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The Shoes

By Phillip Ghee (USA)


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The Shoes
    The heavily populated working class, Central European neighborhood where Alisa Kerchensky lived bustled with activity. Many Europeans had flocked to the Greek shipping town and made it their home. The period between the two wars had been a time for great migrations. The advent and efficiency of the early railroads diminished borders and afforded many Europeans the means to travel and relocate. Many of those mobile adventurers were the first in their families to have ever left their native soil. Those of open minds were often enticed by the new cultures, seduced by exhilarating differences and variances of the people they would encounter. In many cases this lad to, for the first time, mixed marriages and liaisons among the working classes.  Bojek Robincovkjk was such an open minded adventurer. When he first laid eyes on the tall, lanky Moldavian Schoolgirl he knew he had to have her. He, like many of the ambitious young European men, had come to stake a claim in the agricultural trade. The Moldavian country was rich and fertile producing a bounty of fruits, grains and vegetables. The people however were not as well versed in matters of international trade. Often the riches of the country was managed at best and at worst, manipulated and held hostage to those businessmen and traders from the more educated and cosmopolitan nations. 
   Bojek  the Czech, went to Moldavia to wrestle some of the lucrative wheat profits away from his Russian counterparts. On several occasions while trading futures in the open market square he spotted the clumsy and awkward schoolgirl make her way home. She was taller than her peers and had the unsteady gait of future champion thoroughbred; its legs too long and spindly for its yet still developing body. The third time he noticed her he forced eye contact. The girl, much like a sheltered pony, was spooked. She did her best to conceal her face and dwarfed her frame so that she might provide camouflage and blend in with her peers. It did not work. The worldly Bojek would not be intimidated or put off by a mere country schoolgirl. He left the trading floor and approached the girl straight forwardly. After effectively dismissing her friends; Bojek walked the girl home and asked to speak to her parents.
Eastern Europe was trying desperately to shake its, at times, repressive image and enter the modern age. However, during that period between the two wars, certain aspects of many European cultures were still as antiquated as they were in the Middle Ages. Alisa had very little to say towards the matter before she was married off to Bojek Robincovkik with the promise of a better modern life. Bojek was an astute businessman and a commodity broker. In a very short time he found himself very prosperous and dominating in his business affairs. He moved himself and his young family to Piraeu, Greece to avail himself of close proximity to the shipping industry. Bojek left the rearing of his children, a son and a daughter solely to Alisa; which was the custom of the day. He immersed himself in the gaiety of the emerging merchant society that had bloomed in Piraeus . He attended the social events, often alone of in the company of fellow businessmen. He joined the private clubs where business, as well, could be conducted with pleasure. He however, lived very modestly and within his means. Bojek was raised to be very family oriented almost to the point of clannishness. He sent the bulk of his sizeable profits back home to support his extended family in Czechoslovakia . Having no obligation to the Kerchensky family, he sent them nothing. And as for their daughter he provided her with nothing more than what she would need to raise the young ones and provide for him sufficient meals.
    Often Bojek would set-off for voyages that would last for a month or more. Not trusting Alisa with the bulk of provision to last her during his absence; he left her pre-set weekly allotments. She would have to draw the allowance from an account at the local bank, issued in her name. If an emergency were to arise that would acquire additional funds, she would have to secure a bond from his business secretary. Not knowing any better, Alisa accepted this as the way of life and made no objections.
    When Bojek was away on business voyages, Alisa would often sneak into his private library. She had fashioned a key that effectively jimmied the lock. She had no interest in his financial records or business dealings.  She thought the drawings in his well hidden copy of The Karma Sutra comic at best and, random crude photographs of scantily clad women a waste of the most modern technological wonder. She only had one purpose when she would enter her husband’s library. She went for the treasured magazines, more specifically, the fashion magazines of the day. Her husband collected magazines from the wonderful and exotic places she could only dream of: Paris , Moscow , London and the great New York . The women were almost always tall and slender like her. Their faces were painted up like what she imagined angels would look like. The beautiful gowns they wore were exquisite, shimmering and dazzling. And then there were the shoes.
   Bojek was en route to Czechoslovakia this time.  Alisa had plenty of time to browse and lose magazines. She knew he would be abroad for at least three months. She always suspected that clannish Bojek had secretly fathered a family in his homeland. She, however, was honored by the suspicion, since it was her and her Moldavian off-spring children to which Bojek spent the majority of his time and went on record as being the husband and father.
