By Phillip Ghee (USA)
Click here to send comments
Click here if you'd like to exchange
The Shoes: The Conclusion
Giacoppo lay for a day and a half, prostrated before his God. When he finally rose he was weak and famished; not use to missing his pasta rich meals and lackluster Greek version of Italian dinner wines. His paunch was bruised and sore from where the blood had pooled. His eyes were weary for although he had lain for a day and a half, he had taken little if any sleep. He had spent those hours immersed in prayers, appeals, intercessions, invocations, the singing of hymns and even Christmas carols, utilizing any and every thing that he thought would invoke for him the favor of his God. Giacoppo was satisfied that those ends had been met. He believed that he had indeed breached the heavenly sanctum and privy to hear the still small voice of God.
"The shoes must be blessed Giacoppo. They must be baptized in the Holy Spirit."
It was still early evening. G. supposed that Alisa would be back in the courtyard at that post-dinner hour, playing with the newly fed children, while entertaining the comforts of an evening breeze. G. fixed himself a modest meal consisting only of bread and a short glass of wine. He immersed himself, once again, in the seldom used tub. This time he was confident enough to relax in warm temperate waters. After bathing he donned the least stained article from of his wardrobe of undershirts. He lightly waxed his greasy mustache, brushed back the slick long strands of black hair still skiing a balding head. He topped himself off in the ceremonial Englishman's bowler hat. He rummaged his way through eons of collectibles until he found a certain satchel which much like the prayer robe, he had not seen in decades. It was a remnant of his days as a shoemaker.
The children were ecstatic, engrossed in all manners of play and exploration, happy to have the full attention of their mother back. The oldest had just recently developed stronger legs which would often lead the two of them to exuberant and gay chases and apprehensions. The younger was still content to explore her world from the comforts of all fours. After one particular spontaneous burst of chase followed by a few moments of hide and seek, Alisa returned attention to her younger daughter only to find her off to the side of the patio a basket being lowered into the sovereignty of her infantile world. The thought of more gifts, maybe more stockings, overwhelmed Alisa. She raced in the direction of the child who had now lost interest in the dues ex machine of the basket and was now more interested in the delicatessen quality of a wayward caterpillar. Desire overcame disgust and Alisa first applied her attentions to the contents of the basket. It was empty.
"Damn you, Giacoppo." She cursed. "More of your games? I have had enough.
.My husband will home soon and if you know what is good for you..."
High above, Giacoppo poked his face through the wall of foliage with a burst, appearing as if he were a mounted head on a wall of green leaves and decorative flowers.
"I know senora that your husband is to arrive soon." He spoke in soothing reassuring tones.
"That is why I must treat your shoes now before he arrives. Fine leather such as the shoes will crack and eventually fall all to pieces without the proper care." He implored. "Please get them and put them in the basket and I will have them back to you within the hour."
Alisa was suspicious of the Italian's intention. Maybe she had given the lustfully frustrated man a bit too much show on their last encounter, she reasoned. A host of scenarios flew through her head. The prevailing trend consisted of Giacoppo somehow holding the shoes as blackmail, bait or ransom in attempts to lure her into what must be his shabby apartment in hopes of ravishing her. She was not so naive.
“No Giacoppo." She concluded. “If you want to shine them, and then shine them with me in them." She boldly presented her ultimatum. Much to her surprise he accepted with a strange ultimatum of his own. He would do so only if she would wear plain and conservative work clothes. She was puzzled but, then again she was educated, or so she thought. She knew the little sexual pent-up Satyr probably wanted just the opposite. Well she had something in store for him.
“I promise you. You get down here Giacoppo and shine them and I will give you your nun."
True to her word, when Giacoppo arrived at the entrance of the courtyard he found Alisa dressed in such a drab, lengthy and formless dress that even the outfits Mrs. Kazantazakis, his ill-spririted, sourfaced, bonnet-coiffed landlady wore, elicited more femininity than the oversize sack that Alisa had covered herself in. She wore no lipstick; her face lacked any of the female paints of the day. Her hair was subdued and pulled back in a tight peasant braid. Still with all the downgrading and subversion, her natural beauty still managed to peak through so G. avoided eye contact as much as possible.
Giacoppo rearranged pieces of patio furnishings and made himself a workspace. He directed that Alisa take seat upon the stool rather than the lifting of legs high above such. The was to the disadvantage of an aging and amply proportioned Giacoppo, as the bend to ground would be too strenuous in performing the work so he embarrassingly had to prostrate himself before the planted shoes. Nevertheless, even in such an inferior position, he commanded an air of respectable craftsmanship in applying the shine. As for Alisa, she found no excitement in this current encounter, save for the anticipation of a finished product. She had vanquished and had her fill of the comical man. Bojek would be home soon. She wished a quick end to the shine session.
