Friday, August 29, 2008

The Lost Sock's Story

Where do lost socks go, you've often wondered: they must go somewhere. Mostly we go through the Drain: the one in the bottom of the Washer. Why? Well, we all go for different reasons. My partner, my mate... had a run.

In the Washer, I could see the knit unraveling as we tumbled, bits of yarn coming loose in the slosh and rush of soapy water. "You're finished," I said, horrified. "When they take us out of the Dryer--" And how much more fabric would the Dryer steal?-- "you'll be for the trash."

"That's how it goes," sighed my mate. All the other socks, tumbling past and around us, mumbled agreement. They were mostly white tube socks, athletic socks, identical. Unpaired. I saw no reason why I should listen to them. Only my partner's opinion mattered to me.

"We've got to escape," I said. "You don't want to get thrown away. I don't want to get thrown away." Who would keep half a pair of socks? I had never thought of it before, but the jock socks have it better; if one has to be thrown away, it doesn't mean anything for the rest of them.

"Escape if you want," said my partner. A rush of current carried us up toward the top of the Washer, and it was the easiest thing in the world to slip up and over the top of the drum, slide down between it and the outside wall of the Washer, towards the Drain. The next spin cycle would empty the drum, flushing us down the Drain and out into the world, into a vast and uncertain future.

But my partner was still inside the drum.

"Come out," I begged. "Come out. We have to go together."

"I'm not going. I'll stay and accept my fate like a good sock. You never really understood that, did you? Socks aren't supposed to have the kind of ideas you do. Socks should go where they're sent and stay where they're put."

"No, please! I don't want to go alone!" I'd looked down on the jock socks for not being paired, but at least they were members of a set. Without my mate, I'd be a singleton. A mismatched sock! What can be worse than to be a mismatched sock?

It was too late; I couldn't slither up the wall and get back into the drum, and I could hear the agitate cycle dying down, the Washer getting ready for its spin. Did it know or care what it was doing to us, I wondered bitterly, this vast machine that ate us and spat us out and stripped precious fibers away from our bodies. One way or another, the Washer gets us all in the end.

The spin started. I clung to the lip of the Drain as water rushed down around me. "Please! Please! You can get out on the rinse, I'll try to wait for you, please follow me!"

No answer from my mate. I lost my grip and was sucked down into the confines of the Drain.

The inside of the Drain was smooth, and water rushed along at a terrible pace, carrying me farther and farther from the Washer and my partner. Well, I told myself, it was better than the trashcan. And if my mate didn't come, or couldn't find me, I'd have to survive on my own. I could do that. I was a good sock, heavyweight wool in a sober heathery brown. I wasn't even that worn; we were a relatively new pair. How could my partner have gotten a run so soon? There must have been a flaw, a slub or a break. These things happen. The machines that make us aren't totally reliable. There was nothing wrong with me.

The flow of the water increased, and I was battered and jostled along. Several Drains seemed to have joined together; I was moving through a bigger space, a larger volume of water than could have come just from the Washer, huge though it was.

I traveled on for hours and hours. The water moved constantly, now fast, now slow. The Drain kept getting bigger. At some point, I floated up to the surface and bobbed along inside a giant tunnel. I knew what this was, I'd heard rumors: it was the Sewer.

There were gratings in the Sewer, half-clogged with all kinds of sodden rubbish. I saw pieces of paper, leaves and branches, rags, even another stray sock. I stayed low in the water. I wasn't eager to be seen; to have my singularity, my shame, exposed. I slipped through one of the openings in the grating and let the current carry me onward.

The water was thick and foul. Of course we socks have no sense of smell-- how could we stand our lives if we did? But I knew, from overhearing things that people say, that the Sewer had a bad smell. Most people would have nothing to do with a Sewer if they could help it.

So I was surprised to see lights. There was a ledge along the side of the Sewer, and there were men standing on it, dressed in rubber and with little lamps attached to their helmets. I looked at their feet; of course they were wearing heavy boots, but my imagination immediately filled in what lay under those boots. Socks. Warm comfortable socks. Matched socks.

Suddenly I was horrified at myself. What had I done? I'd abandoned my partner, my other half. I'd chosen to make my way into the world alone, a single sock, an ex-half-of-a-pair. Better to have stayed a pair, I thought now, better to have faced the fate of garbage together-- a sock alone is a terrible thing, an offense against the right way of the world. Bad enough to be separated accidentally. But I had done it on purpose! For no better reason than that I was afraid of being thrown away!

Despondent, I abandoned myself to the cold dark currents of the Sewer. The men's headlamps receded into the distance and vanished. I floated on. Eventually I fetched up against a grating and didn't bother to look for a way through it; I hung there in the dark, bobbing slightly.

This was the end. Here in the depths of the Sewer. This was the final home of a bad sock.

How long I rested against the grating, I don't know. After a while I noticed that the level in the Sewer was rising and the water seemed to be coming faster. Turbulent currents jostled and sloshed, water slapping against the walls and the grate. It was almost like being back in the Washer. I was dislodged, swept through the grating and onwards.

The Sewer was full, and I was forced against the roof, scraping along. I ducked a little under the surface so that I wouldn't get snagged on anything, though I couldn't have told you why I cared. I raced through pipe after pipe, carried by the flood.

Suddenly there was light again, a blinding wall of it. I shot out of the mouth of a giant pipe and splashed down into more water. At first I couldn't make it out; it seemed like another Sewer, a gigantic one. Roofless. The edges of it weren't brick, or metal, or anything else I'd seen in the Sewer. Slowly I came to understand that I was no longer in any part of the Sewer. It must have been raining, I'd gotten washed into an overflow pipe, and now I was in the river.

