The Red and Gold Shoe part 7/7

The Red and Gold Shoe

The Red and Gold Shoe part  7/7

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They passed the shoe  from hand  to hand, and Lata watched jealously as they examined it.

"Can I try  it on?" asked one of  the girls, and Lata  looked at her for a long moment.  "Only  for a second-just  to see what  it feels  like," the girl pleaded.

This was something new indeed-to be asked,  instead of ordered,  shouted at, or even pushed. And  then  to know  that she had  the choice of answering  yes, or even no. She had to be careful  here, and so she said, with  that cunning that comes from being  treated like nothing  for  too long: "What will you give me in return?"

It started off with a piece of sesame crunch saved from the recent marriage feast to which  they had not invited her. She shared  it promptly with Joseph,  and from  there  it went on until, at the end of the week, she had  for him a top without a point,  three plastic bangles  for herself, first place at the tap on two occasions when she overslept  and was  late, and even an invitation  to a not-so-important  doll marriage, For only  the first week  that was a good run of luck  indeed, and Lata had reason  to feel happy. The conditions  laid down for the wearing  of her shoe were  stern.  It must never  touch the ground, nor be scuffed against anything  to wear away the gold. This was no ordinary shoe and therefore  it must be treated as no ordinary shoe was ever treated.  Such conditions were bound  to affect  the wearer  too. The betel seller's daughter borrowed  the shoe  for a whole  afternoon  and she wore it when her  relatives  called on the family from  their village. All through  the visit she sat sedately on a trunk, one leg folded  under her and the other hanging down.

The Red and Gold Shoe part 6/7

The Red and Gold Shoe

The Red and Gold Shoe part 6/7

That evening Lata sat with one leg neatly folded under her, while the other hung down wearing the red and gold shoe. She swung her leg back and forth so that from the corner of an eye she could see  it flash out. And sometimes she held her leg stiffly out before her as she'd forgotten  to swing it back. As she had hoped,  she soon had a small knot of children gaping at her where  she sat,  though  she pretended not  to notice  them.

"Where did you get such  a grand pair of shoes?"  asked  one of the children in astonishment.
Virtue stories for children

Lata didn't answer or even  turn her head  from watching the game of tipcat; but she was aware  that more children were  running  across  to join the crowd,  until  the sweetseller's daughter, who was  then  the rajah, was left perched  alone on Janak Seth's  feet and  feeling very annoyed  about  it. Finally, she climbed down and pushed her way  through  the others to stand before  Lata and Joseph.

Where did you get them? Is  it real gold-all  that thread?

Who gave them  to you? For a while Lata enjoyed  the sensation and  then she and 
Joseph  looked at each other and smiled all over  their  faces,  the way we do when we're very pleased about  something  and don't care who knows  it.

"My grandmother bought  them for me,,, Lata said  serenely, pulling her shabby skirt straight  to make sure  that the other foot was well hidden from view.

"My father could buy a dozen  such shoes," sniffed the sweetseller's  girl.

"Perhaps,"  responded  Lata, “but  he hasn't done  so yet, has he?"

The Red and Gold Shoe part 5/7

The Red and Gold Shoe

Stories from around the world

The Red and Gold Shoe part 5/7

The change  began working from that very day. Now there is a way of wearing only one shoe so that nobody will suspect  it is only half of a pair. Or better still,  there  is a way to make  it appear  that wearing only one is the most natural thing  in the world, and  the only  reason why more people . don't do  it is because other shoes are made for walking. This shoe was not.

Every evening Lata carried  little Joseph Pinto out  to a stone bench in the nearby park where he could watch the others play.  It isn't a park  really-only a half-hearted  attempt at a park  in the open  space behind  the shantytown where the city ends and the countryside  begins. The statue in the center is of the man who first had the idea and gave the piece of land. But he died soon after and the  rest of the money was spent on  this statue, while the park was  left unfinished. He  is a tall stout  figure of a man standing  on a platform,  and Momin Sheikh's pigeons,  the sparrows, crows, and other birds have made a sorry mess of him. He  is surrounded  by a dozen or more small concrete posts  from which it was planned  to sling heavy  chains, but the money was used up and everyone  lost interest in the scheme. Janak  Seth, he  is called, and  the children have made up a song  that  they sing as they play a game of their own around him:


The Red and Gold Shoe part 4/7

The Red and Gold Shoe

The Red and Gold Shoe part 4/7

"What will you buy?" asked Joseph seriously,  for he knew this problem  called  for much thought.

