Short Story: A Tale of Two Boots
London is buzzing in the night, the smokestacks paint the sky gray as they exhale their smoky breaths. A locomotive passes by the leatherworks on Avery avenue, shaking the building and all those working inside. "Damn train." Old man Howard Buffon has to pick up the boots he's been working on all day, they fell down.
He is about to hand them over to the next worker in the factory, but he notices a crack on the leather. "The overseer is going to shred me to pieces when he sees this sloppy work." With a quick move, he smuggles the pair into his burlap bag.
He then starts working on the next ones. After a few minutes, the next-in-line calls for the semi-completed boots, but he's still in early stages of the work. His collegue shouts for the overseer, the grumpy man beats the old worker, and lets him loose in the factory door.
"You can't do this to me! I have a family to feed!" The overseer smiles. "Make sure your stew is not as sloppy as your work."
"I'm sorry darling, but they threw me out once again." The brick walls of the townhouse are lit by a solitary candlelight. "You have to do something! We'll have to sell the children to the coal mine if you can't feed us."
Howard steals a last-resort smile onto his face. "I have taken a pair of boots. I have seen the others work, I can finish them in a few days, and sell them for good money. In the meanwhile, I'll find another job."
He then sits down onto a chair with three legs remaining, and starts sewing the side of the boots. His wife pulls the makeshift blanket made of newspaper pieces onto her body, and falls asleep. The alley grows silent.
The pair is indeed a masterpiece. Howard has put his whole soul into it, and is desperately looking for a buyer on the market square. It's quite hopeless though, for the rich have their own shoemakers, and the poor cannot afford the pair he made.
Finally, a young man approaches him, offering two pounds for the boots. They shake hands, and Howard can finally bring a piece of bread home, one that he bought himself.
The boots fit well. The are quite comfortable, actually. The young Alistair wears them for fencing, they have a good grip on wooden floor. The left one is a bit larger, and has a crack on the back, whereas the right one has a patch of loose paint on its heels.
They dance around with an ease as Alistair waves the sword around, sometimes touching, sometimes feet apart. It's a dream life for a pair of boots actually, but as with every dream, one has to wake up sooner or later.
Alistair is conscripted into the British army. He packs his gear, including his good old boots, and sets off to India. The boots get moisty on the long trip, enclosed in a taveling chest within the belly of a steel frigatte.
Their owner is an officer, and is maybe allowed to wear the boots into battle. Oh how they'd love to see him fight! Help him with every step, avoiding shrapnels and caltrops, kicking the enemy as he thrusts his sword through them!
The chest's lid is raised, and a hand pulls them out. It's their owner, he equips them, and mounts a horse. They are strangled by the leather strips that keep the spurs in place, and the only thing they kick is Alistair's stallion.
Oh how they hate riding! Aleister pushes too hard, and the spur falls of his left foot. A cannonball hits the horse, and the three turn over, falling down. This is their chance. They can do it. Together they raise Aleister back onto his feet, and lead him to battle.
But it isn't as they imagined. The mud is slowly tainting them, they are pierced by caltrops and the poor man soon gets hit by a rifle shot. Left is left in the mud, and has to watch as a couple of soldiers pull Alistair out of the battle, him holding Right in his hands.
It's nighttime. The stench of despair fills the air, it's been two hours since the British army left the battlefield. Crows fly away swattering, as a shady person crawls our of the bushes, and walks through the battlefield.
He's followed by a mob of others, and they pick through the dead, taking anything that can be sold for a couple of pennies. A child approaches Left, picks up Alistair's golden belt buckle that's been lying around, and puts it into her pocket. She notices the fairly intact boot and grabs it.
It's around midnight, in a small Indian town near the battlefield. Aisha has come home from scavenging, and is showing the treasure to her family. "What's that? Is it... golden?"
All of them are swarming around the buckle. But Left is not interested in such a thing. His mind is overflown by pictures of Alistair being carried away, along with Right. What happened to her? Left fell over in his sorrow.
The family noticed this, and the smallest boy points at him and questions his sister. "What's that? It looks expensive." She smiles.
"I found it near the buckle. But there was no other. It's worthless." The family is surprised by the word. "Give it to your brother, he'll sell it off in the harbour. The leather and the thread must worth something..."
The child walked four hours to reach the harbor, but no merchant seems to be interested in buying the boot. After quite a lot of attempts to get rid of it, he hears a ship's horn blown. He sees a steamship pulling up her anchor in the docks, about thirty meters away.
He has the chance to leave. His father told him that if he'd be able, he should do so. The small child jumps into the water with the boot under his arm, and clings onto the anchor as it's pulled up. His small body slips into the anchor's chamber, and the ship sets off.
The days are much longer without her beside. Left has never been so lonely. He spends the days pressed against the wall by the anchor's chain, often left alone by the child, who's constantly looking for food to steal around the ship.
Days pass, with him leaning the wall alone. After about a week, the ship arrives in a harbor with a red-white striped flag and really tall houses. It reminds him somewhat of London and the smokestacks, but it's much bigger and does not seem to be as old as London was.
As the boy climbs down the anchor chain, a nearby guard spots him. "Seems you brought some vermin too." The guard pats the back of the captain. "Let us catch 'em. He may help us find the others too, if there be any."
