Tommy wasn’t such a bad guy… just unlucky. A month ago eight cops had arrived at his apartment before midnight and busted him for a small bag of weed. Now he was waiting to be deported. We began spending time together.

Tommy was a big guy; a hundred and thirty kilograms plus. His feet were enormous and his wiry hair jutted towards the skyline like the plume of an exotic vulture. He wore cheap muscle tops with a crucifix dangling amongst sweaty-chest-hairs and a bad kimono and kung fu slippers when he answered the door. He wasn’t too shabby on the football field for a man with a belly that hung over his belt. I’d seen him in a cloud of dust going after a fellow, and strange as it was, he carried himself with a peculiar sense of dignity. Not that Tommy was perfect. He pretended to be educated then conducted himself like a hooligan. I remember him telling me a story about the time he smashed the glass case near the elevator in our apartment, stole the fire extinguisher, and took it up on the roof. It was no wonder he got arrested—in fact it should have been sooner. But we all felt sorry for Tommy for getting busted with a small bag of weed. Of course that didn’t stop me from stealing his shoes.

I realized I could get away with it when I saw him pressed against the bars of his holding cell. There was a funny smell about the place as if someone had spilt yogurt on the carpet. Tommy just stood there in his old jeans, running his fingers through his hair.

“I can’t believeeeee this!” he said, banging his palms against the bars. “This is like something out of a movie! I was just sitting in my room thinking about rolling another one when I heard a knock, looked through the peep-hole and saw the night manager standing there. I opened the door for the prick and the next thing I knew eight cops were turning the place over. At first they couldn’t find anything and I thought maybe I’ll get away with it. Then after twenty minutes of searching they found it in one of my shirt pockets and made me pose for a photograph with it.”

“Who do you think ratted on you?” I asked, looking down at Tommy’s feet.

“Oh man! I’ve got no idea… could have been anybody.”


The first time I saw Tommy Scan’s shoes, I was sitting at a café opposite the market, staring out at the hum—numb and self absorbed.

“Hey, Simon! How you doing?” he said, vulture’s plume shadowing the sun.

“Hey Tommy, take a chair.”

“You’re not going to believe this. My girlfriend just called me on her mobile, crying and babbling and said she might have hit a beggar on the motorway.”

“What? You mean… as in… ran him over?”

“Yeh, maybe. She said that she was taking off from a tollbooth when she heard a clunk. When she looked in the rearview she said she saw a guy lying face down in the middle of the road.”

“Shit!” I said making a play for my salad. “That’s heavy! What did she do?”

“She called me as soon as it happened and I just told her to keep driving. Fuck it! She hasn’t got any insurance and she might have just imagined the whole thing. She’s been on some pretty heavy drugs since the miscarriage. This is exactly the kind of shit we don’t need!”

“Man, that’s some bad darts,” I said, contemplating whether Tommy and his girl were complete scum.

“Ah, fuck it,” said Tommy. “It’s just one less tramp.”

From that moment forth, I decided Tommy Scan would forfeit his shoes.

Now let’s get this straight. These weren’t any old shoes; bad loafers or goofy sneakers; these were special. In the twelfth century, not long after the crusades, European gents and quazzie-dandies began wearing long-nosed shoes with tight snouts made of silk, velvet or soft leather which were known as crackaws or poulaines. Forbidden to commoners; crackaws or poulaines, sported toes as long as 24 inches which were shaped by whale-bones or horse jaws, then padded with tightly compressed cotton and occasionally chained to the knees.

I knew my shoes, and I knew Tommy was playing for real; 1960’s winkle pickers, soft lemon suede accompanied by a brown cloth nose. They wouldn’t have lasted a day in The Good Samaritans or a trendy secondhand store. They’d have been snapped up by a collector and put on ice, vacuumed, boxed, displayed… who knows, maybe even flirted with by a wealthy socialite. But for God’s sake, not Tommy Scan!

The next day around one in the afternoon I waltzed down to the eighth floor, opened the window near the stairs and fire hydrants, crawled out across the old corroded beams that hung from the side of the building, pulled myself down onto Tommy’s Balcony, lit up a cigarette and enjoyed the view.

“Poor fool,” I muttered, ghosting my way through his open balcony door. “C’mon Scanny where ya hiding your boots?”

They were crushed up against a bookcase, discarded and naked; condomaic-sock crushed against laces; accordion cotton and stained brown.

“You fucking animal!” I shouted, slamming my fist against Tommy Scan’s wall.

