The Ugly Elves and the Shoemaker
By Luke Salazar

Once there was a poor old shoemaker with an independent store in a strip mall. When Wal-Mart and Payless moved in, he became even poorer. “After Christmas,” he thought, “I’ll shut down this shop and retire. Too bad there’s no Social Security left, and Medicare has been stripped clean by Armenian fraud rings… Well, I can always mooch off of my son and his family.”

In a cave beneath the strip mall lived a group of Ugly Elves. They were still short and plump like all the other ones, but had deformed and twisted faces that made them the laughing stock of all the Elfdom Underground. You know the difference between, say, Brad Pitt, and the lady who had her face ripped off by a chimp and had to have it stitched back on? The difference between the Ugly Elves and the others was that vast. The dozen or so of them led a lonely life, but they at least had each other. And like most social rejects, time that would have normally gone into parties and dating and other fun activities was instead funneled into their favorite obsession – shoemaking. Just as the pale, skinny outcast in high school picks up a guitar and eventually becomes the next Thom Yorke, the elves had honed their talent into mastery. They tried time and time again to impress the other elves with gifts of the finest shoes in the world, but their faces were so horrifying the other elves refused their offerings and continued to laugh at them.

The ugly elves heard of the shoemaker’s plight. About a month before Christmas, they stole his key and made a copy at the locksmith’s kiosk while the lady was out getting a Cinnabon. The clever elves then used talcum powder on the alarm’s keypad at the shoe shop, to know what buttons the shoemaker would press, and the code was soon discovered. When the shoemaker left one night, the elves crept into the shop and cleared the shelves of all the cheap Vietnamese-made sneakers, the plastic flip-flops from Thailand, the cardboard huaraches made by Mexican 13-year old Chiclet vendors. They replaced them with hand-tooled leather loafers, springy basketball shoes with the latest air bag technology, elegant ladies’ slippers finished in the finest harp seal hide, trimmed with reindeer fur.

The shopkeeper was astonished when he opened the store the next day. Little by little, customers began to trickle in. Word of mouth about these remarkable shoes, and their relatively low prices, spread across town. Meanwhile, the elves raided neighborhood lawns and gathered a huge collection of the cheesiest Christmas lawn decorations they could find. They used these (and a creepily-clad animatronic Santa Claus), to create a bizarre but oddly compelling series of YouTube videos to advertise the shoe shop. Their grotesque faces only added to the videos’ appeal. When the videos went viral, the shoe shop was overwhelmed with patrons.

Meanwhile, the Payless store had to unexpectedly close for repairs when a fire broke out. The Arson Unit would later report that gasoline had been used to start the fire, but strangely, only the shelves 3’ high and less were doused with the stuff. The local midgets’ social club was raided, but they all had airtight alibis for that night. Then, a truckload of shoes en route to the local Wal-Mart failed to arrive. The driver was found the next day in the restroom of a local Arby’s, hands and feet bound with curling ribbon and a bow plastered to his head.

As Christmas Eve drew near, more and more shoes would appear on the shoemaker’s shelves. More and more customers bought them. The shoemaker tried leaving a hidden video camera, but came back in the morning to find its memory card erased and a candy cane left by its side. He decided then to not ask questions. Instead, he was simply grateful for the blessings he’d received. He donated dozens of pairs of shoes to local orphanages, thanked God in his prayers every night, agreed to put one up one of those cardboard things with Ziggy on it that you stick quarters into for whatever charity it’s for.

The day before Christmas Eve, the shoemaker kept the shop open until midnight. The sales that day were ten times any other day, and when he locked up for the night, the shoemaker knew right then that he’d earned enough money in that single month to retire to Bali and live happily ever after.

EPILOGUE — Being a good Christian, the shopkeeper closed his business all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. He returned the next morning to find an empty safe and all his earnings gone. The elves nabbed enough to score plastic surgery for all dozen of them, and they were immediately accepted by all the other elves. They left their cobbling tools behind, and entered the world of the beautiful people, and a joyous future full of friends, spiked eggnog, and elf orgies.

Meanwhile, the shopkeeper managed to use his register tapes to bilk his insurance company out of tens of thousands of dollars. Although he could no longer afford Bali, he instead retired to Ensenada where he would live the rest of life immersed in tequila, lobsters, and inexpensive Mexican prostitutes. Happily ever after, of course.

The only one that didn’t live happily ever after was the truck driver from the Wal-Mart. He developed an unhealthy obsession with bondage and Christmas, that eventually led to his self-asphyxiation at a Macy’s gift-wrapping station. But he was pretty damn happy up until then, and later told Saint Peter at the pearly gates, “If I had to do it all over, the only thing I’d change would be the color of the ribbon. Black would have been far more appropriate.”

The moral of this story? There is none. Reader, rest assured that one was intended (“Don’t make fun of ugly elves”) but was soon lost in the writing process. Another one quickly took its place (“If it looks too good to be true, it probably is”) but that was destroyed in the Epilogue when an unpredicted burst of holiday cheer infected the author. And on that note…

HAPPY HOLIDAYS, EVERYONE !!

 

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