Kandace Vanderpool was a bit of a queen
bee around Midwestern State University. Her family was affluent, she
was the president of the Zeta Rho Tau sorority, and the captain of
the school's cross-country team. She was gorgeous, and was dating the
quarterback of the football team. She was "popular," in the sense
that most people hated her, but parasitic, backstabbing social-climbers
were desperate to be in her circle.
Today, she was headed for cross-country
practice, with her two sorority sister toadies, Lori and Denise,
tagging along. For Kandace, the team was just another little web for
her to control. Her teammates, even Lori and Denise, only mattered so
long as they were successful. Kandace only cared about winning,
because it made her look good, and it kept her figure nicely toned,
As the three arrived at the practice
track, Denise was the first to notice something unusual. Coach Teresa
Pulaski was there, timing a new girl's run.
"Hey, I think that stupid chick is
barefoot!" Denise exclaimed. Kandace and Lori took a closer look. The
girl was barefoot.
"This is some kind of joke," Lori
sniffed. Kandace suspected it was no joke, and she didn't like the
implications of it. The three walked up next to Coach Pulaski and
watched. The barefoot girl finished her run, and Coach Pulaski
clicked the stopwatch.
"Great time! You're really going to
help us at the next meet," the Coach said.
The barefoot girl took a second to
catch her breath. "Thanks, Coach." The girl was pretty, with a bit of
a tomboyish look. She was probably not the type to spend a lot of
time on her hair or makeup, but it didn't effect her attractiveness
one bit. Kandace noticed the girl's t-shirt, with a tie-dyed logo of
bare footprints and the Greek letters "beta" and "gamma." Kandace
Coach Pulaski nodded to the three other
girls. "Kandace, Lori, Denise; this is Casey Holloway, our new team
The three exchanged handshakes and
plastic smiles with Casey, and gave some scornful looks at her bare
feet. Casey gave their coolness right back. She wasn't intimidated.
"I'm going to go cool down, Coach. See
you next practice," Casey said, as she headed off to a grassy area of
the track. When she was out of earshot, Kandace turned to the coach.
"What's up, Coach? Our team roster is
"Andrea's knee is hurt worse than we
thought. She's out for the season. So we need a replacement, and
Casey is it. Don't worry, she's fast."
"But Coach," Kandace whined. "Missy
hippy drippy can't run barefoot. It's against the rules."
"No it's not. Maybe you should actually
read the rulebook," Coach Pulaski said sternly. "Casey's on the team,
and she can run barefoot. That's final." The Coach left it at that,
and headed toward her office.
"This is just not going to fly," Kandace
growled. Her two flunkies nodded their agreement. Kandace turned her
attention to where Casey was finishing her cool down stretches. What
she saw made her blood boil.
Casey was talking to Tracy Hoffman,
Colleen Appleton and a couple of other Beta Gamma members. Kandace
hated the barefoot sorority with a passion. Especially that stupid
loser Colleen, who had been in Zeta Rho Tau for a brief time.
Kandace's most intense hate was reserved for Tracy, though. Ever
since Kandace had been at Midwestern State, Beta Gamma had beaten her
sorority at everything, from academics to charity work to intramural
It burned Kandace up to no end that those barefoot,
tree-hugging jerks could outdo Zeta Rho Tau, a sorority made up of a
"better" class of girl. And Tracy always seemed to be at the
forefront, confident and unflappable. There was no way Tracy was
going to move in on Kandace's cross-country team. Kandace stormed
toward the group, Lori and Denise trying to keep up.
"Hey, Hoffman! Why don't you take your shoe-hating ass back to
Woodstock," Kandace shouted, venom dripping from her voice.
"And take your stupid hippy friends with you!"
She felt contempt as she scanned the ever bare feet of the Beta
Gammas. Beneath her contempt, and although she would never admit it,
Kandace couldn't help but notice that all of the Beta Gammas had
gorgeous feet. It was almost like going barefoot all the time made them
Kandace was reminded of another thing she hated about the
Beta Gammas. They always seemed so relaxed and, what was the right
word? Comfortable. Even with the bile she was spewing at them, they
all seemed serene. Probably brain damage from foot fungus or
something, Kandace told herself.