From his awkward position, G. had assembled various bottles, canisters and jars from the time worn satchel. He wiped the shoes with a lightly scented cloth sprayed with one of his liquids from the assorted menagerie of concoctions. He struck a match and proceeded to light the contents of the black thick and tarry shoe polish. It emitted a wonderful blue dancing flame which he allowed to exist twenty seconds or so before blowing out. The pungent petroleum-based vapors offended the delicate air of the flowery fragrant patio. He applied the hot polish onto the body of the shoe, the straps and the heels as well. He was meticulous and careful not to stain the stockings with the richly dark goo. Amazingly, he then buffed the shoes a few degrees more than their former glory. He next applied metal polish to the various straps, snaps, buckles and silver-tipped heels. Cautiously he informed Alisha that even the interior spaces of the shoes
would require such attentive and personal care. He bid her to remove herself from the shoes and to place her-stocking contained feet upon a clean towel he had laid out for the purpose.
Claiming that he needed more light from an escaping sunset, G. removed himself and the shoes to the far side of the patio, just bordering the periphery of his tenement building. He facilitated spraying of the interior of the shoes with the contents of another one of his mysterious craftsman's bottles, when in fact the bulk of the liquid substance found its way upon a small persimmon fruit tree that grew adjacent to the wall of his building. In one swell swoop. G. struck a match, ignited the tree and with shoes collected safely under his arms, took flight and made his way from the premises as fast as his short stocky legs could carry him.
Horrified yet still extremely cautious, Alisa took great care in removing the stocking before either attending to the fire or the dismay of the children. She fought back the blaze with water and blows, finally beating it into submission. Alisa was scorned. Her nostrils flared wide and her breath was hot and rushed. The temples of her forehead pulsated with rage. Budging veins now cropped about the graceful neck like invasive vines of poisoned ivy. Her eyes were sharp and seeking to pierce the very soul of the one who had given and now taken away that earthly manifestation of her unbridled passion. For perhaps the first time in her life, the trail of innocence and aura of serene beauty that accompanied her had dissipated.
Still draped in the horrible custom, she might very well have been considered hideous by the frightened young Mediterranean boys she queried as to Giacoppo whereabouts. She had never a reason beforehand to navigate the densely populated and maze which was the tenement building next door. After several missed turns she finally found herself on the 5th floor of the structure. She banged forcefully on the door and demanded the return of the shoes. G. did not answer but she could hear him fussing about inside, loudly spitting out poorly spoken rants in Latin and that of his native Italian tongue. The door appeared weak and it did not take long for the once-envisioned seductive limbs of woman perfecta to transform themselves into savage battering rams of primate anger. She also allowed those well proportioned shoulders of the farm girl, who once worked the Moldavian wheat fields, to test the integrity of the dry rotted door and with a finally delivery of a body in disturbed motion, she rendered the door unemployed.
Startled, G. toppled the candles he had used to light the small funeral pyre before him. Quickly other items in the congested apartment joined, one by one. They took interest and joined in the fiery fun. Alisa made her way to the fire that was by design but too late. The shoes were transforming themselves into a tarry bubbly stew. She franticly tried to shoo the flames away to no avail. The blaze had now spread to dangerous levels and Alisa conceded defeat. She ran down the stairs, alerting the other tenants in the building in the process. A community effort, including a grieved Alisa, succeeded in containing the blaze to the confines of Giacoppo’s apartment. The building was spared.
Bojek had done well on this most recent trip. All his business ventures fared better than expected. It seems that worry and speculation had overtaken the greater areas of Europe. Empires, countries, militias and those of means were once again stockpiling goods, weapons as well as commodities and staples.
He arrived to find Alisa in the courtyard with the children, napping, oblivious to the clouds of discontent dotting the European sky and the winds of angst blowing unimpeded through the borders of civility. Bojek was glad to be back in the sleepy Greek seaport, away from the worries of the world. He was certain that Evil was about to be unleashed once more upon Europe. He looked with fondness upon his simple wife.
She had aged, it seemed. A few thin lines of experience now ran forth from the crevice of her eyes. The eyes themselves now seemed more distant, lost in some unknown thought. Perhaps she was not so removed from the talk and rumors of war. Maybe the voices of hushed tones that emerged from the cafes and hung in the thick air of cities of greater Europe had indeed reached their sleepy seaport town. Under an over-sized apron she wore a drab cotton dress, dull in color and hanging lifelessly on her slumped body. This was unlike her usual vibrant self he thought. Still he was glad to see her. He quickly surveyed the familiar and welcome surroundings. On a post and out of place hung the wide brim funeral hat.
She rose and kissed him lightly on the cheek. She noticed his stare towards the hat and even lighter, she whispered into his ear.
“Giacoppo, you know the funny little Italian man?” She pointed up high, to the carcass of a burnt out window on the adjacent tenement building. “Yesterday they buried him.” She continued. “I took the children to pay respects.” She ended, barely audible even for a whisper.
“Is there going to be a war?” She quizzed. At the funeral. They say, you know, the holy people that the Devil has lost his wayward mistress and is again on the prowl in Europe to find her. And because he is mad he will make the people fight each other until…”
“Bojek put his strong arm around his wife. Yes there might be war. But what has the
Devil to do with it?” She was assured for the moment and held her husband’s hand tightly as they made their way over to the oblivious sleeping children. With her other hand she toyed with the singed leather strap resting in the deep recesses of the pocket of her apron.