“The Stolen Sock”
Along a winding street above Valencia Mesa, the father of a family reclined with his feet up in his adjustable chair. Alone in his den where Matt Dillon and Doc spoke on the television screen, he dozed, work done and family fed.
Beside the oleanders in the fog outside, a neighborhood teenager petted the family Airedale into complicit silence before opening the sliding door to the living room, where he tiptoed into where the man slept. Ever so gently, he removed a single bright red sock from the two on the man’s feet and left the way he’d entered.
He jumped over the fence to the street where he leaped in jubilation, waving the sock over his head as a pennant of victory. He’d already chosen a pepper tree on Valencia Mesa where he’d display the sock in the morning, high in the branches for all to see.
From across the street and down several houses, however, the middle son of the victim courted a redheaded girl with freckles, and when his eyes made out the joyous thief, one of his best friends, he lifted a boomerang he happened to have on his person and threw it at him. After flying out in a low arc, however, the weapon pivoted and returned to smash a window in the redheaded girl's parent’s house.
Her shriek alarmed another classmate across the street, a fellow newly licensed to operate a motor vehicle, at precisely the moment when he turned the key in the ignition of his own father’s new Lincoln Continental. He fumbled and knocked the electronic transmission arm into Reverse, and with his foot pressed against the accelerator, the vehicle shot backwards down the driveway to shear the top off a curbside fire hydrant.
The ensuing geyser of water knocked the sock thief backwards onto his back in the wet grass, stunned and silent.
At that instant, the gentleman in the house next door to the sockless man had climbed the stairs he’d installed to his own roof after last summer’s Los Angeles race riot, and without a pause, he fired two warning shots from his shotgun into the sodden sky.
Now the Airedale bounded in the driveway and led the chorus of neighborhood dogs in a toneless operetta of canine excitement. Door after door swung open up and down the street, and out poured an army of husbands and wives, indignant and fearful, amused and laughing with hilarity in their variety. A high school party spilled out of a house fifty yards down, and teenagers came running, most unsure on their feet and holding beer or cocktails in their hands.
The man on his roof slipped and caught himself but his shotgun jumped from his hands and fired as it toppled over the eaves. A separate commotion arose at the other end, and then came unmistakable proof that the buckshot had blown off a stable door, freeing six geldings who ran in the trail along the street. Ambitious boys and imprudent fathers gave chase, and when the sockless father awakened from his slumber and lumbered as a former fullback outside, he swore many an pagan oath.
Many of the teenagers had produced firecrackers and not a few cherry bombs that they ignited in the cover of the thick mist, and howled like young timber wolves.
Not even twenty seconds yet had passed since the first teenager’s larceny, and now ambulances, police cars, fire engines and eventually a utilities truck jammed the quiet street while neighbors fulminated in their driveways. The would-be boomerang assassin knelt by his pal, slapping his face to revive him, errant horses galloped along Bastanchury Road and Valley View, and the sock victim’s wife fretted the loss of rustic neighborhood quiet.
Of course, the man’s bare foot was cold, and when he went inside with his wife, tears fell from her eyes and she mentioned the new house on Catalina she coveted, the one that would give her family more room.
“Buy the damned thing, Eunice,” her husband said. “I’m sick of this neighborhood and these wanton hoodlums!”
She went into the dining room and lifted the phone from its receiver, for it was not too late to call the real estate lady, who answered on the first ring and said, “Sure! Great! I’ll start the paperwork right now!”
Alone in her office, she poured herself a nip of bourbon to celebrate, pleased with her own ingenuity, for she was the one who had sent the man the resplendent red socks for Christmas.