Josie said I was a fool for putting up an ad, but what could I do? The mate-less slipper was bedraggled, sodden even, upside down in the slushy remains of a late February snow bank. When I picked it up, its heft betrayed just how much salty mucky water had soaked into the faux fur and its fleece lining. It dripped the whole way home.
Oh God, what is that thing? Josie recoiled at the sight of it. I can understand why, in retrospect—even I had thought it looked like the bedraggled carcass of some small rodent when I first spotted it. I couldn’t very well leave it there. It had a mate somewhere and whether it had been lost or abandoned was not for me to know.
I stopped wearing slippers years ago. My feet sweat, and as cozy as they were, my slippers always seemed to smell like dank parmesan cheese. I tried washing them a few times, but the thump-swish-thump in the dryer sounded too much like some creepy being shuffling up the basement stairs, so that was the end of that. It’s hand-knit wool socks for me now, but night and day I thought about the toes that deserted slipper wasn’t keeping warm.
Are you still obsessing over that piece of garbage? I took to checking for replies to my ad when Josie was at work to save the accusing glances. She didn’t understand. It sat in the corner of the den, between the ficus and the bookshelf, looking forlorn. It consumed my thoughts.
Josie saw me try it on one day. When are you going to throw that vile thing out? The words belaboured slowly like a sigh and hung as heavy in the stifling August air. I knew it had become silly. Winter was long gone, replaced with flip-flop season, barefoot summer, thoughts of cold toes far from mind. But I still had dreams of single slippers gathering dust that woke me up at night.
I couldn’t find the words to make her understand. Josie ran out of patience and threw the slipper in the fire one October evening when the nights were coming early and brought with them the cold. You have to stop worrying about that stupid thing. I watched it turn to embers as we sat in chilly silence, the object of my worry, the focus of so many anxious thoughts, going up in smoke.
As the coals winked dimmer and Josie went to bed, I sat there in the dark. And in the slipper’s absence, an avalanche of worries starts to flow into the void it left behind.