From upstairs the shoemaker started snoring gently, the snores acting like a factory hooter, telling the elves that it was time for work. Using grappling irons and ropes they scaled the legs of the workbench and looked around to see what they would have to do that night. Walkin approached a blueprint and sighed.
“We’re going to need the scaffolding again,” he said. “Have a look at this.”
They all turned quizzically to Meglan. She wore the same footwear as the rest of them, soft Aladdin’s Lamp-shaped boots, but was regarded as the expert on shoe fashion simply because she was the girl.
“Look,” she said, “I’m tired of telling you, I don’t know why human women do that to their feet. It makes as much sense as wearing mousetraps as gloves.”
When the elves had started helping the shoemaker things had been simpler. There were just leather shoes, in the same number of designs as the colour options of the Model-T Ford. Even the twelve princesses had simply worn out a set of ballet pumps each night, and fixing them had been a doddle, they’re merely the foot equivalent of a sleeping bag.
Then Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother had commissioned a pair of glass slippers. The shoemaker had gone to bed early with a migraine, but the elves were made of sterner stuff. Nutwin had set to work with a glass-blower, feeling as sick afterwards as a man who’d just blown up two-hundred balloons for his child’s birthday, and the others had then moulded the glass with their bare hands, the song Unchained Melody for some reason playing in all of their heads while they did it. They succeeded, but had unintentionally helped found shoe fashion.
Sling-backs, peep-toes, Jimmy Choos all appeared on the workbench, crafted by the elves using topiary shears. The Croc had been a challenge, which they had solved by turning an elf rowing-boat upside down and drilling holes in it. The invention of golf had let to the spiked shoe, for which Alfelf had had to climb inside the shoe with a spike the size of a javelin and then hurl it through the sole.
Exhaustion had led to some disasters. They had painted the Nike swoosh onto an entire batch of Adidas trainers. Working off a photograph of a middle-aged man on a hot day they had built sandals with socks already sown into them. They had left the back off one set of slippers, thus inventing the mule, which shot off like a missile if you walked too quickly.
Timmikin had fallen into a Wellington Boot one night while the others were on their tea-break, and it was only by interpreting the barking of their pet dog that they had found out where he was.
Now Meglan and Walkin set to work on the latest feat of feet architecture, while the others worked on other contracts. Just before daybreak a yell of horror came from the back of the workshop. They all looked around. Legolas (he had been conceived in the back row at the film, but had obstinately turned out not to look like Orlando Bloom) had been working on a pair of football boots, and in his tiredness had painted one red and one yellow.
“My whole night’s work’s been wasted,” he wailed.
“Perhaps not,” said Alfelf. “If we can get some famous footballer to wear them, I bet they’d catch on.”
The shoemaker, when he woke, was a bit astonished to find the boots on his workbench, along with a signed contract from Cristiano Ronaldo. He had long accepted that he worked in his sleep, but he didn’t realise that he went out selling as well.
He looked at the sum on the contract and nearly breathed his last, almost falling onto his last.
He was a millionaire.
“I can close the shop!” he said aloud. “I can emigrate to somewhere warmer.”
“What will we do when he goes?” asked Legolas.
“We’re going with him,” said Alfelf. “We deserve to retire too.”
“What, never work again?” said Walkin, who loved his job.
Alfelf sighed. “If you feel you miss it you can make his breakfast while he’s asleep.”
“What will we do there?” asked Legolas.
“Go to nightclubs,” said Nutwin.
“Go hill-walking,” said Alfelf.
“Go rock-climbing,” said Timmikin, to the horror of their dog.
“Walk along golden sandy beaches,” said Meglan.
Legolas looked down at his feet.
“We’re going to need lots of different shoes,” he said.