The Bare Sole of the Matter
“Prime Minister! Thank God we found you! We’ve been loo-”
“You should lie down, it’s lovely in the shade.”
“Oh, and take your shoes and socks off, too; that’s important.”
The various assistants and flunkies looked at one another, but none of them knew better than any of the others what any of this was about. They even looked across to the Prime Minster’s longtime bodyguard but from his blank look he had about as much idea as they did.
“Come on, daylight’s wasting! I have things I need to explain to you,” the Prime Minister said, patting the grass around him.
Not really knowing what else to do – and used to doing as they were told the rest of the time – the flunkies and assistants shrugged, shed their socks and shoes and lay down on the grass. The tree above them swayed, but that was about it. They all lay in silence for a minute or two and someone else was about to speak up when the Prime Minister beat them to it.
“You see, I’ve been doing some thinking. Deep thinking. Deepest you can do. And I’ve reached some conclusions. I don’t know if the people are going to like them, at least not at first, but I know they’re the right thing to do,” he said, holding up a hand and letting dappled sunlight play across his fingers.
No-one had any idea what to say to this.
“Uh…” one flunky started, but words failed them at that point.
“It’s shoes. It’s always been the shoes,” the Prime Minister said, which cleared up nothing for nobody. This time, even the flunkiest of flunkies couldn’t find anything to say.
“You see, I can’t think of the last time we’ve run up against any problem that wasn’t in some way connected with shoes. Foreign policy? Diplomats all wear shoes. Terrorism? Those guys wear shoes just like us. The unemployment? Shoes again, on all those unemployed feet. Don’t you see?”
“Sir, I don’t-” an assistant felt they had to interrupt, but were in turn interrupted themselves by the Prime Minister, who put a hand over their mouth.
“Shh, I’m in flow. So, like, since all of these problems are so shoe-centric I thought – I mean, it just came to me – that if we removed that element the problems would be a lot easier to handle, you know? Not so insoluble. So I was thinking: we ban shoes. Roll some carpet out over the pavements to walking isn’t too harsh, but yeah – shoes banned. What do we think? Do we love it?”
The silence following his proclamation was like a sucking, lifeless void. No-one dared stir the air or utter what most-likely all of them were thinking at exactly the same time. Their vaunted leader had lost their mind, the pressures of responsibility fracturing his mind into a thousand slivers of madness. They’d seen it happen to the best of them, but they’d never thought it would happen to him.
One assistant finally plucked up the courage to speak, coughing gently and bringing all attention onto themselves.
“Uh, Sir. As much as we respect you and think you’re idea is an, uh, good one, we’re just not sure it’s feasible…”
This apparently was not something the Prime Minister considered important, given the dismissive noise he made with a flap of the hand.
“That’s what they always say! That’s the politics of ‘it’s too hard’ or ‘it can’t be done’! I am not having any more business with such politics! It’s held us back for too long! We need radical action! Radical ideas! Radical change! Shoes will be just the start. We’re turning this country around, just you watch – just you watch!”
And with that he leapt up, seizing their shoes in his arms and sprinting off as fast his legs could carry him. Bewildered and shocked, they couldn’t quite process what had happened in time to stop him from hurling the lot of them into the nearby canal, wherein which they sunk. Somehow.
“You’ll see! You’ll all see! We’re putting our best foot forward for a better future! And that foot HAS NOTHING ON IT!”
And with that he ran back to his Ministerial car, hauling the chauffeur out and driving back like a man possessed. For his was possessed. With shoeless, patriotic fervour.