   Alisa was an accomplished seamstress and tailor. These were skills she had learned in her homeland. She had managed to sock away some savings. With these savings she would, unbeknownst to Bojek, buy fine materials, silks and linens, from the trading bazaars. She would copy patterns from the fashion magazines and create wonderful garments.  These she would sell to a small group of loyal and grateful clients for a handsome profit. Before parting with her artistic creations she would prance and dance in-front of mirror, imaging herself to be in attendance at the finest Galas and Balls. But she had never managed to acquire anything befitting of the shoes that the models wore in the magazines. There was only one shoe shop that she knew of that sold shoes of such quality and daring and, even with her secrets profits, she would scarcely be able to afford a pair without collapsing her entire enterprise. However, the still young and inquisitively minded Alisa would not be denied.
   The children were content, immersed in an earthen playground etched out in the delightful garden Alisa had created. Taking advantage of this independence from the children, Alisa found the way to Bojek’s tool shed. She emerged with several blocks of wood, a hammer, nails a bracket or two and assorted odds and ends. From her closest she collected a pair of shoes of the type she wore as a schoolgirl. With ingenuity and unyielding determination she fashioned two, slightly-off angled, yet purely functional heels of wood
  Alisa wiped the sweat from her brow and marveled at her creation. She expertly removed the existing short heel from the schoolgirl shoes. She wasted no time in affixing, as best she could, the newly fashioned crude wooden heels. When she was pleased that the new creation appeared sturdy enough, she balanced herself between drain spout and a garden post and stepped into the shoes. She allowed her full weight to rest upon the shoes. She immediately felt a burning sensation as her calf muscle was stretched to new proportions. Her outer thighs tightened and lifted her hinder regions, creating a sensation that she knew not how to receive. She tingled ever so slightly and then, christening herself, she took her first step forward.
Her step was quickly followed by a second awkward and unbalanced step. The resulting effects led to Alisa toppling into the play area of the garden, causing the children some alarm. Her breezy billowing cotton dress had parachuted up to her hips, exposing her ivory pale, long and sinewy legs. She was glad for the fact that her flowery courtyard was built on a higher plateau and shielded her shame from the public view.
 As she tried to re-orient herself she heard the annoying laughter. It came from amid the thicket of Mediterranean bushes that separated her house from the shabby tenement building next door. She knew from whom the laughter emanated.
“Giacoppo” She shrieked, embarrassed and upset. Alisa pulled the dress back down to a modest length. She clamored to her feet and, after undoing the shoes, she let one fly in the direction of the mocking laughter with harmful intent.
“Ow! It found its mark.
“Good for you Giacoppo …you.. you… pervert." She retorted. Satisfied with the outcome, she dusted herself off.
“Tee he he." Came the reply from the bushes. “You’ll never make it in those, He, he,he.” The bushes rustled once more, marking his departure, and then there was silence.
Giacoppo, the Italian, was the neighborhood clown and busybody. Sometimes the men and adolescent boys of the neighborhood would taunt him and make fun of his crooked walk. No one seriously abused him; he was more for amusement than anything else. Giacoppo was usually jovial about the whole thing. He kept his nose in everyone’s business and was always spying at this, peeking at that, recommending this and gossiping about the other.
It was several days later, the children were once again at play in the cheerful garden. Alisa had put the incident and experimental project behind her. Then she caught something out of the corner of her eye. As if floating in air, a pair of  2 and a half inch pumps were being lowered down from the thicket of bushes next door, unto her garden patio. Alisa could only stare in disbelief. The shoes came to rest and, within the midst of the bushes, came the voice Giacoppo.
  “Señora, please, you must forgive me for my laughter the other day.
   I did not mean it in a cruel way. You see I know shoes very well and
   to see you in such a comical contraception was too much for me to
   bear. I know you meant well but, shoes such as the ones you desire
   are an art and must not be taken on so commonly."
“What’s it to you Giacoppo, what I do, art or not?”  Alisa retorted. But her flushed  pouty lips had the opposite effect of which they were trying to convey. “I was only playing, I am still young and can play If I desire.”  Her eyes, however, were firmly locked on the pumps that rested in the distance near the rose bush.
               “ Anyway Señora,  please accept these shoes as my way of asking forgiveness.”
               “How can you, Giacoppo, afford such shoes, they are probably stolen and I will
                be arrested the minute I touch them,” Spoke a cautious Alisa.
                “ No, no, no, Señora, nothing can be further from the truth. I made these
                  Shoes. You see when I was still a young man, living in Rome, I was one of the
                  best shoemakers in all of Italy . My shoes were so good and treasured that I became
                  the official shoe fitter for the royal court and confidant for the Baroness Sophia Marie
                 “You lie, Giacoppo.” Alisa would not be fooled by the greasy little man. The bushes fluttered and once more the disembodied voice spoke.
