Petrit Palushi is an Albanian writer, biographer, critic, broadcaster and scholar. He has published five novels. This fragment is taken from “Këpucët e Kaltrinës” (Kaltrina’s Shoes, 2013). Palushi is a prolific author of fiction and nonfiction who wrote many of books over the course of his career. As a biographer and essayist, he is known primarily for his books dedicated to Havzi Nela and Frederik Reshpja, booth writers known for their dissident attitudes.

Kaltrina’s Shoes

By Petrit Palushi 

(From the novel with the same title of the author)

In the beginning it seemed to be only a voiceless whisper but after some days it was conceived as a true story. Urim the fisherman, as they used to call him, who started the game, first, said “The heels brought up from the lake might be used to make new shoes”.
At midday he went to the shoemaker’s shop with a pair of heels and asked him to make a pair of new shoes with them for him.
“Shoes with this stuff?” exclaimed the shoemaker, looking at him in astonishment.
“Yes, they are hard heels” said Urim the fisherman.
The shoemaker looked at him again with confusion.
“Look, how beautiful they are!” added Urim admiringly.
“Let’s try” said the shoemaker “I have a strong shoe resin”.
“How much will they cost” Urim asked tentatively.
The shoemaker wondered a while.
“Half of the material is yours…”
He moved his head still thinking, gaining time to end his hesitation and said,
“Okay, half of the normal price”.
‘When can I come to pick them up?”
“Tomorrow morning”.
Urim the fisherman couldn’t stand the waiting and went again anxiously to the shoemaker at the end of the same day.
“You are lucky!” said the shoemaker, “They are ready – just a half an hour ago”.
“The material you brought can be hardly found anywhere else” he said and he showed him the new shoes.
Urim the fisherman took the shoes in his hands.
He was elated, his eyes cleared and were illuminated all at once. A ray of light lit up his face. He looked closer at the shoes, holding them at a distance, not believing his eyes.
After a while he said: ” I found the heels in the lake”
“In the lake?” asked the shoemaker in amazement.
“Yes, sure, in the lake’ replied Urim the fisherman with pride. “The lake is full of them”
“Why don’t you say that God gave you a hand?” said the shoemaker.
It started thus the odyssey of searching for heels on the shores of the lake but also on the surface. The fever of the search obsessed particularly the youngsters of the town and the suburbs as well. Of course the fishermen and particularly the young man, Urim, frequently filled up their boats with heels. He used to spend a lot of time sailing on the lake happily and on coming ashore dropped them messily in the fisherman’s hut. He spent a lot of time trying to fit them together. Then he returned again to check the fishing nets. He became thus the most popular heels gatherer of the town and became sought after by the local people as time passed by.

Dardan, a senior student told his school mates the next day that really good shoes could be made by the heels from the lake. He said that last night, when it was almost dark, he saw Urim the fisherman near the shoemaker’s shop, showing his new shoes made with the lake heels to the other fishermen.
“Shoes with lake heels?” asked Erenik wrinkling his face while the others were all eyes.
“Shoes with heels?” Valton said confusedly.
“Very good ones” replied Dardan.
He puffed himself up a little bit, posing as a haughty man.
“You can’t even compare them with our incumbent ones”.
Trying to clear up the vagueness of his story and to make them more curious, he added:
‘They are the same as we have seen in foreign movies!”.
The news spread quickly to the other high school students.
The mature students of the group A abandoned Marxist Philosophy and went straightway to the lake shores.  They didn’t need to cross the bridge to go to the other side of the town, not even to look that way, because the lake was just down by the civilian hospital.
The lake was blackened by the heels which ran over the water in gushes while the shore was full of college students who had arrived there earlier. The mature students of class A didn’t return to school even for the second class or for the third one either despite the custodian teacher sending another student to call them back. The mature students gathered heels pulled out of the lake on the shore and hastily tried to suit them to each other according to their shoes sizes.
Some of the other students did not go to the lake at all. They wandered in the streets of the town or went home, most of them not returning for the last classes of the day.
The three friends, Dardan, Etnik and Valton rushed to the lake in the afternoon with vague hopes to have the good luck of finding heels for themselves.
They searched and succeeded in gathering a considerable number of them, exchanging them with each other and trying to fit them zealously but with no luck.
It flashed in the mind of Erenik to count all the heels they found in order to relieve himself from anxiety. At last, after he counted them twice, but still not sure if he had miscounted, he shouted out that he had sixty two.
He saw that Dardan and Valton were not convinced about the accuracy of his count and he shouted out even louder this time raising his voice even further “Sixty two!”.
It seemed to Dardan that a voice of someone hard-of-hearing came to him through the vagueness.  “Sixty two?”.

His eyes got stuck on a glittering heel (small in size, brown, dark in colour, for a left handed shoe and for a female) branded ‘Made in Italy’. He walked ten steps away and looked at it again. His eyes cleared. The heel kept glittering. “I will spare it for Kaltrina!” he murmured and his eyes shone with sweetness.
When he realized that he required the matching heel for the right handed shoe he got a bad feeling (God forbid!) that he might not find it. His body shuddered at this thought and his face wrinkled. He trembled. He would do the best to make his dream come true and he started to believe that his goal was not far away.  All he had to do was to find the matching heel for the making of Kaltrina’s shoes. He cheered up thinking of his dream. The missing heel would be found soon.
But after a while, he frowned again and began to doubt. His delicate dream could fall down hopelessly like a leaf dropping to the ground, blown down by a stray breeze through the trees.

Translated by Kujtim Morina