I’d always been fascinated by single shoes lying lost or discarded where no shoe should be–on the side of the road, on a busy path, dangling from a power line. A million questions would inevitably flood my mind. Did its owner notice it missing? Did he attempt to retrieve it? Did it have value or had it been deemed so worthless, not even an effort to find a proper trashcan had been expended? Was it a clue in a bigger mystery?
These are the questions that haunted me for years. I was shocked when I discovered there were others out there who felt as I did. Why were the shoes there? We all wanted to know.
We formed an association–Shoe Tracking and Retrieval Aids or STRAs as we called ourselves. Our mission was complex, too complicated to condense into a single mission statement that we could all agree upon. Not surprisingly, for the first year or so, we floundered, pulled in too many directions to be effective. Finally, with the aid of a Nike grant, we coalesced and decided our function was to return cast off and lost shoes to their rightful owners.
The first recipient of our services, a young mother, beamed with delight when we returned the bootee her infant son had kicked off during a stroller ride. She rewarded our efforts with a donation to our cause. The STRAs stood tall and proud, our sense of purpose bolstered.
Our next venture did not end as well. After spending hours searching, we finally located the owner of a missing tennis shoe we’d found on the shoulder of I-205. The gentleman took a look at the shoe, then a look at us. He smirked and said, “You can keep it. I already threw away its mate. Thanks anyway. See ya.” He shut his door and we walked away disheartened. After we held our ceremonial re-balancing ritual, I dropped the shoe into the first trash can I found.
The missions after the Chuck chuck, as that second mission came to be called, went just as disastrously. One owner laughed and told us to get off his property. The next swore that the size 12 wide red pump wasn’t his, but the nervous glances he cast at his roommate told a different story.
Our members began to stray from STRA until I alone comprised the entirety of its membership. With no funds remaining and a population that failed to embrace the value of our services, I had no choice but to quit myself, with a lengthy letter of resignation that I reluctantly accepted.
In hindsight, it was a stupid idea.
I’ve since moved on to the significantly more lucrative business of exorcising washing machines and dryers of the socks they’ve stashed away. I won’t go into the why of it other than to say it’s hideous and twisted and the world is a better place for the secrets I keep.
I still gaze wistfully at the odd shoes I stumble upon, but I’ve reconciled to the reality that missing shoes will never grace the sides of milk cartons. One day they’ll realize though that For want of a shoe the horse was lost. For want of a horse the rider was lost. For want of a rider the battle was lost. For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
One day indeed.
Utter foolishness, I know. I hope you at least laughed.