by Kellyann Zuzulo
Kurt the Cobbler lived in Fabelonia, a small village on the outskirts of Famenfortunia. Shoemaking was his trade, one that he had worked at all of his 84 years. Kurt had white hair and bright green eyes that sparkled in his wrinkled face like emeralds pushed into dough. All day long and most of the night, Kurt worked at his bench, hammering heels, snipping leather, lacing laces, and, basically, cobbling. He was very good at his trade.
On this particular day, Kurt was finishing a commission for the village banker, Fickle Salesia. Fickle was as thin and bitter as a piece of lemon rind. He had ordered a pair of high boots made of butter-soft coypu leather lined with goose down. Kurt was very proud of the boots. He was polishing the final brass eyelet just as Fickle traipsed into the store, plopped his bony bottom on the threadbare ottoman, and waved Kurt over.
The old shoemaker knelt in front of Fickle and slipped the boots on his long narrow feet. They fit as if they had been dabbed on with a fairy hair brush.
Fickle stood up and admired the shoes. He turned this way and that. Finally, he harrumphed. “I don’t like them.”
“You don’t like them?” Kurt sat on his heels, pushed the bifocals back on his head, and squinted at the stringy banker.
“They’re too something or other.” He leaned over, pulled off the boots, and stormed out of the store.
Kurt had worked on those boots for two weeks, accepting no other commissions (not that there were any forthcoming). Now he had no money, no buyers, and no food. But he had lots of shoes. He gazed lovingly at the rows of handmade shoes that slept beneath the pitted wood of his workbench. There were satin slippers and wooden clogs and ladies’ high heels and children’s soft soles and moccasins of all textures and boots of all heights.
Kurt’s stomach growled. He lifted himself up and took his bamboo fishing pole from a corner of the small shop. “I think I’ll go fishing.” Fishing for fish was the only way Kurt could get food now.
Several hours later, Kurt trundled back into the village. A tiny fish hung on a string from his waistband. Just then, Bloggy the cat came screeching around the corner. Old Missus Crit shouted after her, “And stay off my stoop.”
Bloggy stopped short in front of Kurt, staring hungrily at the tiny fish on his waist. Kurt looked at the cat and then looked at the fish. He leaned over, plucked the fish from the hook, and gingerly held it out to Bloggy, who snapped it up in a thrice.
Bloggy took off with nary a backward glance.
Kurt just shook his head. A bluebird twittered by. In its beak, it gripped a piece of croissant, still fragrant from the oven. Kurt followed the aroma up the street to Bettina Barista’s bakery. People streamed into the store, ordering glistening cakes and pastries that were arrayed on glass shelves inside the window.
Bettina waved to Kurt and came from behind the counter. She had rosy cheeks and a great big heart inside her great big bodice. “Kurt, I heard about that stingy stickler Salesia. Here, have a loaf of bread. It’s a day old but it’ll fill your belly just the same.”
His eyes misted over. As he turned to leave, he gazed at all the sugary delights and had an idea.
He hurried back to his cobbler’s shop. He cleaned the bow window and wiped the wood shelves that faced the street. Cradling his shoes, he assembled them pair by pair inside the window. Then he went back to work, hammering, measuring, snipping, and polishing.
It wasn’t long before an elegant gentleman with lace at his throat and a velvet sack full of coins on his waist came into the store. “Good day, my dear cobbler. I am Alastair Barnes, a nobleman in this area. I noticed those fine boots in your window.” Barnes pointed to the shoes that had been rejected by Salesia. (Barnes, it should be noted, was a rather short gentleman but his feet were long and narrow.)
“I should like to try them on.”
Try them he did. They fit him even better than they had fit fickle Fickle.
Barnes was so pleased with the boots that he told his friend King Gustav about them. Kurt the Cobbler was commissioned to the King. He was never hungry again. To thank Bettina for her inspiration, Kurt made her a special pair of wide width slippers with insoles as soft as meringue.
And he lived happily ever after.
Of course, there’s a moral to the Story of the Cobbler. After all, he lives in Fabelonia. There are actually five morals:
- Learn to fish (just in case).
- Help others.
- Display your wares.
- Don't let fickle sales get you down.
- Keep on cobbling.
(now back to cobbling my latest book)
What Would You Wish For?