The squirrel knows but isn’t telling (micro fiction)


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There’s a house on Kimberly Avenue. There are many houses, but this one in particular is the kind of house that exudes style and dignity and the kind of manicured calm that comes from proximity to wealth. The whole street is like that — wide and well-maintained with grand old shade trees casting cool green over sidewalk and tended lawn.

No one is ever tending this particular lawn. Landscaping crews piloting tractor-sized mowers are for the nouveau riche; the truly wealthy have yards maintained by elves who show up, soundlessly, after midnight, and pluck every clover and sorrel by hand so nothing remains but a uniform blanket of St. Augustine sod.

This lawn is a serene bay of grass swimming away from stately maples in whose shadows are planted dense beds of ivy. A brick wall snakes the property line, with a wrought iron gate left open to suggest a sleek town car will soon pull onto the crescent of driveway.

There is never a car, though. There’s never a flutter behind the drawn curtains or a porch light flicked off or on. There’s only the lawn and the trees, the gate and the wall that pens in the house, meeting at stocky stanchions in each corner. The stanchions are sober as centuries, entertaining only the occasional squirrel.

And one black sock.

That’s what this story is about. There’s a sock on one of the stanchions that has been there for weeks. Probably a month. It’s an athletic sock, and it’s without a mate. It grows more faded, more worn, more fibrous and less sock-like with each passing week.

The mystery of the sock is both that it’s there at all — why would someone walking down shady, elegant Kimberly Avenue suddenly stop to take off a single sock and then leave it on the nearest wall? — and that no one has removed it. Not the house’s occupants, not the gardeners, not the late-night lawn-care elves, not the neighborhood association, not one of the dozens of professional dog walkers, not a do-gooder passer-by.

So the sock remains, weathering birds and squirrels and thunderstorms. It’s mysterious and out of place, a story that staunchly declines to tell itself, a mislaid object that refuses to be relaid in its proper place.

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