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The jaws of daybreak stretched wide apart and embarked on swallowing the dark. That was not the first time I was awakened by the insistent knocking of vehicles horns and peddlers’ calls at my eardrums. My mouth gaped in a sluggish yawn, and I took a damp deep breath. The call for the Morning prayer had just drawn to an end. I rolled in bed from side to side like coffee beans in a red–hot toaster; and the seeds of my thinking blew up and dispersed. So I burst out of bed like someone remembering and appointment he had already missed and got ready to go off. I took up searching for my shoe while in full dress. But it was not so easy as my mind had first worked out.

  The window allowed in a flow of breeze puffs. At which I realized I had not remembered to shut it before I settled down for the night. The dark was still in control of part of the window while daybreak was starting to swallow the rest. My face twisted in discontent as my eyes were still going through with a thorough search for my shoe. (来源:专业英语学习网站 http://www.EnglishCN.com)

‘How much will you charge for this pair of shoes? ’

I summoned back to memory the time I had bought it.

‘Which one do you mean?’ the salesman had inquired.

That had been the first time I had ever haggled over any purchase, let alone a pair of shoes. He had reacted in irritation, considering it a shameful behavior on my part. I had read the signs of rags in his eyes.

Nevertheless, he had refrained from making any offensive utterance.

  His need for selling had overpowered the urge to kick me out of his store. The shoe I had pointed to in the showcase had stuck out its tongue in division of me. I had never seen such an insolent shoe before.

I had grabbed it from the hand of the salesman, who had given its front a clean wipe with his sleeve. It had shone brighter and stuck out its tongue longer and longer. ‘I wonder that tongue – I mean that shoe is joking with me. Soon when I’ve slipped my foot into it, I’ll tread it on the asphalted road and teach it that satirizing others isn’t always appropriate. What matters is the idea. But whoever can find the idea in that fog shrouding things and swinging over the people’s heads, moistening their hair. How could the idea be set free? How could it flare up and emerge?!

  The satirizing dangling tongue had addressed me in determination to be taken away with me whatever the cost.

‘How did they manage to trick you into leashing you with the lace?! ’ I taunted.

‘Get out of my head and forget it, it replied repulsively.

The devil tells us not to forget anything. It’d tempt us by swelling our dreams out of proportion. ’

 ‘I’m not a devil…. look.’ Its tongue had dangled further as I had been examining it with both my hands. Don’t look deep into me, you fool. Hope you won’t be deceived by the outer appearance of things. For a tongue is only what it really is. So is a shoe.’

 ‘What’s the relationship between the two of them? In other words,

What’s your connection with a shoe? ’

‘Oh, you wish to know in what way I’m connected with a tongue. ’

 ‘I don’t see any difference. It’s only a shoe with a tongue.

‘No, you’re wrong. It’s rather a tongue wearing a shoe.’

‘Stop teasing me, will you. Just pay. Then I’ll explain.’

One half of the window was gnawed off by night and the other by daybreak, whose gaping jaw proved to have not teeth but blood-stained fangs, which by the action of gnawing, had grown sharp enough to cut through flesh and iron. As daybreak was creeping upon them, people pulled on their clothes and shoes and set off with dangling tongues. My search for the shoe never ceases. Fatigue then had the best of me. The idea of searching was so wearisome.

 Had it not been for the shoe, I would by now have got fully dressed. I bawled out, barked, moiled, mewed and mumbled at times, but my search was doomed to failure. ‘Perseverance beats intelligence,’ they said in by-gone times. I would say, ‘A shoe beats every other thing.’

Whoever of us is buried with a shoe? All those dead or killed part with their shoes. What an accursed thing shoes are. They had better be donated to paupers than buried with the dead.

   I had paid for the shoes, which the salesman had laid in a box enveloped in a tissue. I had hoped the rude shoe would have almost choked to death and its tongue stuck out further before I had got back home. It would serve it well. It had to learn god manners. Good manners in an age of fangs and gnawing are the whip with which the good mannered are flogged.

  The shoe insisted on degrading my dignity each time I bent down to tidy its tongue. I twisted the lace and the tighter I tied it, the further the tongue dangled. Then the shoe would free itself from my grip and vanish. And it would be too late before I found it again.

‘What on earth is the difference between a shoe and a tongue?’ I wondered. I had no idea: there was a lace between the tongue and the shoe. At such daybreak, however, which was no longer what it had ever been and at such a late hour, the frowning sun shone motionless and glared through the window in stubborn wildness. The search for the shoe wore me out and the shadow of the tongue in concert with the lace and the shoe joined in the procession. When eventually I came upon the shoe, I knocked it against the wall, scolding.

‘Stop knocking ideas against each other, ’it shouted at me wrathfully.

‘You’re talking nonsense.

‘In fact, I feel shy of the road and of myself.’

‘Why should you?! What the devil have you got to do with the road?

‘Have you ever seen a shoeless hand or a head with no shoe on top, or a belly wearing no shoe? ’

‘What exactly is your point? ’

‘Listen. Once you’ve slipped in to a shoe, what difference would there be between you and any other person or thing? ’ 

‘Now I know how to teach you good manners.’

‘You know nothing of the sort. ’

‘I’m sure I do; I’ll take you to the shoemaker, who’ll sew up your tongue or slash it with a knife and then scrap it into a heap of garbage.’

  While the sun was still hanging through the window hollow and the tongue, in conjunction with the lace and the shoe, lay dangling, I conceived of a human skull with its content of motley thoughts before it had been devoured by maggots. And in the light of this conception I saw precisely the position of the tongue and the lace and what connection there was between them and the shoe.

My non-stop search for the shoe bore no fruit. ‘This is an unfortunate ominous day,’ I said in a soliloquy. ‘Either the shoe has converted in to the sun or vice versa. However, light will eventually bring every thing to light.’ Even my memory would not roll back to how much the shoe had cost me.

   The sun, profusely pouring its rays through the window was grilling my face. Every thing seemed to be glittering at first sight. The glass of the showcase had been glittering too. The shoe still insisted on teasing and worrying me, and I, in turn, insisted on teaching it a lesson of good manners. So I made up my mind to keep it unlaced this time and let it dangle and mock me the way it wanted.

   The road was long enough to drain off its breath and bring it to silence.

‘Mister.. mister.. ’’

‘What’s it you want, young man? ’ I asked, turning round.

‘You’ve left the shoes behind. ’

‘What shoes? ’

‘You’ve paid for them and forgotten them. ’

‘Oh, sorry.’

‘Here they are,’   he had offered, handing them to me .

‘Thank you. You’re a nice young man.’

‘It seems you’re so worried that you’ve forgotten them.’

‘You’re right. Thanks.

‘Is that all? Don’t I deserve anything more than that? ’

‘Oh, yes. You do. Take this banknote and gnaw it. ’

‘You’ve got a great heart and busy mind ’

‘Perhaps, my son

He had clasped the banknote jovially and turned away. Scarcely had he taken a few steps across the street when he was knocked down by a passing car and killed on the spot.

‘He was a nice boy. Why didn’t he pay more attention? ’

My eyes rested on his feet. The tongue of his shoe was dangling in irony. The lace untied.

My long search ended in finding the shoe, and, as usual, I was late. I sank into silence and scurried down the stairs.

 

Translated by Izzat Ghazzawi

 

 
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