I shall treat you with kindness. I shall treat you with care. With Simon you will be adored. With Simon you shall rekindle your elegance and dance in fretted air.

I put them in a little cloth bag, pulled the string shut like the sphincter of a moody Siamese then slid back over the railing, grasped the window and swung myself down towards the stairs.

“Too easy!” I said, scratching my nose and brushing my hair with a pocket comb.

I raced up the stairwell, talcum-powdered till I was gaunt, slid inside my best socks and slipped on my new shoes. Oh my lord! I dinosaured towards the doorway and swiveled on the heel, scissored the snout like barracuda-jaws, picked up my motorbike keys and rode the elevator to the ground. The security guard looked as if he’d been given a half-finished jigsaw-puzzle, then disappeared in the rearview as I put the bike into third. I gazed down at the beautiful blooms that encased my metatarsals and penetrated the rushing air. Life was going to be good from now on—no more stumbling sentences and uncomfortable moments listening to Fergal Sharky with big headphones, staring out to sea. Life would swing this way and that; shield and shelter, indulge and ratify, take me to the brink of good times, slip me amongst the Saracens and porpoise-eaters, pull me up beside a beautiful feline and sprinkle rain across the skin of a lake; light leisure wear, picnic basket emerging from the bright orange cavern of a nineteen sixties Greta-Garbo Citroen.

I put my bike in forth and felt the palm trees close in, opened the throttle and watched the pineapple-sellers melt. Monkey Mountain seemed like a good place. I dropped back to second and roared up the hill, almost took out a banana-boy—giggled—jiggled my keys out—put the stand down—parked up under a ficus tree; bive hive spewing forth glee.

The Ferris Wheel was rusted and monkeys moved about. I skipped over a few rambutan skins, positioned a cigarette between my lips and septum, gummed like a goat and blew white fingers through my nose.

Tommy Scan, Tommy Scan.

I climbed the stairs and admired the foliage. A dragonfly bombed down; bright green abdomen and translucent wings. My calf muscles stung. I kept going till I reached the summit, let out a sigh and admired the clouds. The Tawny Coaster—ghost of the undergrowth—glided between the tentacles of honeydew. I sat on a bench and relished the motifs flecked across the edge of his wings. Up and down, up and down, they went. Things would be different from now on! I rose to my feet and began a jig. The sky was alive with dragonflies moving in all directions looking to get laid before they died. The rain sprinkled down and I realized it was time to go. I descended the stairs and got back on my motorbike, drove to the disco-strip and waited for the sun to fall.

Around eleven, the cool kids began arriving in American cars. I positioned myself on a stool by the door and crossed my legs so the brown cloth nose and the lemon suede began to sparkle. A few kids laughed but most of them were gob smacked as if a tropical spider had just lowered itself on a thread.

“Nice shoes!” said a kid, weighed down by cheap Taiwanese medallions and Gumby gold.

“Forget about it!” I said lurching to my feet; hand over shoulder orangutan-style.

“Shit ess’e!” he said, freckles tickling the end of his smoke-gorged tongue, “let’s get busy!”

He dragged me inside and ordered up a couple of tequilas. We bombed them down and ordered up a couple more. The lights went up and the DJ appeared. The idiot was wearing mauve eye shadow in the midst of prissy gothic bangs.

“Cyndi Lauper,” he said, trying to sound cool, brushing away his bangs.

“How many of you kids know about Michael Layron?” he asked, looking at the crowd, headphones lopsided and cockle-shelled above the ear. A cheer went up and I knew it was time to part the waves.

“How many of you cats know about Michael Layron?” he repeated as girls began to scream.

The bass drum kicked, accompanied by a breathtaking keyboard climb. I leapt into the air and kicked out like a cuttlefish. One of my shoes fired off and hit the ceiling. I spun around in midair and caught it on my shoulder, let it hang for a bit to build suspense, then hit the deck, slipped the shoe back on and came up punching.

I got down on my knees and air-guitared along with Maniac as if I had pebbles in my lap, jumped up and feigned an invisible Samurai sword. People were clapping, cheering, gazing in awe. The guitar cried like a wounded osprey. I walked back to the bar and high-fived my hombre in the cheap Taiwanese medallions, ordered another drink and sat down.

Then there he was… pushing open the door, a beast in a bad-cut shirt. Within seconds his eyes were upon me as he pushed his way towards the bar.

Tommy Scan, Tommy Scan.