They chase him down through the docks, he drops the boot in a corner, and makes a run for it. A customs officer picks it up a few hours later, and brings it to one of the more remote warehouses.
Inside, a table is set up for illegal poker, along with all kinds of alcohol, despite the ban. The officer sits down and joins his collegues. "What's that old piece of cowskin eh, Emmet?"
He smiles. "Found it lyin' around, thought it may bring me some luck." The others laugh, he adds. "Not if I need any more." They start playing. Left is put beside Emmet's chair, and can see the other boots.
They are all made of leather, and all of them are carefully paying attention. Cards are distributed above, and as one of the players checks them, his feet jump together in excitement, he raises ten dollars.
This is soon noticed by the other boots, and they start shaking. As some of their owners notice this, they slowly fold, followed by those who fold because the others have done so, leaving only the excited one and Emmet in play.
"I..." Left falls over, touching Emmet's leg.
"I fold." The excited guy smashes a pair of dames, they fall down to the boots. Emmet kicks Left back in place, and awaits the next cards. This goes on for hours, and Emmet emerges as victorious, earning hundreds of dollars.
Left gets polished, and the crack is made invisible on his back by a professional, after Emmet decide to keep the boot as a lucky charm. Emmet wins the local tournament with the help of Left, but the boot still feels empty.
He often imagines himself on Emmet's feet, along with Right, dancing around in the night. But he does like this lifestyle, being kept in a good shape and all. After eleven years, Emmet decides that it was enough with the local tournaments besides his job, he wants to be a professional player.
He sets off to Vegas in his car.
Driving was another thing Left wanted to try, but since he's alone, he's never worn, making him feel crippled. If only Right was here. As they arrive in the desert city, Left is dazzled by the neon lights.He'd never seen such a place before.
Emmet enters the largest casino, and buys chips for a thousand dollars. He sits down to a poker table, lays the boot beside, and starts playing. Left keeps signing him the good deals, and he wins five rounds in a row.
This is of course noticed by a bouncer, and Emmet is told to put the boot away. Emmet leaves the table, enters a stall in the restrooms, and equips the boot, leaving his previous beside the toilet. Left is finally worn. He'll do everything he can to prove his worth!
Emmet stands up, Left's pressed hard against the floor. Ouch! The feeling of being worn is not pleasant at all. As they leave the stall, Emmet steps into a puddle of something really nasty.
Left is disgusted, but the feeling of being worn again diminishes any pain. Even the lady accidentally stepping on him with a high heel. And the still-hot cigarette butt Emmet steps at. He keeps signing the good deals, and Emmet is soon swimming in chips.
He visits the bar, and drinks up untill he's unable to walk straight. Emmet keeps kicking the corner of furniture, destroying the front of Left, who wishes he was never worn. Emmet sits down at another poker table.
Left can't take this anymore. He stops. Emmet loses two-hundred-thousand chips, and is completely shocked. He throws away another deal, and is running low on money to bet. After another lost round, he bets his clothes in hopes of winning back everything.
He loses, and an old tourist wins. Emmet is escorted out of the casino, and the tourist scoops through his clothes. She finds the two boots strange since they don't match.
After discovering that one of them is about a hundred years older than the other, she pays visit to the local pawn shop. "These shoes come from a manufactory in London that was closed in 1849 due to industrialisation. But it seems like the finish is unusual. It must be a faulty piece that was completed somewhere else."
There's only one thing that the tourist cares about. "How much does it worth?" The pawn shop's owner is thinking. "It's worth around two thousand dollars, triple if you find the other pair, which I doubt you would. How much do you want for it?"
The tourist smiles. "Fifteen-hundred. I think." The shop owner shakes his head. "I have to make profit out of it. Best I can offer is seven-hundred." The tourist frowns, and counter-offers. "How about a thousand?" "Nine hundred." "Deal."
She walks away happy and filled with cash, and Left is placed on display inside the shop. He's stading there alone, stripped of all hopes. He had company and loved it, he was stripped of it. He was finally worn, but he disliked it and condemned himself to this display. For an eternity.
Decades pass, dust covers Left, the old owner dies leaving the shop in the hands of his son, who does not want to tend it. It's closed, sealing all within inside for until someone would come to take over. Left stands alone.
A harsh winter comes, freezing Vegas in the nights, drops of hoar paint the boot, and when the Sun climbs over the horizon, the drops melt and seep down the leather. One day, the door is opened, and a young enterpreneur enters.
He buys the shop, along with all the stuff considered "junk" by the previous owner inside. After restoring the building to its former glory, the doors stretch wide, and Left sees customers again.
A tourist enters, and addresses the owner with a strong British accent. In her hands, a boot can be seen, with a strut strapped to it. The customer shows the owner grayscale pictures of a one-legged British officer, he explaines that the strut is not part of the original design, and leads the customer to the boot he has on display.
They agree on a price, and Right is placed beside Left. After then owner has done so, Left immediately falls over to rest on Right. The owner turns around, scratches his head, and turns to the customer.
"What was that?" She asks.
"I don't know."
"Where did you get the other boot?"
"I ... don't know."
He then looks at the pair, glancing towards Left. "But it seems like that one has been through a lot."
© 2015 Medvekoma