Oh, no! You’ve managed to successfully pull yourself up by your own bootstraps — but you’re pulling yourself up too high! You’re leaving everyone behind, and drifting over fenceposts and low-hanging rooftops! You’ve got to stop pulling yourself up before it’s too late!
It started out so well. You managed to extricate yourself from penury by carefully sliding your forefingers through the leather loops on the back of your Poverty Boots. It was so easy — just a wrench and a pull and you were up and away. How you laughed, seeing the incredulous faces of your creditors and check cashers and naysayers as you whizzed just above their cheap haircuts. You even kicked the sign on the top of the bank that denied you a small business loan last year as you floated over the billboard promoting their holiday checking account specials near downtown. Yes sir, pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps seemed just fine then.
“You haven’t paid your rent,” your landlord shouted, purple-faced, as you shot overhead. “I’ll sleep in a tree,” you called back. “There’s nowhere these bootstraps can’t take me.” (You were pretty proud of that one.) You drifted past a tree and snatched a plum out of the branches, idly snapping a bite out of the purple flesh while still keeping one finger firmly tucked in your left bootstrap. “This,” you said to the plum, “is the life. I don’t know why more people don’t use their bootstraps to lift themselves up.”
If only you had known then what you know now: once you start lifting yourself up by your own bootstraps, it’s impossible to stop. There’s no going back down. Your upward mobility is irreversible! What will happen to you? Where will you land? Where will you live? Will you ever see your loved ones again? Oh, you would give anything to have stayed where you were, boots firmly on the ground, bill collectors harassing you at all hours. You try kicking them off, but they’re stuck fast to your feet.
You’re a bootstrapper now. There’s no looking back.
First you start skimming the tops of single-story houses and low-level office complexes. You can still make out the calls of the people on the streets below, see the admiration and the fear in their eyes. You’ve not yet left the world of ordinary humans.
Your boots are glowing slightly, just around the soles, but you’re not afraid. You start to see the gridwork of the city fan out on the earth underneath you, catch a glimpse of the curvature of the earth, narrowly avoid a plane just leveling out at 35,000 feet. You wave at the pilot, who stares at you in open-mouthed astonishment. You point at your boots, and he breaks into a grin before waving back.
It’s quiet up here, at first. Then you look around you and realize there are other figures rocketing up from the ground alongside you. Not many — maybe three or four. But you start to make out more of them the higher you go. The air is getting thinner now, but you aren’t having any trouble breathing. You start to laugh.
“You too?” you try to call out to one of the others, but you’re not sure if any sound comes out. Everyone’s smiling. “Where are we going?”
No one speaks, but you hear a voice answer anyhow: “Where all the bootstrappers go.” Somehow, you’re not surprised by it. The voice seems to come from all around you, like it vibrated itself into life out of the very air. You look up. You smile.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.