The river was much slower than the ride through the Sewer had been, and I was tired of being dragged along anyway. I swam slowly toward the bank, into shallower, slower water. After what must have been hours-- the sky was starting to get dark-- I dragged myself up onto a pebbly shore and under some bushes.

That's where they found me. Not that night, but the next morning. A whole gang of unmatched socks. It was a shocking sight, almost obscene-- and then it occurred to me that I was an unmatched sock myself. My partner had surely been relegated to the trash. Even if that wasn't so, there was no way we would ever find each other again.

So I had no right to be repelled by the sight before me; a swarm of socks, easily a dozen, and each one... unique. A red one with black silk clocks. A couple of white athletic socks, with different logos at the cuff. A blue and beige argyle. A heathery dark green wool sock, not unlike me except for the color. A plain black one. A tiny pink baby-sock. A sheer nylon stocking, badly snagged and torn. All of them muddy and bedraggled.

"Who are you?" I asked. "What do you want?"

The argyle answered. "We're socks, just like you. Do you want to be worn again?"

"What?" I said. How could I be worn without my mate? The idea made no sense. Were these singletons mad?

"Look." The argyle slithered up to me; the others gathered around, friendly but a little wary. "It's this way. There are people who come down here looking for anything the river leaves. They'll probably come today, because after rain like we had yesterday there's plenty of stuff along the shore. That's why we came down.

"If they see you here, they'll probably pick you up. You're a pretty good-looking sock. You'd be warm."

"I am," I said, with instinctive pride. Then I remembered, and my pride deserted me. "But... how is that possible? I'm-- I'm not--"

"Not matched," agreed the argyle, seemingly undisturbed by the wrongness of it. "These humans don't care. They'll wear anything. Apparently they can't afford to buy socks."

"Not quite anything," said the nylon ruefully. "I'm no good to them. Too torn."

"They don't want me either," whispered the baby-sock.

"They'll probably take me," said the green wool sock. "Maybe both of us-- we could make a new pair, eh?"

I recoiled in horror. I had never understood how the athletic socks could stand to be worn with a different partner each time-- but this! To be deliberately paired with an unmatching sock!

"Easy, there," said the argyle. "Not every sock cares for the idea. I don't myself. If you don't want to go with people, I'll show you where to hide. Down here, socks have a choice. Everything doesn't have to be the way they told you in the wrapper."

"I'm beginning to think nothing's the way they told me in the wrapper," I said slowly.

"Well, there you go. You can be a free sock and live with us. Or you can be a useful sock, even though you're unmatched. It's up to you."

"I'll... I'll stay free," I said. "At least for now. Can I go to the people later, if I change my mind?"

"Of course you can," said the argyle. "Welcome aboard. Now come with us: we need to see if any more socks came ashore last night."

So we slithered on down over the stones and pebbles, and I saw at once that this life couldn't last. Sliding along on rough surfaces is terribly bad for fabrics, especially knits like most socks. I wondered if the nylon had gotten those terrible runs after coming here. I wondered if I would last longer on the feet of the strange people the argyle had told me about than on the rocky beach.

"There's another sock," said the red sock.

One of the athletic socks nudged me. "Looks a lot like you."

I looked. There was a brown sock down at the shoreline, humping weakly away from the water. A heathery wool sock.

Disbelief held me for only a second. Then I was rushing down the shingle, past the argyle and the nylon, to be reunited with the only sock in the world who mattered to me. My mate, my partner! My faithful one had followed me down the Drain, all the way from the Washer! I was no longer unmatched!

Ecstatic, we wrapped ourselves around each other. My mate was still wet, but it hardly mattered. We were together again, a pair again. We were whole.

The other socks held off a little way, watching us-- jealously, I fancied. I started to explain them to my partner, but we were interrupted by a human voice. "There's a nice pair!"

The argyle and several other socks disappeared under the nearby bushes. The green sock stayed in view, along with the two athletic socks and the nylon. But the man who'd spoken had only eyes for my partner and me.

He picked us up, fingering our weaves. "Yup, nice thick socks. A little dirty, but what the hell. I'll wash you out in clean water. Good as new. Oh, a run; still, pretty good pair. Warm. That's good. Winter's coming on."

And he stuck us in his pocket and walked away. I peeked out for one last look at the shoreline. The green sock, overlooked ,was staring sulkily out over the water. The argyle peeked out from the bushes and waved good luck, and I waved back.

It might not be such a great life with this person, but I didn't care. We might be facing hard wear and dirty times, but at least we were together. I felt I could face anything, as half of a pair.

Collection available! Knocking from Inside

10 comments:

Granny Smith said...

I loved every word of this! Now I know why I have so many unmatched socks. Most of mine don't have a devoted partner such as your protagonist had. They just clutter up my sock drawer, hoping to find a new mate who ALMOST matches them.

Linda Jacobs said...

Love the metaphor! Very creastive and unique!

DaisyBug said...

Very nice metaphor - thanks!

Fantasies of a Lifetime said...

Loved the post. . .That was one lovely sock story. . I always seem to have unmatched sock pairs in my draw -not so love stricken i guess, so where do u get your 'devoted to each other' socks from?? :P

MyMaracas said...

How wonderfully creative, and a great metaphor. "The Washer gets us all in the end..." LOL

sister AE said...

fun!

But it also puts me in mind of the socks I saw for sale this summer - they were outrageously bright, each sock a riot of multiple colors, and each sock unique. They come in sets of three socks!

linda may said...

Great story. So that is where the missing socks go, never mind I am sure they are needed by someone else more than me :)

susan said...

Fantastic! Great detail and metaphor. Will be back again.

thefirecat said...

Poor unmatched sock!! I want to go into my top dresser drawer and hug them all, poor dears.

Lilibeth said...

Great story writing. I loved how you kept my interest. . . even for a sappy sock story. I don't even like love stories. Ah well. What a great read.