(The teacher assigned them to write a story inspired by a common household object. Daniel chose a ratty old sneaker. This was his first Shakespeare send-up, and no doubt inspired his later send-up Kumquat)
The Taming of the Shoe
by Daniel Barclay
September 27, 1995 (ten years old)
TWO SHOES, BOTH ALIKE IN DIGNITY, in fair Shudua, where we play our scene so fair. Pershushio and Skate --- the (perfect?) pair.
Skate was the best behaved shoe in Shudua --- she never complained. Pershushio was always the sly one --- how he got Skate to act like that, I never could have done. In fact, I am the only one who knows the story except them. But perhaps I had better explain myself. I am Shumio, Pershushio's and Skate's not-so-faithful servant. Since I am their chief servant, I am always appointing myself three-hour long breaks to the village tavern. It's amazing that they haven't caught (and fired) me yet. Still, I always manage to elude trouble (and my masters). So I am free most of the time. But (heh-heh) I'd better get on with the story. You see, Skate wasn't always nice and obedient. In fact, she was a regular shrew. . . . . .
* * *
"THAT IS THE WORST EXCUSE FOR A SHOELACE I HAVE EVER SEEN IN MY ENTIRE LIFE!!!" screamed Skate.
"Yes, miss," mumbled her tailor meekly.
"YOU'LL HAVE TO DO MORE THAN THAT!!!" yelled Skate. "GO BACK TO YOUR CRUMMY EXCUSE FOR A WORKSHOP AND CHANGE THE COLOR!!! YOU KNOW I HATE THE COLOR BLUE!!!"
"Yes, miss," mumbled her tailor. The she hurried away.
All those servants! Skate thought. All talk and no do.
"Excuse me, miss," said her fat valette, bustling in the door.
"Whatever it is, I don't want it," interrupted Skate.
"No, no, it's not that, miss. Your father has invited you to a ball and...." She never got to finish the sentence.
Skate exploded like a thunderbolt. "A BALL???!!!" Skate spoke the word with the disgust one has when they are holding a dead rat. "MY FATHER, YOU, AND THE ENTIRE SHUDIAN ARMY COULDN'T DRAG ME TO A BALL!!!" Skate bellowed.
"Yes, miss," mumbled the valette.
She acts like a robot, thought Skate. In fact, all my servants do. I wish they'd just do what I want and stop fussing around.
Then her father personally walked in. "You know, you're going to have to do something about this complaining of yours. You'll never be able to find a pair if you don't stop complaining."
"Yes, father," said Skate rudely.
"I am going to give you a choice," said Skate's father. "Either you can go to the ball or find a husband. You have one week." Then he left.
That did it. Skate absolutely HATED balls. She would rather do anything than go to a BALL. But she hated men even more.
Perhaps you are wondering how I know all of this. Well, the truth of the matter is: I am a snoop. I had been peeking in the window the whole time.
Pershushio made a last adjustment on his shoelace and headed for the door.
"That was a good idea of yours, inviting yourself to the ball so you could meet someone rich to marry," I said.
"Yes, it was, wasn't it!" said Pershushio without a trace of modesty. He strutted over to the door, opened it with a flourish, and walked out.
"Bye, master!" I said. I hope you have a good time!" Secretly, I was thinking to myself that I was glad that he had gone so I could spend a couple of hours at the tavern.
At the ball, Pershushio took one look at Skate and fell hopelessly in false love. He didn't care for her, but he cared for her money.
"Hark, what light through yonder window breaks? 'Tis the east, and Skate is the sun," Pershushio recited. His acting class had done a play on Romeo and Juliet a few weeks before, and he still had the thing memorized.
Skate heard that, turned around, and stared at Pershushio with a look of utter horror. "I DON'T CARE WHAT MY FATHER SAID ABOUT GOING TO A BALL!" she screamed. "THIS IS DISGUSTING!" Saying this, she dashed up the stairs and went into her room.
Pershushio was still stunned. "What did I do wrong?" he thought to himself. "Oh, well, there's no more point to my being here any more." Then he turned around and went home.
I just barely got home in time. I was walking back leisurely from the tavern, and then I saw my master walking down the street half a block ahead of me. I turned, dashed down a maze of side streets, went down a dark alley, went in the house by the back door, went to the front door, and just opened it in time to let my master in.
"I suppose you had a nice, peaceful evening," Pershushio said.
"Oh, er, yeah," I said. "Did everything go well at the ball?"
"Well, actually, no," he said, and recited to me all the events that happened at the ball.
"That's very interesting," I said. Actually, I was bored out of my skull.
"Do you want to marry Skate?" I asked. "It sure would help pay some bills around here. You are up to your vamp in debt. Even your eyelets are mortgaged."
"Well, no, I don't really want to marry Skate, but I sure want her money," Pershushio said.
"Well, in that case, I think you should pretend to be even worse of a shrew than she is, Then she might soften up a bit," I advised.
"That's a good idea. I'm glad I thought of it," said Pershushio. He really can be stuck-up sometimes.
The next day, Pershushio decided to try my advice and, not wanting to show himself at the front door, picked the kitchen door's lock with his burglar tools and slipped upstairs to Skate's bedroom. Skate wasn't there, but he heard some footsteps on the stairs, so he hid behind her dressing screen. I sure hope she doesn't use this, he thought.
Skate was hunched over her deluxe vanity table and then Pershushio jumped out.
"BOO!" he shouted.
"Wha...?" exclaimed Skate.
"I think we could make a good pair together," said Pershushio.
Skate was so surprised, she fainted.
