Greg: Thanks for coming. I know it must be difficult to take time away from your business.
Shoemaker: Ah business schmizeness. I could take a month off and it wouldn't matter a bit.
Greg: So, business is bad?
Shoemaker: Bad. Bad? Business is terrible. I haven't had one customer come in my shop in a week. They all go to the mall. Hey, how do you expect me to compete with Payless? Quality, no one cares about quality anymore. I tell you, it's almost enough to make me give up cobbling altogether.
Greg: That's too bad. No one comes in to have their shoes repaired or anything?
Shoemaker: Repaired? Hah! No one bothers. Why fix 'em when you can get new ones for $19.99? I'll tell you something, though. It wasn't always like this. Back in the old days, quality meant something. There was a time when my shoes were famous throughout the kingdom. People were falling over themselves to buy a pair of my shoes. The king himself was a regular customer.
Greg: Really? What happened?
Greg: Yes, I gathered that. Why did they stop?
Shoemaker: You really want to know? Okay, I'll tell you. But first, some background.
Greg: I'm familiar with the story.
Shoemaker: You do? Who told you? But anyway I love to tell this, and since I'm the interviewee, you have to indulge me. Well, it all started a long time ago. Times were bad--almost as bad as they are now. I had given the last pair of shoes in my inventory to a little old lady who had even less than me. She was such a nice old lady and she needed the shoes, but my wife didn't want me to give them to her because we had to pay the rent and get some food.
Anyway, I had just enough leather left for one more pair of shoes, so I laid it out that night so I could get started first thing in the morning. Well, in the morning, there was a pair of the snazziest shoes you ever did see sitting on my workbench.
I was very puzzled, and my wife started in on me right away. How come you were up working all night, she says. How come you never made such wonderful shoes before, she asks. I told her I wasn't up all night, and I could never hope to make shoes as nice as that, so get off my back already.
Well, just then some rich son of a gun comes in, sees the shoes, and pays a bucketload of money for them. So now I figure our troubles are over. The rent's paid up, I got food in the pantry, and I have enough left to buy some more shoe leather.
Greg: Yes, they all know. And people from miles around kept coming to buy the wonderful shoes that kept appearing every morning.
Shoemaker: Say, you do know this story. I was happy to let this go on forever, but my wife was curious. Stay up she says, see who's making the shoes. So I did, and who do you think was making the shoes?
Greg: Oh I don't know, elves?
Shoemaker: Bingo! Got it in one! Elves, elves were making the shoes. My wife and I were flabbergasted. We were grateful to the elves. I wanted to get them a card to say thanks, but my wife she says that's not enough. Give them a gift, she says. Like what I ask. Get them some clothes, she says.
So that's what I do. I get them some nice clothes--not cheap, either. Nice material, sturdy yet fashionable. Well, I lay out the clothes and go to bed. The next day the clothes are gone, and so are the elves. Things haven't been the same since.
Greg: I must say, that's too bad. Really hard luck. Any idea where they've gone?
Shoemaker: There's a rumor that they went to China. They're making shoes for Payless now. I really don't want to talk about it.
Greg: It's getting late, so I'll let you get back to the shop. You'll probably be wanting to get to bed.
Shoemaker: I haven't been able to get a good nights sleep since those elves left. Thanks to them, I've had to start working the night shift at the mall. Payless had an opening for a stock boy. What could I do? I took it.