Merle Rooney, Cody Higgins, Lucas Poteet, Vernon Abbott, and Eddie Eckhert had walked in the door at Tubbs Western Wear before 3 p.m. Saturday. It was now 5 o'clock, and they were still trying on boots. One does not often run into teenaged boys obsessed with footwear, but Merle, Cody, Vernon, Eddie, and Lucas would object to the observation that they were spending too long shopping for shoes. They were shopping for cowboy boots. That was all that mattered.

They'd tried on ropers, classic Westerns, riding boots, Wellingtons, natural cowhide, black leather, lizard, alligator, snake, eel, elk, buffalo, elephant, and even sting ray. They'd even tried on some Botas picudas mexicanas, the curled, pointed-toe boots they were wearing in Mexico now.

Esther Ramey was so tired of them.

She was 53, overweight, dumpy, squeezed into mom jeans she hated because the owner insisted she should be wearing the clothes they were selling. She'd been at work since 6 a.m., and she had a sneaking suspicion that she'd be closing the store at 9. There was a decent chance that all of these boys would still be in the store by then.

"Come on, lady," complained Cody. "Ain't you got any good boots?"

"Yeah, I could find these at Wal-Mart," sneered Lucas. "Don't you have anything special?"

"Right," added Merle. "I got a couple pairs of exotic boots already. Whatcha got that's really exotic?"

Esther sighed and went back to the storeroom. There weren't any left, she knew this. Oh, work boots, but that's not what they wanted. Women's boots, children's boots, sure, but they'd get angry if she brought those out. There was only -- but no, she couldn't do that to them. They were just boys, not much older than children themselves. She couldn't do that to them. Their minds could never handle the strain.

But she brought them out anyway. She was a little surprised that there were five pairs of them available, all in exactly the right sizes. She started to ponder on that, then decided it wasn't healthy to think thoughts like that.

She brought them out anyway.

The boots were possibly the most outlandish boots ever made. While they were built on the same general template as any other Western boot, they all featured images of skulls and poppies and tarantulas stitched into the material. They were a nauseating blend of chartreuse and neon yellow. Each boot had two tiny bat-like wings extending back from the heel. And there were plastic googly-eyes glued to the toes.

The boys were paying such close attention to the boots that they never noticed that Esther was wearing thick rubber gloves as she removed them from their boxes.

"Behold!" said Esther. Somehow, she couldn't even recognize her own voice right now. "Behold! The greatest creation of Esteban Zolomovich, unheralded genius bootmaker from the long-vanished ghost town of El Demencia, Texas! Vintage full quill ostrich, harvested from the maddened and tortured corpses of radioactive ostriches, driven hopelessly insane by a steady diet of mescaline, cactus paste, habanero chili peppers, prune juice, and human flesh! I present you: The DAHMER DELUXE 9000!"

All five of the boys tried the boots on.

"Light is both a particle and a wave," said Vernon. "How is that even possible? If it's a wave, it can't be a particle. If it's a particle, it can't be a wave! Quantum physics makes no damn sense!"

"You ain't kiddin'," said Cody. "You ever thought about an atom? You got a nucleus, and it's orbited by electrons, but other than that, it's mostly empty space. And everything's made out of these things that are mostly empty space! Nothing in the world should be solid. We should be able to walk through walls!"

And Cody stood up, headed for the wall separating the store from the laundromat next door, and walked through it. Or at least partway through -- he stopped suddenly while his back, his butt, and both legs were still in the store. Blood started running down the wall, and Esther heard the people in the laundromat begin screaming.

"What the hell was that?!" shouted Lucas, jumping to his feet. "That shouldn't be possible! That's shouldn't even be possible! OH MY GOD!" And he ran screaming out of the store.

"Good God," mumbled Merle. "Zardoz. Just... Zardoz."

"Have you ever really thought about how cool a Möbius strip is?" said Eddie brightly. "You take a normal strip of paper, put one little twist in it, then tape the two ends together, and you got something that used to have two sides, but now only has one. That's just so amazing. You got some paper and tape, ma'am? I'd like to do a little experimentin' and see what I can come up with."

A few minutes later, Esther was putting the remaining Dahmer Deluxes back into the storeroom. Cody's boots would end up in the police evidence room, Lucas had run out of the store with his, and Eddie very happily bought his pair. As Esther was putting the boots back up on the top shelf, she paused, took off one glove, and touched one of the boots.

She turned to look at you.

"You had better not be reading this by the time I go on my break," she said. "I need to visit the little girls' room, and I don't want you trying to watch me."


For SuperMegaNodeFestQuest 2012. Shazam! - Category: Fiction; Silly; Nodeshell created by another quester