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.

When one is not invited  to the most important  function  in one's street,  just  two doors away, there's no point standing around at the  tap discussing  it. So Lata hurried  away  as soon as her pot was  full. She was never  invited  to any doll-marriage feast; but neither was she the only one. Six-year-old  Joseph Pinto never attended  because he couldn't walk after polio had left his legs useless. He sat on his bed  in his house most of the time except when Lata came, as she did  today, and carried him out on her back, creeping  through a hole  in the railway  fence  to the green  grass on  the other  side. Here  she gently set him down while Rakhi  the goat went off to graze.

Jumping off the embankment,  Rakhi trotted along the tracks, her hoofs tapping on the crossties  as she went.  "Rakhi ! Come  back!" Lata yelled.  "And  isn't  the grass good enough right here?" It never was, for a goat always sees finer patches farther ahead,  and off she goes. Rakhi was a city goat and knew how  to look after herself.

The children's  favorite place for playing was a hollow  in the embankment where seasons ago mud had been dug out by men working  on  the  line. The hollow was overgrown with short grass now, and Lata settled  Joseph into  it, drawing his legs out before  him so that he could balance where he sat.

Continue The Red and Gold Shoe part 3/7

The other parts

The Red and Gold Shoe part 1/7

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