"Hey, Kandace. Nice to see you, too,"
Tracy offered, with mock sincerity. "I hear my friend Casey is your
"Not for long. The cross-country team
is mine, and I'm not letting you turn it into another part of your
barefoot cult," Kandace seethed.
"Don't worry. Casey's the only one
interested in your team, and she doesn't care about messing up the
Cult of Kandace that's already in place," laughed Tracy.
"Yeah, I just like running. I don't
want to go shoe shopping with you or anything," cracked Casey. This
drew a chuckle from the other Beta Gammas.
"Oh, you're funny, but I want you off
my team," Kandace jabbed her finger into Casey's chest. "I'm
challenging you to a race. Loser quits the team!"
Casey laughed. "That's pretty stupid.
You love the team so much, you want to take a chance on quitting if
Kandace realized that had been a stupid
thing to say. She didn't think she would lose, but if she did, she'd
"No problem. I won't lose," Kandace
insisted, her pride not allowing her to back down.
Casey was really starting to get
annoyed with Kandace's attitude. She decided to offer an
alternative that might rile Kandace up even more.
"Tell you what. If I lose, I'll quit. But, if I win, you have to go
totally barefoot for two weeks," said Casey.
Kandace was stunned. She was a little
relieved she could stay on the team, but this was almost worse. The
thought of her bare soles having to traipse over the filthy ground
like the Beta Gamma freaks made her stomach churn. Once again, her
pride wouldn't let her back down.
"You're on," she affirmed. "Saturday.
Eight AM. The trail at Atwood Park."
Casey nodded in agreement.
Kandace threw a last contemptuous look at the Beta Gamma members, then
stalked off with Lori and Denise in tow. Casey's bare toes started to
tingle in anticipation and she wiggled them in the grass. Kandace was
Saturday morning, Kandace arrived at
the park about ten minutes early. She had brought along Lori, Denise
and several other Zeta Rho Tau sisters to watch her imminent victory.
Casey was already waiting, along with Tracy, Colleen and a small
group of other Beta Gammas. Kandace's lip curled in disgust at all
those bare feet tromping through the dirt. Who knew what kind of crap
they had stepped in?
"Looks like a big crowd. At least
you'll have some shoulders to cry on after you lose," mocked Kandace.
"Back at you," said Casey. There was
that serene confidence again. Kandace grit her teeth.
"Anyway, the rules are that you have to
stick to the trail. No shortcuts. Loser pays the price we agreed on,"
Casey nodded. She looked at Kandace's
high-priced running shoes. "Enjoy those fancy kicks now, because you
won't be wearing them for a couple of weeks."
Kandace glared, but held her tongue. In
a minute, Casey would be eating the dust the "fancy kicks" would be
The two runners lined up at the
designated starting line. Kandace couldn't help but notice the way
Casey's toes spread out and grasped the ground, digging in for a fast
jump off the line. Kandace briefly wondered if that would give Casey
an advantage, as Kandace's own confined toes could get no such
purchase on the ground. She put the thought out of her mind. She had
a race to win.
Lori blew a whistle, and the race was
on. Casey did get a great jump, and Kandace swore under her breath.
Kandace was fast, though, and she managed to close the gap, but she
couldn't quite pull ahead. Casey was just a little bit faster.
As the race continued, Casey ever so
slowly increased her lead. Eventually, Casey was far enough ahead
that Kandace could see her slightly dirty soles treading on the
fallen leaves and soft dirt of the trail.
She couldn't take her eyes off those bare feet. With each step,
Casey's tough, supple toes spread out to embrace the ground, absorbing
the impact as nature intended.
It flew in the face of everything that Kandace had ever learned
about running. Naked human feet weren't supposed to be able to handle
the pounding of a hard run. It took extensively engineered running
shoes to do that. But here it was, right in front of Kandace's face.
Casey's bare feet could handle it all without a problem. Indeed, they
almost seemed to revel in the primal freedom of bounding over the
Meanwhile, Kandace was starting to feel
like her own feet were being dragged down by lead weights. Her
"lightweight" running shoes were like anvils compared to Casey's
totally free and unfettered bare feet.
