Smorgasbord Short Story Festival – 9th – 12th June – Trouble with Socks by Mary Smith

The first short story today as part of this celebration is by Mary Smith from her upcoming short story collection due out later this year. We all have trouble with socks, especially when one of a pair goes walkabout. In this story there is a bigger issue than just one missing sock.

Trouble with Socks by Mary Smith

I’m glad it’s nearly bedtime. It’s been one of those days – the kind that make you wish you’d not bothered getting out of bed in the first place.

Can you believe it, it was a pair of socks which caused the trouble? I was sitting in my room holding them when Margaret came in, clucking and fussing because I hadn’t put them on – telling me I’d get my ‘tootsies’ cold. Considered pointing out I’m fifty-two, not a toddler of two, but sarcasm’s wasted on Margaret. Instead, I explained I hadn’t put the socks on because they weren’t mine. They’d brought the wrong ones back from the laundry. Not, I might add, for the first time either. Today was the third time.

Trouble with Margaret is she never stops to listen. She’s an auxiliary here – a support worker. Been here for twelve years, she told me the day I arrived. She came into to my room to “help me settle” and fill in some kind of admission form. “Now, Mr. Kirkpatrick, what would you like to be called while you’re here – d’you want the full Mr Kirkpatrick bit, or George, or even sir?” She gave a giggle at the sir to show she was joking. I said I’d like to be called George. “Right you are, my darling,” she said.

“My name’s George.”

“Yes, my darling, I know. It’s written it down here on your form.” It was downhill ever since then, really.

Anyway, while I’m pointing out she’d given me someone else’s socks; she asked if I have a problem getting them on. I repeated they weren’t my socks. I did one of these assertiveness training courses once. There’s an exercise called the ‘broken record’ where you just keep repeating the same thing over and over again until the other person gets the message. Only I don’t think our assertiveness trainer had ever come up against someone like Margaret.

Before she finally realised that I was telling her they weren’t my bloody socks, she’d told me that I only had to ask if I needed help in putting them on, commented on what a nice colour they were and assured me, twice, that they were ‘nice and clean’.

It was the ‘bloody’ that got through I think. “Now, now, darling,” she said, “we don’t need language.” Thought about asking how else we were going to communicate – but decided not to confuse the issue since I felt I’d made a breakthrough. She’d got the message.
Triumph was short-lived. She said, “Well, no one else has complained about getting the wrong socks. Why don’t you just keep them, darling?”

By this time I was beginning to feel I am a two-year-old: one that’s about to have a tantrum. This is what I’d been afraid of before coming in here – not the tantrums – being treated like a child, being made dependent on others for everything. I wanted to go straight home from hospital, but they said I needed to gain some weight first, build up my strength. Said I couldn’t manage on my own.

I admit I’d lost a lot of weight when I was ill – some of it in hospital. The food wasn’t great and it was so hot and stuffy I felt I couldn’t breathe most of the time. I couldn’t wait to get out and back home. Trouble is my wee cottage is a few miles out of town and up a farm track and they said it would be difficult to find carers to come out to me. I told them I have friends who would help out but it was clear my choice was to remain in hospital (bed-blocking) or move into a care home for a few weeks.

Apparently I was lucky to get a place in this nursing home – supposed to be the best in the area. God help those in the other places is all I can say.

I managed to stop myself from stamping my feet and told Margaret I didn’t want to keep the socks because I wanted my own. “Are you really quite sure, my darling, that these aren’t your socks?” she said, “I mean, well, how can you tell, with not being able to see?”

Refrained – just – from telling her it’s my sight I’ve lost, not my marbles. Explained how my socks feel different because they are cotton, not acrylic. I’m allergic to acrylic – my legs swell up if I wear man-made fibres. I toyed with the idea of pointing out that even without my sight there are lots of things they would probably prefer I didn’t notice. I can hear perfectly well and sense movements. But I didn’t want to embarrass her. I know Margaret wouldn’t dream of hitching her skirt up to her waist so she can adjust her tights if she thought I could ‘see’ what she’s doing. And that other one, Susie – she’s forever fiddling inside her bra.

