ST. PETERSBURG — A pair of cherry red shoes stood unmoved and unoccupied for two days, maybe more, planting a lipstick smooch on the dreary curb of Second Avenue S. Leaves and dirt had trickled inside the toes during the mysterious stay, but the shoes still managed to shine.
They were platform heels, the kind you wear if you want to get noticed. Cheap but fun, scuffed but sturdy. Aside from a brand name, they had no markings, no size, no nothing. Joggers ran by in trainers and oldsters scooted by on scooters, glancing at the shoes and moving on with life. Some people snapped cellphone photos. More people didn't see them at all.
"Ask me," the shoes seemed to whisper. "Give me your best shot."
Q: Was someone raptured?
A: The shoes were left behind, yes, but that was tough to prove.
Q: Was this a guerrilla marketing campaign from Rococo Steak, the new upscale eatery where the shoes had taken up residence on the sidewalk outside?
A: "I don't think it has anything to do with marketing," assistant general manager Chris Prachar said Wednesday afternoon. His menu offered grass-fed filets with purple potato puffs. These shoes were a cheeseburger with ketchup.
Q: Did someone teeter out of the neighboring Brass Tap after one too many brewskies, ditching the shoes in favor of foot freedom? The sidewalk was pocked with cracks and weeds, and those shoes were asking a lot. Most women have known the agony of just . . . can't . . . anymore.
A: Management could not recall any red-footed apparitions leaving the bar. But management was intrigued. "I have to see these," said Carissa Howell, walking outside into the parking lot. "Oh my gosh. That's really cool . . . in a weird way."
Q: Did someone put them there on purpose, Howell wondered? Maybe this was an explosion of urban art, St. Petersburg's very own Banksy, testing cultural conventions of all pedestrians.
A: An old woman in sunglasses lifted one shoe with two fingers. She shrugged and put it down.
Q: If someone didn't want them, shouldn't they go to a good home?
A: Vanessa Herring drove around in a white city car, just doing her job. The parking enforcement officer tries to see that her city stays clean, so when she saw the shoes she opened her car door and scooped them up.
She drove blocks through the city and turned into an alley. She hopped out and met an employee at the back door of Community Action Stops Abuse, or CASA, an organization that helps domestic violence victims, helps thousands of women with untold stories.
"I figured they were in good shape," said Herring, 44. "Someone could use them."
She handed over the shoes. Her fingernails were cherry red.
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3394.