A Shoe-In Plan from the Tall Tales Tavern

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.” -Dr. Seuss


To any visitor unfamiliar to The Briar Patch, an old man and a woman in a corner booth with sketches and pictures in front of them would be the least abnormal thing in sight.  The left over hairs from the Jabberwocky’s last that lay loosely from the rafters made strangers stare with wonder.  The rabbit bartender usually raised a few eyebrows to the uninitiated crowd.  Those curiosities were in addition to the standard assembly of trolls, the ageless nymphs, and the talking farm animals.  Yes, The Briar Patch was always a place of wonders, so it’s no wonder that these two normal looking elderly people didn’t draw much attention.

The old oak table that the two occupied was still loose from the last time Calamity Jane decided to kick off her cowgirl boots and dance on the make-do stage.  An assortment of pages ripped out of fashion magazines were placed in the middle of the wood surface.  Closer to the two people were pictures of the nearby woods and architectural sketches.  As they sipped their hot tea and cold ale, the two talked excitedly about the woman’s plans.

“I keep telling you Myrtle”, the man exclaimed.  “You could get what you want for much cheaper.  I’m no slouch at such crafting matters, but it’s going to take me years.”

“What’s time?  We both have plenty of time left and you darn well know it, Horace”, the woman replied.  “I want it done to my specifications and I think you’re the right one to do it.  Even if Cinderella says otherwise.”

“Wait, Cinderella?  Is she still telling that same old story?”  Horace pulled at the hairs in his head.  He had been going bald for the last three hundred years.  Happily, whenever he pulled a few wispy strands out, he found that they grew back the next morning.  It was handy being an immortal creature of fairy tales.

Pic from Wikipedia

“She says that no matter how many times she took her shoes back to you, they kept breaking.  She said you should have offered her a higher-quality product.”

“It’s glass!”  Horace shoved the papers away from him and grumbled into his ale.  “I told her every time that she came back to me with those impractical things that they were going to keep breaking.  If you wear glass shoes on a rock path, the glass is going to break.  If your prince steps on your feet while dancing, his boots are going to crack the shoes and possibly cut your skin with the shards.  And no, wearing glass slippers up close to a raging fireplace is probably not the best idea.”  Horace sighed.

“I don’t know what kind of enchantment her godmother claimed she put on them, but it has apparently worn off.  Those shoes will never last.  I tried to get her little feet into a sensible pair of wooden clogs.  But no, she wouldn’t have it.  Cinderella decided that she was living the royal life now and needed the attire to go with it.  Silly, fashion-hungry, nutjob.”

“Now, she really is a perfectly nice girl”, Myrtle offered.

“Nice, sure”, Horace admitted.  “But the girl is still a child.  Her prince found her when she was, what, seventeen?  They were married a month later.  Why, my Estelle was a good deal older than that when we tied the knot.  She must have been at least nineteen or twenty.”

“Truly, those three years imbued her with boundless founts of knowledge”, Myrtle said sarcastically.

“Look, I think she’s delightful to be around, so long as you don’t get her started on fashion.  She’s impractical.  And Myrtle, you’re being impractical too.  I talked the idea over with Estelle.  It’s not just me.  You should give up on this whole idea.”


“Tell me again why you won’t go to a giant?  You could buy anything you wanted off them from all the money you’ve made off of tourists.”

“Have you ever been around a giant for any extended amount of time?”  Myrtle shivered at the thought.  “They claim that they can only get clean in a waterfall, so whenever we see them in the towns or in the densest forests they smell like you wouldn’t believe.  Now imagine what sort of unholy stench must emanate from their shoes.  I don’t want to even think about it, let alone live inside one of those.  Besides, I have high standards.”

Public Domain in the U.S. due to age

Horace laughed.  “The old woman who has lived in a shoe all these years has demands?  Your sense of style has really grown that much since your children moved out?”

Myrtle watched her tea bag as she dipped it slowly and methodically into the cup.  The water rose and fell with each dipping motion.  The lighting in the dim establishment was just bright enough that the old woman could see her wrinkled face in the reflection of the drink as little waves of liquid came and went.

“Do you know how many years we have left, Horace?  I don’t.  I doubt that know-it-all wife of yours does either.  I say, if we’re going to stick around until all stories come to an end, then we might as well enjoy ourselves.  I’ve spent centuries in that tattered boot.  No more.  I want a nice one-story, fashionable dress shoe as my retirement home.”

