Quentin wasn’t an aspiring fashionista. He was an average guy who worked an average job (software architect), had gone to an average school (Northeastern), and wore average clothes (Levis and baseball caps, white socks and boxers, flannel shirts and Chuck Taylors). But there was just something about these boots.
Their coppery leather seemed to shine from within, almost as if it were imbued with a sort of concentrated physical light. The laces, the heels, the soles, their flowing lines and crisp angles—the boots were perfect in every detail, combining a sort of moneyed Bostonian utilitarianism and Italian flair in one compact form that seemed, somehow, ready for anything.
“From shoveling snow to dinner at the White House, these boots are ready for anything,” Tom Brady had said, into the camera, the night before, while Quentin had been watching the game with his girlfriend Marcie. “They’ll change your life,” he added, smiling his thousand-watt, thirty-million-dollar-a-year-without-endorsements smile. “Guaranteed.”
This commercial ran ten more times during the three-hour game—the three-hour beatdown Brady and his undefeated Patriots had lain on their hapless opponents, the Titans of Tennessee—each successive viewing building in Quentin a greater desire to at the very least see these boots in the flesh. Sure, he knew it was preposterous to think that just because Tom Brady was selling some boots, was guaranteeing their very special-ness on TV, there was anything truly special about them. This was advertising, marketing, late-stage Capitalism, nothing more.
Still, a tiny voice was calling to Quentin, calling to him from the Mesozoic depths of his average human brain, a brain befuddled by the many mysteries of the world. The voice was telling him that he needed these boots. He needed them in the way people had once needed to pray to the sky or fire or some great and terrible beast. He needed them because they were special, because they might make him special, because they might, in some way, change his life.
“Quentin?” Marcie had asked after the game. He was watching the highlights for the fifth, sixth, or possibly seventh time. He’d lost count.
“Hold on. Just this one play.”
Three plays later. “Quentin? You just watched the game and now you’re watching the highlights for the sixth time. I want to talk.”
“Just a sec, Marce.”
“No,” she said, grabbing the remote and killing the TV.
Quentin’s breath caught. “Hey!” he finally managed.
“You know I wanted to talk. I’ve been waiting for hours.”
She was right. “I’m sorry, babe, what did you want to talk about?”
She cocked her head to the right, stuck out her left hand and shook it in his face, sort of like she was doing horizontal jazz hands.
He stared, pretended.
“My ring!” she finally added, flipping her wrist and sending her hand vertical. It looked more than a little like Marcie was giving Quentin the finger.
“Oh, right, shit, baby. I’m still working on it.”
“I didn’t ask for the fucking Star of Zanzibar, Quentin, how long do you have to ‘work on it?’”
“Um,” he replied.
“Um?” she repeated, staring.
“Actually, aren’t you hungry at this point?”
“I guess I could eat, yeah. But don’t think you’re changing the subject.”
“Of course not. We can talk on the way.”
And they did. Marcie questioned, attempting to gain reliable information, actionable intelligence that might assure her all the waiting had a point. Quentin promised, cajoled, talked a lot about food, and eventually escaped after they’d eaten.
The problem Quentin was left with, as he walked back to his apartment later that night was that he had no intention of getting Marcie a ring. Sure he liked, even loved, Marcie. Marcie was nice and smart and cute, the sort of girlfriend a lot of guys would have been happy with. But there was this other thing about Marcie. The other thing was that he just didn’t love her enough to buy the ring she wanted, the ring she talked about every fucking time he saw her.
Twenty-four hours later, Quentin was staring at the boots again, this time in the front window of T.A. Emporium on Newberry. Snow fell in large, crystalline flakes leaving the street beneath coated in a white that seemed to glow, as if it had somehow absorbed the stars above.
He’d been on his way to meet Marcie for a drink at McCourty’s, having planned to get there just in time. Marcie had been going on about getting married again, on the phone at work, talking about the ring she seemed convinced he’d promised her. He’d wanted to avoid leaving himself too much time to think about it before Marcie showed up, but the normally halting, wheezy Green Line had been mysteriously functional that day.
As he stared at the boots, Quentin had been thinking about how great the Patriots had played the night before, Brady especially. The way he surveyed the field like a Patton or a Rommel, completely unflappable no matter how many rushers or blitzers, no matter how tight the coverage; the way he put the ball just where it needed to be and used his feet to escape danger time and again.
But Quentin wasn’t Tom Brady or anybody else special. He was an average guy who’d gone to Northeastern. For Quentin, there was no worldwide fame, no massive salary, no supermodel wife.
