An advertisement for a trip to Hawaii in 2022

By John Pierce

“Sing it, Aretha!” said Sonny as he swiped the first layer of wax across the toe of my shoe.

The Queen of Soul was bellowing from his portable radio next to a box filled with polish, brushes and rags.

“I heard she called off her wedding plans,” I chimed in from above.

“Sho’ nuff?” asked Sonny, who soon launched into a long discourse on celebrity culture in general.

So often the rich and famous tend toward self-destruction, said Sonny. Several examples rolled off his lips: Elvis, Richard Pryor, Michael Jackson and “that skinny girl.” (I took the last reference to be Demi Moore though many others fit the description. Maybe Amy Winehouse?)

Sonny talked about how they have access to the best dieticians, doctors and fitness trainers in the world, but instead often destroy their bodies with drugs and other bad choices.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” Sonny added as he popped his rag for the finishing touches,

Soon I rose from the massive throne of refurbished leather and put some folded bills in his polish-stained hand.

Our brief conversation had included no mention of Johnny Cash, who used to sing that a shoeshine “only costs a dime, just a nickel a shoe, (but) does a million dollars worth of good for you.”

Not anymore. At the Atlanta airport it’s seven bucks plus a tip.

However, there was no additional charge for the wisdom dispensed by the shoe-shining philosopher. And we even made a covenant: Sonny and I vowed that if he or I ever came into great wealth we’d not let it destroy us. Rather we’ll use it in constructive ways for ourselves and others.

But, in fact, I feel a bit more enriched already after spending a few minutes with Sonny. And my shoes look good.



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