Tom plodded to his crimson truck in strides like an elderly runner wearing weighted shoes. Where the light came to rest on the truck, its faded paint looked almost pink. A trail of rust spots where the paint had torn away led him around to the driver side door. He tucked his gun case under his camouflaged arm and scratched for keys in his pocket. Coming up empty, he leaned the gun case against the truck and lifted his mottled cap, the greens and browns of living and dead leaves; he swept his fissured fingers through his hair, threads of oak with patches of hoarfrost. Replacing his hat, Tom plunged his hand into the other pocket. Pinching the key, he slid it into the lock, turning it slowly as though afraid it would break.
The door kachunked open. Smells of matted dirt and a dangling pine air freshener were gilded by a faint whiff of oil curling up beneath them. As he placed his hand inside, his eye snatched something below the passenger seat: a sole, pink, ballet slipper. Above it, Tom watched his daughter, Maria, dressed in the pink leotard she wore to dance practice, swinging her pensile feet. He swapped the key back to his pocket, stretched inside, and picked up the slipper, frigid in his hand, avoiding Maria’s kicking pendulums of pink.
He held it, paused.
“I remember”, he said, beginning to appraise the slipper in his hands, “when I could put both your feet in my hand and still have room for two or three more.” He looked up, her legs silenced by the gaze. She smiled that smile of youth, warm and vibrant like a heartbeat; he could feel the thrum of it within his chest.
Tom stared for three blinks then pushed himself back outside the truck and picked up his gun case. Crawling into the truck, he clutched the case and slipper, frozenly gaping at the passenger seat before putting the case across it, resting the slipper on top, a crown of pink for the dingy black case. He sat there, puffing oily fog onto the windshield. He breathed in the cool air, looking at the trees ahead and the seat beside him. With a sigh, he dragged the key from its cove once more and started the truck.