Flash Fiction: Shoelaces

Editor’s note: As part of our Seattle Writes series, we invited local writers who participated in author Ann Teplick’s “Voices Up” workshops to submit short pieces (flash fiction and nonfiction) to Shelf Talk. We’re pleased to share this selection with you.

by Kathryn White

I remember when I was little, living in Greenwich Village in a small studio apartment with parquet floors.

I was frequently barefoot in my home, but never outside.

Too much garbage, broken glass, and hard concrete.

Too many ways to puncture my feet and end up with a bad cut—or worse—gangrene.

These were the days before velcro—when you either tied your own shoelaces, an adult tied them, or you left them untied—and risked tripping, falling, and skinning your knees.

I yearned to learn how to tie my own shoelaces—wanting that easy, smooth, flowing motion of the grown-ups.  I wanted to figure out how to go from two loops to a bow and then double-bow (to keep them from ever untying).

It looked simple—simple like the magician pulling the rabbit out of the hat or making coins appear from behind kids’ ears—but not really.

A sleight of hand I longed to grasp.

As I kneeled on my left knee and hunched over my right, I allowed no one to help me.  I wanted to do this—BY MYSELF!

I seized the shoelaces of my right sneaker—one in my right hand, one in my left.

I took the right shoelace and looped it under and over my left one.

And hesitated.

Now what?

I pulled them tight.

Then I made a loop with the shoelace in my right hand.

And stopped.

What next?

I looped the shoelace in my left hand under and over—NO, that’s not it!—over and under the loop in my right hand.

And pulled tight.

One bow.


I paused and bit my lower lip.

That’s enough.

On to my left sneaker.

Same thing.


I did it!


I wiggled and giggled, full of the joy of figuring it all out.


Rising from my crouched position, I stood taller than tall.

Grinning as I looked down at my sneakers, I felt I could fly.


Find out more about Kathryn at her website.


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