Although he has been thinking about how he was going to to explain to mom why he only had one shoe left, he should have just been thankful that he wasn’t dead.
Maybe he was.
Maybe being thankful for life is just to go on living without fear of death. Better to fear mom.
It all started with him staring over a vastness of cracked grey earth, eager to return to where the polliwogs were sprouting legs. His jeans were ragged. His left shoe flopped open at the front with every step, like an inverted flip flop, and his 8-year-old toes peaked out.
His eyes were wide and surrounded by converging freckles. Living in the country, his parents never asked where he was going, and more and more he had ventured further and further from the alarm cries of his mother to report for dinner.
The quarry was unlike anything else around, piled with stretches of glassy grey soup, surrounded by irregular tiles of withering earth. A ridge cradled each clay pool, accented by rocks and chuncks and roots and veins cut into the side by the spring showers.
He remembered the largest pool on the far edge and how it was different than the rest with an orange sandy bottom under a few inches of crystal clear water, soaking scurrying amphibian infants as they dodged dive-bombing birds. It is hard to describe the satisfaction of a young boy skipping from clay tile to clay tile, dutifully not breaking his mother’s back. It is not difficult, however, to describe the terror he felt when one of the tiles gave way and his right leg was swallowed to the waist in merciless muck.
Frozen for the moment, he concentrated on the sound of his heart pounding in his ears and then followed his breath back into himself. His left leg was scissored and he leaned backward placing his hands onto firm earth. As he pushed himself backward, he felt the mud slide along his ankle and into his shoe. On the second shove, his foot came loose like a greased pig and with a satisfied gulp, the mud devoured its victim.
Umm… well… He rolled onto his chest and stared into what remained of the grey hole that had just eaten his footwear. With the naive hope of a child, he reached his arm down as far as he could, painting its surface with grey goop, but encountered nothing but mud.
I guess I can wash myself in the shallow pond, he thought, and then climbed a nearby mound and followed the crumbling clumps on the ridge to his destination.