George greeted me with his usual smile, ushered me up onto the shoe bench as he got out the tin and rag, his long fingers deft and surprisingly unstained.
“You still got any shoes with me?” he said, peering up. “I know I had those oxfords.”
“No, you finished them last month.” I looked at the wall crowded with pictures, framed clippings, awards. George and the mayor, George and the governor, George and the chief of police. Everybody came here for a shine. “How long has it been again?”
“I been doing this seventy years,” he said. “Long enough.”
This story is inspired by George Manias, who has run a shoeshine and hat cleaning store in downtown Peoria since 1948. Unlike this story, George’s is still open. He wants to make 75. I think he’ll make it.