How My Office Manager’s Shoe
Left an Imprint on Perfect Square
By Michael Hall
What begins as a perfect square is torn, cut, crumpled, and otherwise made imperfect six times over six days. With each imperfection, the square makes itself into something beautiful. That is the essence of Perfect Square.
Before I knew what sort of story this would be, I cut, ripped, and otherwise mangled hundreds of paper squares and looked for images in the resulting pieces—like looking for animals in clouds. I prefer to find images first and then try to build a story around them. That way, the images are more likely to flow naturally from the process.
I am often barefooted, so when I decided to experiment with shoe prints on a square, Dolly, my office manager, who was wearing moccasins, loaned me one of hers. Its rubber tread had a wavy texture that made me think of water. Eventually, as the story developed, the water idea was included.
It was stepped on on Saturday.
So it made itself into an ocean.
The ocean fit nicely as the last transformation because the square’s ambitions grew more grand with each passing day.
Perfect Square sat in a drawer for months before it occurred to me that water could connect all the pieces of the story on the last pages of the book. It required changing the ocean into a river and adding a fountain at the beginning. This became a significant part of the story.
But unlike the shoe-print ocean, the shoe-print river seemed forced and unnatural, and it had a menacing quality that didn’t fit the story. Still, I kept it. To me, the shoe print was essential to the river and the river had become essential to the story. To go back and try wrestle a square into a river in some other way seemed wrong.
I pressed Dolly’s shoe into a mixture of blue ink and transfered the image on to a textured square for what I thought would be the final art. But when I sent it to Virginia, she expressed problems with the shoe print, too. Among other things, it revealed too much about whoever or whatever was manipulating the square. I was ready, finally, to let the shoe print go.
There is a river in the finished book. It is made by cutting a square into ribbons with pinking shears. It makes terrific whitewater.
The only problem now is that I haven’t been able to get the ink off of Dolly’s shoe. She forgave me earlier because she liked the idea of her shoe being immortalized in print. But since her shoe got the boot (sorry), she’s reconsidering.
In its current form, my third book includes a shoe that is thrown at a cat. Hopefully, Dolly’s moccasin will work—and I will be redeemed.