Walter woke at the sound of the little voice, his heavy-lidded eyes struggling to focus on the face of his five year old granddaughter Marissa. She was peering at him approximately three inches from his face, her huge brown eyes squinting curiously. Suddenly a little finger prodded gently on Walter’s squishy nose.
“Why are there hairs coming out of your nose, Grandpa?” she asked, crinkling her own little button of a nose, and moving around to get a better look.
Walter grunted and pushed his recliner back to an upright position. He must have fallen asleep sometime during the fifth episode of “Dora the Explorer,” although he admitted to himself that it could have happened even sooner than that.
“You were snoring, Grandpa,” Marissa stated bluntly.
“How long was I asleep?” he asked. He should never have sat the chair back, only it was so much more comfortable when it was in the reclining position. Marissa gave a noncommittal shrug in response.
Walter was supposed to be keeping an eye on Marissa while her mother went to a doctor’s appointment. He felt guilty for falling asleep on the job and was secretly grateful that his daughter hadn’t walked in on him snoring while Marissa was doing heaven knows what. He decided he had better make up for it by doing something fun with his granddaughter, then hopefully she wouldn’t reveal his negligence the second her mother walked through the door. He stood up and made a crackly stretch of his back.
“Well, what should we do now, Marissa?” Walter asked. “I think that we have watched enough of Dora for today.”
Randy, his daughter’s golden retriever, jumped up from the floor next to the recliner when it appeared there would be some action going on. He made a few excited bounces next to Walter’s leg and let out a gleeful bk.
“It looks like Randy is up for some fun,” Walter chuckled, and he scratched behind the dog’s silky red ear.
“Let’s go outside, Grandpa!” Marissa joined in on the excited bouncing.
“Alright, let me get my shoes first,” Walter said as he adjusted his pants that had slipped a little during his quick exit from the recliner.
Randy ran to the front door and barked, jumping a few more times. Walter didn’t speak dog, but it was pretty clear that Randy was pretty adept at understanding human. Marissa skipped to the door to join the dog and was about to escape outside.
“Hold on, missy, let me get my shoes first,” Walter hollered. He couldn’t have her running around outside alone.
A scuffed and worn maroon loafer peeked out from under the recliner. The shoe had seen better days, but the pair was Walter’s favorite by far. The leather was so stretched and cracked that it almost looked pink, but Walter didn’t care. They fit him like a glove, a difficult feat for any new pair to manage. Besides, why would he pay good money for a new pair when he was perfectly content with the old one? It didn’t make any sense.
Walter pulled out the loafer from under the chair. He fished around for the second shoe but it was nowhere to be seen.
Marissa and Randy were running in circles by the door. The child’s excited giggles were interspersed with the dog’s happy yips, creating a raucous echo in the front hall.
“Marissa, can you help me find my shoe?” Walter asked, a little irritated with the escalating noise. He painfully eased himself down onto his knees and then on to all fours to get a better look under the chair. A dusty magazine, a toy pony with crazy matted hair, and a handful of crushed orange Cheetos were all that he could see.
“Humph,” he grunted, slowly getting himself upright enough to look around the floor more. He looked under the end table, behind the ficus tree, in the television cabinet, and finally under the rug, but there was no loafer in sight.
Marissa and the dog were enjoying themselves far too much running in circles to keep their play in one small area. By this time they were making laps down the hall to the bedrooms, back through the living room, and around the kitchen island, laughing and barking all the way.
“Where is that blasted shoe?” Walter thought, scratching his head. How could his shoe have ended up anywhere other than right where Walter deposited it, at the foot of the sleep-inducing recliner. Right next to Randy…
He followed the two crazy noisemakers in their circuit of the house, hoping to find the lost loafer along the way. Where would a dog take a shoe? He peeked in corners of closets, behind chairs and tables, even in the kitchen garbage pail. No shoe.
Just as Walter was beginning to check the toilet bowl (dogs drank from them, right?) he heard the front door open and slam, leaving the house suddenly quiet. The hoodlums were outside! His heart racing, he ran down the hall and out the door in his stocking feet, panting all the way. Randy was running in circles around the front yard, but Marissa was nowhere to be seen.
“Marissa!” Walter called out frantically, running gingerly down the steps and driveway. As he came around the end of his huge Oldsmobile sitting in the driveway he found the girl crouched next to the ditch that ran along the curb of the sidewalk. They had just spent the last week enduring miserable drizzly rain, and today was the first day of sunshine peeking out from behind the clouds. The ditch was full of mucky brown water and leaves, and Marissa was prodding at something with a long stick.
The relief flooded into Walter’s chest, so strong he could hardly breathe for a moment. “Marissa! You scared me! Don’t run outside without someone with you, okay sweetheart?” He walked over to where she was crouching, his socks now squishing full of muddy water with every step. “What are you playing with down there?”
Marissa turned and beamed up at him. She picked something up from the ditch and held it up to show her Grandpa.
“Look at my boat, Grandpa!” she said proudly. “I made it while you were sleeping.”
In her hands was Walter’s lost loafer. It was filled with soggy leaves and pinecones glued in nice and tight with a slop of brown mud. A branch that held two remaining leaves on it was tucked under the flap, making a nice mast and sail.
Walter didn’t know what to say for a few moments. His mind raced through the progression of feelings: horror, then mortification, frustration, then finally ridiculousness.
“You made that while I was asleep?” he finally stuttered.
“Yup! I was trying to see how far it would make it down the river but it didn’t move at all…” The little girl looked dejectedly down at her boat.
“May I see your boat?” he asked, reaching out for his soggy loafer. Marissa handed the shoe over and they stood there looking at it thoughtfully for a few moments.
“Let’s try something,” Walter finally said.
When Marissa’s mother arrived home fifteen minutes later she found the two of them sending a crazy looking boat down the ditch, cheering loudly as it moved along. It wasn’t until she approached the pair that she noticed her father was curiously standing outside in only his stocking feet.