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:

             Janak Rajah went  to Dilli,
               Brought  back  thirteen bowls of gold,
               Thirteen  bowls for thirteen  children,
               Some still hungry,  some  still cold.

The one who is chosen  to be  the rajah climbs onto the platform and takes his place between  the broad feet of Janak Seth, holding  a long stick in his hand. The others  skip around and sing  the jingle. When  the rajah brings his stick down  to strike the closest post,  there  is a scramble  to get  to any one of the posts surrounding  the statue. There  is much  laughter and yelling, much  shoving, pushing, and hair pulling along with wrenching  at each other's  clothes. Arguments often grow so bitter that some don't speak  to each other  for days afterward because all those who don't get to a pillar and cling to it for dear life are declared  "out" by the rajah. However,  in the next general scramble  they usually get right back  into  the game. And so it goes, endlessly.

Lata had never been  chosen  rajah and so she naturally thought  it was a silly game. "It's the stupidest  game I ever saw and I refuse to play  it," she said since  she wasn't given any place  in the playing of it. "Yes," echoed  little Joseph, to whom all such  games had  to seem  silly, "it's  the stupidest game  I ever saw." So the  two of them always pretended  to be more  interested  in watching  the big boys playing marbles or tipcat.

Continue The Red and Gold Shoe part 6/7

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