One day while folding laundry, I realized why my life was so horrible. Socks lost in the laundry. Yes! That was it! Lost socks! There was nothing that caused me more grief than losing socks in the laundry.
It’s not the cost of replacing the socks that bothers me so much, it’s the fact that new socks are so… virginal. Worn socks are stretched to fit. They know which side is up because there is a spot stretched out for my heel, and i know which sock goes on my left foot and which sock goes on my right foot. because of the large spot my big toe stretches out. On the other hand, new socks are ignorant and this is what really bothers me. Where do my old socks go? Who takes them? I couldn’t be losing them! Someone or something must be taking my socks.
Are the washer and dryer manufacturers playing a practical joke? Are these machines designed to betray me? Maybe these machines are designed to kidnap or destroy socks, The possibilities are endless, but I had to find the answer.
The first task would be to examine the machinery for an intentional sock abducting design or perhaps for flaws in the construction that would allow socks to escape. I started my quest by examining the washing machine. I got out my tool box and went to work. I disconnected the electrical plug, the water supply, and the drain hose. Then, I removed the huge sheet-metal case which exposed the inner working of the washer. I thoroughly examined the agitator and washing drum for possible trap doors or sock gathering devices but could find none. Well, my first step was complete. The washing machine was innocent. I would now have to put it back together. The reassembly would be very difficult since I did not label the parts of the washing chine when I took it apart.
Next, I took the dryer apart. However, this time I was careful to label all the parts as the make the reassembly easier. I examined the heating element, motor, and tumbling drum very carefully but could find nothing that would suggest the dryer was stealing my socks.
Since neither one of these machines was designed to accumulate socks, there must be another cause for their disappearances. Maybe the socks were being blown out the exhaust hose on the dryer, incinerated by the dryer, or perhaps there were being discharged with the waste water from the washing machine. I would have to investigate all of these possibilities. First, I connected a filter on the end of the dryer exhaust hose. After a week, my socks were still disappearing, and there were none to be found in the filter. Therefore, the socks could not be getting blow out the exhaust hose.
Next, I thought about the possibility of the dryer incinerating the socks. Since I discovered no holes in the tumbling drum when I examined it earlier, the socks would have been incinerated inside the tumbling drum. There was no visible damage to any other items of clothing, so I discounted this possibility.
Finally, I connected a filter to the drain hose of the washing machine. Once again I waited one week. Again some socks came up missing, and none were to be found in the filter. The washer was also acquitted of all charges.
Through my investigation, I had proved the washer and dryer to be innocent in the case of the missing socks. i was now at a loss to explain the disappearance of my socks. I was beginning to get really frustrated and was desperate for an answer. After many sleepless nights and many lost socks, enlightenment dawned. Since the socks seemed to be disappearing into thin air, and there was no explanation for these disappearances, there must be some kind of divine cause.
This is when I first become aware of the Laundry Gods. I say Gods because I believe there is one who governs the washing machine and another who governs the dryer. But why are these Gods taking my socks? Are the Gods angry? What did I do to offend them? More importantly, what could I do to appease them?
My attempts to appease the Gods started my trial and error. First, I thought that they didn’t like the laundry detergent or fabric softener that I was using, so over the next few weeks I tried every possible combination of the two. However, my efforts were futile, and I continued to lose socks. Next, I though that it was the water; after all, Houston is not known for its quality tap water. I had a water filtration system installed in the house, but once again I was unsuccessful and continued to lose socks. I was getting near the end of my rope and was willing to try just about anything. Then that night on the late show, I saw an erotic “B” movie that gave me an idea. In this movie the natives were sacrificing a young virgin to a volcano god. After the sacrifice, the volcano subsided and the island was saved.
This was the answer! I must make an offering to the Laundry Gods. I couldn’t very well sacrifice a young virgin for every load of laundry. I would have to find something else. Over the next few days, I gave this much though, and finally, it came to me. Since I have to buy new socks to replace the ones that disappear, I will start sacrificing uncomfortable virgin socks, that I don’t like anyway, to the Laundry Gods.
Now, I only needed to decide now to do this. Should I burn the socks? No! That would be too smoky and would make the house smell. Instead, I would cut them in half and make an altar in dedication to the Laundry Gods. I decided to use the athletic socks with the colorful stripes. I would cut them in half and mount the toe end on the wall. As I mounted these socks on the wall, I would create the shape of a giant sock, adding one for every wash and dry cycle. The colorful end of the sock I would use to make a headdress similar to those worn by American Indians. Since the Laundry Gods only took socks, I decided that I would only need to sacrifice a sock before loads that included socks. Therefore, I would get a separate hamper for my socks and wash them all at the same time.
I still remember the first time I made the sacrifice. I took the socks out of the sock hamper and carefully took them to the washing machine. I deposited the socks and the soap into the washing machine and closed the lid. Then I took the first virgin sock and cut it in half. I promptly mounted the toe half on the wall, and the other half I attached to my bandana to start my headdress, which I would wear during future sacrifices. As I did this, I begged the Laundry Gods to see my socks safely through the wash cycle. When the washing machine was finished, i removed the socks and placed them in the dryer with the fabric softener. I then took the mate to the first sacrificial sock and cut it in half also. I then placed both ends in their appropriate places and begged the Laundry Gods to see my socks through a safe drying cycle. When the dryer stopped, I immediately opened it and examined my load of socks; they were all present and accounted for.
It has been two years since this first sacrifice. Now my headdress is almost two heavy to wear, and my wall is covered with toe pieces of sacrificial socks. However, I’m proud to say that I have not lost any socks since that day. In fact, some of my socks have lived very productive lives and have been retired with full honors. Me, I’ve never been happier, nor have I had better peace of mind since I’ve learned how to satisfy the Laundry Gods.
© Patrick Farrell 1994
This short story was published in the Fall 1994 Bayou Review.