Kandace's feet were sweating
profusely in their canvas coffins with cotton sock liners. They felt
like they were burning up. A part of her desperately wanted to stop
and tear off her stifling footwear, letting the cool air reach her
poor, suffering feet. But no, she had a race to win.
She called on
whatever reserves of strength she had left, and started to gain just
a bit. Then it was over. She heard cheering, but it wasn't for her.
Kandace's Zeta Rho Tau sisters looked stunned. Kandace, the
cross-country captain, had lost to Casey, the barefoot girl.
Kandace bent over, catching her breath,
and trying to retain her composure. When she finally stood up,
everyone was looking at her.
"A bet's a bet," Casey said.
Kandace's lip curled in anger, but she
couldn't back out. Her sorority sisters were all there, and she had
held many of them to stupid bets.
On some level, she didn't really
want to back out. Her feet were aching for release from their
confinement. She angrily toed off her shoes, and then yanked off her
socks, hurling them to the ground. To the onlookers, it appeared to
be simple rage at having lost the race, but it was really just as
much about letting the cool air soothe her naked feet. As soon as the
air hit her newly bared feet, they felt better.
"Should I hang on to these, or are we
on the honor system?" asked Casey, indicating the discarded footwear.
"Take them," Kandace spat. "And come to
the Zeta house and pick up all of my shoes and socks. I don't welch
"All righty then," Casey said. She
looked at her watch. "I guess you can have them back at 8:35 AM, two
weeks from today."
Kandace nodded. Denise stepped toward
her, and spoke quietly in her ear. "Kandace, the meet is on the
Thursday before that. You can't run it barefoot."
The reality suddenly dawned on her, but
once again, her stubborn pride reared up. Loud enough for everyone to
hear, Kandace said, "Well I guess I'll have to run it barefoot. A
bet's a bet. Besides, if Little Miss Casey can do it, so can I."
The Zeta Rho Taus looked stunned again.
The Beta Gammas just smiled knowingly. Not skeptical smiles, rather
it was as if they were sure Kandace could do it. That damn serenity,
Kandace stormed off, her entourage
quick to follow. Kandace was angry at how things had turned out. She
didn't like to lose, especially to Beta Gammas. At the same time
though, the feel of the dewy grass and the cool earth under her freed
soles was somewhat therapeutic. She was finding it hard to stay
The Beta Gammas watched her go, and
then Tracy gathered up Kandace's scattered shoes and socks. Tracy
couldn't help but wonder what the next two weeks might bring.
Kandace did live up to her bet, and
handed over all of her shoes and socks to the Beta Gammas. The next
two weeks, she went about her normal routine, not making any changes
to account for her barefoot condition. If anybody said anything, she
got in their face. She wasn't going to take anyone's crap, barefoot
She went to cross-country practice
barefoot, much to the amusement of Coach Pulaski. Not that Kandace
had a choice, since she had no shoes in her possession. She found
that running barefoot was giving her a spring in her step, and she
felt like she could go faster than she ever had. This wasn't a total
shock to her, since she had witnessed the same thing in Casey. Still,
it was a revelation for Kandace to experience barefoot liberation for
The cross-country meet finally came,
and Kandace felt more ready than she ever had before. Though she
wouldn't admit it, she was actually a bit comforted by the fact that
she had Casey as a fellow barefoot teammate. It made it a little
easier to face the stares of the opposing teams.
When the meet was over, Kandace had
come in first, with Casey taking second. The two of them had
demolished the competition. Kandace couldn't help but appreciate the
fact that Casey had beaten her soundly in their first race, but on
even terms - barefoot terms - Kandace had come out ahead. It was
something to think about. Of course, the next day, Kandace's feet
were hurting, as they were nowhere near as tough as Casey's veteran
bare feet. Still, Kandace felt a real satisfaction, like she had
rarely known, even in victory.
Another two weeks passed after the
meet. Kandace had picked up her shoes and socks and gotten back to
normal. Something was different, though.