Inside, the warm, bright store was decked out for Christmas. A jazz-infused “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” bounced from the speakers, full of celebratory pomp and infectious cheer. Bristling evergreen branches and bunches of blood-red holly berries looming all around, Quentin made directly for the boots. Before he could get to them he was intercepted by an elderly, well-dressed gentleman. His name tag read, Ajax.
“I see you have come for them,” said Ajax.
“How…?” Quentin replied, slitting his gaze.
“I saw you standing there, outside the window, staring at the Tom Brady boots like a lost puppy. You were practically drooling.”
“Do puppies drool?”
“Why does it matter?”
“I just want to make sure you’re not using some nonsense sales line on me.”
“Yes, puppies drool. Sometimes. You want to try ‘em on or what?”
“I guess,” he said, checking his phone and seeing he still had fifteen minutes, “Why not?”
“That’s the spirit,” said Ajax, hustling towards the back of the store and disappearing behind a black velvet curtain. Ajax emerged moments later with a glossy red shoebox. The top read Alpha Frontiero Tom Brady Special Edition in looping, white cursive. He ushered Quentin towards a leather-clad library chair, knelt before him, setting the box down. He opened it with great flourish, a magician revealing his prestige.
“You didn’t ask my size.”
Ajax stared at Quentin’s feet. “I’m a shoe guy.”
“I don’t know what that means.”
“It means trust me.”
Quentin tried the boots on. Sure enough, they fit perfectly. He walked around the store in them, looking down and admiring how perfect they truly were. It was just as televisual Tom Brady had confided to him eleven times the night before.
Ajax smiled a knowing smile. “You want them. I can tell.”
“The Alpha Frontiero Tom Brady Special Editions? These ones are nine hundred ninety-nine dollars and ninety-nine cents.”
“For a pair of fucking boots?” asked Quentin.
“You saw the commercial. These aren’t just fucking boots,” said Ajax, pointing at a life-size display of Tom Brady in the corner. A speech balloon hovered off to the right restating Brady’s pay-off line from the night before as Ajax intoned, “These boots will change your life. Guaranteed.”
Quentin had the money, sort of. What he actually had was a plastic card with a high enough credit limit that Ajax would allow him to take possession of the boots. It was just that if Quentin spent his plastic pseudo-money on the boots, he wouldn’t have it for a down payment on a ring for cute, sweet, smart, (boring) Marcie who he liked, but didn’t like enough. However, as Quentin turned this issue over in his head, he realized he might kill two birds with one stone.
“Fine,” he said to Ajax, nearly dropping an f-bomb with it, “I’ll take them.”
“Cash or credit?” Ajax asked, chuckling.
Marcie was sitting at the main bar when Quentin got to McCourty’s. She’d already ordered Quentin a beer, which caused him to think that Marcie really was a pretty good girlfriend, which caused him to feel bad about what he was about to do.
“I ordered you a beer,” she offered.
“Aw, I saw that. Thanks, babe.” He kissed her. ‘God,’ he thought, ‘How am I going to break up with her when she keeps being so nice?’
Marcie went with it for a few seconds then pulled back unexpectedly. “We need to talk,” she said.
“OK, but wait, do you notice anything different?”
Quentin raised one knee and shook his newly-booted foot.
Marcie looked down. “You got some new shoes?”
“These are not just new shoes, Marcie.”
“Nope. Tom Brady was wearing them in that ad they kept showing when we were watching the game yesterday.” He hated himself for adding this but went ahead, “And you wouldn’t believe how much they cost.”
“When you were watching the game, Quentin? I remember sitting there, trying to have a conversation with you while you were watching the game,” Marcie said, somehow not picking up on Quentin’s deft clue.
“Same thing, isn’t it?”
Marcie exhaled long-sufferingly, took a deep glug from her beer, and set down the glass with a thump. She’d nearly killed it. “Not really,” she said, fixing Quentin in her trustworthy chestnut gaze. “I try to forget anything having to do with Tom Brady as quickly as it happens.”
“Whoa, geez, Marce, like, ouch…This is the Pats you’re talking about here!”
“Quentin, you know I hate football.”
Quentin nodded. He knew. And it was just another reason to break up with Marcie. He just had to get her to ask how much the boots had cost, and it would be smooth sailing from there. Yes, there would be tears and pouting, angry recrimination, but it was something that had to be done.
“So, listen, Quentin?”
“What?” he asked, only half-listening, trying to come up with another way to get across what he needed to get across.
“I’m breaking up with you,” she said.
