They lived in tiny cells, in pairs, waiting for someone to take them. Usually, it was only for a few hours at a time. Each trip to the outside was more fearful than fantastic; there was a great deal of uncertainty with every opportunity. Would they have to deal with a hideous stink? Would someone try to force themselves under the skin, with appendages far too large for the cavity provided? Would there be a spill or other nuisance? All of these were very real possibilities.
Of course, in the right situation, it was nice to be put to good use. Sometimes the people were kind and gentle, without unpleasant smells or unreasonable expectations of size. It was good not to be forced to fit around an impossibly large foot. Why did people do this? It seemed to be mostly women, but, sometimes men, too. And men were almost always the foulest of the foul smelling examples.
It was best not to repine. Life in the cells was better if you didn’t think about it much. Complainers didn’t last long in the trenches, and it was wiser to keep your mind off it all. Keeping your mouth shut served more than one purpose, after all. The minute you got taken out, there was the toxic spray of anti-fungal and anti-odor chemicals. If you were unlucky enough to have allergies, well, you didn’t last long on the inside.
Many had been here so long, they were on their 18th set of laces. No matter how many sets you went through, it was always unpleasant to have them changed. Worse, you might experience a slow wasting of the thin, cheap cords, shuttering every time they were pulled taut, hoping not to feel or hear the ominous sound of a snapping cord. It was a devastating sound for a shoe, and could mean it was soon to be the afterlife for them, when the season changed.
It was always better, too, when the user had had a good day. There was always food, and when in a good mood, the borrower usually didn’t remove you from their foot without first untying the cords. This saved much wear-and-tear, and prevented breakage.
Some days, it is too hard to bear, being trapped in this line of work, other days, it feels like salvation. In those moments, it was quite enough to be working the bowling lanes as a shoe for hire.
repine ( reh – PINE )verb. Middle English. to feel or express dejection or discontent : complaint