The following is a selection from the final news articles of a local press, the Oakland Gazette:
A New Shop on the Block: by Margery Bayers
January 5, 1962- It was reported that early last week a new cobbler shop was added to the streets of Oakland, on the corner of Main and 5th. The prospective new store was opened by a Mr. Henry Bailey. In an exclusive interview, Bailey told the Gazette a little of his reasoning, “My daddy always had a dream of openin’ a cobbler shop. He would say that the smell of leather and shinin’ oil always reminded him of his own daddy. So, after he passed, I got it in my head that I was gonna fulfill his dream. And, the way I see it, I’m just fillin’ a need of the town as well.”
Many are inspired by the owner’s words and wish him much luck along his journey.
A Hole: by John Williams
March 7, 1972- Yesterday, at approximately 5:50 p.m., young Danny Baker has said to have made an amazing discovery. He reports running across a hole at the edge of town that apparently looks through to the other side of the Earth. According to Danny, the entire town of Oakland is floating on a twenty foot wide sheet of land in the sky. Scientists find that unlikely, however, because, from all our teachings, it is known that the Earth is not flat but, rather, round. What is not debatable, though, is that this hole is an amazing phenomenon stumping people around the globe. The site has been sectioned off by the Oakland sheriff, and the town mayor says that you yourself, can now get a close-up look for the small fee of five dollars.
Annual Service Award: by Margery Bayers
July 17, 1977- The Oakland Committee appeared pleased yesterday when presenting this year’s Annual Service Award to Bailey Shoe Repair. For the fifteen years they have been in business, the owner, Henry Bailey, has made it his duty to guarantee that anyone who brings a pair of shoes into his shop, picks them up feeling as if they were new again. The town feels that he has fully earned this honorable award, and hope for the continuation of his excellent services.
A Surprising Discovery: by John Williams
September 21, 1980- Last night, while closing up the local tourist attraction, The Spy-Hole to the Other Side of the Earth, Oakland Sheriff, Jim Evans, made a possibly troubling discovery. The hole, so cleverly named, has now spread, reaching out from under the cautionary tape boundary. It has also spawned a crack approximately twenty-three feet long. Geologists, even now, are surveying the land and making sure all is safe. They say to rest easily because the matter will soon be cleared up.
Sorrowful News: by Gregory Thatcher
July 18, 1987- The people of Oakland are devastated to share that last night at 10:02 p.m., after receiving his tenth consecutive Annual Service Award, local celebrity and valued member of the community, Henry Bailey, founder of Bailey Shoe Repair, passed away at the age of 72. The close relatives tell the paper that the death was completely unexpected, but doctors report it was definitely of natural causes. This news comes as a huge blow to all of those who knew Henry. He was described as an extremely kind man who always tried his best to do what was right. As to his most valuable asset, his cobbler shop, the family say it will be passed directly to his eldest son, Richard Bailey, who says he will do all he can to continue his father’s legacy.
A More Pronounced Border: by Samuel Williams
June 11, 1990- As most everyone has noticed, the crack that began at the site of the Spy-hole to the Other Side of the Earth, SOSE, has now stretched as far as to surround the town, despite Oakland’s numerous efforts to remedy the issue. What started as a fascinating phenomenon has become a devastating natural disaster. The SOSE itself has widened to around the area of an Olympic Size swimming pool. Officials are saying that this problem, if not immediately stopped, could exacerbate into an irreversible peril and are warning to remain away from the site of the SOSE and crack at all times.
Eventual Return to Greatness: by Gregory Thatcher
December 21, 2030- It’s been ten years since Richard Bailey, after his utter failure of running Bailey Shoe Repair, passed the management to his younger brother, Matthew, and now Oakland is confident that the cobbler shop has finally returned to its original level of quality. This is what, local, Millie Fletcher had to say on the subject, “After the old Mr. Bailey passed and Lil’ Richie took over, I was scared that the place would never be the same. He just didn’t quite get how stuff was ‘spose to go. You know? Well, now, Mattie is a different story. He always did have that flare. He just knew how business works. You know?”
The town does know, now, that Matthew Bailey is the man for the job.
Falling Farms: by Samuel Williams
May 28, 2050- The problem of the SOSE has been spreading more and more quickly for years now, but yesterday the true state of emergency was revealed. At approximately 4:42 p.m., a massive section of land from across the ever widening divide at the border fell, all at once.
“It was all there one second, and then, next thing we knew, we was all floatin’ on an island in nowhere abyss,” said Ernie Simms, a civilian nearby the event.
Because of the urgency of the matter and damage to property, many local businesses are now closing, including the major tobacco farm run by Mark Minutes. What comes next, scientists don’t know, but people are investigating, even now, and we, as a town, will be prepared.
The Abyss: by Oakland Gazette Staff
November 28, 2055- Today, we write with solemn mood to say that this will be the final issue of the Oakland Gazette. Experts have finally assessed that, on December 28th, 2055, all remaining land will fall into the Abyss. There is no solution in sight, and we urge all of our readers to settle any outstanding matters as quickly as possible.
