The Other Shoe


“It’s an expression from tenement life in the late nineteenth, early twentieth centuries. If you heard somebody taking off a shoe on the floor above, the clunk of the shoe as it hit the floor, — the floorboards so thin and close – it was an inevitability the other one would bang the floorboards next. So it’s waiting for some inevitable event to occur. But of course you knew that already,” Umansky said.


Death, I thought, remembering the years before my mother’s a part of my mind anticipating that news whenever the telephone rang.


Umansky was a know-it-all. It all began with his love of sports statistics – batting averages, touchdown passes, three-pointers, consecutive games played. He could calculate the odds all right; tough to put anything over on him.


Sometimes, though, it felt like going on a date with someone who rolled their eyes at the music you had on your CD player, when they got into your car, talking to him.


You saw this coming, didn’t you? Umansky hanging himself in his apartment, I mean. Why do people kill themselves? Love gone wrong, work a mess, finances impossible, pain on so many levels.


He’d left a three-day supply of food and water for his dog, and he’d left the air-conditioning running, in case it took several days to discover his body.


I was completely blindsided.




 Charles Rammelkamp’s most recent book is a collection of poems called MATA HARI: EYE OF THE DAY (Apprentice House).  He edits THE POTOMAC, an online literary journal ( and is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore.



Cover Photo: Eugenia Loli (