One Quirk Later #12~ In Which There Is A Difference Between A Cobbler And A Shoemaker

Hello, hello, hello, my good folk!

It’s time for another Quirk! The illustrious wizard (and grandma) Jem Jones is the creator of this lovely flash fiction series, and we all appreciate her for that (among other things, because Jem is just the best and if you haven’t popped over to her blog yet you simply MUST).

The most recent prompt had me stumped, I admit. But I finally came up with something(?) at the last minute. And it’s not nearly as angsty as usual, so I get points for that, right??

The Incident of the Enchantress and the Shoemaker

It was late. Much too late. Darkness had fallen hours ago, and the little cramped streets around the shoemaker’s shop lay still. The shops on either side were lifeless, but a candle still burned in the main room of the shoemaker’s shop, its tell-tale light glowing in the shop’s smudged windowpanes.

The shoemaker himself (his name was Robin, but no one had ever called him that except for his mother) sat at his bench, running his hands through his thick white hair and wishing that he had chosen a different profession.

It wasn’t at all that he disliked his profession. He had loved making shoes since he had made his first pair at the age of five for his great aunt’s birthday (those shoes had been rather horrendous, but his aunt was kind and wore them anyway). He hadn’t faltered in his passion since. No, it wasn’t that. It was merely this: he did not want to get turned into a gnome.

Earlier that day, when the sun still shone brightly and the streets squirmed with shoppers, the shoemaker had been sitting in his accustomed place at his bench, his glasses pushed firmly up his nose and a well-worn leather shoe in his hand. He had just been putting the finishing touches on it when someone burst into the shop, setting the bell over the door ringing madly a though it was having a seizure. “COBBLER!” shrieked the someone.

Robin looked up with mild alarm. He beheld a dazzling, stunningly pale girl who was dressed in an elegant silver gown and wore a milk white pendant at her throat. She appeared to be somewhere in the vicinity of twenty, though the depth of her eyes betrayed her to be much older. Her eyes were startlingly blue and seemingly in the mood for murder.

Robin guessed that she was an enchantress or some kind of nature spirit. He wasn’t very excited about talking to either one, as both were known to be monstrously ill-tempered. But, reflecting that to ignore an angry magical girl standing in the middle of his shop probably wasn’t such a good idea, he cleared his throat and said, “May I help you?”

She whipped her head around to look at him and he resisted the urge to cringe at the intensity of her gaze. “Are you the cobbler?” she asked in an accusatory tone.

“Actually, I’m a shoemaker.”

“Aren’t they the same thing?” she demanded with some impatience.

“Well, no-” Robin caught himself. “May I help you?” he repeated as politely as possible.

“Shoes,” the girl said. “You must make me some shoes.”

Well, there wasn’t anything alarming about that. He could make shoes. “Of course, madam,” Robin said, standing and setting the shoe in his hand aside on the bench. “What type of shoe do you require?”

“I want shoes that can turn inside out and flumpwards and fold into pigeons without falling apart or shrinking,” she replied promptly. “And I need to be able to wear them sideways and longways as well as the regular way.”

Robin blinked. “I beg your pardon?”

“Those are the shoes I want,” said the girl. “I have no further explanation. But if you can’t make them, I’ll turn you into a gnome.”

“What?” Robin managed, beginning to quake a little.

“A garden gnome, you know,” the girl replied. “CURTIS!”

This last came out in a shriek, causing Robin to jump. The door flew open a moment later, setting the bell jangling again, and a tall gangly youth shuffled in, struggling to balance an armload of gnome figurines that were all dressed in grotesque shades of blue and yellow.

“This is my collection,” the girl said fondly. She plucked a gnome from the pile and smiled at its stiff, painted face.

“Those aren’t…?” Robin began faintly.

Curtis gave a slow, exaggerated nod. He seemed to be suppressing a smile.

