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I like to write and I like to party, but mostly just the writing. Disclaimer: A lot of these stories are true ones. The memory of growing-up in and around Killybegs. When you hold a mirror up to small communities, sometimes there are those who don't like the reflection. Capote knew this only too well. If you find the refraction just a little too much and would like the angle of incidence changed in your favor, please email me at georgevial@hotmail.com and I will be happy to make a name change here or there.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Great Shoe-off of 2001

Smoke filled the room, music sounded off the crowded walls, voices talked over voices with festive cheers, and glasses clanked and drink spilled joyously on the floor, the bar, people’s heads, just about anything at all.

Down the very back corner a crowd had gathered, they were exhibiting great mirth and joviality. A television set above their heads was showing the highlights of the day’s games, only a few eyes darted up to catch the results, all the others were head first into their pints. They were telling jokes, slapping backs and throwing insults. A rather cosmopolitan group it was, men, women, dark heads, fair heads, tall folks and short folks, laughing folks and serious folks, loud and quiet, a little bit of all sides of life.

Suddenly, a pint toppled over, two men pushed back their stools and glared at each other. Stone, granite cold were their eyes, hands flared out to their sides motionless as two desperadoes at high noon. Neither wavered, neither faltered, the bar became silent, members of the immediate crowd shouted “It’s a Shoe-off, we’ve got a Shoe-off here people!”

The two kept their eyes fixed waiting for the other to make the first move. The tall blond man, they called him the Viking, for his Scandinavian appearance, even though he spoke with the thickest Irish brogue you ever heard. His knees moved, just a twitch, then another deeper motion, then he pulled his feet up off the ground and showed his trickery; one shoe hanging off the foot of the other. A great move, not a match winning move, but the gathered people could tell they were not dealing with a novice of the Shoe-Off.

Now the other man took his turn, he went by the name of Sells, as he sold things, not very original, but then who the hell makes the rules of nicknames, in that game their can be no limits, although there should be with some of the names you hear about this place. Sells knew he had to make his first move count, he had to draw first blood as it were. This was not an adversary to toy with, so digging deep into his reserve from many an epic Shoe-off in the past he closed his eyes and mediated. He blocked out the people around him, the television, even George’s offer to buy the next round and that never happens. Sells had become one with the shoe.

As if by an invisible hand his shoes slipped off his feet and lay perfectly parallel to each other about five inches in front of his body. Then he stood up from his stool, eyes still closed and genuflected as if in the deepest prayer of austerity. The crowd gasped for now The Shoes were exactly where his knees would have hit the ground giving the perfect resemblance of one who’s feet are at their knees, like some kind of carnival freak and even demonstrated by taking a few steps forward on his truncated legs. Finally Sells opened his eyes to receive the acknowledgment he deserved from the people about him.

“Beat that ya big Viking feck! and George, I’ll have that drink now.”

All eyes fell to the Viking, what could he do to beat that, people began to mumble and turn away, the Shoe-off looked to be over. The talk picked up and drinking recommenced. Sells was about to shout in victory when he saw the Viking go into what could only be a spasm. He shook his head and hands, then clenched his fists tight and became still, stretched out his long legs, pointed his toes inwards. The hush fell to the amazed crowd, what could this man do to beat the impressive knees-with-feet move?

With the toes turned inwards he slowly lowered his feet to the ground and began to wiggle his feet out of his shoes with the precision of a surgeon. Where the shoes had come together on the ground they made a perfect triangle and now with the feet removed they stood alone, like some Celtic monument to the Feet Gods. And there it was the perfect shoe-move. Men choked on their pints, the women flushed and felt queer in their breasts. The Viking looked up with what could only be called the “eye of the champion.”

A voice called out from the audience announcing “Ladies and Gentlemen, I think we have a winner, a new Shoe-off King, you’re the man big fella and by the way how tall are ya?”

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