                   “Oh! How I wish it was a lie, my lady. You see this limp that I am plagued with?
                    It is courtesy of the Archbishop Tulane himself of the Vatican . That pious brute.
                    "The Baroness was a lively youth, daring in spirit not completely shy of scandal.
                    By her request, I designed a shoe for her so sensual, so provocative, that rumors
                    spread that I had sold my soul to the devil in exchange for the pattern to create such
                    a licentious shoe. I was hauled in before the Vatican Council of Morality. Whereupon,
                    after one look at the shoe, they gasped in horror and took to beating poor old Giacoppo
                    with their Holy canes. They burned the shoes, excommunicated me and banished
                   me from ever stepping foot in Rome again."
                “And you will get another beating from my husband, Giacoppo,for offering
me such gifts."
                “ No, no, no Señora, your husband need never know. It is a gift for you. It’s what
                   You want…no?"
                 “ OK, I will take them but, stop peeping on me Giacoppo or I will
                   beat you myself," she said confidently.
After experiencing a few minutes of silence from the bushes she hastily ran over and swept up the shoes. She positioned herself as she had the other day with her creation. The shoes were a perfect fit. They were fine leather, pale green in color with a with a bluish tint.

She took a step. This time she did not fall over yet she her legs still quivered with uncertainly. She took another step.

           “Head up, Head up” Came the instructions from the bushes. “Don’t look down.
           “Giacoppo!" She shrieked. He ignored her and continued giving instructions. She pitifully walked in the fine shoes. Exhausted, she sat down in defeat. Giacoppo , infuriated, emerged from the bushes to admonish her. She was like an unbridled pony and Giacoppo.was breaking her in, for she was being defensive and needed to become an obedient student.
               “Heel, heel toe, heel toe, heel toe” Barked a sweaty and commanding Señora.
                “Head up, what did I say? Keep that Moldavian head up. Move from your stomach, not your hips.”
        The coaching went on like this for the better part of a week. At the end of the week, Alisa was able to strut down her garden pathway as eloquent as any Parisian Model. She thanked Giacoppo for his assistance and, now that her fantasy was fulfilled, she was ready to part ways.
        A week passed and there was no Giacoppo sighting and all was as before, except in her secret trunk she now possessed a pair of pumps that awaited her when flights of fancy and fantasy prevailed. The summer months were now upon the costal Mediterranean town. Alisa spent more hours in the garden with the children in attempts to escape the searing humidity. Once more something being lowered caught her eye.
                  “They thought they had burned the only pair, but I had a second pair, Tee he he he!” Came the elfish laughter. This time he did not allow the bundled pair of shoes to fully descend. They hovered in midair above the terrace and beckoned her to come forth. Even from this distance she could tell that these were unlike anything that she had ever seen before. There was something almost wicked about the dangling package of shimmering black leather and shiny metal. She was actually afraid to go forward. He had to coax her.
                  “ Come, come, Señora, see what Giacoppo has for you,”  came the voice from the bushes.
Alisa was mesmerized by the dangling package and she walked hypnotically towards it. She came to rest in front of it and strained to gain her focus. Without warning, Giacoppo quickly drew the fine rope holding the shoes back up and the shoes were swallowed into the bushes. He then threw something else from the bushes. It was a thin package. Alisa curiously retrieved the package. Its contents were described in the French language. She had to open the package to know what was inside. She opened the thin flap and withdrew a pair of the finest sheerest silk stocking she had ever beheld. So light and airy were they, she wondered if the mild summer breeze might blow them away.
                    “Shoes such as these should never come into contact with feet!" shouted a proud Giacoppo.
         She rolled the soft angelic stockings in her hands. “I must caution you about the stockings. There are spun from the silk of the rarest silkworm in all of China. A splintered toe nail would rip them to shreds.  So delicate are they that  even the slightest nick or bump or hair might cause them to run, thereby causing the resulting effect to be somewhat flawed … Señora”  Giacoppo rose from the bushes to show his face. “ I recommend first a pedicure and than a shave and what I made for the Baroness will be yours.”
                   She thought about what Giacoppo had said. She was skilled with scissors. She could manage the pedicure herself but, the shave. She had never had reason before to shave the ultra fine strands of fine hairs that appeared in just a few places on her girlish legs. She was not familiar with the razor and frightened by its sharpness. She had often watched Bojek shave and trim his gentlemanly thick mustache. She knew that even the slightest variance would be enough to draw precious blood. She was confused.