Pershushio picked up Skate's smelling salts and held them under her tongue. He waited for a few minutes, but nothing happened. These dumb things, he growled to himself. They don't even work. I'm going to sue the company that made them as soon as I get out of here. (He didn't really. He just likes to exaggerate a little.) The way Pershushio really solved the problem was by dumping a bucket of shoe polish on her uppers.
He didn't stick around to see what happened. He just left. Then he came home and told me what had happened. "Next time, why don't you try going to her father and acting like a shrew."
"Another great idea of mine," Pershushio said. "I must be on a roll! I've never had that many good ideas before!" Sometimes, Pershushio can really be snobby.
Pershushio, dressed in his best spats (which weren't more than rags), sauntered over to Skate's house and knocked on the door with a flourish. The housekeeper opened the door. It sounded like she was an answering machine message.. "I'm sorry, sir. Mr. Reebok is at a meeting right now. He cannot be disturbed." She started to close the door.
"Just a second, now, ma'am!" Pershushio shoved the door open, walked inside, and opened a door that said PRIVATE. He found Mr. Reebok alone and asleep at a desk. Pershushio shook him on the shoulder. "Excuse me, sir. I would like to marry your daughter."
Mr. Reebok didn't stir. Pershushio did the old-bucket-of-water trick. Mr. Reebok woke up spluttering. "Don't interrupt me! I'm in an important meeting!" Mr. Reebok exclaimed.
"Oh, excuse me, Mr. Reebok. I would just like to marry your daughter."
"REALLY???" He sat bolt upright in his chair. "I've being trying to get that spoiled brat off my back for years, but I never could. Now that somebody actually WANTS to!?!?" He sat and thought happily of that day.
"So you consent?" asked Pershushio.
"Of course I do! Now let me get on with my meeting." He started to doze off again.
"Thank you, Mr. Reebok, sir." said Pershushio. "Now could you please just tell Skate that I am to marry her? She doesn't seem to listed to me."
"I'll attend to that," Mr. Reebok said drowsily. "Now go away."
Pershushio went home and told me of his triumph. "Good job, Pershushio! I said. "Now how about my month's pay?"
"Is it all right if I put it off until next week? I'm going to encounter a great sum of money at that time."
"Certainly, " I said, "only don't forget the 10% fee for putting it off."
"Oh, don't worry about that," said Pershushio.
Pershushio took out his burglar tools and unlocked the kitchen door again. I had composed a speech for him, but he still needed his note cards. He searched all over the house for Skate and found her attending an important meeting with Mr. Reebok. They both were dozing at Mr. Reebok's desk. Pershushio woke them up with his usual method.
"Mr. Reebok, sir. I find it very unpleasant that your home is so untidy. (The Reeboks were proud of their neat, tidy houses.) And I come here so often, also. It would be so nice if you..." He fumbled around in his innersole for a second notecard. "Ah, there it is. Now...." He cleared his throat. "WHY ARE YOU ALL SITTING THERE STARING AT ME LIKE A BUNCH OF CHICKENS?!" he screamed. "This is an absolute disgrace! Maybe I won't marry Skate after all!"
"Um, uh, just a second," Mr. Reebok said. "I thought you just said you wanted to marry Skate and ...."
"Why are you making so much noise? I can't hear myself think!" said Pershushio. He fished yet another notecard out of his innersole.
Skate was very impressed that there finally seemed to be another shoe that acted like her. She was starting to give him a chance.
"HOW DARE YOU YELL AT MY FATHER LIKE THAT?" Skate bellowed.
"WELL, YOU DON'T SEEM SO GREAT SITTING THERE SCREAMING YOUR TONGUE OFF!" retorted Pershushio.
For once, Skate stopped. She ran out of insults.
"So, Mr. Reebok," Pershushio continued with a pleasant expression, "when can I marry your daughter? Maybe next Thursday?"
"Yes, that sounds fine." Mr. Reebok said eagerly.
The wedding was held. Both the bride and the groom looked uneasily at each other. After they were out of earshot, Skate immediately started yelling at Pershushio. "THIS IS TOO BIG OF A WEDDING!" she complained.
"WELL, YOU DON'T LOOK SO GREAT YOURSELF. I CAN HARDLY SEE YOU BECAUSE OF ALL THE RIBBONS THEY'VE GOT ON YOU!" yelled Pershushio.
Later, at their house, with me still as their unfaithful servant, Skate started complaining again. "THIS FOOD IS MUCH TOO SANDY!" she raved, "AND MY SHOEBOX IS MUCH TOO HARD! I COULD NEVER SLEEP ON IT!"
"Very well, my dear," Pershushio said. He threw the shoebox and the food out.
"HEY!" yelled Skate. "YOU THREW OUT MY BED AND MY FOOD! NOW I WON'T GET A WINK OF SLEEP AND I'LL STARVE!"
"But it's better than being uncomfortable, my dear," said Pershushio.
Skate had to bed hungry and sleep on the couch that night. In the morning, she made sure that she didn't complain about the food or the bed, but that didn't stop her from complaining about the house. "THIS HOUSE IS JUST TOO SMALL!!!" Skate screamed.
"Oh well, then, it was a pretty house," Pershushio said as he reached for his crowbar. He took the house apart and they slept in the backyard in a tent that night. Skate had finally had enough, They got along happily for a few more days.
* * *
SO THAT BRINGS MY story up to date. It has now been three days since they got married. Just a second. What was that that came from the house? Was that a scream? Suddenly, I saw this enormous giant step next to their house, almost squashing it. The giant picked up Pershushio and Skate and attached what looked like some enormous rope to them. It tied the other end to an enormous car's bumper. Then the car drove off, dragging them behind it. I'm not much of a reader, but I think I could dimly see the words on the bumper. It said: JUST MARRIED.