Robert Hoekman Jr., VA

Senior Writer

Robert is an award-winning writer and editor, and part of the Litmus Collective on Medium, a short fiction publication wherein members serve as each other’s editors and editorial board. He has authored and edited a number of nonfiction books, including The Build (Octane Press, 2016)—a six-month Amazon bestseller and IBPA award-winner. He also curated the “Spillers” fiction reading series and cohosted the “Spillers After Show” podcast, voted Best of 2016 by Phoenix New Times. His nonfiction work has been featured by Fast Company, Wired, Huckberry, and many others.

As a Story Terrace writer, Robert interviews customers and turns their life stories into books. Get to know him better by reading his autobiographical anecdote below.

The Flip-Flop Situation

When my wife, Jodi, and I first moved in together, years ago, she had a pair of flip-flops I couldn’t understand. They were these thin, flimsy, salmon-colored flip-flops, and they were dirty around the edges, and they sat on the floor by the front door next to a pair of identical flip-flops in identical condition. Once, I asked about them.

“I wear one pair outside, and the other pair inside,” she said.

“How can you tell them apart? They’re both pink.”

“No! The other pair is purple.”

“Why can’t you use the same pair for inside and outside?”

“Matter out of place.”

“What the heck is ‘matter out of place?’”

“It’s dirt. I got it from an anthropologist who spoke at my college. There are all sorts of things on the ground outside that get on your shoes. When you come inside, you get that stuff all over the floor. I don’t want that stuff on the floor. It’s ‘matter out of place.’”

“So, if you leave your shoes outside, why can’t you just go barefoot inside?”

“Because there are crumbly bits and dog hair on the floor inside, and I don’t want it stuck to my feet.”

The scientific principle behind all this is the same reason I now hang the bathmat over the side of the tub after showering: In short, because she makes me.

Walking the dogs that night, I pressed for more information.

“I come from a long line of weird flip-flops,” she said. “My mother has them too. But she only wears them downstairs, where there’s hardwood floor. Upstairs, there’s carpet, so she doesn’t wear them upstairs. She goes barefoot.”

“What does your dad wear?”

“He wears Klapkis.”

When Jodi and I met, she’d had a pair of tan slip-on shoes with a sort of wicker design: Klapkis. They’re made in Poland by members of a mountain-living community called the Highlanders. Whenever her dad visited his family in Poland, she asked him to bring a pair of them back for her. She’d worn them around the house until one of her dogs used them as a teeth-cleaning device. That’s when the pink flip-flops showed up.

“Just on the bottom floor? Or does he wear them upstairs too?”

“He wears them everywhere.”

The precise complexities of the arrangement continue to elude me.

Regardless, one day, while carrying the laundry basket through the kitchen, she asked, “Do you always keep your flip-flops by the back door?”

“Yeah. I use them to do laundry.”

She picked up the clothes basket. From the other room, I could hear my flip-flops, several sizes too large for her feet, slapping against the ground.

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