                   “ What am I to do Giacoppo? Why do you do this… to tease me?”  Her glaze was skyward trying to peer into the bushes, to locate the shoes.” I can’t afford such services.”
                   “If Señora would entrust me to the same confidence that the Baroness, Sophia Marie
                  Calena allowed, then I, Giacoppo Tessiarino d'Urbervilia will attend to your every need."
   Alisa stood there motionless, thinking about the proposal. She was still confused. She informed Giacoppo that she would give him an answer the next day. That night must have been the hottest of the summer for Alisa tossed and turned all night with intermissive dreams about the shoes. She awoke to find her nightgown soaking wet and she also attributed that to the humid heat. She thought about the proposal once again in the light of day. She shoes possessed her. If only she could have them without Giacoppo being in the equation. She even fancied murdering him and taking the shoes but, it was only a blissful fantasy. To have the shoes she would have to willingly uncover her legs for Giacoppo. She looked at the package of stockings, afraid to even touch them because of Giacoppo’s warning about their fragility. She did not fear him for she was sure that she could administer a physical beating on Giacoppo if he got carried away. No, that was not the problem. The idea of letting that foul, little clownish man, touch her in personal places and shave her legs repulsed her. Yet the shoes spoke louder than her inhibitions. By breakfast her decision had been made.
   Shortly before noon she gathered the children and made her way unto the garden and waited the apparition. If wasn't long before she heard an announcing cough from the bushes. However she was not to surrender to the gnome without some conditions of her own. She never really got a good look at the shoes, only the blurring image of liquid black leather and lustrous silver as it swung in a heap just above her head.
                 “First let me see the shoes, Giacoppo,”she demanded
   Without a verbal reply, Giacoppo lowered the bundle once more, this time directly into the eagerly awaiting hands of Mrs. Robincovkjk. The shoes, if one could call them that, poured out of the fisherman’s netting and into Alisa’s grasp. So exciting and alien were they that she almost dropped them as her hands went numb. They were blacker than any black she had ever seemed. The heels were not heels at all, in the way that she understood heels. They were narrow least than half an inch at the end and no more than two and a half at the base. Sure one could not truly walk on these. The shoes had more open space than shoe, exposing much of the bare foot, even if it was adorned by Giacoppo’s sheer silk stocking.
    The buckles were pure silver with far too many of them to be practical. No wonder the Vatican set about beating Giacoppo. Shoes like this could not be worn in public, even by a Baroness. Shoe like this could only be worn in privacy in the deepest hours of the night or by the devil’s concubine herself, for even the devil’s wife would certainly not wear shoes so provocative.
   Alisa unlocked the gate that provided access from the tenement building unto her courtyard. Giacoppo entered with a knapsack under one arm and a leather-bound kit in the other. He was oddly dressed for the occasion. He wore an Englishman’s boulder hat which must have been unbearable in the humid heat. His horn rimmed glasses made he look a bit more intelligent than his usual self. She wondered if they were even real. His sleeveless undershirt was still stained with what she believed was his spaghetti dinner from the night before. And for no apparent reason he sported a light linen jacket over the well worn undershirt, skipping the outer shirt all together.
  He apologized for not bringing a basin and asked if Alisa could provide him with such. When she returned, Giacoppo had the kit opened and was assembling its contents out with all the meticulousness of a surgeon. His kit was much more expansive than the shaving kit of her husband. Perhaps, in this too, was Giacoppo as professional as he claimed, she pondered.

She presented him with the basin, which he immediately filled half way with hot water. Into the water he added several packages of powders, creating a warm aromatic mint-lime scent. He swished the waters around until they formed a bubbly head of foam. Giacoppo pulled up a little stool and moved the children’s play table close to it. He then instructed Alisa to present her leg upon the table but, first, he suggested for maximum shaving effect that she wear the earlier presented pumps. She retrieved the shoes and obliged. She was prepared as she wore an extremely bilious dress that she could tie up around thigh to prevent any free showings of areas not being shaved.
    Giacoppo swished the warm water once more and then began to apply the thick and creamy lather to her bare legs. Alisa deeply inhaled the pleasant scent and imagined someone, anyone, other than Giacoppo applying the lather. Giacoppo’s hands were thick and inquisitive. She felt his hands linger longer than necessary as he applied the rich concoction. At some point the glasses fell from his face and one of the lenses shattered.
                      “Now what Giacoppo, you clumsy fool. Do you think I am going to let
                       A blind man shave me?"
                       “ Oh have no fear Señora. They just bring things a little closer.
                         I will just have to adjust.”
 Giacoppo moved the stool a bit closer to the subject matter.

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