Kandace returned from class and went to
her room at the Zeta house. She shut her door and locked it. She put
down her books, and then eagerly kicked off her shoes and peeled off
her socks. She wiggled her freshly bared toes in the soft carpet. She
flopped onto her bed and rubbed her soles on the soft blankets. She
let out a sigh.
Ever since she had gotten her shoes and
socks back, things just weren't the same. Footwear had rarely
bothered her before, but now it just felt uncomfortable. When she
wore shoes and socks, she constantly thought about when she could get
them off again. Of course, she couldn't very well just go barefoot
all over the place, given her long and vocal history of trashing the
Beta Gammas. For now, she could only enjoy the pleasure in the
privacy of her own room.
She pulled her left foot toward her.
For the first time she could remember, she was fascinated with her
own feet. She loved to wiggle her long toes, and watch the way they
moved and flexed. She was entranced by the wrinkles that appeared
when she flexed her soles.
She could even see the slight calluses
that had built up during her two weeks of total barefootedness,
although they were softening up some now that she had gone back to a
primarily shod state. Kandace was a little disappointed. The calluses
were like little badges of toughness and strength, and she wanted to
Going barefoot had also caused some
changes in her attitude and outlook on life.
During her two weeks of total immersion
barefooting, Kandace realized that some of her irascibility had eased
up. She just felt more mellow, more at ease with life, less
judgmental...less stuck-up. She had pegged it with regard to the Beta
Gammas earlier. She just felt more comfortable.
It was no coincidence that some of
Kandace's rotten attitude had returned almost as soon as she had put
her shoes and socks back on. Kandace had recognized it herself. She
wasn't sure she liked that about herself anymore.
She had thought about her life a lot lately. Right now,
though, she just wanted to enjoy the fact that her feet were finally
free after a long day imprisoned in shoes and socks.
That evening, Kandace was out walking
with Lori and Denise. All three were wearing shoes and socks, as
usual, though Kandace was less than enthused. They just happened to
walk past the Beta Gamma house, or had Kandace taken that route
"That's where those stupid barefoot losers live," Lori scoffed.
"Yeah, we should prank them sometime,"
chimed in Denise.
Kandace rolled her eyes. "Look, I need
to go do something. You guys can come if you want." She cut across
the Beta Gamma yard, heading for the front door. Lori and Denise, a
bit confused, followed.
Kandace knocked on the door. A Beta
Gamma, one of those who had been at the race, answered.
"Is Casey here?" Kandace asked.
"Uh, yeah. I'll get her," the girl
responded. A moment later, Casey came to the door.
"What's up?" asked Casey, a bit
surprised to see Kandace and her two lackeys.
"Yeah, um, I just... Well, I wanted to apologize for the way I
acted before. I'm sorry. You're a great runner and a good teammate,
and I shouldn't have treated you that way," Kandace offered, quickly
adding, "And you're a good person, too."
"Um, thanks. Apology accepted," said
Casey, a bit skeptical. Laughter could be heard from inside the
"What's going on?" wondered Kandace.
"We're just hanging out, playing some
board games," Casey told her.
"Would it be cool if we join you? I
mean if you don't mind," said Kandace.
"Uh, no. It's cool if you want to hang
out," Casey said, a bit perplexed by Kandace's change in attitude.
"Great. I better take off my shoes and
socks, though," Kandace said.
"Um, you don't have to. That's just for
Beta Gamma members," insisted Casey, but Kandace was already down to
her socks, and those were quickly shed as well.
"No, it's your rules and your house. I
respect that," Kandace told her. The eagerness with which Kandace had
ditched her footwear made it all click for Casey.
That was why Kandace's attitude had
changed; never underestimate the power of going barefoot.
Casey opened the door wide and Kandace
stepped inside. She turned to her two friends. "You guys coming, or
not?" asked Kandace.
Lori and Denise hesitated, looking at
each other. Well, if Kandace was doing it, so would they. The two
pulled off their shoes and socks, and giggled as their virgin bare
feet touched the cool surface of the porch. They felt a little charge
of excitement as they stepped into the Beta Gamma house. Being
barefoot was pretty fun, they both thought. They might have to do it