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Equal Footing

by Bishti 

Posted: 29 July 2008
Word Count: 1189
Summary: short story:

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Equal Footing
Carol Falaki

The new day is dry and crisp. The birds waken and the growing light reveals a road-side ditch. Overgrown with nettle and long grass, the ditch is harbour to a collection of discarded objects.
A light thud and a rustle in the grass herald the arrival of a newcomer, a stylish training shoe.
“This place smells.”
“You’re right mate”
“Who said that?”
“Me, over here, by the wheel.”
“I don’t know who you are, but to begin with it must be perfectly obvious to anyone with half a brain that I am a left, and not a right shoe, and I am not your mate. Further-more I have absolutely no idea why I came to be in this God forsaken place.”
“I know how I got here Lefty, dumped, out the back of a van, with that settee over there, and the black bin-bag full of junk.”
“This must be a mistake. My wearer loves me. He takes us everywhere with him, me and my other half.”
“Not any more Lefty, you’re on your own now.”
“No, no I don’t believe that. He’ll come looking for me. I was far too expensive to be dumped like you.”
“This is a dumping ground mate, where things get dumped. That’s bleedin’ obvious to me.
“I remember now, and I am not your mate. He was on his bicycle and I dropped off. I fell out of a bag.”
“End of story pal, there’s no way anyone will come back looking for one shoe on a bike!”
“You are pathetic. He won’t come on his bicycle; he’ll come in the Lamborghini”
“Oooo get you, He’ll come in the Lamborghini. The only way you’re gonna get outa here is if a one-legged jogger comes by, and even then it’s fifty-fifty he’d choose me.”
“Choose you? There’s no comparison between us. I am far superior. I have an engineered asymmetrical sole with the ability to deflect impact while providing the ideal level of medial support.”
“In case you hadn’t noticed, mate, I am a right shoe, so it’s fifty-fifty, like it or not. And have you thought of this one? Together we make a pair. I’m a ten. What’s your size?”
“Just be quiet. I don’t know why I’m talking to you in the first place; you are nothing but white supermarket trash.”
“Georgio, mate, that’s not trash.”
“Georgio? I can see the George alright, what happened to the eeoh, drop off did it?
“Well, he just wanted a good pair of trainers, didn’t care about the brand name an’ all that crap… anyway you can call me George. Are you gonna tell me your size or is it a secret?
“I’m a nine, I’m a broad fitting.”

A large grey rodent emerges from behind the black bin-bag, investigates the ditch with a methodical nose, and then disappears into the undergrowth.
“What you been doing before you got to be lying here between me and that bicycle wheel?”
“Allsorts, I have been everywhere. Why only this time last week I was in Italy, flew first class, feet up all the way… I have jogged the streets of Rome, Florence and Pizza.”
“Jogging’s for pansies. You ain’t lived mate ‘til you’ve done some real running. Now that gets the old adrenalin going.”
“And you haven’t lived until you’ve seen the Italian lakes.”
“I stood on some pizza once, got pepperoni and tomato stuck up in-between, but that wasn’t so bad. Now, Rotweiller shit, that’s the worst. Ever stood in any?
“Certainly not.”
“I’ve still got a bit here, see, by the heel, can’t get rid of it.
“That is disgusting.”
“And see this pink stain? Sangria pewk, Benidorm last year. Could have been worse though, the next night I had a very close encounter with a chicken korma.
This dark bit here is blood.”
“I don’t want to hear about the disgusting habits of your wearer.”
“Don’t blame me Lefty, I didn’t pick him. Haven’t you got any scars?”
“I have one small mark on my lace, a drop of Chateaux Neuf du Pap, 1998. My wearer is not in the habit of vomiting on his shoes, he looks after himself. He jogs every morning before breakfast. How is he going to manage without me?”
“That’s easy,” George says, “he’ll just buy another pair. I did some jogging once.”
“Spare me the details, please.”
“Round a posh neighbourhood,” George continues. “We went back after dark. That was the time I realized my wearer could run like hell, when he needed to.”
A spider swings from the wheel, lands on Lefty’s lace, and begins to work a web.
“What about my other half George? He’ll be all alone in the sport bag. I miss him.”
“Don’t fret mate, I know what you mean. I miss my Lefty, though we used to fight. He was strong-willed, always wanted to take the lead.”
“How long have you been here?”
“Dunno, a week maybe.”
“Does anyone come around?”
“Not during the night, although there’s a guy sleeps in that dip under the hedge, sometimes.”
“What, you mean he lives there?”
“I don’t think he lives anywhere in particular. There’s a fox comes around. Watch out for him, he likes to sniff and pee.”
A greasy fish and chip wrapping catches Lefty’s toe, and stays for a moment before being claimed by the breeze.
“Oh God,” he cries, “What have I done to deserve this?”
“People pass by during the day,” George says, “but they never give us a second glance. It’s like we’re invisible. At least the weather’s not too bad.”
“What’s that, what’s that noise?”
“It’s the old guy, the one I was telling you about, shh.”
An old man shuffles into view. He walks like his feet are connected by a short chain. His body, protected by countless layers of clothes tied about his waist with a knotted leather belt, seems disproportionately chunky, and belies the thin bony features of his face.
He shuffles over to the shoes and picks George up, examining him closely. Then he bends down to look at Lefty, putting his bony hands, with long loaded fingernails deep inside the shoe, to check out the inner-sole.
“Nice, very nice,” he mutters, then sits on a stone next to the bicycle wheel, takes off his leather shoes with the soles separating from the uppers, and lays them on the ground.
His feet reek, a warm obnoxious smell, like a bog on a hot summer’s day. He puts the training shoes on, fastens the laces then stands and steps around, rocking forward and back, toe and heel to test the fit. He loosens Lefty’s lace then repeats the rocking and stepping.
With a dry toothless smile the old man picks up the discarded leather shoes.
“Thanks old friends,” he says, “we’ve come a long way together, but now we part.” He places the shoes on the ground where the trainers had lain, and shuffles off in search of breakfast.
George looks at his new partner Lefty, and Lefty looks at George, who is wise enough too stay silent… for the moment.

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