He double-took, snapping back into the conversation. “Wait, what?”
She nodded, smiled a sad, tight-lipped smile.
“But you love me.”
“I did. Once.”
“Once? You just said it last night on the phone. That was like, that was less than twenty-four hours ago.”
“Fine, I still do. As a friend.”
“A friend? We just had sex three days ago.”
“Friends have sex sometimes.”
“Not sex like that, Marcie. That was good sex.”
“You’re so sure?”
“Yes, I’m so sure.”
“Fine, it was. Be that as it may, if you’ll recall, you didn’t say it back.”
“Didn’t say what back?”
“I love you!”
“Geez, Marce, that’s sort of a technicality, don’t you think?”
“You do it all the time.”
“But you wanted to get engaged? You’ve been after me to buy you a ring for six frickin’ months.”
“And you haven’t bought one, have you?”
“I. Wait, is there…?”
“There’s someone else,” she said, looking away, a neon Schlitz sign suddenly fascinating.
Careful to avoid eye contact, Marcie knocked back the rest of her beer and stood. “Those really are nice boots,” she said, leaning over to give him a peck on the cheek. “I really am sorry.”
Marcie rolled her eyes. “Take care of yourself, Quentin,” she said, stepping towards the door.
“Wait, Marcie,” Quentin said, raising his voice slightly.
She turned, smiling, had this look on her face as though something was working out perfectly. “Yes?” she asked, sweetly.
“Don’t you want to know how much my new boots cost?”
“Your boots? Your fucking boots? Why the fuck would I want to know how much your stupid fucking Tom Brady boots cost?”
After Marcie left, Quentin had another beer and another. By the time he got up to leave he was, indeed, swaying more than a little. In spite of that, he still felt the emotional gut punch Marcie had laid on him, just not as strongly as he had at first, or knew he would again, soon. The walk back to his apartment would be bracing, needed.
The walk went slowly, because of the booze, and coldly, in spite of the booze, Quentin simultaneously mulling over what had just happened, staggering once in a while, and this was a plus, a plus that did, at least fleetingly, take his mind off what had just happened with Marcie—receiving more than a few compliments on his boots.
One group of girls even said, “Hey, Tom Brady, right? Nice boots!” as he crossed Landsdowne Street. Another one whistled at him. While Quentin couldn’t say the evening had quite “worked out,” at least the boots seemed to be a hit.
Ten pm by the time Quentin opened the front door of his apartment. He was cold and suddenly tired, thought maybe he’d go to bed, try to sleep off the budding depression; but as he shut the door, he detected the unmistakable scent of roast chicken and realized in a rush just how hungry he was. He thought about the three bears as he turned on the lights.
That was when he saw her, in the kitchen beyond, she being, seemingly, Gisele Bündchen. She was wearing a white kitchen apron over black lingerie—bra, panties, and garters, all lace. She was wearing black spike heels, too. She looked like a beautiful alien who’d emigrated from a world where practicality had never caught on.
“Darling, you’re home,” sang Gisele.
She hurried from the kitchen, clackety-clicking across the wooden floor until she stopped to kiss Quentin on the cheek.
His head swam. Whether because of the kiss itself or Gisele’s admixture of beauty, hitherto-thought unattainability, and sex appeal—her very super-model-ness—he wasn’t sure. The truth Quentin knew was that it could even have been the roast chicken he now smelled in the air, all crispy and garlicky and buttery. He felt like he might faint.
Though delighted by the sight of Gisele, not to mention the smell of roast chicken, Quentin was, by that point, very tired. While he still treasured his new boots, they were also extremely warm, and now that he’d made it home, his interest in wearing them had waned.
Smiling, Quentin flumped onto his living room couch, butt first. He reached down, pulled one boot free of one hot, sweaty foot, and flung it partway across the room. A half-removed white sock dangled from his foot. He removed that, too. Sighing in relief, Quentin rubbed his foot. From the kitchen, he heard Gisele scream bloody murder.
“Aiiyowwww, fuck,” Gisele said, once she was done screaming bloody murder.
Quentin staggered into the kitchen, still wearing one boot. The boots had added quite a bit to his height, it was now obvious. He felt like Long John Silver as he hobbled across hardwood and onto linoleum.
In the kitchen, Quentin found Gisele, her immaculately bouncy, shiny hair singed. Her perfect roast chicken lay sprawled in the middle of a very dirty floor, the same dirty floor Quentin had left that very morning. Apparently, the boots could only do so much.
“Look at theese…,” Gisele exclaimed in her delightful Brazilian accent. She shook her head sadly, looking down at the chicken. “You must not remove the boots,” she said.
