The Verdict

The Verdict


The old man’s most powerful ploy, if you could call it that, was his ability to, with just a single lift of his brows or an almost imperceptible tilt of his head, sow a tiny but potent seed in you: doubt.

He was the wrinkled-faced, grey-haired cobbler that ran a business down my street. I didn’t know his real name, but there was an old, partly-faded inscription on the signboard above his one-room business premises that had missing letters in its two words. The longer I stared at it on most days, the more it seemed like the gap-toothed grin of a nonagenarian. I remember that my father once said the sign originally read ‘Solid Shoes,’ but in the mischievous imagination of my 10 year-old mind I coined a simile by connecting his wizened appearance and his trade for a rather fitting appellation: ‘Old Papa Shoes’.

I laugh now in recollection of a remarkable experience one Christmas at Papa’s. Even now, the lessons of that hazy, wind-spent, Yuletide morning are not lost on me. In defiance of the Harmattan, I sneaked out of the house to show off my Xmas finery – matching black jeans jacket and trousers, and brown moccasins.

Skipping and hopping – evidence of a full belly – I joined an enthusiastic group of two boys and a girl calling out Happy Christmases at bemused adults who either replied in kind or placed a few nairas in our willing hands. Encouraged by the response, we took our cash accumulation scheme to Old Papa.

Old Papa Shoes had two big wooden doors and a huge metal grill that unlocked outwards. They were always open and as we ambled nearer on this day, I saw him sitting on a wicker chair in the corner. He stared at us, tool-clad hands working deftly at a piece of leather.

“Papa!” we yelled as we barged in. “Papa, Happy Christmas!”

Old Papa looked up with a smile. “Merry Christmas,” he replied cheerfully. And then he looked down at our feet one after the other, paying compliment after compliment. I waited in anticipation as my shoes came under the know-it-all scrutiny of his time-improved gaze. That was when he did what I least expected. He frowned.

“My new shoes,” I declared defiantly. He glanced at them again; the puckered brow now more intense. I was confused. And then a bright idea flashed before me. I raised a foot to him. “Moccasins,” said I.

He looked at my feet again and his penetrating stare lingered.

“They’re nice,” he concurred, “although I prefer leather shoes.”

That hurt. “They are leather,” I blurted.

His forehead creased and his head shook slowly: “Imitation leather.”

Beside me, the other children sniggered. I was upset. Imitation? What did that mean?

Old papa sensed my discomfort. “Your shoe is made of a kind of material that’s like leather but is really not,” he explained. “It’s actually a kind of synthetic or plastic material, if you like.”

“You mean it’s fake?” one of the other boys teased.

To my horror, Old Papa nodded. “Yes, it’s a kind of fake leather,” he said. “It can be quite good too, but it’s not real leather.”

Imitation leather! Fake leather! My heart skipped. Instant tears stung my eyes. I fled the shop, with the sound of laughter in maddening pursuit. At home, nothing anyone said consoled me. All that mattered was that my father bought me fake leather shoes. My Christmas was ruined – unless I could do something about it.

Sufficiently rested from my exertions much later, I hoped to find the bright side of the whole episode, if there was any. I succeeded. Papa knew the genuine article, for one, and I could just fancy myself his student in my spare time. First, though, I had to find me leather shoes that were non-imitation, and Papa’s was the destination.

23 thoughts on “The Verdict” by Robert Egbe (@robby)

  1. midas (@midas)

    Nice read.
    I like
    The construction of that first paragraph was a ‘slide mover’ for me, you know the ‘page turner’ counterpart in mobile devices :)
    The reflective ending was just as good. Good one!

  2. Bubbllinna (@sibbylwhyte)

    Oh I enjoyed this Robby..I can well picture d 10yr old boy..And Papa..whf wasn’t so tactical either..he just told the truth without hiding anything(@Seun…does d Old man remind U of anyone?)..

    English has plenty problems..d correct word might just sound wrong to the ears..Sneaked…Snuck..

    All in all..A nice job U did..Well done..

  3. @sibbylwhyte the English madam!! Why don’t we try ‘snucked’…hee hee hee
    Robby, this was a lovely read to me. Easy to go with and I smiled at it…Nice one.
    Would let the others pass their verdict….But wait o, Robby, where have you been?

    1. @Su’eddie…shey na becos of say ya name rhyme with eldee own.. U wan come put me 4 tite corna..ehn??..

      How U go call me ‘English Madam’??..when na Pidgin be my own lingua franca??..
      Abeg o!!…. “Me I dey makes mistaken when I bin dey typing my own post”….

    2. What is wrong with “sneaked”
      @sybbyllwhite and @sueddie.?
      I prefer it to “snuck”.
      Snuck sounds… dirty.

      1. Hehehe..@Kaycee it sounds..dirty because Ur mind is…dirty..

        1. @sibbyllwhyte: Hmm…ok…:)
          Kaycee, since she has said that, I really can’t say anything else…
          *whispers: I bin wan support you sha…but I no get dirty mind so…mouth shut! :)

  4. @Midas: nice one on the ‘slide mover’…hmm, this people wouldn’t keep making me laugh…Snucked, then ‘slide mover’…
    You don’t get this from reading the dictionary often…Where is that Hon. Patrick guy…;)

  5. robby (@robby)

    @All, thanks. @Bubbllinna, so it’s actually ‘snuck.’ Thought as much. That was my original word, but…let’s just say I got persuaded by my ‘betters’. lol @Sueddie Agema, Been around bro. Thanks for the smile, I’m smiling back. *wink*

    1. Like I said before..English hard o..E no be our papa language jor..

  6. I like the work. Where is the next part?

  7. You wrote this very well. I like it.

  8. i like this and i am waiting for the second part.

  9. This is a very good one.Well written and relatable.

    well done!!!

  10. robby (@robby)

    @Kaycee, Eletrika, Adams, Lawal, Seun-Odukoya, thanks. My ‘editor’ actually did a great job. All the same, my head is still ‘bigging.’ lol. Second part? Dunno. Haven’t really given it much thought. Been writing something else. But we’ll see…

  11. Nice work, the previous comments already established that….reads very smoothly and easily, like I’m actually watching the whole thing play out in HDTV….well done!!!

  12. I loved this story, @robby – I like the way you painted the image of Papa Old Shoes as a knowledgeable cobbler. I also liked the telling of the story, with sentences like the first one.

    I would have given you points for this, but the story does not look as if it is finished yet. Did he find leather shoes and go to Papa Old Shoes?

  13. robby (@robby)

    @Scopeman, Odejayi thanks. @Odejayi. You have a point. Adams, and Kaycee noted the same earlier. I didn’t really intend for there to be a sequel (shows I’m still learning, perhaps) so the ending is rather misleading. It was supposed to end at ‘My Christmas was ruined.’ But, we’ll see how it goes…

  14. … a beautiful one…

      1. @ROBBY pas de quoi…………

        1. Pas de quoi? I’m afraid my French is rather poor, but doesn’t that mean ‘Not enough?’ or something like that?

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