The Block Island Times

Pilfered Shoes

By Martha Ball | Oct 12, 2013

The room in which I sleep is an unlikely place in an old house, an odd space at the top of the narrow stairs on the end of a narrow two-story ell. In the oldest photographs, faded and scratched, it is not even an ell, rather an almost separate 1 ¾-story building joined only at its corner to the older Cape. It made sense, a window was a door onto a porch since removed and the proportion altering extension to the south had not been added.

The room is unlikely not in its oddity — it is an old house — but in that it is an aerie, with windows on three sides and even with only knee wall windows in two of them the space affords sweeping views from the line of the horizon to the east to the Southeast Lighthouse high on the bluff to the south and, when the leaves fall, over to the moon set western sky.

It is small enough and quirky enough that it is possible to create a subspace for a little dog with no more than an expandable gate. Downstairs, she no longer resists going into the borrowed crate she is amazingly believing is her “little house” (yes, I know she has no idea what I am saying); she is almost as adaptable as I was told she would be. She didn’t like the corner I assigned her upstairs so I moved the gate, sure she could not get into the closet, or down the stairs, unless she figured out a most circuitous route, under a low bureau, past big fluffy slippers I keep because they amuse me but rarely wear and other obstacles, too much for a tiny puppy brain.

So, come morning, after a very early still-dark trip outside and return to sleep, I reached down and scratched the wooden floor expecting a puppy to come running, braced for the leap that gets higher every day.


I called her name. More silence.

The gate was up, but she was nowhere to be found. Downstairs the first indication of her I saw was a single sandal, pilfered from the closet. It was not chewed at all, rather it lay on the floor, a bread crumb, reminding me of my first golden, my sweet Shad. He would pick up shoes in the golden spring days of open doors, and wait for me to follow him to play. When I missed the cues he would come back and stand, waiting for me to turn away from my work and see him and when I still did not notice he would take the shoe, then another, then another outside and drop them on the grass. Luckily, he never ate them; it was sport he was seeking, not chew toys.

Clearly, the gate needs to be relocated.

It is October and rain is forecast, long-delayed heavy rain and blasting wind. It befits a month of personal darkness, which every year I approach thinking it cannot have been as bad as it has become in my mind, that it is really all about the length of the daylight, what it was back at the start of March. I try not to recall past Octobers, but they slip in when I am not paying attention and leave the door to the past ajar. It is not so bad these days, I am sure, because the light and life of a puppy has entered my life, but also because over it all there is no longer the specter of the Red Sox crashing and burning in yet another futile playoff or Series.

It ceased to matter on that magical night in 2004, when a blood-red moon shone over St. Louis and the headline news the next day was not about the global crisis of the moment, or the impending national election, but about baseball, not as it may exist primarily in films and our dreams but in reality, as it did for a few days that fall. When they won another Series a few years later, I thought how boring it must be to be a Yankees fan.

I never imagined it would not matter, but neither did I think the Series would be won in my lifetime. Now, I am surprised to find myself sneaking a peek at the standings. I never, ever have any idea about the Bruins or the Celtics unless they are playing for the Stanley Cup or whatever the equivalent is in basketball — but, as a New Englander, how can one not realize the Red Sox are doing well.

I look at the box scores and immediately scroll down the page — missing the tactile quality of the Providence paper upon which I used to rely for such information — to find a team in another league with a higher statistical standing and am a bit surprised that the closest I can come is a tie. Looking again for some comforting, familiar stats I find there are other teams leading their respective divisions that are more games ahead of their closest challenger and feel the tiny shift of the world settling back on its axis.

The rain came in the evening. When I opened the door, the walk was darkened and I heard drops falling on the remaining leaves on the trees. The first rain of Autumn — the season and dog — I thought as I gathered my puppy for a walk before the skies opened, thinking how lucky I have been. We had caught an opening, it seemed, one of those swaths of almost-calm clearing that can come on the front edge of a storm.

The rain, I realized later, had come and gone quickly, on the radar a great band of yellow gone safely to the east when I looked to see when it would arrive. The doomsday wind never materialized, but the Red Sox did lose last night and the morning radio guys were already talking about pennant hopes fading, sounds that define the season.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.