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Chinese Homing Socks

The Journal of Prevarication
Here lies Jim Cook

Fearing embarrassment, the podiatrist swore me to secrecy. But this story is too important to ignore, so I’ll simply omit his name.

He gave me a disapproving look when I showed up at his office wearing just one sock.

“You can’t afford socks?” he asked.

I explained how my socks keep disappearing. This has been going on for years, but it has been much worse lately.

I buy half a dozen pair of socks from Target. The next time I do laundry, one sock will turn up missing. Then another one will go missing.

If I am especially fond of a pair of socks, one of them will vanish right away. It is always the left sock. I have drawers full of right socks that do not match any other socks.

I count socks before and after I wash them. I look under the bed. I poked a wire through the dryer vent. I have put my family life in peril by accusing Miss Ellie and Fibber of hiding my socks.

The podiatrist latched the door of the examining room, and spoke just above a whisper.

“It could be what we call HHS–Homing Sock Syndrome,” he said grimly.

“Homing socks?”

“Like homing pigeons. The people who manufacture socks program them to return to whence they came, so they can sell them again.”

“China?” I asked.

“China, Bangladesh, Costa Rica, wherever.”

“That’s outrageous,” I sputtered.

“Global economy,” he said. “Things are tough all over.”

“Can nothing be done?”

He sized me up thoughtfully. Then he scribbled a number on a prescription pad.

“You might talk to this person. Your insurance won’t cover it. And if you ever tell anyone I gave you this number, I’ll ruin your credibility with your insurance company.”

The cell phone number he gave me led me to Sylvia. I found her in a cave on Mount Elden, at the northeast edge of Flagstaff. She was watching a watched pot boil. That told me I had come to the right place.

“You brought the money?” she asked. I counted out five hundred-dollar bills.

“And the socks?” I handed her a plastic bag containing a dozen pair of new socks.

She showed me to a camp chair and a worn stack of Popular Wozard magazines. She disappeared behind a hanging Navajo blanket that hid the back of the cave.

I heard sounds of industry behind the blanket, and smelled strange odors. I couldn’t tell if Sylvia was chanting, or humming a hip-hop song.

After an hour, she emerged and handed me the sack of socks.

“Remember,” she said, “the solution to one problem often carries the seeds of the next problem.”


“When I reprogram homing socks, I can’t guarantee the results. Good luck.” She showed me to the door of the cave and pointed me down the mountain.

That was seven months ago. None of my socks has left for home. In fact, I seem to get back seven socks for every six I put in the laundry.

I sold sixty pair of matching socks at the flea market last weekend. I’m waiting to see if they come back home.

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