February 2, 2016
February 2, 2016

 

Big Shoes To Fill—
Mitch Kalka

L ike the dark early days of Pete Seeger’s career, I too have a part of my life that is normally kept hidden. I used to agree with Pete and his whole “No one must ever know” policy. But now that my time here on earth is limited, I feel the need to unburden myself of these heavy secrets. It’s time that someone knew the truth. It’s time that I tell the story of Bigfoot, that hairy mythical beast of the Northwest.

Many years ago, Bigfoot was my roommate. It had started out as a temporary thing. We’d split the rent on a studio apartment until he found something better. But a few weeks into our arrangement and it was clear that Bigfoot had stopped looking. I think he was depressed about being fired from his job. I told him that people didn’t want fur in their soup, but he insisted that the restaurant was in the wrong. Then he just sat around, being a burden. A big, oversized burden.

For someone who managed to evade cable film crews and local hunters for so many years, he wasn’t very quiet. Bigfoot was constantly running into things or banging his head on doorways while I was trying to sleep. The shower drain was perpetually backed up, and about once a day shit would get tangled into his fur and I’d have to take a scissors and cut it out for him. That, or he would scratch himself and his hand would get caught in a snarl. I decided to deal with this by purchasing him some conditioner. Then, realizing how quickly he went through a bottle, I began buying him value brand conditioner.

I had to do all his shopping for him, which was a total pain in the ass. Buying his shoes was the hardest of all. He wore a size 29½, which no company will actually make for under a thousand dollars. Eventually we wound up ordering some specially made clogs from Holland that looked like a midget’s canoe broken into two pieces.

Bigfoot never wanted to go out, and was violent towards our guests. He seemed especially awkward around the wealthy. He was defensive around them, as if they were constantly judging him for not coming from a better family or having a college education. He was endlessly mistaking the harmless comments they made for cheap jabs about his background. Then, in anger, he would throw the dishes off the table and rip our dinner guests in half.

    Eventually I had myself enough and decided to kick him out. Only, when I told him the news, he just got real silent. He stayed that way for several days, making no discernable effort to pack his things.

One night I came home to find him standing on the balcony, staring off into space. “No! Bad Bigfoot!” I yelled, watching as he put a leg over the balcony railing. I quick grabbed him and, with much strain, dragged him back into the apartment. “You can’t just give up!” I shouted.

“You don’t know what like!” he bellowed, in his primitive ape man accent.

I watched as he fell into a rage and began pounding pizza sized holes into our wall. One of them created a large viewing porthole through which we could see our neighbor, Ms. Marquez, bathing her pet Chupacabra.

    “Stop it!” I shouted. “The security deposit was like 500 dollars!”

    “Me sorry.” he said, covering his face with his hairy forearms as he wept.

    I wrapped my arm around him. “I think you might need help, buddy.”

    “Me know.”

    I handed him a t-shirt and he blew an epic level of snot into it. “Here.” he said, handing it me.

“You keep it.” I told him, after which Bigfoot sighed and let it fall to the ground, where it made a dull splat noise. “If me go to hospital, will you visit me?”

    “Uh, yeah, obviously. What kind of friend would I be if I didn’t visit?”

    Bigfoot let out a gigantic sigh. “Alright.” he said. “You drive me?”

    “Sure thing buddy, sure thing.”

    I started driving him to the hospital so he could admit himself into the psychiatric program. Bigfoot was extra fidgety on the way there. “You visit me?” he said, for the fourteenth time that evening, a desperate, pleading look hanging from his heavy brow and murky yellow eyes.

    “Of course.” I said, turning to face him. “You know I won’t just abandon you.”

    Bigfoot looked away in embarrassment. “Me sorry, me just nervous.”

    “Well, here it is.” I said, pulling over to the side of the road.

    “Where? Me see no hospital.”

    “You got to look really hard. Here, why don’t you go ahead and get out of the car. I’ll be right behind you.”

    “Okay…” said Bigfoot, slowly taking off his seat belt.

    He got out of the car and looked around. “Me still see no hospital.”

    “I’m sorry Bigfoot!” I yelled, slamming my foot down hard on the accelerator and speeding off. Only, I accidentally put the car into reverse, so instead of making a clean get-a-way, I drove the car straight into his shins.

    He let out a guttural yelp and then grabbed the under-workings of the car and lifted the back end up several feet in the air. “No!” he bellowed, slamming the car down and then picking it up again and repeating the process over and over. “No! No! No!”

    “Jesus, Bigfoot, I was joking around! I wasn’t going to leave you!”

    “NO! NO! NO!”

    “Bigfoot stop!”

    “Why you leave me!!!”

    “Bigfoot, I’m telling you, it was a joke.”

    He set the car down. “Joke not funny.”

    “I know. I know. Please, settle down and get in the car, okay?”

    “Okay.”

He walked around and got in the car, which balked and tilted to the side from the weight of his body.

“You’ve got no sense of humor.” I said, trying to force out a laugh.

    “Joke not funny.” he said, looking out the window.

    “Yeah, it was bad timing, joking around like that. Can you forgive me?”

    “Take me hospital.”

    “Okay, okay. We’ll go there right now, I promise.”

    I started the car back up and we drove down the road. “Joke not funny.” he kept repeating. “Joke not funny.”

    “It was a mistake, okay? I thought it would make you laugh, but I guess–” (Dadunk! Dadunk!) … “Oh shit” I said. “I think we hit a cat.”

    We got out to inspect the mangled feline we had left in our tracks. It didn’t look good. The animal’s mid-section had been completely flattened, and most of her guts were now coming out of her ears.

    “Fuck me.”

    “Ghhheeeuuuaaahhh!” moaned Bigfoot, just as a little Shirley Temple look alike came running by. “Oh, hello Bigfoot. Hello mister. Have you seen my cat? Her name’s Puddems.”

    Bigfoot quickly stepped in front of the dead cat. “Me haven’t seen her.” he said.

    “Oh, okay.” she said, sighing. “Well you two have a wonderful day.”

We waited until she wandered off and then got in back my car and sped away.

“Fuck me; that was terrible.”

“Bigfoot sad.”

“I know. … I’m sad too.”

When we got to the hospital I realized that I didn’t have my wallet. “Fuck, I dropped my wallet when I got out of the car. I have to go back.”

I sped back to get my wallet and then made my way home, where I plopped into bed and promptly fell asleep.

***

    I never visited my hairy friend in the mental ward. Instead, I moved to Michigan and put the whole experience behind me. It wasn’t until years later that I woke up in a cold sweat remembering Bigfoot, and how I never came to keep him company. Not even once. I began having nightmares where I could hear him calling out to me, asking “Why!??? Why you never visit? Why you abandon me?” I could hear his oversized tears dripping down onto the cold cement floor of the hospital basement. I can hear them still, anytime there’s a leaky faucet.

    Why didn’t I visit you, Bigfoot? Why? Because I’m a bad person and I betray good friends. That’s why. And now everyone knows. Everyone knows the way I mistreated you. I’d like to say that if I could do things all over again, that I would do them differently. But the truth is, I probably wouldn’t, because I really don’t like visiting hospitals all that much. They just aren’t very fun.

    Sometimes I wish I had done better. You know, made an effort to save our friendship. Sometimes I Even think I should get myself a new roommate. Someone to keep me company and make me forget the guilt I feel. But then, I realize that nobody could ever really replace you; nobody could ever fill your shoes. They were just too big.