I hated to admit it, but for once my husband (to my everlasting annoyance) had been right.

“Those shoes look absolutely ridiculous with that pair of jeans,” he had told me while brushing his teeth. I looked at him with horror as the foamy tooth-paste spit rolled down his awkwardly extended little finger and dripped on my carpet. “You should wear boots or something … maybe your loafers!”

I rolled my eyes. Men knew nothing about fashion or how to stand over a bathroom sink and brush. Mine chose to walk around the house doing menial tasks while he brushed his, like flipping channels on the TV, finding a pair of socks, or telling me what I should-or-should-not-do.

“How about you just keep your spit in the sink and keep your fashion advice to yourself,” I’d said with a stomp. Besides, these were an absolutely fabulous pair of high heels that I’d purchased on QVC for only twenty-nine dollars! Supposedly all the movie stars back home were wearing them, and since my know-it-all-husband had moved me from California out here to “Hooterville” North Carolina, I knew I’d never find anything like this in Helen’s Bait Shop & Clothing on Old Riddle Mountain Road.

I looked down to admire my shoes. These were beautiful … black suede, peep-toe wedges with a very narrow 6″ heel, and tiny golden rivets sprinkled down the back heel of the shoe like shooting stars on a deep dark sky. How could anyone not look at these and be impressed?

My husband could, that’s who.

“Bye,” I called as I pulled on my heavy winter coat, grabbed my purse and the leash of our Basset Hound, Bert.

Bert was given to me as an anniversary present from my husband. Actually, Bert was more my husbands dog, but he’d played me like a fiddle that day and tied a little red bow around his neck and placed the incredibly cute five pound Basset Hound puppy in a picnic basket four years ago. I admit, Bert was an adorable puppy … big sleepy eyes, long droopy ears … he was the perfect example of a postcard puppy.

As he grew, however, he’d become a chewing machine and when left alone, he was absolutely determined to destroy anything he could. Our two year old sofa looked like a Salvation Army reject, and my husbands recliner hung in shreds from about a foot down.

Now at a whopping 69 pounds and with a broken leg, unable to walk, he was a little less than “adorable”. I wrapped the leash around my hand and lugged the big gravity-sucking creature up into my arms and carried him out to our garaged car for our trip to the vet. “And thanks for the help,” I called sarcastically over my shoulder as I let the back door slam shut.

It was a one mile drive down the mountain to Dr. Willards Animal Hospital and the part dirt, part gravel road was practically frozen solid all the way down. Luckily our car was equipped for weather like this, and it did a fine job gripping the icy road. Bert lay quietly in the seat next to me, occasionally stretching his neck to peer out. It broke my heart that he couldn’t hop up on the window sill to see the icy woods he loved romping in so much. I patted his head, “Don’t worry buddy, Dr. Willard will fix you up and we’ll go for a walk in a week or two, alright?” Bert looked at me with trusting eyes and then lay his chin on the seat as if he’d understood perfectly what I’d said.

Right then, I heard an unfamiliar thumping beneath my car. Bert raised his head and began to softly growl. What on earth? Since the drive was only a one-lane road, I simply stopped the car and climbed out to see what I’d hit.

Nothing. Instead, I realized that my front tire was completely flat. Great.

The one thing my father had never taught me to do, was change a tire. I could build a potting shed, fix the refrigerator, change the oil, but I had no idea how to change a flat. Climbing back in the car I reached for my cell phone in my purse and then remembered I’d left it charging on the table by the back door.

I knew my husband wouldn’t be coming down the road a while, and honking would do no good. It was over a half mile back to the house. He’d never hear it, and if he did, he would probably never put two and two together. Besides, today his college football team was playing in the playoffs and it could be DAYS before he missed us. I imagined him, eating leftovers for the second day in a row and saying, “Hey honey, when are you going to cook and do some dishes again. Honey? HONEY? Now where the devil did she go?” then looking around puzzlingly at the unfolding mystery of my sudden disappearance.

“Darn it!” I yelled as I slammed my fists on the steering wheel. Bert jumped a bit and dipped his head as if he thought I were about to smack him for some unknown reason. “Bert … we’re stuck old boy and it’s either up or down.”

I crawled out of our warm car and went around to his side to lug him out. It was 21 degrees and if I left him in the car, I was afraid he’d either freeze to death or rip the entire interior of the car to shreds. “Come on you big galoot … let’s get you back to the house,” I grumbled while trying to balance on tiny heels and carry Bert at the same time.

Little by little, Bert and I made our way up the drive, my ankles twitching and wobbling under the weight of each step. Several times my foot would roll completely over and Bert and I would tumble down, both of us wide eyed and panicking. Thankfully, my heavy coat absorbed most of the impact and we’d get up and start all over again … me standing in my fabulous heels, bending over, lifting sixty-nine pounds of dead weight and taking that first precarious step, then another, and another.

Bert seemed to love the whole idea of me getting all dressed up, driving half way down the mountain, and then carrying him back up! His eyes sparkled as he looked around as if he’d never seen our mountain from this angle before, and occasionally he’d give me a little lick on the cheek as if to say, “Wow, thanks Mom … this is wonderful!” … all the while I’m on the verge of double ankle failure as I wobble, stumble and cuss my way steeply towards home.

Finally we made it to the base of our yard, where road turned to concrete. I was certain I was within ear shot of my husband who was undoubtedly engrossed in his game by now, so I yelled, “HELP,” at the top of my lungs.

I paused a moment waiting for the front door to open, but after a moment when nothing had happened, I yelled again a bit louder. Still nothing. So we continued while I shouted the most profane slurs I dared at my husband, happy now that he couldn’t hear me!

Finally we arrived at the foot of the porch steps and had only nine precarious steps to climb. Home at last!

I angrily turned the door knob and kicked open the door. It sprang open like a trap and banged into the wall behind it, causing my husband to practically jump out of his skin and spill his tea all over our shredded sofa. There I stood before him breathing heavily, my light beige coat torn and dirty, globs of mud on my face and arms, my hair hanging in stringy strands all over my head, and my beautiful QVC heels scratched and muddy. “What the devil have YOU been doing,” he shot at me as I stood there looking as if I’d spent the night in the city dump, “I thought you were taking Bert to the vet?”

I lay Bert in his recliner and kicked off my once-beautiful shoes … my feet throbbing from the walk and my toes nearly frozen from the cold. Breathlessly I managed, “We had a flat. At the bottom of the hill. I had to carry Bert. All the way back.”

My husband stood up and jumped into action. If there’s one thing he loved more than football, it was playing the part of the hero. “Leave Bert here,” he said as if he actually thought I were stupid enough to carry him back down the mountain,”We’ll go down in my truck, change your tire and then drive back up for Bert.” I nodded, still out of breath and still somewhat annoyed at my husband for whatever reason.

I was just about to go in the bedroom for warm socks and boots when my husband turned and all-knowingly said, “I told you not to wear those stupid shoes. You should have worn your boots like I told you!”

The January ice entered my very soul as my stubborn I-will-not-be-wrong attitude gave birth to misery right there in my living room. I walked over to my QVC heels, smugly slipped them back onto my sore, cold, aching feet, and on now quaking ankles, precariously followed my husband out into the garage.

-Lynn Hamilton Rutherford c2017