Her hand stretched to the other end of the table and brought the pictures back between her and Horace.  Page after page depicted the newest fashions, the hottest trends, and the longest lasting footwear that money could buy.

“I want a nice pair of sensible flats”, Myrtle described.  “Give me something that will let the sun in when I lounge about by the heel.  Also, I want the home to have high sides to keep the rain out when it starts to flood.  If I could have some sort of garden in the toe area; maybe some sort of open point at the end?  Come now Horace, I know you have more help up your sleeves than you let on.”

“What exactly are you getting at, Myrtle?”

“Those elves of yours.  I’ve seen them about town.  Offer to buy them a few honey-glazed cookies and they’ll give away all your secrets.  I think you should take advantage of them.”

“How so?”

“I want a house the size of a giant shoe.  You have a crew that can work wonders overnight.  Imagine what sort of productivity they could manage if you put them into different shifts working around the clock.  You’d be rich and I’d have a nice new home for my retirement.  A woman can’t climb up stairs forever, Horace.”

“Myrtle my friend”, Horace said as he paused to take a sip from his ale.  The drink was starting to go flat and the old man knew he’d probably need a fresh serving to get through the conversation.  He held up his cup for the bartender to see as he continued.

“Have you ever seen the contracts involved in elf employment?  Once I figured out those guys weren’t going anywhere, I tried to branch out into shoeing horses.  With all the carts and animals around it seemed like a guaranteed get-rich plan.  To shorten my tale of woe, I’ll only assure you that Elf Unions know exactly how to get what they feel is due to them.  Your shoe-home would cost a fortune.”

By this time the bartender had hopped over to their table.  He held out his paw expectantly.  Horace placed his empty container at the edge of the surface.  Br’er Rabbit shook his head.  Horace nudged the cup closer to the brim.  The vest-wearing critter only shook his head again.  Horace tried once more, watching as the vessel almost teetered over onto the floor.  Br’er Rabbit took his mighty right foot and tapped it impatiently on the dusty floor.  A low booming sound echoed with each tap of his paw and a small cloud of debris was gathering under the tabletop.

Seeing the bartender’s arms folded in defiance, Horace capitulated and placed five gold coins on the table.  Br’er Rabbit’s eyes lit up and his front two teeth showed.  He eagerly snatched the payment, put it in his breast pocket, and grabbed the cup from the table.  Whistling a merry tune, the bartender jumped and bounded back to the bar.

“As I was saying”, Horace persisted as he rubbed his temples.  “This house of yours is going to be a pain for us and will cost you a fortune.  Even if we don’t use the elves, I’m going to have to hire some outside help.”

“That’s fine by me”, Myrtle said, unrelenting.  “Hire those birds and squirrels that helped Sleeping Beauty.  I don’t care.  I want my house made to my specifications and I’m willing to do whatever it takes.”

“Wait”, Horace said as a notion in his head started to take shape.  “Those children of yours; I can’t even recall how many you have.  It’s at least a dozen, isn’t it?  How old are they?”

“Oh Horace, how old are any of us.  We’ve stopped keeping track.  No one really knows.”

“No, no.  I meant by normal standards.  What’s their perceived age?”

“Ah”, Myrtle replied as she thought back to the last time she had seen her offspring.  “I imagine they’re probably all in the twenty-five to thirty-five range.”

“Perfect”, Horace replied.  “I was hoping you’d say that.  How long has it been since they gave you a Mother’s Day gift?”

“What, that silly trend people are trying to push?  They’ve never subscribed to that, the little ingrates.”

“Maybe”, Horace said as some of the weight started to fall off of his shoulders, “just maybe they can be convinced to do their sainted mother this one favor for all she’s done for them.”

“And if I convince them?”

Horace grinned with joy.  “Then, Myrtle my friend, your labor worries are over.  We could have that shoe-house built for you in no time at all.”

Shouldering the Burden of the World

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

Shouldering the Burden of the World

Who was it who said, ‘Blessed is the man who has found his work’? Whoever it was he had the right idea in his mind. Mark you, he says his work–not somebody else’s work. The work that is really a man’s own work is play and not work at all. Cursed is the man who has found some other man’s work and cannot lose it.” -Mark Twain

Alan’s back was starting to bother him.  He hadn’t expected the assigned task to be so arduous.  As the sun beat down on his forehead, the chore he had been saddled with was becoming irksome.  If Alan were to admit the truth, he wanted to heave the burden off his back and never pick it up again.  However, since he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, he thought that might have some negative repercussions.

