Willow Fox

In the Slipper Shop is part of artist and writer Tina Hoggatt's audio installation project called Story Chairs.

In the Slipper Shop

By Willow Fox

Once upon a time in a land far away there lived and old woman.  She was known far and wide for the beautiful slippers she made.  There were all kinds; knitted, felted, woven, crocheted, tatted, quilted, needlepointed, macremed, sewn and beaded. She also made wooden slippers, but these were mainly for show, as they were rather uncomfortable.

The old woman sold these slippers out of a store that was also the front room of their house.  Travelers from all over the world would come look for that certain pair of slippers they had been wishing on, for it was said these slippers would last forever.

Indeed, people said the same thing about the old woman.  Children who knew her when she was already ancient were now having children of their own. She continued to work in her shop, making the most exquisite slippers anyone had ever seen.

One day, a young mother came in with her baby boy.  She was hoping to find some magical booties that would also help correct her son's twisted leg.

"Good afternoon", the old woman greeted the pair.

"Good afternoon Madame", said the mother.  "I'm looking for something that will help my son.  His leg is turned and I'm afraid he won't grow right."

"What do you think we have for you here?" snapped the old woman. 
"What he needs is a leg brace, not some silly slippers."

The visitor was startled, for she had come a far distance with her son, after hearing many stories about the powers of these slippers. The old woman saw how bitterly disappointed the mother was and her heart went out to her.

"I see you are a gentle woman and I enjoy a challenge.  I just remembered the new steel yarn I had specially made by the gnomes of Fendenkrise.  I'll make some stockings for your son that may help shape him properly as he grows."
"Oh thank you, thank you!" exclaimed the young mother.  She spun out her own story of how she and her son had suffered tragedy and were alone in the world.  She had almost lost all hope of helping him become strong.

The old woman examined the baby, noted his measurements and felt how his muscles and bones worked against each other.  She began to devise a plan.  First she would need someone to spin the softest yarn from the fur of the rare Fuzzaltuft cats.  Making an inner stocking of this would help relax the baby's leg so it could take a new shape.  She would then knit a brace of the steel yarn, one for every three months of growth he would endure over the next year and a day.

She invited the lonely family to stay.  The young woman agreed to work in the shop and so it was settled.  She and her son fell easily into their new routine.  In the mornings she tended the garden, in the afternoons she spun thread and yarn that was used to make the slippers.  And in the evenings, she slowly learned the secrets to making the world's finest slippers of every kind.

After the first three months had passed, the old woman unraveled the first brace off the baby.  His leg was small and pale, but the special Fuzzaltuft fur had kept the skin healthy.  His knee was turned slightly outward and the muscles were a tiny bit closer to where they should be.

By the second month, the baby had learned how to scoot with one leg.  His mother thought his leg looked better still, but the old woman wasn't so sure.

"What else can I do to help my son?" she asked the old woman. 

"How should I know?  I just make slippers and in your case a stocking of steel. What you need is some better advice." So the young mother went away with her son to seek another opinion.

Time came to change the brace, but the baby was away with his mother.  The old woman kept expecting to see them any day, and even started to make the new brace so it would be ready for their return.  But as she was finishing this last steel stocking, the old woman realized the baby would not be coming back to wear it.

As time went on, travelers still came to buy the most beautiful slippers in the world, but the old woman found their stories dull, wondering only about the fate of the boy with the twisted leg.