“Each of these gnomes was once a cobbler, like you,” the girl explained. Her hand went to the pendant on her necklace and she tapped it twice in a meaningful way. “But each of them in turn failed to please me.” Her eyes seemed to crackle as she said this.

Poor Robin clutched the edge of his bench, feeling a bit faint. She was an enchantress, then. An enchantress with worryingly malevolent feelings towards shoemakers, evidently. He gazed in horror at the garden gnomes.

“Oh,” was all he said.

“I need the shoes by tomorrow morning,” the enchantress declared. “I will come back then.” With that, she stormed out the door. Curtis followed, staggering a little under his burden.

“W-wait!” Robin called after her. But the door was already slamming in his face.

That had been hours ago, now. Many hours. And yet Robin was no nearer to creating shoes that matched the enchantress’s baffling requirements.

He was able to get them to turn inside out (Robin was an exceptional shoemaker), but that was the only specification that he had been able to make sense of. He didn’t know what it meant to turn a shoe “flumpwards”, nor could he for the life of him figure out how he was supposed to cause leather to turn into a bird by folding it. He was at quite a loss.

But he couldn’t bring himself to give up. Robin strained his old eyes in the dim light of the candle and continued to work, trying everything he could possibly think of.

Just a few hours before the sun rose, Robin collapsed with his head on the bench, exhausted. He hadn’t meant to stop working. His hands still clutched his tools. But within minutes he had fallen into a troubled sleep.

A moment later, a little pointed face poked into the room.

“Gulping gourds, I thought he’d never drop off,” muttered the owner of the face. Then he crept up to the bench, followed by his three brothers.

“What a mess,” sighed one of the brothers, shaking his head.

“He has no idea what he’s doing,” added someone else.

They were tiny, and dressed in pointed caps, but they would never have been mistaken for garden gnomes. If the shoemaker had been awake, he would have instantly guessed them to be elves, and he would have be right.

“Well,” said the first elf, whose name was Joe. “Let’s get started.”

The others murmured agreement, rolling up their sleeves and pulling out their own little tool kits.

As you may imagine, the elves knew exactly how to make the shoes that the enchantress was after. And that is what they did.

Then they left quietly, as is their custom.

Hours passed. Suddenly, Robin woke with a start. The sun streamed through the window. It was well into the morning already! And he hadn’t finished the shoes!

He sprang up, ignoring the aching of his old joints. He glanced at the door, fearing that the enchantress was about to burst into the room.

Then his eyes strayed to the bench and the peculiar pair of shoes sitting atop it.

He gaped at them.

Before he had much time to process the appearance of these shoes, the door to the shop sprang open, setting the bell squealing at him as if it was dying a particularly awful death. The enchantress swept in, followed closely by Curtis. The youth bore the immense pile of garden gnomes just as he had the previous day.

“Well, where are they?” the enchantress demanded abruptly.

Robin opened his mouth to speak but before he could say anything, the enchantress spotted the remarkable pair of shoes on the bench and strode over to them. She picked one up, appraising it. “Hm,” she said. She turned it inside out. She turned it flumpwards (‘Ah,’ thought Robin numbly, ‘that’s what “flumpwards” means.’). She folded it and it somehow turned into what appeared to be a live pigeon, which cooed softly. Then she unfolded it again and it turned back into a shoe. She twisted it this way and that a few more times and finally gave a decisive nod.

“Yes,” she said. “They’ll do.”

Robin stared at her in stunned silence.

“You’ve done an excellent job, cobbler,” the enchantress said. “I confess I am surprised, but I will pay you handsomely for your work.”

“There’s been some terrible mistake,” Robin stammered, finding his voice, and he wasn’t referring to her usage of the term cobbler. “I didn’t make those shoes.”

The enchantress raised her eyebrows. The effect was alarming, to say the least. “What do you mean you didn’t make these shoes?”

“I didn’t make them,” Robin said. “I couldn’t do it. I tried, but I’m not that skilled. I have no idea where those shoes came from.”

