Shoe shops. Never my favourite place to be. I don’t know about you, but I usually just want a pair of shoes like the pair of shoes I’m already wearing, but new, and they never have them. But this was pretty painless.
“How do those feel, sir?” The attendant was polite, not pushy. It had taken him a few minutes to find a pair in my size, but there was decent music on the shop sound system so I didn’t mind the wait.
I stood up thoughtfully. Stood on one foot, then the other. Bent at the knee a bit, flexed my foot, bounced on my toes – you know, the new shoe dance. Took a careful step over to the mirror, heel first, rolling my sole carefully down then a wee toe-tap at the end. They looked fine. They felt fine.
“These are fine,” I said. As I say, pretty painless.
But then things got a bit weird.
“Excellent sir,” said the attendant. “Would you like me to box those back up for you, or would you like to wear them home?” Well, it was raining, so I thought I’d just pop my old shoes back on and carry these ones. So that got sorted, and we’re standing at the till – he’s trying to sell me some leather polish or some such, I’m trying to remember what else I had to do in town, we’re waiting on the card machine to warm up or whatever, I can’t really remember. Anyway, that’s when he said it.
“Oh sir, I forgot to mention our special offer. If you spend over fifty pounds, you can also take home the shoes that you’ll die in.”
Obviously I had misheard him, so I spent a moment trying to figure out what it was he had really said. Was this another pitch for shoe product – a shoe dye, to change the colour of your footwear? I’d never heard of that before.
“I’m sorry?” I said, baffled.
“Oh, nothing important sir – it’s just that you’ve spent over fifty pounds, so I can also give you the shoes that you’re going to die in.”
“The shoes I’m going to die in?”
“That’s right, sir. The pair of shoes that you will have on when you, ah, die.”
Well, he seemed sincere enough, and to be honest he had rather piqued my curiosity. At the very least, it sounded as if I was in line for a pair of free shoes. Okay, I thought, I’ll bite.
“How exactly do you know what shoes I’ll have on when I die?” It seemed reasonable to check on a few details before I committed myself.
“Well it’s a new technology from Germany, sir,” said the attendant. “Reverse temporal stitching.”
“Reverse temporal stitching?”
“Yes, sir. A stitch in time, if you’ll forgive the, ah, pun. That’s their tag-line, anyway.” I smiled politely, but felt none the wiser.
“Okay, but how does it work?”
“I couldn’t really tell you, sir,” he replied. “All I know is that they utilise the fabric of time, somehow, rather than, say, cotton or polyester.”
I didn’t really like to put the poor chap on the spot – after all, he only worked there. But I did have a fair bit of shopping to do and I didn’t want to be lugging two pairs of shoes about with me if it was just some kind of scam.
“Right,” I said. “So, does everyone get the same pair? Is it some new design they’re pushing?”
“Oh, indeed, no, sir. Why, I’ve handed out trainers, stilettos, moccasins...” I interrupted him.
“Do moccasins count as shoes?”
“Evidently, sir. No, you see, everyone who takes up the offer receives their own individual pair. It’s the pair that you are going to die in, after all.” Well, at the very least I was keen to see the shoes I was going to die in – it might give me some indication of how and when the sad day was going to arrive. If, for example, the attendant came back with a pair of golf shoes, I’d maybe give the golf course a wide berth for a while.
“Can I have a look at them?” I asked.
“I’m afraid not, sir. You either take them or you don’t. I understand that any kind of peeking can void the guarantee.” That made sense, I supposed.
“But do you know what they look like?”
“Of course, sir. How could I select them for you otherwise?” A conspiratorial smile spread across my face.
“Give me a wee hint,” I cajoled. He gave me a regretful smile. “Oh, come on,” I insisted. “I mean, when all’s said and done it’s me that will have to wear the things, isn’t it? Are you a salesman or aren’t you?”
“I’m sorry, sir. The only thing I am at liberty to divulge is that they are brown.”
“Brown, sir.” I looked down. The shoes I was wearing were brown. The shoes I had just purchased were brown. Apart from anything else, I wasn’t really sure I needed another pair of brown shoes.
“Right,” I said. “So, they’re brown. And they have reverse temporal stitching.”
“Yes, sir. And tassles.”
“Tassles, sir. They have tassles.” I felt doubtful.
“Are you sure?” I asked. “I mean, tassles aren’t really my thing. Are they ostentatious tassles?” The attendant looked apologetic.
“I’m afraid I’ve already said too much, sir.”
“Yes, but tassles? Tassles?” He shrugged.
“There’s no accounting for fashion, sir,” he offered, which I suppose was true. I still wasn’t sure I liked the idea of dying in tassly shoes.
However. A free pair of shoes is a free pair of shoes. And if other people were happy enough to take them, I didn’t see why I should be so nervous about it.
“Oh, go on then,” I said, with a self indulgent smirk. “I don’t suppose I have to put them on any time soon, do I? I mean, if I’m nervous about that whole dying thing.”
“Indeed not, sir – they will be yours to do with as you see fit.” He disappeared into the store room for a moment and came back with another shoe box. I suddenly felt a bit suspicious.
“Are you sure these are the shoes I’m going to die in?” I asked. “I mean, it’s not just some gimmick, is it?”
“Well, sir,” he smiled, “let’s just say that we haven’t had to give any refunds yet!”
Anyway, I took them. Even bought some leather polish to look after them, just for good measure. I’ve just put them in the cupboard for the time being.
No idea when I’m going to wear them.