Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Cobbler

     “And here’s how I finish the soles.” Tom placed the unfinished boot upside down on the anvil and hammered the sole with a mallet.
     “Wow,” said Emma, watching him pound away. “This is really cool, Uncle Tom.”
     Tom worked with his mallet for several more minutes until the sole was finished. Then he turned the boot right-side-up and admired it in the light while stroking his long gray beard. His many years of craftsmanship were apparent in his end product, and it made his job rewarding. He handed the boot to his teenage niece for her to look over. It meant a lot to him that she found his work interesting.
     “This is so cool!” she said, turning the boot in her hands. “I never knew being a cobbler meant you had such skill.”
     “It comes with practice.” Tom beamed with pride. “I’ve been doing this since before you were born.”
     She continued to stare at the boot, wide-eyed. “These boots are awesome, Uncle Tom. How much do they cost?”
     “Normally, quite a bit.” He started to put away his tools. “But that pair is on the house. They should be your size, if your mother told it to me right.”
     Emma looked up at him and her mouth dropped open. “These are for me? For real? Oh thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you!”
     She ran over and gave her uncle a big hug, almost knocking him over. Tom laughed and pried her away.
     “You’re welcome,” he said, picking up his mallet. “Just tell your mother that you guys need to come visit more often.”
     “Absolutely! Wow, my own pair of real cowboy boots!” Emma sat down to try them on. “And I bet with all that hammering you do, you must be pretty good at Whack-A-Mole.”
     Tom froze in his tracks, still holding the mallet. He slowly turned his head toward her. “What did you just say?”
     “Whack-A-Mole,” she repeated, pulling a boot on her foot. “It’s an arcade game for little kids, but I guess you might not know it.”
     “No, I guess not.” Tom slowly turned back to his workbench and hung his mallet in its place. “How do they fit?”
     “Perfect!” Emma jumped up and walked around his shop, posing for her reflection in the windows. She thanked her uncle a dozen more times before her mother came to pick her up.
     After she left, Tom sat on his stool and took a deep breath. That was close, he thought, almost too close.
     Maybe it was a mistake to let his family come here. He’d have to be more careful during the rest of their visit to make sure they didn’t get anywhere near a Chuck E. Cheese. If they found out about his double life then it would mean trouble for everyone. Nonetheless, he had a god-given gift and he was proud of it. He only wished he hadn’t hurt so many people during his run as Tommy Montana, the best Whack-A-Mole hustler this side of the Missisippi.
     Tom grinned at the thought of his legacy. Those naïve eight-year-olds never see him coming.

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