Lata was quite  sure what  she would do. "We'll have a doll marriage too, and we'll have a feast." So what  if they'd not been invited? A marriage and a feast of their own would make  things equal. Well, almost equal-for it couldn't be much of a marriage when one had no dolls. The groom was the wooden  handle of a chisel with  the blade snapped  off from Joseph's house, and the bride was  the short stout stick with which Lata's grandmother beat the clothes at  the pond. Both stood stiffly side by side against  the fence, with eyes,a nose, and a mouth  put on with a charred  stick. For  ten coppers  the feast had  to be modest indeed, with  roasted peas served  in silver cups made from paper out of empty  cigarette boxes  they  found along  the tracks.

They ate  the peas slowly and very solemnly'  It would not do to gobble  them  too  fast, for once they were gone  the feast would be over. Too soon would  their pleasure  become a thing of the past. The peas had  to be chewed and tasted to the fullest so that  they could be  remembered  to the  fullest.

"We won't  tell anybody-not anybody,"  said Lata, munching.

The Red and Gold Shoe part 3/7

The Red and Gold Shoe

The Red and Gold Shoe part 3/7

Leaning back, Joseph looked high  into the sky where flights of snowy white egrets winged their way  toward the lakes  set in the  rolling hills of a national park. Or he watched giant  jet planes  zoom  over.

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"When I grow up, I shall fly," he always  said,  repeating it every day  to make sure it would happen. Joseph planned  to do everything  that needed no legs. So he would  fly like a jet plane, or an egret. Or he would drive a train. Engine drivers don't need  legs, not with all those many wheels whirling so fast to carry them along.

Whenever a long-distance  train  thundered  down  the track, they watched it go, their hearts beating  fast with excitement and a little  fear.  It made the ground heave and shake, and unable  to contain  themselves, Lata and Joseph yelled and shouted, waving madly at  the startled  laces of the passengers in the windows. As the train  flew past,  the invisible rush of its wings blew against  their  faces and lifted their hair.  It was a thrilling moment  but it never  lasted  long enough.

The Red and Gold Shoe part 2/7

The Red and Gold Shoe

The Red and Gold Shoe 2/7

Fable and stories

As if startled  awake by  the  train, Pinto's  alarm clock jumps with  fright and begins  to ring. It would  turn red  in the face if it could; but instead  it hops angrily up and down on the shelf where it is tied to a nail with a piece of string. When the  train has passed, it is still ringing. Everyone hears  it and everyone  knows  that another  day has  indeed begun.

Lata was first at the water  tap. She usually was because old Amma,  her grandmother, went early  to work  in the homes of the rich beyond  the station where she swept, scrubbed, and swabbed. She would return at noon with leftovers of food  for Lata, the cock, hens, cat, goat, and dog, and  then go off again  to do  the evening chores.

Lata never  lingered at the  tap. And certainly not today-not when all the girls were  talking about  today's doll-mar-riage party. What will you wear? What are we getting  to eat? Never before had a match been arranged more grandly.  The plastic doll from  the sweetseller's  house was  to be married  to the rubber doll  from  the betel seller's. Anyone would be proud  to get her doll married  into the sweetseller's house, for it was the  richest in the lane, and the feast would be some- thing  to talk about  for days afterwards. There would doubt less be pieces of stale milk fudge from  the sweetseller's  own shop,  fried  crisps,  sesame crunch, and maybe even buttermilk only a day old. Lata was never invited  to any weddings. She was shabby, she had no father, her mother  was dead, and her grandmother worked as a domestic servant. She couldn't provide a feast  for the neighborhood  children because  she lived on scraps off the tables of the rich.

The Red and Gold Shoe part 1/7

The Red and Gold Shoe

The Red and Gold Shoe part 1/7

"Cock-a-doodle-doo ! Cock-a-doodle-doo !" You'd  think  there ought  to be a pleasanter way  to wake up than by having  the red cock Lalu split his sides crowing from under his reed basket  in the middle of the floor of Amma's hut. And immediately  the  two foolish hens under their crate in a corner begin to  fidget and cluck and knock  on the wooden  slats  to be  let out.
Asia and global story

"Cock-a-doodle-doo  !" and "Cluck! cluck!  cluck!" This  is the way a day begins  for eight-year-old Lata where she sleeps on a tin  trunk. Old Amma gropes  from her string  cot for  the bamboo pole she keeps handy, and she waves  it about as if she would drive back  the dawn, for, oh! she  is tired and aged and would so like to sleep a little  longer.

" Whack  ! whack  ! whack  !" She wallops  the basket under which  the cock  crows. That ought  to keep  the  red devil quiet. May a plague  take him! May  it wither his flesh and drain his bones dry! May  it lock his joints and choke him-he and his cock-a-doodle-doo  ! He would bring  the roof down on a tired old woman's head, would he?  "Whack!"