The Best of Times Short Story Competition

Autumn 2007 Results

Shoe Wars

Copyright © Marjorie Darling Ward 2007

When my cousin and I were ten years old, we were each simultaneously afflicted with a condition known as tunnel vision. This created a situation similar to that of fractious racehorses fitted with blinkers.

With us it was purely a psychological condition.

It caused us to be totally centred on a special need. It became desperate, and had to do with the pressing need that each of us should possess a pair of court shoes.

Hey, nothing was more important to us than to own and wear court shoes. Especially flashy, shiny, black ones, with bows even.

We struck trouble. Big trouble. With our mothers. Their utter failure to recognise our great need was pitiful. We had to resort to pleading, whingeing, sulking, and, in the end, to a dramatic flow of bitter tears coupled with simulated projectile vomiting.

Our lives would be blighted, we cried. Life would not be worth living, we whimpered. If we did not have court shoes.

After all, everyone, just everyone else, at school, we told our mothers, had court shoes.

This was a rotten lie.

Only the Mueller sisters had court shoes. But we were consumed by jealousy, and besides, weren’t the Mueller sisters Germans, and wasn’t it we who had won the war?

Eventually, unable to put up with us any longer, our mothers had a joint board meeting and relented. The expedition to the shoe shop was an unparalleled triumph of manipulation on our part.

We gloried in the wearing of the beautiful black shininess of patent leather. The delicate neatness of the flat little heels, the absolute exquisiteness of the perfect bows of grosgrain ribbon.

For a full week at school we were able to walk in pride and equality with our very best friends, the Mueller sisters. We held their hands and exchanged school lunches.

We kept our court shoes free of dust by frequent use of our handkerchiefs, unsullied, smoothly black, superbly superior in style to the clodhopper brown lace-ups of our less fortunate school mates. We daintily minced about and preened ourselves in shop windows and mirrors. We agreed that there were some Germans who were really rather nice.

Unfortunately, when the week was out, the Mueller sisters turned up on Monday morning wearing brand new, and beautiful, red ankle-straps. Once again we had been done by the enemy.