“Never?” he asked.
“Never ever!” she replied.
Quentin nodded, looking down at the chicken sadly and, it had to be said, not unhungrily. He thought for a second that if this were the Apocalypse, he would absolutely have eaten the bird off the floor. No silver, no napkins, no questions asked.
“What are you waiting for?” she said, “Go put the other boot back on.”
Quentin hobbled back into the living room, reclaimed the boot he’d removed, and quickly returned it to his foot, hopping around the living room as he did.
“Ahh,” he heard Gisele exclaim from the kitchen.
By the time Quentin returned, Gisele’s hair was unsinged, the chicken back in the roasting pan as if nothing untoward had happened. The floor, however, was still very dirty. Quentin decided to press his luck.
“Wow, that floor’s really dirty,” he said, “You wouldn’t want to clean it up, would you?”
“Who do I look like?”
“I mean what do I look like?”
“Well, whatever it is, eet’s not the maid,” she said.
They ate dinner at Quentin’s small, dining table. The chicken was divine. When they were done eating, Gisele rose from her seat, removed her apron and slid one perfect arm across the table knocking everything from dishes to silver to chicken carcass onto the floor.
“Take me now,” she said, hopping up onto the table and drawing Quentin to her.
“Just a second,” said Quentin, removing his shirt and unbuckling his belt.
Gisele eyed Quentin hungrily, in much the manner he had only moments before eyed the chicken. That is, until he moved to take off his boots. That was when she screamed.
“No, I told you. You cannot,” she said once she was done screaming.
“Have you never done it with the boots on?”
“Never on the back of the polo horse or the snowmobile or the hang glider?”
Quentin was an honest guy. All he could offer to Gisele’s questions of sexual exploit was, “No.”
Gisele laughed. “You are in for a treat.”
Gisele was a fabulous cook never mind the fact that she looked like, well, Gisele Bündchen. Still, she had her problems—no short list by any stretch of the imagination. In addition to the fact that she had no clothes other than the white cooking apron and lingerie she’d been wearing when Quentin had first laid eyes on her, Gisele was not much of a conversationalist. There was also the issue of her mood swings which were, indeed, pronounced. And Gisele also had a drug problem or two, habits Quentin was not only expected to support but to cater to. Fortunately, Quentin’s new, (now, obviously) magical boots had, indeed, increased his income to thirty million a year without endorsements, so springing for some X and a little coke was no biggie.
None of these were the real problem with Gisele, though. The real problem was that Quentin could not remove the boots, ever. If Gisele even thought he was thinking about taking off a boot, she would scream. The neighbors—above, below, right, and left—had showed up more than once. After recovering from the stunning sight of Gisele, they invariably asked her whether everything was OK, all the while eyeing Quentin suspiciously. She said it was, every time, but Quentin soon noticed her taking on an air of superiority, beyond even what one might expect from Gisele Bündchen.
She demanded more coke, more X, and even a little horse from time to time. Quentin was soon tasked with buying her couture gowns at various fashion shows, forced to make any alterations himself. Pretty soon, Quentin began feeling like he was living in a police state with Gisele as a better looking though not entirely un-reminiscent version of Eva Peron.
What really were his options, though? Before he’d bought the boots, Quentin had been a regular guy, his success with the opposite sex middling at best. Sure, he’d had Marcie, but she’d been boring him to tears and, well, technically she’d left him so it wasn’t as if he could snap his fingers and get her back. Still, Quentin had his doubts about Gisele, and they were growing. Eventually, Gisele caught on and confronted him.
She said, “You’re thinking of getting rid of me, aren’t you?”
“What makes you say that?”
“I can tell. You’re not happy.”
“Well, it’s just with all the tailoring and going out and buying drugs and stuff I really don’t have time for much of a life.”
“Am I not enough for you?”
“I can’t believe this,” she said.
“Honestly, neither can I.”
“There’s only one thing to do then.”
“Take off the boots.”
“Then what happens?”
“I don’t know. I’m not some sorceress. I’m just Gisele Bündchen.”
“OK, OK, don’t get bent out of shape.”
“Do I look like I’m bent out of shape?”
He looked. She did not.
“So, do it, see what happens?”
“But you scream every time I even think about doing it.”
“Oh, I haven’t done that for a while.”
Quentin thought about it. Gisele was right. She hadn’t done that for a while, primarily because he’d been conditioned to never even think about taking off the boots.
“That’s no guarantee you won’t.”
