There was a place on 14th called Joe’s Shoe Repair. It had a small storefront, with a two storey ranch style house erupting out behind it, as if a tumor had metastasized in the shop’s rear wall, resulting in the development of some entirely new construction. Or perhaps it was the other way around, perhaps the home’s front porch had metamorphosed into a square, simple store. Either way, it was an oddity on a stretch of road dotted with strips malls, fast food joints and flat-roofed, anonymous buildings inhabited by lawyers and plastic surgeons and convenience stores.
Frank had noticed its incongruity driving by a few times before, but it was only when he moved into the neighborhood and began making regular trips to a nearby convenience store, for smokes and lotto tickets, that its angularity struck him as truly peculiar. Stranger still was the fact that the store was never open. There were a number of shoes and boots set out against window, displaying Joe’s handiwork no doubt, and he could clearly see a counter with a ancient-looking till and various tools of the trade set out on it.
None of their positions ever seemed to change—something Frank made a point of looking for after the first few times he went by. The lights were always off in the store, with an ever present closed sign hanging on the door. He never saw lights in the house behind either, though the shutters were always closed, so it was difficult to say for sure.
“That’s a front if I’ve ever seen one,” Frank would say to all his friends, though what it might be fronting he could not say. It just didn’t seem possible that the owner could let a piece of real estate like that sit idle and useless. There had to be a reason. “Joe ain’t fixing no damn shoes, let me tell you.”
His friends would nod and shrug at these pronouncements. What did it matter what went on in the place, odd as it was? But Frank could not let it go. The constantly closed store, the shuttered windows, the absence of any human activity on a busy stretch of a humming city, all worked at his mind until his fascination was absolute. He found reasons to pass down the street, would take walks by it even in the bitter depths of winter, just to see if there was any change. For over a year, there was none.
That all changed one long summer evening, the sun still setting after ten, and the air languorous. Frank walked by on his way to get a pack of cigarettes and saw the door to the house, off to the side of the storefront, standing open. He stopped to stare at it, almost unable to believe what he was seeing. Before he had a chance to think any further, he walked past the store, up the steps of the narrow porch, and into the house.
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