Shoes

Thank you to everyone for the warm thoughts and prayers over the last several weeks. My husband’s surgery went well and now he’s recovering! So, as life settles back into normal, whatever that looks like, it’s time for a new adventure =)

Shoes

The wool of your pants itches and your shirt, several sizes too big, flaps around you like a flag in the wind, but you clutch the hem
in your hands, grateful the clothes are whole and stainless.

At the beginning of the summer, you left home with a friend to travel the coast. Not a month into the trip, robbers attacked you and took everything, including the clothes on your back. Too far from home to travel back without resources, you made your way to the nearest city. Your friend abandoned you there by disappearing into a tavern and refusing to leave.

All summer you’ve walked in the general direction of home, finding odd jobs to make your way, but fall’s headed your way and walking will quickly become impossible when the snow hits the mountains and buries the passes.

So you’ve stopped in Triban, hoping to find work for the winter.

You may have succeeded too, except you need shoes. You’ve got a promise from the stable master, if you show up tomorrow leather-shoe-1541617morning, decently dressed and with shoes, he’ll give you work and a place to sleep for the season. It’s better than you’ve had in a long time. But you’ve got to have shoes.

Even if you don’t get the job, you’ll need something to protect your feet. During the summer, your shoes-less state wasn’t a problem. The nights barely dropped below eighty degrees, but now, with Fall chilling the air, you’ve noticed a cold bite on your soles when you walk down the street.

You stop in front of the cobbler’s shop and finger the two coins in your pocket. You earned them this morning by washing clothes for a woman who broke her arm falling down her front steps.

It’s not much but maybe, just maybe, it’ll be enough. You step inside the shop and stop to feel the warmth of the indoors on your skin.

“No money, no service,” grumbles the whiskered man behind the counter. You can’t say he’s bearded because you can make out large patches of skin between the wiry whiskers, but his hair trails, full and thick and white, well below his shoulders.

He’s eyeing you, perhaps concerned by the layer of dirt on your skin. You tried that morning, before washing the clothes, to wash in the river, but after walking the dusty streets, you’re covered again.

“I’ve money,” you say, still clutching the coins but not pulling them out for the man to see.

“Harrumph,” the man sighs. “Do you have enough?”

You shrug. “Maybe.” The word whistles from your throat. Finally, you pull the two coins out and hold them up.

“Sheesh,” the man almost spits, “that’ll barely cover sandals.”

“Nothing closed toed?” you ask. The stable master was quite specific. The shoes have to protect the toes with some fabric.

The cobbler snorts. “Not a chance.”

coins-1-1425485“How much do I need?” the news is disappointing but not completely daunting. The day’s still early, perhaps you can find more odd jobs.

“At least twice what you’ve got. Now scram!”

You turn away and then pause, “have any jobs you need done?”

“SCRAM!”

You hurry out the door before the man makes it around the counter.

Outside, the sun’s blinding after the dark of the cobbler’s, but the bright rays offer little in the way of warmth. You hug your shirt close and wander down the road a bit to ponder your options.

Up ahead, a merchant with his wife wanders into a perfume shop. The man’s carrying several packages, clearly having shopped at several places already. You envy their soft clothing and good shoes but then it occurs to you, they might pay to have their parcel’s delivered to their home.

Just as you’re about to head their way, you step back quickly to avoid a running horse. The terrified animal spins as it hits a cart and heads down a side road. Behind it runs a man, yelling at the creature to stop. The horse lacks a rider although it has a saddle.

Do you…

A. Approach the Merchant?

Or

B. Help the Man?

Shoes Option B: Help the Man

horse-1406979The man chasing the horse clamors around the corner and disappears from sight before you have any chance to react. You hear the rattle and cries of surprise as the horse continues to tear through the streets but the sound quickly grows fainter.

Judging from the direction, it doesn’t seem the horse is veering that far from the main road. It’s just following side streets toward the south side of Triban.

You take off down the main thoroughfare, dodging around people and carts as you go. Your unshod feet slap against the hard packed dirt but it isn’t painful since you’ve built up quite the calluses over the summer.

A wider side street opens to your left and you take it just as the horse flies past the far intersection.

You keep your head up so you can see the man pass too but by the time you reach the intersection, he hasn’t shown up. Instead of gaining ground, he’s loosing it.

Perhaps it’s your months of travel, but you don’t feel winded yet so you keep your pace as you run after the horse. Up ahead, the animal rears, stuck in an open area with a fountain. The area quickly clears of people as they move to avoid the flying hooves.

You think about pulling your belt off to use as a halter but then see the reins hanging free below the horse’s neck.

The hard part will be grabbing them without getting kicked.

Without a place to go, the horse stamps the ground and snorts. He swings toward you as he catches your motion when you move through the crowd and into the clearing.

You creep forward. “Here, boy,” you say softly. “It’s okay.”

He snorts and his front hooves leave the ground in a slight hop but not a full buck.

“It’s okay,” you say again. Now only a few feet away, you take another step and reach for the reins. Relief fills you as you close your fingers around the leather.

The horse doesn’t fight the gentle pull you give and you’re able to bring him a step closer to you. You stroke his neck.

Your fingers run across a spot close to his shoulder and the horse flinches. You apologize out of habit and return your hand to his neck.

“Hey now!” the man you saw chasing the horse puffs his way past the crowd. They’ve thinned since you were able to take control of the animal and only a few people watch as the man stalks toward you.

“What are you doing?” he demands.

Since your hand still rests against the horse’s neck, you feel him flinch at the voice. Without an answer, the man grabs the reins and pulls the horse away. You watch him shove through the crowd with the animal now plodding behind him.