Robin knew that what he was doing was terribly foolish. But he was an honest soul, and couldn’t bear to take credit for someone else’s work. If that got him turned into a gnome, so be it.

The enchantress stared very hard at him for a very long time, and Robin was sure that he was about to be turned into a gnome. He tried to stand up straight and look her in the eye as he braced himself for his doom.

Then Curtis began to laugh.

Robin was startled. He looked at Curtis.

“I win,” Curtis said. “Now pay up.”

Robin had no idea what to make of this. But the enchantress scowled and produced three large gold coins, which she shoved into Curtis’s coat pocket. “You don’t have to rub it in,” she muttered. Curtis was still chuckling. Then the enchantress touched the pendant on her necklace. It glowed briefly, and then suddenly Curtis disappeared under a pile of fully grown men, who all wore varying expressions of shock and alarm and confusion. They were still wearing the garish gnome caps.

Curtis was no longer chuckling.

Robin looked on in bewilderment. What was happening? He hadn’t been turned into a gnome yet, and that was a good thing, but besides that he didn’t know what to make of any of it.

“Congratulations,” the enchantress said rather grumpily to Robin. “You are proof that there are honest cobblers in the kingdom.”

“Th-thank you?” Robin said uncertainly.

“I told Curtis that there weren’t any,” the enchantress explained. “And we made a bet. If I won, I got to turn all the cobblers into garden gnomes permanently.” She gave a wistful sigh. “But you ruined it.”

Robin wasn’t sure what to do. She might be so angry at him for causing her to lose the bet that she turned him into something nasty anyway.

“But since I won,” Curtis said, climbing awkwardly to his feet, “she has to leave you all alone now.”

This sounded like a very good development. “Thank you!” Robin said jubilantly.

“You are something of an idiot, though,” the enchantress said. “For all you knew those elves were just doing you a good service and you could have passed these shoes off as your own. It was very silly not to do that, and you kind of deserve to be a gnome for displaying such stupidity.”

Robin’s eyes widened in alarm.

“I think the word you are looking for is ‘integrity’, dearest,” Curtis said with a smile. “And you won’t turn him into a gnome, now will you?” he added sternly. “We made a deal.”

The enchantress gave a ponderous sigh. “Yes, I know.” She scooped up the shoes and headed for the door. The disenchanted shoemakers (unless they were cobblers) were already filing out into the street, wondering where they were and how to get back to their own shops across the kingdom.

“Goodbye,” Curtis said cheerfully, winking at Robin, and followed the enchantress out the door.

Robin shook his head. Hm, young people these days, he thought.

As the door swung violently closed, the bell came loose and tumbled to the floor with a deadened ring. The poor thing had had quite enough of enchantresses, thank you very much.

Robin rather agreed with it.



And that is that. 🙂 Many thanks again to Jem for the prompt! As always, I had great fun working on my quirk. I never really know what’s going to happen…but something always does, and that’s the good thing. This one actually surprised me more than usual, because I had no idea it was going to get retellingish? Eh, anyway. Happy writing, everyone!

14 thoughts on “One Quirk Later #12~ In Which There Is A Difference Between A Cobbler And A Shoemaker

    1. Haha, it does, doesn’t it? Curtis was such a pleasant surprise. He just kind of…inserted himself into the story, and it was glorious. I’m so glad that you enjoyed it, darling. 🙂


  1. “It’s not that I dislike my profession, I merely don’t want to get turned into a gnome” I love this poor man, he doesn’t deserve fairy tale chaos xD

    Ooh! The requirements for these shoes are making me think of the classic fairy tale impossible quests. Me likey. OOOH AND THE END eheheee. And Curtis calls her ‘dearest’ so very casually and I don’t know what they are as a pair but I love it.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, no he does not. I’m glad that you sympathize with Robin. I was actually contemplating getting him turned into a gnome before I came up with an ending for it but I couldn’t bring myself to do such a thing.

