Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Shoe's Tale

I have a mystery. Twice now, some animal has dragged one of my gardening shoes off into the yard at night, swiping it from its usual spot on the back deck. Always the same shoe—the right one. I find it in the morning in some far-flung corner of the yard. There are signs of a struggle: The shoe is filthy, its laces are pulled tight so it looks pinched and strangled, and they’re gray and stiff with what I can only assume is spit.

     I’ve never caught the animal red-handed, so I can only theorize what animal it is, and why it keeps taking my shoe.

     1) It’s a gang of deer who hate humans, and the smell of that shoe just gets their blood boiling. To hell with you humans and your deer fence and your shoe and your shoelaces! We will rip your bloody shoelaces out by the roots! And then we’ll kick down your deer fence and then you won’t be able to put on your shoe so you won’t be able to fix the fence. And then we can eat all the tomatoes we want. Damn, these shoelaces are strong.

     2) It’s a cat who is thrilled to bits that someone has left two perfectly good shoes out in the open. This yard is like a land of miracles—the shoes keeps reappearing, always in the same place. At home, the humans are all very fuss-fuss about putting their shoes in a closet and shutting the door. Whenever the cat makes a grab for a shoelace there, it’s a freakin’ national emergency. There was only that one ruined shoe that one time; it’s not like they didn’t have another.

     3) It’s a raccoon mom who is teaching her kids how to be clever thieves. The lesson always starts off so well—look here! A pair of shoes!—but then descends into chaos and unintentional comedy as she tries to drag the shoe across the deck and into the yard. Jesus, the noise! This heist will wake the dead. And if she gets busted, the kids will never let her forget it. And then one of them—the little wiseacre—says, “But Mom, what will we do with a shoe anyway?” And she realizes—slowly, but with utter clarity and conviction—that she has given birth to children who have no imagination. But by then it’s almost dawn and they’re all full of leftover Mexican food anyway. They will go home and dream of corn tortillas and small banditos.

     The next day I put on my spitty, dirty shoe—that’s why God made socks—and am back in the garden, trying to tell what’s weeds and what’s lettuce. Afterward, I leave the shoes on the porch. In a way, it’s an honor that they’ve been touched by something wild. And, like all of us, they may one day be taken out of the yard, borne off to some other grand adventure. Who am I to hold them back?


  1. Anne -- It did turn out to be foxes! Sometime later, I spotted a fox family, an adult and two kits. After a few weeks, the kits would come right up to the back door and look at me (the adult would stay in the yard and growl). Then they'd swipe a shoe and go play crazily with it. Great fun to watch.