The old man wears a leather brown apron.
His eyebrows are long and whitened. The wooden bench
is frayed, its surface nibbled away
by mallet blows. He rolls the bent and
ailing shoes on the counter, cradles them away
to a place among the sagging, laden shelves. The
hordes of obsolete footwear, a familiar
wallpaper. He chalks large numbers
on the soles or inside. His customers
have come to learn patience
as he struggles to locate their goods.
Eventually, he does. To tell the truth,
his work is less and less precise
these days. As you examine your shoe
the nails seem big, the soles too thick.
But, as he points out (using a thick hairy finger),
only brute force will separate the new sole
from the upper. The paint-on-wood sign
(Boot and Shoe Repairs) withers and curls like old bark.
He doesn’t talk much, and soon
he is back leaning over the last,bearing the side of his face to you.