The Shoemaker of Ulaanbataar

June 18, 2012
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On the outskirts of the city, the sound of chalk scribbling furiously on a slate board resonated throughout a young Shoemaker’s hut. He was inspired and visions of the perfect pair of loafers danced before him. The Shoemaker glanced over at his pile of scraps and leather. He only needed a quarter of what he had but it was reassuring to know that he could start over should he ever make a mistake.
“Ha!” The Shoemaker laughed, “As if the finest shoe maker in Ulaanbaatar could make a mistake!” With that, the Shoemaker kissed the slate board and held to the sky. He had finished his design.

The Shoemaker sat there beaming for a long time, fantasying of the joy these shoes would bring to him. He kissed the slate board once more before putting it down and scurrying off to grab his materials. The Shoemaker sifted through his pile of leather, only collecting the finest of them to be included in his masterpiece. “Eleven inches… eleven inches…,” He mumbled to himself. The Shoemaker gathered his equipment onto his workbench and began to list them off. “Needle…stitches…leather…yak fur…las-,”
His heart skipped a beat. The Shoemaker scanned his workbench for his last only to find nothing. He blinked. “Last…!?” there was a trace of panic in his voice.

He flew from his chair and frantically searched all corners of the room. He ripped opened his bags and tore open his dresser but the last was lost. He fell to the ground, broken hearted and buried his face into his hands. All of his savings had gone toward purchasing that last and it had taken him the better part of a year to raise enough money to do so.

Suddenly, a patch of the hay that made up The Shoemaker’s roof fell to the ground, allowing light to shine through. The Shoemaker looked up from his tear stained hands. His last lay there on the floor in front of him, enveloped in the glorious rays of the sun. The Shoemaker jumped up and ran towards it. He smiled and new tears; tears of joy, filled his eyes. After offering a silent prayer of thanks as his mother had taught him to, The Shoemaker reprimanded himself for his arrogance before immediately setting back to his workbench. His hands were like the wind, and The Shoemaker wove his needle through the leather with an elegant grace that would incur the awe of an angel. In and out the needle went, mending the gaps; intertwining material and sole slowly, steadily. And the shoe came together, The Shoemaker’s dream, his hope and his heart saturated every fibre. For the first time in his life, he believed.

“Now for the other shoe,” The Shoemaker chuckled.

The sun retired for the day, leaving the moon and the stars to watch over Ulaanbaatar, while inside his hut, The Shoemaker’s tired hands drooped, and as he finished he too drifted off to sleep. The next morning, The Shoemaker walked through the city gates. He had wrapped the shoes in his best cloth, and he himself had awoken early that morning in order to wash himself in the stream. Ulaanbaatar was maze of colourful tents and towering homes, all adorned in fine silks and beautiful ornaments. The Shoemaker weaved through and around these buildings, fearful of being late. Finally, he came upon the largest building in the city; the palace.

“Halt!” a guard stopped him. “What business do you have here?”
“I have an audience with Lord Chuulun. I have brought with me the requested footwear,” The Shoemaker replied
“...Wait here,” The guard disappeared into the large ornate entrance and reappeared moments later.
“The audience hall is directly down this hallway. Do not touch anything cobbler.”
The Shoemaker entered the palace and followed the long hallway as the guard had instructed. Inside, beautiful painting, vases and pillows of every color imaginable covered the floor and walls. He steadily made his way down the long decorated hallway and struggled to calm his thumping heart. He stepped into the audience chamber. An expanse of carpeting opened before him and the ceiling seemed to stretch higher than the sky. In the middle of the room was a raised platform and there, in its center was a throne of gleaming gold that was blinding to behold yet, even more so was the great, bearded King who adorned it. His feet were buried in a bucket of ice water and anguish was the expression on his face.
" you have...the footwear of the Russians to the north?" The King wheezed. The Shoemaker unrolled his bundle of cloth, revealing two deep brown loafers.
"Yes My Lord," The Shoemaker said, "They have been trimmed and insulated with yak fur to provide both heat and cushioning."
"Please son...bring them to me..."
The Shoemaker walked across the room and climbed the raised platform. With great effort The King brought his feet out of the water.
"AGH!" The King gasped
"Are you alright Lord Chuluun!?"
"....Yes...yes..." The King breathed heavily, "Please proceed."
The Shoemaker knelt and gently slipped one of the loafers onto The Kings foot.
"Ah!" The King flinched
With even more carefullness The Shoemaker slipped on the second loafer.
"AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHhhhhhh!!! The King screamed...”AAAaaahhh? The anguish on The King's face was replaced by suprise.
"What this? My feet don't hurt?"
"If you wear those for a few months, your feet should return to their original shape and you will be able to walk without them again," The Shoemaker smiled.
"HA HA HA HA HA HAA! I can never repay you for this great service Lord Shoemaker!" The King beamed. "Anything your heart desires, by my power, shall be yours! Please tell me, what do you wish!?"
The Shoemaker had already prepared his answer.
“My Lord...I would ask this; that you allow me the funds to build an orphanage outside the city. It is my wish to protect the children who have lost everything and to provide a home for them.”
“...Just this?”
“Just this,” The Shoemaker smiled.

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