April 12th, 1937 Chicago— a world without LaCroix.

Casey Connor sat outside the bus terminal on East Randolph setting up his shoeshine box for the day. He adjusted his iron braces and made sure his crutches were secured, but easy to get to. He wedged himself tight into his chair and set out his tip cup. He double-checked his place in his book, the Mark of Zorro, and set it near his satchel. He looked across the street to the Marshal Field and Company store and watched as employees started to file in. Soon there’d be a bunch of Joes that needed a shoeshine. He had regulars, and at a dime each he would eat well tonight.

An older gentleman in an unusual suit stepped up and put his foot on the shine post.

“I ain’t never seen shoes like that mister,” he said as he began to brush the dirt and dust away.

“They’re old, but I feel like a good shine will make them new again. You’re out early, before the other boys,” the old man said with a British accent.

“Oh yes sir, it’s on account of I sleep right here at the terminal.  Mal, he’s the janitor, he lets me sleep in the back. I don’t take up much space, and nobody minds,” he said shining away.

“Polio, I assume?”

“It don’t stop me from giving you the best, I promise sir. I do real well, lots of gentlemen stop by every day,” Casey smiled.

“Success has its dangers. You’ll have a lot of dimes in there and hungry people might try and steal them from you.”

“Yes sir, I do get afraid, but why should that stop me? I love what I do,” smiled the boy.

The brush and polish sang out and the black leather began to show a bright glossy shine. The old gentleman inspected his footwear and with a satisfying grunt reached into his pocket. He pulled out a United States half-dollar and handed it directly to the boy. Wide-eyed, Casey took the coin and placed it securely in his satchel. As he did his book fell out.

“Are you able to read?”

“Yes sir, I do.  That’s the ‘Mark of Zorro’, like the movie,” said Casey.

“It went by another name originally, ‘The Curse of Capistrano,” the old man corrected.

“I know sir, but people like when he does the ‘Z’. You gotta call it that so people know what it’s about. It’s his mark,” Casey said as he swiped the air with an imaginary sword.

“Like a sign, or a…sigil,” replied the old man.

“I don’t know what that second word is, but I like it. Sigil.”


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