Hi. I’m Clarks; a shoe. A very interesting thing happened to me a few days ago and it’s doing my head in thinking about it and telling nobody. I would have told my twin, Clarks, but he’s been through this adventure with me and what’s the fun in telling someone who already knows? And in any case, I had my tongue ripped out by a cobbler this morning, and it’s all I can do to write with my laces.
It all started when we were taken off the shelves from an expensive shoe store in London by a rich man. He picked me off first and looked at me, turning me over and over. Then he pulled my twin off and looked at the sticker that had been stuck on his underside. ‘Ah,’ he said. ‘Just £24.99! That’s as cheap as it gets.’
He pulled out the paper that we’d been stuffed with and dropped us to the floor before stuffing his stinky feet into us and walking around the shop, looking down now and then. Then he called a shop assistant, who packed us into a box together after scanning us with a machine that gave out a red light and accepting some paper from the man.
I saw through the one hole in the box that we were dropped into a thin, transparent plastic bag and the man walked out of the shop with us. Before long, something in his pocket gave out a terrifyingly, loud noise, making both of us shoes nearly jump out of our leather. The man pulled it out and pressed something. The sound stopped but now the man was holding it to one ear, blabbering into it. Humans do such weird things!
After he was done talking, he changed direction and walked back towards the shop. Was he going to return us? Oh no! All our lives we’d just sat there on the same old shelf, doing nothing but watch people look at others of our kin.
But no, he didn’t go back into Clarks. He went into the coffee shop opposite it; one we’d watched people flow in and out of many a day. He stopped at the door and peered in through the glass. I saw a woman waving at him and he walked into the shop with a smile plastered all over his smug face. He sat down at her table and plopped us next to his chair. And at that moment I thought I was imagining it but a man who was sitting alone at another table was eyeing us.
He was scruffily dressed with a tattered shirt and holey trousers. And, bless me; he didn’t have any shoes on! I was wondering what he was doing in such a distinguished café when he got up and walked to the door, passing us as he did. But wait, he didn’t pass us. He snatched up the plastic bag that contained us and practically flew out the shop before anyone even knew that we’d been stolen.
We saw our previous owner come out of the shop as we went swept away, a look of dismay on his face. We were taken past the River Thames and across the London Bridge. Once he was sure we were safe, the tramp took us out of our box and exclaimed, ‘My my. Look what beauties we have here.’
He tried us on just as our previous owner had done but this time, not only did his feet stink, they also had mud all over them! I guess that’s what happens when you walk around bare feet. And oh my, the state of his toenails was just disgraceful. They were long and as dirty as the rest of his feet but wait, what was that crawling out of one? A bug, urgh, how disgusting!
I wanted him to get his wretched foot out of me at once but what hope had I of that? Turns out, quite a lot. ‘These blinking shoes don’t fit me!’ screamed the tramp. ‘What good are they now? Might as well hurl them into the river.’
So he pulled us off – oh joy – and (oh no) threw us over the side of the pavement, that ran parallel to the river, into it. And let me tell you, getting wet when you’re made of leather and lined with fleece is not my idea of fun. We sank down, down, down and then settled at the bottom, on the river bed. And, correct me if I’m wrong Clarks bro, but didn’t we see a bone next to us? Like a long one, the size of a human’s leg.
And one more thing. There were fish swimming around us, bumping into us with their snouts and flicking us with their tails. And it’s pretty unnerving, sitting next to a might-be-human bone and not knowing whether fish like the taste of old cow skin. I was just about to ask Clarks how long we were going to be stranded there when a huge large metal ring, that had a thing like a spider’s web on one side and was manoeuvred by a pole it was connected to came down and scooped us up along with the bone and some other junk we had landed on. The fish managed to get away in time.
We were hauled out of the water and into a large boat. ‘Look what the net’s caught this time,’ someone said. Ah, so the spider web thing was a net. Two men came up to the next and, with gloves on, pulled me and Clarks out of the net. ‘These shoes ain’t lookin’ that bad, aye John?’
‘Nay, Peter, they look very fresh but oh, that water’s made them stink aye?’
I read on the shirt of the one that was holding us, Peter, ‘Council and River Thames Cleaner.’ Ah, did that mean they were set to clean the river? That would need more of an army I think!
‘Aye, but my young Colin won’t mind,’ said Peter. ‘He may be only twelve, but he’s a strapping lad and he’s got feet to be proud of.’
‘Oi, Peter, look here. Ain’t that a human bone?’
‘Nay John. I studied anatomy once upon a time. That bone is too small to belong to a human. It probably is from a sheep that drowned long back in the Victorian Era. If we take that bone to the museum, I bet they’ll pay us handsomely!’