You have thirty days left.
11/30/55: 28 Days Until the Abyss
The piercing sound of my red, rusted twin bell alarm cut through the black peace of the early hours. After several tries, I succeeded in shutting off the tone. Even after the shock, I didn’t feel much like standing up. Nonetheless, I struggled out of bed. School still starts everyday at 7:00. The doors used to open at 8:00, but I suppose the instructors want to cram as much knowledge into our heads as possible in the short time we have left.
I heaved up my backpack from below the calendar on my wall, the date 12/28/55 circled numerously in bright red ink. Making my way down the worn staircase and out the glass front door, I glanced back over my shoulder at the shop. Grandpa had just finished opening up and was shuffling back to behind the counter, where an old woman leaned her elbows on the cracked marble. She was a stark contrast to the man, who had blotchy, sagging skin with clothes and a cap similar to the faded leather shoes he was currently working on. She had a face caked in layer upon layer of pale foundation, cheeks splattered with a deep red the color of a poppy, crimson lips, and eyes buried deep in a sea of orange and yellow eye-shadow. Her five-inch nails were painted the red-brown color of a wilted rose. With her sequinned dress and hair thick with hairspray, she looked completely extravagant and utterly out of place next to the rows of battered boxes and soles.
Margaret waved, smiling a sly smile, and said in a thick accent that changed each time you saw her, “Have a marvelous day, Henry,” as I turned and walked out backpack in hand.
At school, the teachers all spoke rapidly about novels and theorems and other useless topics (in my opinion), and, sometime around lunch, a boy, whose name I forget or, rather, don’t care enough to recall, started speaking to the people surrounding me.
“Yeah. At first, when my pa said he was gonna shut down the farm, I was real sad, ’cause, you know, that place is my home, but, when I thought about it, I realized, what’s the point in keepin’ it open?”
The others were all nodding fervently in agreement, when a girl turned to me and asked, “Henry, is it true your grandpa is keeping his shop open?” When I made a motion of assent, she continued, “Why? Doesn’t he know people won’t need shoes when there isn’t even any ground to walk on?” The bystanders all laughed in unison, muttering modifications of “idiot” and “useless”. For my part, I gave a derisive snort and picked up my tray to move elsewhere, but, truthfully, I agreed. I felt his time was wasted with this shoe business. I felt we should be doing great things with our time left, but no matter. What could I do?
I plodded through the rest of the hours and, at home, in my bedroom, I deliberately marked another day off my calendar.
12/1/55: 27 Days Until the Abyss
When my alarm went off today at seven, I was already awake and had been for several hours. One finds it difficult to rest easily when they know there’s a countdown clock to their own demise. I sat up mechanically, still dressed in the slightly ruffled outfit from yesterday, and moved to pick my backpack up, only to find it missing. After a moment, I slightly recalled leaving it at the lunch table filled with snickering children. With a sigh, a grunt, and a promise to retrieve it later, I shuffled out of the room, down the creaky stairs, through the door, and along the dilapidated path to school without bothering to check if Grandpa, in all of his scruffy glory, had woken up.
Thirty minutes and countless monotonous steps later, the school doorway jumped out at me and, after smashing into it, I realized that, in the time we students had been away, the windows had all been boarded and a notice pinned to the door reading, “DUE TO UNFORTUNATE CIRCUMSTANCES, THIS ESTABLISHMENT HAS BEEN CLOSED INDEFINITELY.”
Unsurprised, I turned away to trudge my way back down the broken up streets to Grandpa’s store, but after only twenty feet I found myself taking a different route, one I had never taken before. It was to the edge of the world, and, when I got there, I was struck by how simultaneously insignificant and spectacular it was. The trees grew, the birds sang, the sun shone, the clouds floated by in front of me, and there was a Robin’s egg tumbling into the endless chasm below. Perhaps, on the way down, it would hatch and grow up eating flying worms, until finally gathering the strength to flap its way back up, only to find we had all joined it in its game of falling. It was easy to forget about the Abyss, but here it was staring me in the face. Whether I was ready or not, it was there. I stood solemnly for another ten minutes before turning and heading back towards the shop, this time I made it.
That evening at dinner, Grandpa and I were stationed across from each other in an awkward stand-off. The only things between us were a handcrafted mahogany table that hadn’t fared well over the years, a wooden bowl of strange green mashed potatoes that reminded me of bleached grass, and the eerie, dim lighting provided by the single, unadorned lightbulb that hung above our heads in an interrogating manner. I looked down and scooted my monstrous potatoes around. Grandpa broke the silence.
“Millie Fletcher came in earlier. She dropped off a pair of old loafers. They were quite nice, but poor old Millie’s probably forgotten she even went out this morning. Silly old bat she is.”
“School closed today,” I looked up to see his care worn face, with lines like a map, green irises pointed at me.