I dropped down and snaked across the floor. I knew the layout of the club and within seconds I was back out on the street. Five minutes after I opened the door to my apartment, the phone rang.

“I know what you’re up to you piece of shit,” said the voice on the other end.

“What the fuck?”

“I know what you’re up to you piece of shit!”

“What are you talking about Tommy?” I asked, trying to sound offended and confused.

“Billy saw you coming down from Monkey Mountain you lame-ass queer! What the fuck makes you think you can steal my shoes?”

“What the fuck? What’s this shit about?” The phone went dead.

Jesus! I thought. We’ve crossed the line. There’ll be no going back now. I’ll have to carry a change of shoes in a lemonade bag in case I get wind of him.

I put the phone down and poured myself iced tea, lingered and loosened the hinges of my hatch.

Fuck him! Let him come! Let the fucker come!

I opened my cupboard and pulled out my knuckle dusters, slipped them on and slowly ran my fingers across the jaw. Around midnight I passed out on the sofa. I awoke to the sound of someone banging on the door.

“I know you’re in there you piece of shit!” shouted Tommy, drunken and wild.

I had to think fast. The balcony! Put the shoes back in the cloth bag and stuff them in the gap between the wall and the air-con.

“For Fuck’s sake Tommy, what’s this shit all about?” I asked—sleep-crusted eyelids—casually opening the door.

“Where are they?” he shouted, barging his way through.

“Where are what!?” I shouted, faking pissed-off and confused.

“My fucking shoes! Billy saw you!”

“Billy! That asshole’s as reliable as a turd on a hovercraft!”

“Yeh… right!” said Tommy, looming a hundred thirty kilos, head glistening with sweat; kimono and kung fu slippers, holding a half-drunk beer.

“This is a joke right?”

“No! This is no fucking joke! My dead grandfather gave me those shoes ! They’re the only thing that connects me to him and this world!”

“Shit, I’m sorry Tommy. Look, come in and search if you like but you won’t find anything. Billy’s full of shit!”

His eyes moved about the room like the hands of a tortured raccoon. Over went my piles of clothes in the corner. Open went my cupboard door. Up went the plaster-roof tiles in the bathroom. Nothing!

“You satisfied?” I shouted. “Turning my room over like a pig!”

Tommy stopped, looked at me as if he was going to hit me and then lumbered out of the room.

“Yeh… thanks a lot!” I shouted as he walked down the hall.

“You’ll keep.”

I closed the door and put on David Sylvain, lit up a cigarette and breathed out a nervous cloud.

Shit, this is serious.

I walked outside and retrieved the cloth bag.

7 AM and the alarm clock bit bad. I got up, farted, shit, scrubbed my balls and donned myself in business attire, opened the door and the sunshine poured fine.

They won’t know what hit them! I thought, gazing down at the soft folds in the lemon suede complemented by the cuffs of my well tailored vine. The security guard once again looked puzzled as if he’d almost figured out my riddle but couldn’t piece together the final slides. Then zing….. the motorbike was gone; briefcase in bread basket, weaving between cat’s eyes as I made my way up the road.

I think I saw him when I passed the convenience store. He was gaining in the rearview; flared nostrils and his bad kimono flapping in the breeze. I put it into fourth and the hill melted away, came roaring around the corner at Monkey Mountain where the Ferris wheel hung low, swung wide and sent the monkeys into the trees. Tommy was psychotic and screaming. He came up alongside me and there was no way I could hide the shoes. I slowed down and kicked out but a solitary fist hit me in the neck. The last thing I remember I was gliding off the road, tearing into the bushes, catapulted forward and slammed sideways into the trunk of a tree.

“I knew you stole them!” shouted Tommy, as he parking up his bike. He walked over and loosened the laces, tore them off my heels, spat on my pants and kicked me in the ribs.

“I ought to fuck you up for real!” he shouted, tattooing me with his eyes.

“Be cool Tommy, everybody gets a little crazy now and then.”

“Yeh right… you’re pathetic. You make me sick! My dead grandfather gave me these shoes!”

I didn’t see Tommy after that; I guess he got deported. People told me he started a software company just outside Torquay and married a Filipino girl. Since then I’ve smartened up my game somewhat and shall I say inherited a pair of 1950’s brothel creepers from a Dutch man who’s addicted to the devil’s weed and goes by the name of Clem. Two weeks and he doesn’t suspect a thing. The last time I saw him, he was walking around dazed in cheap flip-flops, ravaged by the rays of the sun.

Last night, they played Maniac again. A girl in purple sneakers came and said hello.