Lost shoe a well-heeled mystery

It's been there for a few weeks -- three, at least -- right there on the Nottingham exit as you get off the bypass, just past the big green sign that tells you how far it is to the gas station and that it's 0.8 more miles to Waffle House.

A little shoe, a tennis shoe, about the size a child would wear. Dark blue or black or even heavy gray, it's there on its side, tangled in dingy shoelaces, tossed to the edge of the exit where tiny crumbles of asphalt sprinkle into the grass.

I've seen it every morning on our way to school. Passed right by it.

A shoe. Just one. One lonely shoe.

Then one morning, I got to thinking. Swathed in their "it's too early to talk to me" armor, the children were quiet as we rounded the exit and slowed to a stop at the traffic light. Talking more "at" them than "to" them, "I wonder what the story is with that shoe?" I asked.

Was it blown from the back of a pickup truck? Thrown out a car window in a fit of rebellion? Did a big dog hijack it from a back door stoop and drop it as he crossed the road? Or did a mama simply forget she'd plopped her child's tennis shoes on the roof of the car in a mad rush, only to remember five minutes and 10 miles too late?

I lost a flip-flop that way once.

I never quite figured out how one flip-flop managed to hang on to the top of the car while the other one leapt to freedom between our house and Publix. So impressed I was with the one that held on for dear life that I still have it in my closet. Subconsciously, am I hoping its mate will make its way home one day like those pets that travel hundreds of miles to find their owners and miraculously show up on the door step tattered and hungry?

I think I need a hobby.

I have seen a van driving the Interstate with at least a dozen oranges rolling around the luggage rack, a man in a BMW with a laptop on his roof, and countless coffee cups clinging to life in morning traffic.

And I always, always feel a pain in my stomach when I see a half-mile long trail of notebook paper on the side of the road, especially if it's near a school. Biology Notebook 1984. It flew off into a hundred college-ruled pieces from the top of my banana yellow Datsun 210 as I drove home from school.

It still stings.

I've driven out the driveway with the cordless phone from the house on my hood. To work with my trunk wide open, and another time with my cell phone on the running board. Home from the store with a bag of dog food on the bumper. And from here to Atlanta with half my coat hanging out the driver's side door.

It happens to the best of us.

I guess I never will know the story of the Lone Shoe of Nottingham Exit. It will forever remain ambiguous ... a mystery ... a piece of yet another enigmatic puzzle never to be solved.

A shoe. Just one. One lonely shoe.

Good Lord, what's wrong with me? It's just a shoe.

I really need a hobby.

Contact columnist Mandy Flynn at flyn1862@bellsouth.net.