Written by Judy Epstein Friday, 19 April 2013 00:00
Once upon a time, there was a cobbler whose child ran around town without any shoes.
“Look at her,” one villager whispered to another. “Barefoot again! Is he such a workaholic he can’t make his own daughter one pair of shoes?”
“Maybe he’s lazy,” continued a third. “Or greedy, and wants to keep all the merchandise for himself.”
“In any case,” they all agreed, “it’s disgraceful.”
The cobbler heard the whispers, and joined a support group that included the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker, led by a humor columnist.
“We’re all here,” said the columnist, “for the same reason. We’re all experts at our jobs, but we can’t get our own families to respect us. Here I am, an experienced writer and editor, and my children won’t take my advice on so much as a comma in their college essays. What do those admissions officers think when they see nothing but run-on sentences? I’m glad I never changed my name.”
“You think that’s bad,” said the baker. “At least you didn’t have Children’s Services crashing your twins’ birthday party, accusing you of starving them to death. And what did they find? Not one but two birthday cakes— a fire truck, with candy-cane ladders and whipped-cream extinguisher, and a unicorn wearing a princess hat.”
“Your kids didn’t like that?”
“Not MY kids. And not my wife, either. She’s always on some carb-free diet that means she can’t eat anything I make, and she says the twins are both allergic to gluten.”
“How do you know they aren’t?” asked the candlestick-maker.
“Because I see the empty bags of Oreos in the kitchen trash, and enough bread crumbs in everyone’s bed to stage a marathon for Hansel and Gretel! It’s just my baking that makes them sick…apparently.” The baker snapped the pretzel he was holding.
“What about me?” rumbled the butcher. “My kid won’t touch anything I make for her. Steak; hamburger; lamb chops; even chicken. She won’t eat any of it.”
“She’s on a hunger strike?”
“Oh, no, she eats plenty— she’s in the candy shop all the time— just nothing of mine. Says she’s ‘Vegan,’ whatever that means. I think it’s short for “I hate you, Daddy.”
“Sounds like you live in my house.” The candlestick-maker finally spoke. “I’ve tried everything— long slender tapers; big chunky candles; scented; colored; every size and shape. My kids won’t use them. Through the black-out, I lit every house in town— except my own.”
“How’d you manage?”
“They made flashlights and a crank-up lantern. They even went to bed early! Anything, so as not to use the old man’s products.”
“And you know what’s the icing on the cake?” added the baker. “It’s hearing all the gossip about my bad parenting. I can hear it! I just can’t refute it.”
“Exactly!” the cobbler finally roared into life. “If I hear that expression one more time— about ‘the cobbler’s child’— I think I’ll explode! It’s so unfair! Please— my wife and daughter are out shopping—come over and see for yourselves.”
They followed the cobbler across the street, to his home. Once inside, he took them up to his daughter’s room. “Look!” he said, flinging open a closet that formed the entire back wall of the room.
Everyone gasped. They had never seen such an array of footwear: every imaginable shoe, from dance slippers to snow boots to running shoes to strappy heels, row upon row, in every color of the rainbow plus silver and gold…and in every size, clearly collected since his daughter’s birth.
“How can she resist?” murmured the columnist, stroking some ruby slippers.
“She says she’s ashamed to be seen in home-made shoes. She only wants store-bought— ‘So I can look like everybody else!’ But why, I ask, when everybody else wears junk? Still, winter is coming so I finally let them go to the mall. I just needed someone to see!” And with that, the cobbler collapsed, sobbing, between the tap shoes and the espadrilles.
“There, there,” said the baker. “We understand. What say we all head back and polish off my latest batch of snickerdoodles?”
“With some lamb chops,” offered the butcher. So they stayed up and ate by cinnamon-scented candlelight while the moderator read them her columns.
Don’t judge the cobbler until you’ve walked a mile in a pair of his shoes!