The storyteller has shoes that are very specific sort of worn.
They have little grey patches in strange places. On the edges and flat parts. They aren’t the parts that touch the world usually. They are the parts where artists are taught to shade in to show shadow. I try to imagine how the world touched him to make those marks — they are so uniform, so perfect. They’re not the kind of marks that come from a scratch or a slip or any of the other pieces of individual crookedness that we show every day in the way we walk, sit, stand, or turn around.
These shoes are the sort you stumble across in a second-hand store. The sort of shoes that have only been worn once, or never at all. You pick them up and think “these could just work, I might just be able to wear them”. Then put them back in the bin and walk on.
I imagine the shadows might come from neglect — from being rubbed back and forth against other shoes in various bins and displays. Rinse repeat rinse repeat.
That could be them. His shoes could be salvaged from a vintage shop or a second hand bargain bin somewhere.
Or they could be worn like this from nothing. They could be chapped from walks from public transport or cars to a desk. Then they sit wet and patient, scratch the back of a calf. Stroll to the toilet. Stroll to get coffee.
A few years ago I bought a bracelet that tracked my steps. Told me how many I took every day. At first it was 10,000 a day, 15,000 a day.
During this time depression found me. I walked less, went out less, lived less in general. One day I looked up and my bracelet told me I had taken less than 500 steps that day.
That might be the way his shoes are worn as well. They could be the sign of quiet feet walking careful steps, but not too many. The heels are as proud and square as the day they were made.
This could be it as well. There is nothing else about him that shows the daily violence that might inflict a different kind of wear and tear.
I look at my shoes.
Black boots covered in scuff marks and mistreatment. There is a piece of a leaf stuck in one of the cracks that lacerate both toes. I am not active, but I move through this world violently. I always have.
His do not have that. The rest of him is soft and well cared for as well. His body is curved in places, his nails are even, from here I see no callouses.
But he holds himself like a troubadour or the ringmaster of a circus. His soft fists sit on his hips, he swirls a pretend sword about his head. His beard is wild and unkept in places like the mane of a scraggly lion.
But scraggly lions are still lions. Tonight he is a lion and he holds us in awe as he speaks in roars, huffs, and slow rumbling laughs.
He draws the tension. We feel the stories he has brought to us lovingly.
He is fierce, they are fierce, he is soft and gentle, they lull us.
By the end of his story about stories little fragments are tumbling out and we are laughing.
He is a canny and tricky lion. He is as smart as the woman from the story, as fearful and ferocious as her husband, as old and magnificent as the living mountain and as mysterious as the fey.
Above those worn shoes he creates a world and invites us in.
Laughing we go following this lion in worn and quiet shoes.