As part of my health program I've begun walking three miles or so each day. I walk outside, along the roads when the weather is good and around the local mall when it is not. The road I follow is fairly busy as it winds its way toward the Mall, shopping centers, and Annapolis. Besides the health benefits the walk gives me time to think about whatever story I happen to be working on and, on occasion, gives me something new to consider.
Usually I see something of interest on my outside walks. It might be a flock of birds rising noisily from their nightly roost, a raccoon returning from a night on the town, a few indecisive squirrels dodging cars (and a few somewhat flatter), and the detritus and cast-offs from passing litterbugs that have not yet been swept up by the litter patrols.
Based on the cans lying alongside the road, light beers seem to be the favorite, with canned (non) iced tea a close second, and soda pop a distant third. I have also seen car parts, plastic bags, scatterings of glass and plastic shards from an accident, an occasional tool, chunks of lumber, and, most mysterious of all - right shoes - at least three in the past month.
How can someone lose a single shoe, I ask, and why only the right one? Are there yahoos riding about at night with their right leg out the window who do not notice their shoe's departure? Could they be the same ones who negligently toss their cans and bottles aside? Alternately, could some runners be hobbling along, too exhausted to notice that their right feet have become unshod? There must be an answer, but what could it be?
As if the presence of abandoned shoes were not confounding enough, this morning I discovered one (right, of course) that was still nicely laced and tied with a bow. Tied! The sight stopped me in my tracks. So instead of working on the story idea du jour I found myself framing scenarios about those shoes, about the castoffs of a mobile civilization, and the strange circumstance that would bring a tied shoe to a spot of woods in the middle of the night. Is there a story there?
My mind churned with the possibilities. How would I frame the explanation? Was it tossed out the window in anger by a lover, thrown away in revenge for some slight, or was it the remaining effect of someone whisked away by aliens? I hesitated, almost tempted to slide down the bank to see if a foot was inside, with a mangled and dismembered body further up the ravine, but I did not.
I'm not a horror writer.