The Porch Shoes

We built a large screened-in porch on the back of our house about ten years ago. In the early days, the boys would spend hours riding their little bikes around and around in circles getting lots of exercise. It also aided in maintaining adult sanity. Too noisy in the house? Send the kids out to the porch. Kids not getting along? Exile one to the porch in cold weather and the perceived injustice would quickly be exorcised. Husband pulled 100 heads of garlic from the garden? Leave them on the porch.

In recent years, it has become more of a lounge area with rocking chairs, a porch swing and ping pong table. It's usable ten months out of the year with January and February usually offering up cold enough weather to make it too uncomfortable for lounging. There was also the one summer where something crawled under the porch and died which made the porch too uncomfortable then as well. The horrific smell of whatever expired paled in comparison to the plague of flies coming up through the floorboards. Unfortunately, we couldn't see the source of the maggot hatchery and had to suffer through weeks of fly paper and vinegar traps fashioned from two-liter bottles. We collected pounds of flies and after the last carcass was caught, we scrubbed all surfaces thoroughly and resumed lounging.

The one constant in all the years of porch service has been foot wear. Flips flops, tennis shoes, boots and roller blades tend to collect on the porch and even after all these years, people leave them right in front of the door for maximum tripping hazard when exiting the house. My muddy garden footwear resides next to the door for easy access. I step out of the house, slip on my boots or shoes and head out to do the dirty work. My dad has often commented that you should shake your shoes out before putting them on and I rarely do this despite having been surprised a few times.

I once found a ping pong ball in my tall rubber boot and there was the spastic cave cricket before that. I've doubted the idea of a snake taking up residence although a child did come running in from the porch one day exclaiming there was a snake on the porch. Last week my outlook on shoe checks changed. I was heading to the yard and slid my right foot into a worn out slip-on shoe, then slid my left foot into the other shoe. Before my heel hit the bottom of the shoe, my toes sensed a foreign object that was softer than a ping pong ball, furrier than a cricket and I was sure it had no business being in any shoe. Five dear digits had been violated and my foot was already initiating an escape plan before my brain could tell the leg to perform the yank sequence. I twitched so fast getting that foot out that it was like pulling the table cloth out from under a fully set table.

The initial inspection of my sock revealed nothing out of the ordinary so I picked up the shoe and shook it. A small, dead mouse fell out as did some small white worm-like creatures. I immediately took off the sock, walked inside and asked Wife if she had a load of socks ready for the wash. When she learned of the mouse encounter, she directed me to put the lone sock in a trash bag and remove the bag from the premises with haste. Had I told her of the accompanying worms, she would have demanded I submerge my foot in vat of alcohol rather than the simple swabs she insisted I use. The shoes, mouse and worms all accompanied the sock to the garbage and I will forever shake my outdoor shoes prior to inputting any appendage.

The kids often used those same shoes on their daily trips to the compost pile. I haven't told them about the deceased rodent and am waiting a sufficiently long time before doing so to make it impossible to determine if any child could have actually worn the shoe with it in there. I suppose it is possible they had a short enough foot to not notice or perhaps just thought the shoe had a cozy integrated toe sock. I still wonder what possessed the mouse to take its final breaths in my shoe. Some have offered that perhaps something offensive gave the shoe mouse killing capabilities. I think a dead mouse in your shoe is the offensive part, and a shoe capable of killing a mouse is merely a social inconvenience.