Sheree Shatsky: The World Is Ending and My Feet Still Hurt

The boss thinks it’s a good idea to keep the store open during coronavirus. #MoodRings is trending on Twitter and he has back-stock from 1996. The rings measure body heat by color and rumored as early predictors of illness. Green is normal temperature, yellow elevated and brown means see a doctor quick. Everyone crosses fingers and hopes for violet blue, the cool blessed Mother Mary of natural immunity.

‘Make sure to wear a ring so the customers can see the product.’

‘What if it reads I’m sick?’

He digs through a box labeled RETURNS. ‘Here, wear a busted one. Tell them gray means no sign of the virus.’

We open the store. People stretch in social distance for blocks. One guy rolls up a sleeping bag, another a lawn chair.

‘One per customer, not one per family,’ the boss says. ‘If parents give the kids money to buy a ring, no problem. The idea here is to liquidate the stock.’

I wear my mask with the unicorn patch for luck. The customers babble about my look behind masks of their own making. Show us your ring, gray means no sign of virus, what? Tweet that, #gray or #grey maybe #graygrey? Hey, keep working that mask, unicorns are magical.

I slip off my shoes behind the counter and sell mood rings. My feet always hurt at work, like standing on sand spurs. The cold terrazzo floor soothes relief. The boss notices and digs through a cabinet of summer stock. He finds the toe rings. ‘Put one on. I’ll take over here, you work the customers. Tell them with every mood ring purchase, toe rings are half off.’

‘Walk the floor barefoot?’ He nods, dollar signs for pupils.

‘Wait.’ He thrashes through the box of mood rings and finds a clear plastic bag. OLD STOCK is written in permanent marker. He pulls out a pair of beaded barefoot sandals. ‘Wear these too. Same deal, half off.’

I walk the crowd modeling my bedazzled feet. A little girl stoops and counts the plastic beads strapping the rise of my foot. I point at my toe ring and wiggle my toes. She tugs her mother’s arm and points back. Hidden smiles rise the corners of our masks.

This month I’ll make the rent.

Sheree Shatsky writes wild words. Her short fiction has appeared most recently at Saw Palm: Florida Literature and Art, Back Patio Press, Anti-Heroin Chic, Fictive Dream, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Bending Genres and New Flash Fiction Review. She is twice-nominated for Best Microfiction 2020. Read more of her work at She tweets @talktomememe