“Oh, Henry. I’m sorry,” he said kindly. I paused for a moment, considering, considering the notice, the Robin’s egg, all of Grandpa’s shoes.
I looked into his eyes like I looked into the Abyss and asked, “Why?”
12/3/55: 25 Days Until the Abyss
It was evening and I had an idea and Margaret was downstairs with a jazzy, old sounding song, probably from her show biz days.
Things to do before 12/28/55
1. Spend more time with Grandpa
You make me feel so young
You make me feel so spring has sprung
2. Keep a journal
And every time I see you grin
I’m such a happy individual
3. Finish reading one of the many books I’ve started
The moment that you speak
I wanna go play hide and seek
4. Learn to skip rocks
I wanna go and bounce the moon
Just like a toy balloon
5. Learn to fly a kite
You and I are just like a couple of tots
Running across the meadow
6. Make a friend I can count on
Picking up lots of forget-me-nots
7. Write a story to inspire people
You make me feel so young
You make me feel there are songs to be sung
8. Remember to have a meaningful conversation with Grandpa and Margaret
Bells to be rung and a wonderful fling to be flung
9. Look at the stars and really see them
And even when I’m old and gray
I’m gonna feel the way I do today
10. Stay optimistic
’cause you make me feel so young
12/20/55: 7 Days Until the Abyss
A ringing broke through my rest. Bewildered, I looked around. My alarm had been off for days. I didn’t bother waking up early anymore. Just then, I heard the sound stop and a melodic shuffling commence. He was still manning this run-down heap of leather, thin walls, creaky floors, and out-of-date, moth-bitten furniture, no matter how impractical. I looked around my dark bedroom and the sight of my crumpled up bucket list lying in a dusty corner met my newly adjusted eyes. I sighed and got up, choosing to venture downstairs. At the top of the steps, I paused, making a decision. I snuck quietly down to the edge of the banister and sat softly on the antique-looking wood, peering around into the shop. I was in time to see Grandpa flip the door sign from closed to open. He disappeared from view, but I imagined I could still see dust in the air from his footsteps and shabby coat. Looking back through the glass of the door, I saw a fur-lined menace was reaching for the handle. Moments later, Margaret stepped clearly into view, adorned with her most flamboyant articles yet. She moved elegantly to the back of the shop, and, I assumed, took a seat on the counter.
“Do you remember, Mattie, when we were all kids meeting up here after school?”
“Yes, yes I do.”
“And do you remember watching your father work on the shoes? You used to always talk to me about how amazing and fantastic he was.” Grandpa grunted in response.
“Mattie, I will always be glad you kept this place the same. It’s like nothing has changed. A perfect snapshot from my memories. Small miracles, I suppose ay.”
I snuck back to my room after that, feeling strangely invasive. I only came out again for dinner, odd, creamy soup with mushrooms or possibly carrots floating in the murk.
“I got three customers today, Henry! Three! Amazing, simply amazing,” I hadn’t realized Grandpa had started speaking, “One pair of slippers, one pair of running shoes, good brand, too. One person brought in a whole bag. Some dress shoes, what looked like a pair of little girls’ flats, and even a pair of…” I stood up suddenly, sending my spoon clattering to the table and the bowl to the floor. Soup was everywhere, like a blanket of fresh, squishy snow.
“Why, Grandpa, why? Why bother fixing all these shoes? Don’t you realize nobody will need shoes when there isn’t even any ground to walk on? It’s idiotic! It’s useless!” I stood looking down at him, expecting some type of response, and, finally, he started laughing, tears of mirth streaming from beneath his eyelids. With a particularly hearty chuckle, I sat back down on the hard chair, forehead rested on the rough, scratched edge of the table, watching as the mushroom/carrot soup seeped into my socks. I only realized that Grandpa had stopped laughing when I felt his hand on my shoulder, and looked up to see pity beneath his wet eyes. I spun away and up the stairs to my room leaving a trail of cream in my wake.
After slamming the door, I seized the idiotic and useless 12/28/55 countdown calendar and sent it flying across the room in a flapping arc. It landed next to the bucket list in my dusty corner of guilt.
12/27/55: 1 Day Until the Abyss
I set the metal sign with a click against the glass door, “open” side out, and walked behind the counter to stand with the old cash register and customer book. Grandpa was behind me immersed with one of the many shoes in the shop’s storage. I heard the bell tinkle softly, signaling the entry of a visitor. In came Margaret, laden with what could only be described as bejeweled monstrosities. I regarded them with incredulity. They were lollipop red stilettos with multicolor bows and bells tied to the heels. She smiled and set them on the stone in front of me with a jingle and said, “Heel’s loose, darling.” Stifling a laugh, I picked them up and assessed the damage, making a few notes in the customer book. Finally, I produced a pink slip and scrawled a date onto it.
Placing the paper into her long-fingered grip, I said, “Thank you so much for coming in. Your shoes will be ready to pick up January 1st, 2056.”