The girl who loved red shoes

red shoes

A story for children and for those who love animals

b>By Mo Conlan

~ Red Shoes ~ is dedicated to my sister Margretta Marie Barclay and my grandchildren, Sydney and Ian

There was a little girl named Margretta Todd who loved the color red. The bedspread in the bedroom she shared with her sisters -- Loretta, Henrietta and Tootsie -- was red.

The ball she tossed with her brothers -- Horace, Morris and Boris -- was red.

Most of all, though, Margretta loved red shoes. She wore red play shoes, red boots when it rained, red clogs in the garden. She wore sturdy red work shoes when she helped out at the family's business, the Todd Family Zoo. Margretta even had a pair of shiny red patent shoes for dress-up.

Nanny Franny, who helped care for the Todd children, and who was a bit strict, did not approve.

"You are just spoiling her with all these red shoes. Margretta needs a pair of brown lace-ups for play and black patent for good," she told Mrs. Todd.

"Maybe a little spoiling won't hurt her. She is the the middle one," said Mrs. Todd.

Margretta was, in fact, the very middle child of seven -- three older, three younger.

Mrs. Todd was a zoologist who traveled around the world helping to save animals. Mr. Todd had designed the Todd Zoo especially for his wife.

“It’s brilliant. Thank you, my dear," Mrs Todd said on the day the zoo opened.

There were no cages at the Todd Zoo. Animals could run around and play as they wanted to. Visitors rode in glass-topped mini-buses to visit the animals.

Guests could get off the bus and meet some of the tamer animals, such as the llamas, rabbits and sheep. Even some snakes could be quite friendly.

Guests stayed inside the bus when they visited the lions and bears, of course. Some wild animals are quite wild.

Just like the Todd children themselves, animals at the zoo were given birthday parties, which kept the zoo staff pretty busy.

“I think we’ll just celebrate all the ferrets’ birthdays on April First,” said one tired zookeeper.”

Every so often, animals went on vacation to the lands where their relatives lived. The elephants visited Africa and Asia, and the Polar Bears went to the Arctic.

“I can’t wait to see the Serengeti Plains and Victoria Falls,” said an elephant named Marie to her mate Henry on the boat crossing to Africa.

Margretta and her brothers and sisters helped the zookeepers care for the animals. Margretta liked to blow up balloons for the zoo birthday parties and to put red candles on the cakes.

“There’s a nice red balloon for you,” she said to Tony the Penguin on his birthday. Tony made an “erk, erk” sound and clapped his flippers.

Margretta knew Tony meant “Thank you.” Over time, the Todd children came to understand what the animals were saying – even though, of course, it was not human language.

“You are welcome,” she told Tony.

Visitors came from all around the world to the Todd Zoo. And that brought fame and honor to their small country. So, Queen Nadine, the ruler of the land, decided to present the “Quite Spectacular Service to Man and Beast Medal” to the Todd family.

The family was thrilled at this news, but also in a dither (which means a bit confused from all the excitement). There was a lot to do to get ready to meet the queen.

Nanny Franny took the children to a store in town where she bought each girl a fancy white dress with white satin sash, and white patent shoes.

“Can’t I have red shoes?” asked Margretta, who had outgrown her red patents.

“No. You may not. And that is my last word,” said Nanny Franny.

Nanny Franny bought the boys each a new blue suit and blue-and-gold striped tie. She smiled to see how nice they all looked in their new clothes.

“You will certainly do the Todd family and me proud,” she said.

“Red Shoes would look better,” Margretta said to nobody in particular; because, in a large family, unless you speak up pretty loudly, it’s sometimes hard to be heard at all, especially if you are not the oldest or youngest, but in the middle -- the exact middle of seven children.

The night before the family was to receive the medal at the royal palace, there was much to be done. Nanny ironed the dresses and the boys’ shirts. The children laid out their new clothes for the morning. The girls washed their hair and tried out new hairdos and stayed up later than they should talking and giggling.

Finally, though, everyone went to sleep. Everyone but Margretta, that is. She crept out of bed and over to where her new dress with its white satin sash hung, the new shoes beneath. The white shoes looked so very plain. She tucked them under her arm, crept out of the bedroom and down the hall to the playroom.

Margretta set the shoes on the table, got out her box of paints and began to paint the white shoes red. She let one coat of red paint dry, then went over the shoes a second time to even out the color. When she was done, she had perfectly beautiful red shoes. She smiled.

When she was sure the shoes were dry, she crept back into the girls’ bedroom, put the shoes beneath her new dress and went back to bed.

The next morning, the Todd household was in an even bigger dither as they rushed to get dressed in their new clothes and be ready to be presented to the queen.

Margretta dressed quickly and helped the younger children. They all lined up to get into a mini-bus when Nanny Franny and Mrs. Todd shrieked, nearly at the same time, “Margretta, what happened to your shoes!”

“I painted them red,” she said.

Nanny Franny, who almost never cried, looked like she was about to. “Margretta!,” she cried, “how could you!”

The other children in the family began to point and laugh.

“Oh my dear! Oh, my dear! I don’t know what to do,” said Mrs. Todd.

“There’s nothing to be done about it now,” said Mr. Todd. “We must leave or be late for the queen.”

They piled into the mini-bus and headed off for the palace. Margretta felt a bit sorry that her mother and Nanny Franny were so upset. But she still thought her red shoes looked pretty.

At the palace, the Todd family was escorted up a grand stairway into the royal ballroom where Queen Nadine was to present the “Quite Spectacular Service to Humans and Beast Medal.”

“Stand near the back and hide those ugly shoes,” scolded Margretta’s older sister Loretta. But Margretta didn’t want to stand in back. She wanted to be up front with a good view of Queen Nadine. So, she squeezed her way into the front.

The queen was very beautiful, with long silvery hair. She wore a gold crown and a long gown of many shiny colors. She sat on a silver throne.

“With much gratitude, on behalf of all the residents and of all the animals in our fair land, I now confer upon the members of the Todd Family, this royal medal,” the queen said. As she turned to take the box holding the medal from a footman, the hem of the queen’s gown flipped up and, beneath it, Margretta saw something that made her laugh. Queen Nadine was wearing shiny red shoes. Then, Margretta saw the queen was looking right at Margretta's own red shoes. Quickly, before anybody but Margretta could notice, Queen Nadine winked.

Mr. and Mrs. Todd stepped forward and accepted the medal from the queen and everyone in the room cheered.

Afterward, there was a party with cake and punch, music and dancing. And soon, all the shoes in the room were flying around in time to the music– white shoes and brown and black ones, but none more happily than Margretta’s red shoes.

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