Ernest Hemingway’s six-word story “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” is often regarded as the shortest story in the English language. Now it’s finally accessible to a new generation as a multi-part podcast.
For sale: baby shoes, never worn.
But what if they were worn? What if they weren’t for a baby? And what if they weren’t even for sale in the first place? These are the questions I’ve been asking for the past six months, following a twisted trail of secrets and deceptions. What did I find at the end of this trail? Revelations so shocking that they made me question just about everything I thought I knew about how the world works.
But before we get to that, I need to tell you a little about me. Because this story is personal. See, thirty-five years ago in Central Ohio, I was born. That’s right. I was a baby. I wore shoes. Baby shoes. For babies. It was normal. Expected. Typical. Standard. Run-of-the-mill. Ordinary. Everyday. Common.
Or was it? Was something darker beneath the surface? Were my shoes just shoes or something more sinister? Was it at that moment a seed was planted? I’ll unpack more of these questions in the next episode when I interview my own dad for one hour without edits.
I grew up, and I kept wearing shoes. Shoes led me to Carleton, where I studied journalism. To New York, where I interned for BuzzFeed. To San Francisco, where I was the Editor In Chief of Casper’s ZzzBlog. Back to Ohio, where I submitted the third-most-clicked unpaid contributor article to Forbes.com. But all the while, a question kept gnawing at me. Because of this thing I’d heard years before.
In 2013, when I was managing the Folgers Canada Vine account, I had coffee with an old colleague from Slate For Kids. He told me this thing. It was a thing that sounded absurd. A thing that I thought couldn’t possibly be true. A thing about another thing that was so old and so well-known that this thing couldn’t really have anything to do with that thing.
At first, I didn’t do anything with this thing. I was busy with other investigations and busy dealing with the fallout of a series of inadvertently-but-still-markedly-racist Folgers Vines. But then something happened that changed all that. Something big. Something that brought my whole world crashing down and set me off on this journey: my ex-girlfriend Jenna got her podcast picked up by Wondery.
Before we move on, there’s something you need to understand. I know Jenna. We met in the Business Insider VR Lounge at TEDxHoboken. We went on a few dates. She was always pitching me podcast ideas: trite recaps of Netflix Originals or pop culture “gabfests” with celebrities she could never actually book. It was obvious she was never going to have a real podcast. But then she got lucky: her mom’s neighbor got murdered by a drifter con-man running a sex ring masquerading as a self-help program. Jenna had easy access to the victim’s family and immediately started charting on Stitcher.
Suddenly it all became clear to me. I couldn’t just sit around waiting for my mom’s neighbor to get murdered. I had to tell this story. About shoes. Baby shoes. Never worn. But could I? Would I? Should I? Must I? Did I? Have I? More on that when I interview my own producer and can’t stop nervously giggling too close to the microphone.
But first, a word from ZipRecruiter.