“But this is: I guarantee I won’t.”
“What if you blink out of existence or something? You know you weren’t even here until I came home wearing these boots.”
“You worry too much. I’m obviously not a real person. I’m just a fictionalized version of Gisele Bündchen. Would it really be so bad if I disappeared?”
“Well, aside from the fact that you look the way you look, and you’re my, well…girlfriend…I make thirty million dollars a year now.”
“That’s a lot of money.”
“It sure is.”
“So, life with me is not so bad, is it?”
“I suppose not.”
“Then we’ll have no more of this complaining, ever, will we?”
“No, ma’am, I suppose we won’t.”
Her position secure, Gisele became even more overbearing. She started ordering things online, expensive things—really expensive things like doodles by Picasso, Guttenberg Bibles, and rare wines—that soon filled Quentin’s apartment and taught him there were, in fact, things expensive enough to blow through thirty million dollars a year without endorsements.
Quentin began considering alternate sources of income; in fact, musing on the aforementioned endorsements. But Quentin wasn’t Tom Brady. No one would want him to endorse anything anyway. Never mind the fact that he could barely move in his apartment, the real trouble came from something that didn’t have to do with Fictionalized Gisele at all. It came from the fact that Quentin’s feet soon began to smell.
They began to smell so bad that neighbors—above, below, right, and left—all stopped by, addressing him with much the same skepticism they had during Gisele’s screaming jags. They got the picture though when Quentin came to the door and they realized that horrible and growing stench was Quentin. Still, in spite of the near-constant drop-bys, Quentin had learned his place. He knew he couldn’t remove the boots, so to his neighbors’ stank-faced, heartfelt entreaties, all he could say was, “No.”
At this point, you might be wondering how Quentin got by at work, stinky-booted as he was. Fortunately, Quentin was a developer thus able to telecommute. So, no, that wasn’t the final problem. The final problem was Marcie. She showed up at Quentin’s apartment one day.
He left the chain on, cracked the door, looked out at her.
“You haven’t been returning my calls,” she said.
“Yeah, I’m sorry, Marcie. I haven’t…I’ve been under the weather.”
“What is that smell?” Marcie asked. “Quentin, are you okay?”
“Maybe, I don’t…I’m not sure.”
She looked down at his feet. “Those boots stink. Have you…have you never taken them off?”
“I guess not.”
“I have my reasons.”
“You’re really starting to worry me, dude.”
“Why are you here, Marcie, you broke up with me, remember?”
“Who eez that?” Quentin heard from the living room. It was, of course, Gisele Bündchen.
“Who eez that?” Marcie half-mocked, half-quizzed.
“It’s Gisele Bündchen.”
He undid the chain, opened the door. Marcie walked inside and kept going until she got to the living room and the aforementioned Fictionalized Gisele. She likewise saw the living room was filled with rare treasures from couture gowns to original oil paintings by Dutch masters.
“Where’s all your fucking football stuff?”
“Somewhere in here. I don’t really know, Marcie. She’s sort of taken over.”
“Hello,” said Marcie, in Gisele’s general direction.
“So this is the famous Marcie,” Gisele replied.
“Famous?” Marcie asked.
“Yes, he thinks about you all the time. He never says it, but I can just tell.”
“Seriously, who are you?”
Quentin broke in, “She’s seriously Gisele Bündchen. She was here when I got home the night you broke up with me. The night I bought these boots,” he said, looking down. “That’s not all either, Marcie, I actually make thirty million dollars a year now. Without endorsements.”
“Which explains the stack of Ming vases in the corner over there?”
“Right. I don’t want to be presumptuous here, Marcie, but this situation is really getting untenable, in spite of…well, everything. Did you come over because you want to get back together?”
“Get back together? No way, dude, I just wanted to give you this.” She handed him an envelope.
“An invitation to my engagement party.”
Quentin looked down. Sure enough, the envelope read, “Marcie & Tom,” in large, ornate cursive letters. “You’re dating Tom Brady now?”
“Tom Brady? Quentin, I’m a serious person, why would I date some bimbo like Tom Brady?” Catching herself, Marcie turned to Gisele. “No offense,” she added.
“None taken,” said Gisele.
“It’s plus-one so you can bring your friend, if you want, whoever she is.”
“I can’t leave the apartment,” said Gisele matter-of-factly.
“Quentin, this is really…I don’t know how you knew I was coming, and I don’t know how you cooked up this elaborate joke or how much you’re paying Sofia Vergara over here, but you seriously need some fucking help. And for the love of God, will you please just take off those fucking boots?”