      Indeed! I was happy with the end. It just sort of came to me. Actually it was Curtis who just sort of came to me, and the ending came with him. I don’t really know what they are as a pair either, but whatever it is it’s great. 😉

      Hm, hem, well…it beats me.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I LOVE Robin. He needs a vacation to somewhere nice and quiet. Which he can do! Because you DID NOT, indeed, turn him into a gnome like I thought you would! 😀

    And this story! Definitely impossible-fairytale-standard vibes, but they act like everything is normal, and it just…works. Really well. I feel like I keep saying this but you have the most lovely, whimsical writing voice and I AM HERE FOR IT. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, I am rather fond of Robin myself, and I am glad to hear that he is appreciated by others. Haha, indeed, he should be grateful to me for that. I almost did it, too.

      Thank you, thank you, thank you, Elisha! I never get tired of people telling me that they like my writing voice, haha. Your words are very encouraging!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My first thought upon seeing the title of this post was “well, of course they are. One is a delicious pie sort of dessert usually made with exceedingly sour blackberries picked from the bushes in one’s backyard, and the other…makes shoes” so I kind of thought Robin would get out of his difficulties with some sort of wordplay?? But I loved the way it actually turned out even better, although I am now curious what IS the difference between a cobbler (of the shoemaking kind) and a shoemaker.

    But ACK SPONGE HOW DO YOU WRITE SUCH DELIGHTFUL THINGS?? I was just randomly grinning at work all day because I read this in the morning beforehand and then kept thinking of it.

    “It was merely this: he did not want to get turned into a gnome.” But relatable. I love Robin, he’s such a sweetheart??? So quiet.

    “‘Ah,’ thought Robin numbly, ‘/that’s/ what “flumpwards” means.’” I JUST LOVE IT

    “This sounded like a very good development. ‘Thank you!’ said Robin jubilantly.” Truly, I love Robin. His confusion. His quietness. The whole writing style?? It’s quietly hilarious and I LOVE IT SO MUCH. And Curtis! And whatever he and the enchantress’s relationship is! And the title! And the retelling-ness! Ahh it’s all so good.

    I also adore how very fairy-tale-ish it does feel. Not just the characters and ridiculous expectations, but also the fact that Robin gets out of his difficulties by doing the seemingly stupid and impractical and definitely-will-not-get-you-out-of-this-alive-in-fact-probably-the-opposite BUT morally good thing. A lot of my favorite fairy tales do that and I REALLY enjoy it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “A delicious pie sort of dessert” haha, YES. Funnily enough, that type of cobbler didn’t even cross my mind while I was writing this. But it would have been humorous to incorporate something about a blackberry cobbler somewhere in there.

      Fun fact: I did not know the difference between a shoemaker an a cobbler until just before posting this quirk. I originally had Robin as a cobbler, thinking (incorrectly) that it was just a fancy way of saying shoemaker. But for some reason I decided to look it up right before posting, just in case, and BEHOLD, I found my error. It seems that a cobbler repairs shoes, not being skilled enough to do anything else, while a shoemaker actually makes them, so to call a shoemaker a cobbler is to insult his ability to do his craft. I decided to use this, and did some hasty rewrites.

      Aw, shucks, I’m glad that you liked it!! It warms my heart to know this little quirk had you grinning. I confess I hardly know how these things come about. If I knew, my writing would be a lot more consistent.

      Robin is a sweetheart. I’m happy that you found him to be endearing. I am rather endeared to him myself, even after so brief an acquaintance.

      I’m glad that the fairy-tale-ish feel came across in the writing style! I love that style, and emulating it successfully is quite satisfying.

      Haha, people keep being like “And whatever is going on with Curtis and the enchantress” and I’m like “you know what, your guess is as good as mine.”

      Ah, thank you so much for your lovely comment, Sarah! Your thoughts on my quirk make me very happy. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. robin is precious and must be protected. i’m so glad he didn’t end up sad, or dead, or a gnome.
    this felt such like a fairytale and i quite enjoyed it! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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