Tuesday, January 8, 2002

The Cobbler

[A text from the deep-storage archives]

There's a shoe repair business on the ground floor of the building next door. The shop window is partly obscured by a faded banner reading "Sonderangebot" and filled with shelves of dusty, unwanted objects: decades-old shoes, a child's backpack, cheap plastic toys. I have a simple repair job that needs doing, replacing a buckle on a bag, and decide to give the cobbler a try. He's a middle-aged Russian with a heavy accent who sits all day in his shop watching television. Rarely are there customers. The large TV set stands in front of the window, which is why his face is usually turned toward the street when I glance in on my way past. Often, other men from the neighborhood congregate in his shop for a chat—he's got plenty of chairs and, apparently, the means to make tea. The TV shows soap operas and disco music. He does an awful job on the repair, punching asymmetrical holes for the buckle and inadvertently slicing through part of one strap, but nonetheless demands DM 50 for his services. When I protest, we get into a long conversation, in the course of which he admits that he isn't a cobbler at all, he was trained as a hairdresser but wound up somehow acquiring a shoe repair business. Slowly, clumsily, he repairs the damage. Every time I pass him in the street, he grins at me and asks after the buckle.

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