortly after Robert’s death the son did receive a phone call from Robert’s lawyer. Not only did the son find out that that friendly shoe shine man was his biological father, but the son also inherited his shoe shine shop!