Each year in Ramat Hagolan, at least 1,200 cattle produce milk, feed on grain and oats, give birth, and die when their time comes. When the cows were under Syrian control they were spoken to in Arabic, and after Israel took control of the land in 1973, in the war of Yom Kipor, the cows of that region were spoken to in Hebrew, or Arabic. Depending on the farmer.
In the year 1997 a calf was born. She was the second-born heifer of a prize-winning cow and died by stepping on a mine. This could be where the story ended, if not for a change in the family business. It was exactly the month that the family that owned the calf decided its skin would be used for leather.
They called in a specialist, who was missing half a pinky from his days as an apprentice. The specialist stood in the middle of the green field and produced a sheathed knife. The knife was curved like a quarter moon. He worked with the utmost care so as not to leave a scratch. The skin came off in a single thin sheet, like the parting of red petals.
The leather was loaded onto a truck. It was removed and spread in a large metal container by the two agile hands of the craftsman. He noted that the skin was small in size and heavy in weight: perfect for a small woman’s combat boots.
The leather was laid out on a black rubber cutting mat, and a pattern was drawn. Using a trimming knife, the craftsman traced the leather as one would trace a lover’s back, until four symmetrical pieces lay detached.
The pieces were handed over to a young shoemaker who worked the leather into shape and attached it to a rubber sole. The letter “צ” was stamped at the top, where it was closest to God. A small pocket for dog-tags was added into the strip. Finally, they were shipped to a base in HaKiryaa.
It happened that in the year 2006, a bushy-browed Nagad chose them off the shelf, tied the shoelaces together in a timely manner and threw them in the back of his truck. Fate called me in to see the Nagad, who whispered like a boy with a crush: “I have a surprise for you”.
Friends died in that time. But they wore different shoes. My boots were never shot, never punctured, were never crushed. They only lifted one foot after the other, or both at once.
Yael Hacohen is a PhD student at UC Berkeley. She has an MFA in Poetry from New York University, where she was an NYU Veterans Workshop Fellow, International Editor at Washington Square Literary Review, and Editor-in-Chief at Nine Lines Literary Review. Her poems appear or forthcoming in The Poetry Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Every Day Poets Magazine, Nine Lines, and many more. She was a finalist in the 2015 Glimmer Train Very Short Story Competition, the 2015 Consequence Prize in Poetry, and the 2013 MSLexia Poetry Prize for Women.