The Lost Shoe

Photo: Mictlantecuhtli via reddit

Roman shoe found in a well, Saalburg, 2000-years-old

Decima was her parents’ youngest child. Six boys and four girls made the house busy. Her sisters were older than Decima. Quintella the sister closest to Decima’s age had married Petran two months ago. She loved the grand event and Quintella’s new husband purchased a blue dress and new shoes for Decima to wear to the ceremony. The shoes were the loveliest things she had seen and the prettiest things she owned. Petran assured her she could keep them forever. Petran’s gifts even impressed Mother. Quintella and Petran moved into their own house and left Decima with her brothers as companions.

Quintella loved Petran and Decima was glad for her sister, but it also made her sad. She didn’t want to share her home with her brothers. She needed a plan. When she overheard Father making plans for his next trip, she had an idea. Father’s business took him to forts and encampments throughout the Roman empire. Her brother Gistin went with Father while Mother and Cyprian, Decima’s eldest brother remained in Rome to run the business. Father and Gistin returned from their trips with grand stories. Decima wanted more than Rome.

Father said they were going to the Limes and Fort Saalburg near the Rhine river and the town of Nida. The Limes bordered the Germanic tribal territories at the edge of the empire. This would be a true adventure.

“Father, please, please let me go with you,” she begged.

“You can’t go to the Limes.”

“Plenty of soldiers take their families with them.”

“You are not a soldier’s daughter. I won’t allow it.”

Decima knew how to win. She was father’s favorite and if she kept asking him, he would give in and grant her wish no matter what mother said.

Father took Decima and Gistin, and her brothers Seppo, Barbro, and Linus to help drive the wagons. It was the first time he had his five youngest children with him.

Decima was on her first trip and it thrilled her. She sat in the wagon with father and asked question after question. This would not be her last trip with Father, so she made herself useful. If father depended on her and her skills, he would bring her with him on all his trips. Seppo, Barbro, and Linus pretended to be soldiers and weren’t helpful. Decima encouraged them to be less than mindful of Father’s directions. Older and wiser, Gistin wasn’t interested in his younger brothers’ games.

They arrived in Nida where Father had arranged accommodations for his family.  The hired men were to stay in Vicus outside the Porta Praetoria, the main gate of the Saalburg. The first morning in Nida Decima put on her best dress and her favorite shoes. They piled into the wagon and headed to the fort. Father chastised the boys for their antics and admonished them, saying they should behave more like their younger sister. When they reached the gate, Father told them to wait, and he and Gistin left to meet the commander.

As soon as Father disappeared into the crowd, the boys started. They taunted Decima, pushing and shoving her around the Vicus. In the scuffle, Decima lost one of her shoes. Her brothers pounced on it and played keep away with the shoe. Decima grabbed, twisted and turned trying to reclaim her shoe. Her brothers tossed it back and forth, high above her head while she yelled and demanded they return it and threatened to tell Father. Barbro scowled at Decima, her shoe in his hand. He was angry, but Decima didn’t care, she lunged for the shoe and he tossed toward Seppo. Seppo’s attention centered on the marching soldiers and wasn’t paying attention when the shoe smacked him in the head. Seppo bobbled the shoe and sent it flying. The shoe hit the man behind Seppo, bounced and landed at the well’s edge. It teetered, Seppo tried to save it, but it toppled into the well.

Decima ran to the well, too late, her shoe disappeared into the dark water at the bottom of the hole. She dabbed her eyes, determined they would not see her cry. She would get even and learn Father’s business, so he would trust her more than any of them. Decima would be rich and purchase the most fabulous shoes and clothes. Her brothers would ask her for work. She would remember this day.


Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

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