Alfred Ants New Red Shoes (Alfreds Ant ics Book 1)
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Although he sees it at his domain, there are other things in the street to disturb his single mindedness.
A magpie family warbles in the tree above, the dog next door continues its barking, and then just when the children are about to come home, Pamela the pert Siamese cat appears. She has the sleek arrogant look of these animals, carefully grooming herself and walking as if a ballerina, in stark contrast to the antics of Rex a few pages before.
Children will chuckle out loud at the differences between the two, and thrill recognising the behavior of such singular cats. Craig Smith gives the reader a beautifully detailed suburb, with its gardens and array of fences, trees overhanging the footpaths, glimpses of different styles of houses in the background. Against this wonderfully lush backdrop he gives us Rex, the larger than life cat known by all the neighbourhood as he roams around his territory.
His illustrations show us the cat in all his glory, confident, a master of all he surveys, then brought down to earth by Pamela as he feels somewhat jealous. He did this all day every day, always feeling like he was catching up in order to get ahead. It was long and hard and tiring work. He had made huge sacrifices to get where he was. He loved his work, was totally and utterly professional and dedicated to every aspect of it.
To be pulled up on missing one meeting that had not yet been scheduled when he had taken the morning off, angered him. It also angered him that it was family that had caused this. If it was another meeting he had sacrificed it for, he would feel better about it, but he felt a sudden anger at his mother. It was her that he had collected from hospital after a hip replacement, the morning of the meeting. He felt angry at his wife for talking him into doing it when his suggestion to arrange a car to collect his mother had sent her into a rage.
He felt anger at his sister Marcia and his older brother Quentin for not doing it instead. He was a busy man, and the one time he chose family over work, he had to pay the price.
He hated hearing those words that he despised other colleagues using. Hated the excuses, their personal lives being brought into the office. To him, it was a lack of professionalism.
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She nodded up and down, wide-eyed, like one of those toys with a loose neck. His dear friend Alfred was up to his tricks. Tricks that Lou had assumed up until now that he was exempt from. Alfred could never get by a day doing things by the book. He looked at things from an awkward angle, came at conversations from an unusual perspective too; always trying to figure out the best way he could come out of any situation. The work-experience boy got confused by the missing thirteenth floor. We are on it!
What is with everyone today?
Why is a work-experience person handling the mail anyway? It only takes one person to get in the elevator and bring my bloody post up. How can they be short-staffed? All she knew of him was that he reminded her of the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, always seeming late, late, late for a very important date but managing to get to every appointment just in the nick of time. He was a kind man to everybody he met and was successful at his job. Plus he was handsome and charming and drove a Porsche, and those things she valued more than anything else.
Besides, everybody had a weak spot, and any man could be forgiven if their Achilles heel just happened to be her. She stepped back inside. You want to get Alfred a pair of shoes? Just casually enquire, I want to surprise him.
Black ankle boots, suede with water marks. I bought a pair of them last year. When they were in fashion. Lou sighed, collapsed into his oversized chair and held his fingers to the bridge of his nose, hoping to stop the migraine that loomed. Maybe he was coming down with something. Something about the young man demanded he stop and offer him his coffee. Unable to concentrate on his schedule, Lou once again turned to look out at the city below. Gigantic Christmas decorations adorned the quays and bridges; giant mistletoe and bells that swayed from one side to the other thanks to the festive magic of neon.
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The river Liffey was at full capacity and gushed by his window and out to Dublin Bay. The pavements were aflow with people charging to work, keeping in time with the currents, following the same direction as the tide. They pounded the pavement as they powerwalked by the gaunt copper figures dressed in rags, which had been constructed to commemorate those during the famine forced to walk these very quays to emigrate.
Instead of small parcels of belongings in their hands, the Irish people of this district now carried Starbucks coffee in one hand, briefcases in the other. Women walked to the office wearing trainers with their skirts, their high heels tucked away in their bags. A whole different destiny and endless opportunities awaiting them. The only thing that was static was Gabe, tucked away in a doorway, near the entrance, wrapped up on the ground and watching the shoes march by, the opportunities for him still not quite as equal as for those that trampled by.
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Gabe intrigued him. Not least because of his talent for recalling every pair of shoes that belonged in the building as though they were a maths timetable, but, more alarmingly, because the person behind those crystal-blue eyes was remarkably familiar. In fact, Gabe reminded Lou of himself. The two men were similar in age and, given the right grooming, Gabe could very easily have been mistaken for Lou. He seemed a personable, friendly, capable man. It could so easily be Lou sitting on the pavement outside, watching the world go by, yet how different their lives were.
Thirteen floors up and Lou felt like Gabe was staring straight at his soul, his eyes searing into him. This confused Lou. His involvement in the development of this building entitled him to the knowledge that, beyond any reasonable doubt, from the outside the glass was reflective. He could only have been looking at a reflection of some kind, Lou reasoned, a bird perhaps had swooped and caught his eye.
He lifted up his hand, smiled tightly and gave a small salute. The phone rang. She cleared her throat. Alfred wears size eight brown loafers. Earlier, Gabe had asked if Lou needed an observant eye around the building, and so, picking up the phone, Lou rethought his earlier decision. His name is Gabe and Harry will be expecting him.