“What in the world are you doing?” Kris said, stopping in the middle of the road. She pointed at my bare feet.
“It’s just a whim,” I said. “I want to see if I can do this.”
“It’s over a mile to Paul and Amy Jo’s house,” she said. “The asphalt is hot.”
“My feet feel fine,” I said. “Don’t worry about it. Let’s go.”
We walked up the hill, past the smokey bar, and then down the hill to Laurie Avenue. We chatted about her job, about how Mom is doing, about the garden.
“Hold up a second,” I said. “I think there’s a rock stuck to my foot.” Kris gave me a knowing look. I rubbed the bottom of my foot, but there was nothing there. That seemed a little strange, but I kept walking.
My feet began to hurt a little. For large stretches along Laurie, there are wide expanses of asphalt that are basically smooth tar. Walking on these was a blessed relief. I sighed inwardly at the cool, smooth surface.
At the end of Laurie, I stopped again to pull pebbles from my feet. There was nothing there. “That’s strange,” I thought. And somewhere in the back of my mind, I began to realize this might not have been a good idea.
The last few hundred yards to Paul and Amy Jo’s house were sheer torture, but I tried not to show it. My feet were on fire.
“Look at me,” Kris said, turning into the driveway. “I’m walking on gravel.” I ignored her and walked up the lawn. I relished the cool, green surface where the grass had recently been watered.
Amy Jo opened the door. “I’m not even going to ask,” she said.
“It seemed like a good idea at the time,” I said.
“I tried to make him go back and put on shoes,” Kris said. “But he wouldn’t listen to me.”
“How do they feel?” asked Paul.
“They hurt,” I said. And they did. In fact, I was in pain. I slumped in a chair on the back patio. “Ouch,” I said. I looked at my feet. Each one sported two huge blisters.
“You know what that is, don’t you?” Kris said.
“No. What?” I said.
“That’s psychological,” she said. “Right now you need to be an adult. Your mom’s situation requires you to be at your best. This is you rebelling. You’re being a kid.” I gave her a look. Like she knows anything about psychology!
Paul brought me a pair of socks. “These should help,” he said. I put them on, and while they did help some, my feet still felt like they were on fire. We ate dinner. We talked about life and about work and about the weather. We talked about our gardens. We ate berries and burgers and ice cream.
When we’d finished, Paul said, “Are you going to walk home? Or would you like me to drive?”
Everyone was silent. I didn’t want to speak. At last I said, “I guess you’d better drive us.” My companions laughed.
“And what did you learn from this?” Kris asked.
I was reluctant to admit it, but I knew the correct response. It’s the same response to every conflict we have. And so I said, “Kris Gates is always right.“