Iron Shoes: A Novel
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Kay Sorenson is stuck. She is forty years old and still trying -- and failing -- to please her glamorous, willful, and indifferent parents. She abandoned a promising music career, settled into a loveless marriage, became a careless mother, and began to drink, smoke, and daydream too much. But when her mother dies, Kay is left without her lifelong crutch and is finally forced to take her first tentative steps toward becoming the woman she wants to be.
Sunday morning, alone, when she was supposed to be at rehearsal—it was just an idea. For a minute, imagining what it might be like: the boozy secret dark, the long mirror, the candy-colored lights of the jukebox in the corner, a good idea, yes. But not one she would ever pursue. She had never gone to a bar alone. She wasn’t like Zabeth. Zabeth! Those little red eyes! He could have any woman he wanted. And what about that LSD? What kind of present was that? Dad ought to know better, Kay thought,
anything like that from her own, her only, daughter. On Friday she called three times. Once to say she was sorry she had shouted the day before and to please forgive her; the second time to shout that she would shout if she wanted to; and the third time she simply cried for five minutes, while Kay, cradling the phone against her shoulder, tears running down her own cheeks, took late fees at the return desk at the library. On Saturday she asked to speak to Nicky and when he took the receiver
to find out? “I feel sick,” Barbara Billings said beside her. “We’ll be fine. Remember: we’re geniuses.” Kay turned, grinning, but Barbara, holding her stomach, moved away. Geniuses, Kay repeated to herself. She remembered a professor’s assessment of a performance she’d given: “B-.” “But that’s not good enough,” she’d said, sitting in his office at the conservatory, holding her music books. He’d looked at her hands, with their torn cuticles and nicotine stains, and then he’d looked at her, her
now you’re jealous of the Holy Bible.” “I am not. What do you mean?” “You’ve always had a green streak a mile wide.” Ida looked at her curiously. “You do know I love you, don’t you?” “Sure. No. I don’t know. I’ve never known anyone loves me.” “Nonsense.” Kay shrugged, eyes down. “You didn’t like me when I was a baby.” “You had colic. And you were awfully … I don’t know … clingy. But I like you now. Isn’t that enough? I especially like it that you have been coming up and seeing me as often
they both turned, the front door slamming as he ran down the street. “You look like two ties twisted,” Mrs. Holland said. Kay paused, her arms full of books. “I had a rough morning,” she admitted. She thought about telling Mrs. Holland that Neal had moved out and that she’d spent the last half-hour coaxing Nicky back into her car, but decided against it. “I still can’t find that ring,” she said as something to offer. “I lost a diamond once,” Mrs. Holland said. “It fell out of its setting when