General Fiction posted October 30, 2019 Chapters: 2 4 -9- 

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Halloween comes to a nursing home

A chapter in the book Frankie Chrisman Chronicles

The Sock Universe

by Darlene Franklin

Mischief Night Fiction Contest Contest Winner 
I once read a story that described a Sock Universe. All the socks that seem to disappear into a black hole in our world, no matter how careful you are? The black hole leads to a different universe, where they become the new stars in the sky.

Whenever I lost a sock, I would think about that story. What did people in that universe think of pink-dog stars, or stars with tiger stripes? If I lived there, I'd check the skies every night for new stars.

But this Halloween season, so many socks had slid down the black hole, their nights must have been as bright as day in the starlight.

It was mid-October. Instead of the usual loss of a single sock, neither one of my white socks came back one day from the laundry.

I should mention that I live in a nursing home. My name is Frankie Chrisman and solving little mysteries keeps me busy.

That first time, I assumed my socks had been passed on to a different resident. That happened a lot, even when your socks are clearly marked.

A week later, I lost a second pair of white socks. I had purchased several pairs of expensive, name-brand sock with the logo stamped on the material. They were wonderfully comfortable on my big feet. I had made a point of showing them to the laundress, so she would know they were mine.

I went to her. "I didn't get the last two pair of white socks I sent to the laundry."

"I'm sorry." She gestured at her cart. "But you know how it is."

I did. Once the clothes ended up in someone else's room, I was unlikely to ever get them back.
I couldn't afford to keep losing a pair of socks a week, so I decided to avoid wearing white for a while. None of my other socks had disappeared.

I mentioned my decision to my roommate, Cynthia. She was wearing dark blue socks instead of her usual white.

She stared at her feet. "I grabbed blue today because I found them first. But you know, I don't think there were any white socks in my drawer either. Let me check."

Easier said than done from a wheelchair. More than one person had fallen on the floor while trying to open a dresser drawer. Sometimes it slid open and knocked them down, but that's a story for another day.

Cynthia kept her socks in a drawer at waist-high level, so it wasn't too dangerous. I came up behind her right wheel and peaked over her shoulder. Her drawer was normally packed so tightly, she had to tug to pull her socks out. Not today. I could see empty spaces in the drawer.
Cynthia counted her socks, one pair each of purple, pink, and yellow.

"Don't you have any white socks left?" I asked. She only wore her colored socks when she was aiming to match a monochromatic outfit for the d ay. She wore more than anything else.

"No, I don't." She opened another drawer. "I don't know where they could have gone. I know I had six pair when I moved in."

As Halloween approached, all of my white socks disappeared as well. I started noticing no one wore white socks any more. When I asked the people who lived on my hall, none of them had white socks in their drawers.

I was getting seriously concerned. I went to the Director of Nursing and the Administrator, together, and explained my problem. "It appears that everyone in the building has lost their white socks." I glanced at the D.O.N.'s ankles--sturdy white bobby socks on her feet, no gremlin in her laundry. "I don't know why anyone would want our white socks."

"Maybe an army is preparing a bunch of white flags?" the Administrator quipped. She grew serious when I didn't laugh with her. "I'll look into it, but as you know, we're not responsible for these losses."

Didn't she care that someone on the staff was a thief? It couldn't be a resident. None of us could get at every single pair of socks in the building.

The day after I met with the administrator and the D.O.N., Shady Acres held a Halloween party. Traditionally we handed out candy to local children who came by. They also held a party for us.

The activities room had been closed since lunch time. They usually give each resident a bag of candy suitable to their dietary needs, in small paper Halloween bags. It didn't hold much, no more than any of us should eat at any one time. This year they had decorated in a purple-black fringe of the standard black. With the orange sheeting, it was almost pretty and definitely colorful.

The Sock Universe had come for a visit. Socks hang from every junction in the ceilings, from the lights, atop the bookcase and the piano. Half of them were orange. The other half were black.

Cynthia and I looked at each other. "It doesn't make any sense," she said. "The missing socks were white."

We wheeled further into the center of the room. The footwear dangled at different lengths from the ceiling. Some were close enough to touch. Others were hung high overhead, fluttering with the air flow.

When I headed for my usual table, Aimee, the activities director pointed me, Cynthia, and our friend Jan, to a different spot. A cluster of socks hung over our heads. Something white flashed against the stark black material of one sock, and I stood to check it out.

"What the!" I sat down abruptly.

"What's the matter?" Jan asked, alarmed.

"That sock I was looking at had my name on a label, ironed onto the heel."

"Let me see." Jan could stand more easily than either Cynthia or I. "Ladies, all the socks are that way." She twisted an orange sock marked for Cynthia, and a black one for herself.

Curiouser and curiouser. "I bet that why Aimee asked us to sit over here," I said.
Jan sat down. "From what I could see, everyone has at least one orange sock and one black, and some have more."

Aimee stood by the karaoke machine. "When I told you we were having a bobby socks social for Halloween, I wasn't kidding."

She turned on the machine, which started playing Monster Mash. "I understand several of you have been looking for your white socks." She looked at me.

I raised my eyebrows.

"Look no further. We're returning them to you, new and improved for the holiday. For those of us who can't reach, an aide will help you get your socks down. May the hunting begin!"

The socks came off with a gentle tug. I held my first black sock. The heel-to-toe bulged as though someone had left a foot in there. When I reached inside, I found a pair of my brand-name socks inside--with my name label attached.

Cynthia was opening her orange sock at the same time.

"Socks?" I asked.

She shook her head and turned it so I could see. The sock doubled as the candy bag. "And they got us the good stuff this year."

I found an orange sock with my name and discovered for myself. Even without taking anything out, I could see marshmallow and caramel and chocolate. No, I'm not diabetic, thank the Lord.

Then I spied a twisted bit waxed paper. It couldn't be. But was it? "Peanut butter taffy. My favorite Halloween treat." They were so cute, wrapped in pieces of orange and black, and I never felt guilty to slip something so small.

We kept hunting overhead, buzzing on the candy, and looking for the next sock. By the time the party ended, everyone's socks had been returned, with extras. Of course, every last one was died either orange or black. The people in laundry had worked overtime to carry off the prank to a fun conclusion.

They had, in addition, given everyone new white socks. Every orange sock had edibles: candy, yes, but chips and dried fruit and crackers. The black socks held new white socks as well assorted other fun things. A tie clip, a hair bow, a handkerchief.

"What about the people who didn't come to the party? Do you have socks for them?" Cynthia asked.

Sometimes they missed out on the good times.

She pointed to the socks that hung the highest overhead. "The maintenance guy will get them down once the party is over."

"I still can't believe it," I said. "Are we not having Christmas this year?"

I was only half joking. Someone had spent a lot of money on the October party.

"There was a store having a going-out-of-business sale, and I stocked up. Besides, don't you know that Santa never runs out of gifts?"

Even if we have a scant Christmas, I will never forget that Halloween party.

My only problem now is that I have to buy a new wardrobe to match the orange and black socks.

Mischief Night Fiction Contest
Contest Winner
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