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My Beautiful White Shoes

One morning in December of the year 1943 I fell in love with a pair of white shoes which were extremely tight. However, for fear of making me buy other shoes for which my heart did not beat much, I forced my toes back as best I could, to prevent them from making small bumps in the upper. You can imagine that this would get my mother thinking.

- Are you sure that these shoes do not hurt your feet? She asked me. Walk on the carpet, so that I can see.

I walked fairly well, which earned me the honor of being the proud owner of this beautiful pair of white shoes. I was overwhelmed with joy, but my happiness was terribly fleeting. After a two-day hell, one paved with bad intentions, unbearable corns, intolerable calluses, toes bruised and sore, and especially paternal reproofs, I became the sworn enemy of these two instruments of torture I adored so much. I did not want to see them, and I took the solemn decision not to wear them anymore. How na´ve was I! In the old days, you see, things were not rosy at home. A father of a family who had five children to bring up, and who was the only one to keep the pot boiling, could not afford to lose stupidly seventeen Gourdes (the price of my white shoes). One had to try all sorts of desperate solutions, before finally giving up.

- We will subdue these shoes, my dear papa declared in a voice seemingly confident.

For starters, he tried the alcoholic softening. Twice a day, he poured copiously and conscientiously the alcohol in my shoes, hoping to soften them, and especially to stretch them of one millimeter. Unfortunately, the miracle did not happen. And these rebellious shoes resisted all other small tricks tried by my father. Ultimately, he grabbed a razor blade, and made two small holes at my shoes, just to liberate my two little toes; because this was precisely there that the leather was hurting me. How ridiculous was I, with my two little toes staying outside like two little commas!

- I cannot go to school like that, I said in a voice drowned in tears.

- You shall wear them to walk in the neighborhood, my father strongly suggested. Like that, I will not waste my money entirely.

Young people today will have a hard time understanding this story. First of all, they really do not know what it is to have shoes that hurt, as they are accustomed to the soft comfort of sneakers, or shoes, which can be dirty, filthy and muddy. Second of all, no dad today is strong enough to force a child to wear shoes that he has decided to no longer wear. Moreover, nowadays, the old shoes, shoes with worn out soles, we just throw them away.

When I was a child, it was not the same. Boss Louis, the shoemaker incumbent of my family visited us from time to time, to see if we did not need his good offices.

As much as I can remember, at the end of each school term, my father entrusted him with two pairs of shoes that he had to restore. Well, in a manner of speaking. Now that Boss Louis is in the great beyond, I may confess that he was a mean shoemaker. Not only my shoes were becoming narrower after each of its repairs, but the shoes patched up by boss Louis were interchangeable. The right foot could fit in the left shoe, and vice versa.

The most terrible thing is that after two or three weeks of service, the shoes resoled by this good man, were becoming murderous weapons. This is so true that at the time of my childhood, I had the heels leaking like sieves, and it is to the tiny nails of boss Louis that I owed this painful conformation.

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