Although there is some dispute over whether it is authentic Hemingway, the six word short story attributed to him is extremely powerful, revealing, and rich in reflection.
“For sale. Baby shoes. Never used.”
For sale: An acceptance of the unacceptable. A divestment, a getting rid of, a wrenching separation. Throwing them away so diminishes their value it cannot be considered. Selling them clings to that value and passes it on. The exchange of money for what the shoes represent is a sad propriety. When added to the other four words it allows us to glance into the room prepared…we see the freshly painted walls, the crib…all the accouterments of anticipation.
Baby shoes: Baby as continuation, generation, procreation. Life. Hopes, dreams, flying machines. Potential Shoes as an immediately recognized sign of the human. A protective vehicle designed to comfort and propel. Baby shoes encapsulates the new life, all the myriad possibilities. Car-mirror shoes, Winnie-the-Pooh shoes, light-up shoes, sneakers, cleats, deck, hiking, sandal, prom, heels, military, work, patent leather…each a familiar journey marker.
Never used: Never as not now, not ever. No moment. A hard cessation combined with used…worn, walked in, danced in, competed in, fought in, worked in, loved in, promised in…lived in. The ultimate denial of what could have been.
Six words. Limitless images and emotion in the human experience.