On the blanket beneath the saddle, you spot a round sun emblem. It’s the same stable as the one you hope to work for. The city stables where every city official leaves their creature during their day of work.

Just before the man turns out of sight, you see him raise a hand and slap the horse’s shoulder. You’re too far away to see the flinch but you know the spot the man hit.

You don’t have much by way of proof, but you know the man’s abusing the horse. Perhaps he’s abusing more than the one since he clearly works in the city stables.

Do you…

Bb. Follow the Man for Proof?

Or

Bc. Go To The Stable Master?

Shoes Option Bb: Follow the Man for Proof

You don’t have much by way of proof other than the few seconds with a horse. Considering you want a job at the city stables, you’d feel more comfortable going to the stable master with more solid evidence beyond your own eyewitness.

You follow the path the man took until you spot him with the horse up ahead. As you suspected, he turns down Aspen Way horse-1406979toward the city stables. While you trail behind him, you consider what kind of proof you might need. The horse seemed tender on the shoulder but, unless the stable master sees the man hit the animal, you can’t prove he’s the source of the horse’s pain.

Perhaps another stable hand could verify your witness but, in all likelihood, the other hands know about the man’s treatment of the animals already. If a city official complained, that might help, but again, you’d somehow have to orchestrate an official seeing the man in the act.

By the time you reach the stables, you’re no closer to figuring out a way to prove the abuse you saw.

“Hey!” you look up, startled, to see the stable hand you followed glaring at you from across the corral. “What’re you doing?”

“Looking for a job,” you say, put on the spot.

“There’s none here for you,” he responds.

“That’s not your say,” says another voice, which you recognize from when the man told you that you needed shoes.

The stable hand cringes and turns to face the stable master.

“Thought you filled the position,” he says with his head down.

Instead of responding to him, the stable master eyes you. “You don’t have shoes,” he says.

“Working on it,” you say, debating whether to say something about what just happened in town. The horse you helped calm stands in the corral, not more than ten yards from the other men. “I was concerned, is all,” you go on, gesturing at the horse.

“Why?”

“The horse was spooked in town and when I calmed him, he seemed hurt on the right shoulder,” you refrain from blaming the hand for the horse’s pain.

You may as well have blamed him, you decide, as he shoots daggers at you with his eyes.

The Stable Master doesn’t look at him and doesn’t seem to catch the look as he hops the fence of the corral and approaches the horse.

His hands smoothly brush the horse’s shoulder and the animal flinches and sidesteps away. The stable master hums. He places his hands on his hips while he considers the horse.

“I’ll deal with it,” he tells you, “go find shoes.”

Dismissed, you back away, but you fight disappointment at not being able to conclusively take care of the abuse situation.

Before you loose sight of the stables, the stable master leads the horse inside while the hand continues to stand at the fence. You’re about to turn away when another man approaches the stable hand.

You’re too far away to hear their words clearly but, by their gestures, you can tell they’re arguing. The new man raises a fist and swings. The stable hand ducks away but not fast enough. The punch clips him on the top of the head.

Satisfied, the other man spins on a heel and stalks away while the hand braces himself on the top of the corral.

Just then, the stable master reappears from inside. He spots you and hollers, “You see who injured the horse?”

There seems to be more to this situation than you originally thought.

Do you…

Bb1: Tell him?

or

Bb2: Shake Your Head No?

Shoes Option Bb1: Tell the Truth

The opportunity’s been handed to you and you can’t stand the mistreatment of animals. The hand, who earlier looked at you with daggers in his eyes, now looks at you like you’re his last life line and you’re about to let him drown.

He still leans against the top of the corral for support but, remembering the horse, you don’t feel any sympathy for him.

You nod his way without saying aloud that he was the one who hit the horse but the stable master gets your intention. His expression turns sour as he turns to the hand.

“Ronnie, you mishandling the horses?”

Ronnie hangs his head and starts to speak. Then he seems to think better of whatever he’s about to say and instead, he spins on his heel and runs, disappearing around the side of the stable.

The stable master doesn’t move to follow him. He just shakes his head in dismay and turns back toward you.

leather-shoe-1541617“He’s out of a job. Now go find some shoes.” And he heads back into the stable.

Dismissed again, you head back into town in hopes of finding one more odd job that’ll fund your need for shoes. This time, however, you’re not disappointed at not solving the abuse problem.

Later, as you nail a couple new boards onto a woman’s fence and throw some paint on them that afternoon, you wonder about Ronnie and the man who hit him but you shrug it off, get paid for your work, and head back to the Cobbler’s shop.

The whiskered man harrumphs when he sees you again but pulls out a pair of shoes he has waiting and has you try them on.

“Knew I’d return?” you ask him.

“There’s a look in the eye,” he grumbles, “of those determined to get somewhere.”

The shoes he set aside fit perfectly. The man must know his job well because he guessed the size after only those few minutes you stood in front of him that morning.

***

The next morning, you report back to the city stables and get the job you were hoping for. A few days later, as you’re grooming a beautiful mare, you realize Ronnie wasn’t the only one abusing horses. The poor animal favors her left leg and, upon inspection, you find something, not a rock, wedged in her hoof. When you mention it to the stable master, he tells you to figure out who’s doing it before bringing it to him.

Unfortunately, the other hands know you turned Ronnie in and they refuse to speak with you. By the Spring, you still aren’t able to pin down who’s mistreating the horses.

You leave Triban with enough money to get home, but always wonder what more was happening at the city stables.

The End

Thanks for joining in the adventure this week! Sorry things did not go quite as planned. As always, this adventure will run again at a future date, so hopefully you can find a more happy ending. In the meantime, have a great weekend.

Blessings,

Jennifer