At first, Alan thought he could handle doing this favor for the animal with no problem.  If a turtle; or was it a tortoise?  Alan couldn’t tell.  Whichever one it was, Alan felt sure that if this little creature could carry the world and all its contents on its shell, then certainly Alan could pull it off as well.  Now Alan was starting to wonder if the turtle’s four legs hadn’t made things a bit easier for the animal.  In addition, Alan wondered if the turtle hadn’t over simplified things.

It had started out so innocently.  Alan had been sitting by the water fishing.  His pole wasn’t technically in the water and there wasn’t really any bait on the hook.  Alan didn’t feel the need to exert much effort since he never caught fish when he tried.  Then out of the water came an interesting shape.  As it moved toward him, Alan noticed that there was a turtle emerging from the water.  Sure enough, on its back was the whole wide world.

The turtle, being the calm and conversational sort, started off with a very slow and relaxing salutation.  It bobbed its head along slowly as it took a step here and a step there.  Its mouth opened and closed with a leisurely air.  He asked Alan how life was treating him.  Alan replied that he had no complaints, and then made the mistake of asking the turtle how it was.

The heavily-laden turtle sighed loudly.  It launched into a tale of woe about its lot in life.  Some creature had to hold the people, the animals, nature, and take care of it all.  The turtle understood that each creature in this life has their troubles, but it had been many millennia since anything resembling a break had been offered.  The turtle wondered if Alan might possibly take over for it.  The turtle had a long list of errands it had been putting off, plus it wanted to explore the world a bit.

Now, to some people this would all sound rather absurd.  How could the turtle be walking around on the very ground that it is carrying?  How could there be an Earth on the turtle’s back if it is traveling on that same Earth?  Alan thought about making a logical argument, but then the truth hit him.  If an animal has been given enough power to carry all of creation around on its shell, then surely that same animal would have enough power to make mini-turtle selves to chat with simple folks.  Alan pondered the turtle’s predicament.

On the one hand, Alan was no fan of taking on extra work.  He was quite happy not having any problems, let alone carrying around everyone’s.  Yet, as any fool knows, mythical creatures get checked in on by their supervisors whenever there is a blue moon.  Everybody has a higher-up to answer to, and these powerful beings are no exception.  Also, Alan was assured by the turtle that while it couldn’t promise anything specific, the universe would remember any act of kindness that Alan showed.  Deciding that having the universe owe him a favor could only help him in the long run, Alan took on what he assumed would be a short-term chore.

As the hours passed at what seemed like an incredibly sluggish pace, Alan continued to question the wisdom of his confusion.  First and foremost the world was heavy.  Alan had once lost a giant tree in his yard and it had taken him a week to cut up the lumber into small enough pieces that he could manage.  Now he was in charge of countless trees of seemingly endless varieties.

Then there were the rocks.  Oh, the vexing rocks.  Alan wished it was the warm core of The Earth that was against his back.  Instead, he had cold, often jaggy peaks and glaciers stabbing at him.  Plus he was always wet.  If it wasn’t the ocean it was a waterfall.  The lakes, the rivers; the moisture seemed to get in every nook and cranny that they came across.

Of course the discomfort of the terrain itself was not Alan’s only problem.  Humans, being the demanding sort that they are, just kept wailing out with complaints.  Alan had one bad day of dandruff and he didn’t hear the end of it for weeks.  Everyone from Australia to India, including the Philippines and all their island neighbors, cried and vented to the skies about the snowfall.  The blanket of whiteness that crushed their homes and made their homes treacherous was somehow all Alan’s fault.  How was he to know that not using the right shampoo would completely disrupt billions of lives?

Alan no longer knew how many days had passed.  It was hard to keep track of the entire Earth-Sol rotation mathematics when one of the two variables in the equation was pinching his spinal column.  For all he knew, the turtle could have gone for three months, or three days.  Alan simply didn’t know.  He considered turning around and around in circles to speed up the passage of days.  However he assumed that doing such would throw off the Earth’s gravity and possibly the magnetic poles.  Alan was impatient, but he didn’t need that kind of hassle.

In the end, Alan did what he did best.  He lay down and took a nice long nap.  The seasons lasted a little longer than usual that year.  The world waited for fall to come or spring to arrive, but Alan was in no hurry to move.  He simply flopped down on his belly, closed his eyes, and waited for the blue moon to come and the turtle to take back its responsibility.

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