‘Aye, let’s go. Leave the job for today.’
The man called John went into a small house that was built on the boat and almost immediately, the whole vessel swung to the side and headed for the shore. The Peter person was still looking over us and crooning about how his Colin would be delighted. As we reached the shore, Peter called to John, ‘You hurry along to that museum. I want to see me old son’s face when I hand him these.’
With that Peter jumped off the boat with us in his hand and started walking towards a block of huge buildings that were filthy on the outside. The paint was fading and there were loads of pigeons roosting on the roofs. I’m no building expert but I think them buildings need a touch of paint and some turpentine put on the roofs to keep off the birds.
Peter went into one of the buildings and began to climb the stairs. After every three or so steps he stopped, put his hand on his back and groaned. Addition to the list of improvements: get an elevator installed. We reached a door a few minutes later and Peter rapped on it hard. It opened and a young looking boy was staring out at Peter.
‘Grandpa! Welcome home. You’re early today. How come?’
‘I found these shoes in the river,’ sighed Peter, sitting down heavily on one of the chairs in the room. ‘Thought you’d like them so here I am.’
‘What shoes? Lemme see,’ said Colin, gently taking us from his Granddad’s hands. ‘There beauties, Grandpa. Not worn out much although the stink from the water. I think I can fix that though.’
He took us to what I assumed was a kitchen and lit the gas. He laid us near it and went off to fetch something else. I saw Clarks shudder in front of the fire and hop a tiny bit closer. I shuffled nearer too. Ah, it was so pleasant to be warmed up after that cold experience in the river. Colin came back and I saw he was clutching a little spray-bottle in his hand. He held it up to us and sprayed us with something that smelled of lilac and apples and roses.
‘There,’ he said. ‘That should take care of the smell.’
He kept us near the fire for a little while longer and then went to his Granddad. ‘Grandpa, I’m going out to buy vegetables. You just relax. I’ll be an hour at the most.’
He came back to the kitchen, put the gas off and slipped us on. Waving goodbye to his Granddad, we walked out of his house and down the stairs, crossing the river at the same bridge the tramp had brought us along. We walked through a garden and crossed another bridge though his wasn’t over the Thames; it was just over a lake. Soon we came to a pair of very grand gates that we peered through. There was a big building with pillars and people with red suits and huge black, furry things on their stiff heads.
Colin sighed and walked along to the place he was to buy the vegetables. We were just there (I could hear people shouting out prices of the produce) when Colin forced us to a stop at a bench. He stared at it. Well, I realized then that he wasn’t staring at the bench itself but at the lady sitting on it. She was an old lady, well into her eighties at least if not ninety. She had white, short, curly hair, a wrinkly but smiling face, startling blue eyes and was wearing some sparkly jewels on her pretty head. She was holding out pieces of bread to the pigeons.
Colin looked like he was, for some reason I didn’t see, about to drop to his knees when three boys on skateboards ground to a halt in front of her, frightening all the birds away. The lady looked at them and frowned but the boys didn’t look overwhelmed like Colin did. They looked nasty and they were looking at the jewels on her head.
‘Give us the crown old woman, or else…’ began one. This was when Colin sprang into action. Well, actually, we sprang into action but it looked as if he did. I made his right leg lift itself and kick the one that was speaking in the place humans call ‘where-it-hurts’ while Clarks made the left leg bend, so that Colin’s knee hit the chest of another. Both boys fell down, gasping. This left only one. But wait, why was he on the floor as well? I looked up and saw the lady swinging an umbrella I hadn’t noticed before, looking pleased with herself. Okay, I understand why he was on the floor.
The lady looked at Colin, ‘What would you like as a reward young lad?’
Reward? Okay, I was seriously missing a major detail here. Who was this lady?
‘I think you should consult my Grandpa for that, my Lady,’ said Colin, shyly.
‘Sure,’ she said. ‘But is there anything you want?’
‘Well, I would like my shoes to be mended.’
‘Alright. Come along.’
We walked to the grand building I mentioned earlier and the men in the fluffy hats opened the gates. Colin took us of and we were handed to a butler who talked to us as if we were living things (well, we were but he didn’t know that). So you see life in the shoes of a shoe can be leather-ripping tough but we survived it alright.
‘Well, my beauties, let’s see what we can do. You need a new tongue,’ the cobbler was saying, and ripping out my tongue and he went off to find a new one.
Clarks looked at me as if to say, ‘Well, that was an adventure!’
As if on cue a man dressed in black slipped into the workshop and after looking around for a moment, slipped us into a bag with a few others. I looked back at Clarks and winked, saying with my eyes, ‘And it’s only just begun…’