Phil’s Flip Flops

At the end of period five 

a well-worn pair of brown flip flops 

were left near the trash can

by my desk.

They belonged to my student Phil,

who wears the same brown

flip flops,

no matter the weather,

no matter the occasion.

Clearly Phil must have

kicked them off

during reading time

and never bothered to put them back on.

Was it forgetfulness?


A prank?

No matter,

I knew Phil would be back.

The boy needed his shoes.

But lunch time came and went.

And no Phil.

I was certain

he would rush into my room

complaining about having to wear shoes,

telling me that he left them in the room

because he felt like going barefoot,

insisting he liked the cool concrete floor 

pressed against his heels and toes.

Hadn’t someone stopped Phil in the cafeteria?

Told him he was not allowed in line

or at the table without shoes?

Hadn’t someone insisted that 

shoes be worn at all times,

or else?

The final bell chimed at 2:35.

Classes were dismissed for the day,

but Phil’s flip flops remained.

I could have picked them up

and deposited them in the lost and found,

but I thought, no

Phil will be back,

so I left them there, undisturbed

near the trash can

by my desk.

In the morning,

the flip flops had been rearranged 

into neat parallel lines.

The night custodian must have felt compelled to 

straighten them thinking they were mine,

that I had left them there.

I consulted my homeroom students

who somehow know everything about everyone.

When I asked why Phil never came back for his shoes.

They told me he had a second pair of flip flops 

tucked inside his backpack

exactly like his old ones

which were near the trash can

by my desk.


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