It was only because Margaret was determined to have my ‘tootsies’ covered up before she took me into the lounge – after all a member of the public might be there and talk about residents not being properly dressed – that made her go off to search for my socks.

They gave me the wrong jumper once. It only came to my waist and the sleeves stopped at my elbows – felt like the Incredible Hulk or something. Had a hell of a job getting it off. I can cope with some mistakes – everyone makes mistakes sometimes – but there’s something faintly repellent about wearing someone else’s socks. Socks are kind of personal aren’t they? Even when they’re ‘nice and clean’ as Margaret insists.

While I waited for her to come back, I puzzled over why it’s so difficult to get the right clothes back to the right owners – and why the staff can’t seem to see why it matters to us. Hanging on to the few bits of dignity left to us – dressing in our own clothes – becomes really important. I dread the day might come when I’d have to be in residential care permanently. Just put me to sleep, please.

Margaret came puffing back with a pair of socks – my socks. “There’s no elastic in them, George darling,” she says. “D ’you want me to mend them?”

I told her I’d taken the elastic out myself because they were cutting into my ankles. Then we had a tussle over who should put them on. She gave up just as I was about to throw myself on the floor in a rage. If you’re treated like a child, you start to behave like one. So, leaving me to it, very reluctantly – I know they like to think they’re being helpful – she went out. Off to drag some other poor sod along to the lounge for morning coffee, as they like to call it. More like morning dishwater, if you ask me – which they don’t. I drink it anyway, with plenty of sugar and I eat the biscuits – at least three. I’m determined to put weight on as fast as I can. At home I can make coffee the way I like it and I’ll never find anyone else’s socks in my drawer – nor have to sit in a room making polite conversation to a bunch of strangers.

I heard Margaret’s voice outside my room when she came back to collect me. I could picture her making a face in the direction of my door because the other one – might have been Susie – asked, “What’s he rabbiting on about today?”

I heard Margaret reply, “His bleedin’ socks.” Felt like calling out, “Language, Margaret, darling.” But I didn’t.

There is a point beyond which it’s best not to go. Forget the wrong socks – it would probably be old Mr Jones’s underpants tomorrow. Now, that would be really gross, wouldn’t it?

©MarySmith 2017

About Mary Smith

Mary Smith has always loved writing. As a child she wrote stories in homemade books made from wallpaper trimmings – but she never thought people could grow up and become real writers. She spent a year working in a bank, which she hated – all numbers, very few words – ten years with Oxfam in the UK, followed by ten years working in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She longed to allow others to share her amazing, life-changing experiences so she wrote about them – fiction, non-fiction, poetry and journalism. And she discovered the little girl who wrote stories had become a real writer after all.

Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women is an account of her time in Afghanistan and her debut novel No More Mulberries is also set in Afghanistan.

Books by Mary Smith

And two Local History books

Read all the reviews and buy the books:

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My thanks to Mary for letting us have a taste of her new short story collection and please do share across your own networks.  Thanks Sally

This entry was posted in Book Promotion, short stories and tagged , by Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life.. Bookmark the permalink.

About Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life.

My name is Sally Cronin and I am doing what I love.. Writing. Books, short stories, Haiku and blog posts. My previous jobs are only relevant in as much as they have gifted me with a wonderful filing cabinet of memories and experiences which are very useful when putting pen to paper. I move between non-fiction health books and posts and fairy stories, romance and humour. I love variety which is why I called my blog Smorgasbord Invitation and you will find a wide range of subjects. You can find the whole story here. Find out more at

44 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Short Story Festival – 9th – 12th June – Trouble with Socks by Mary Smith

  1. Pingback: Smorgasbord Short Story Festival – 9th – 12th June – Trouble with Socks by Mary Smith | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  2. Ooooh, grrrrr! You certainly have nailed it, Mary. It reminds me of seeing my mother in hospital during one of the last times she was sectioned before she died and they’d dressed her in a crocheted cardigan she wouldn’t have been seen dead in! And don’t ask me to describe the dress. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  3. A beautiful story, Mary, written about a very real situation. I suppose the people who work in these care homes are over loaded and rushed but, I agree, that this kind of thing does matter very much. That is why we have opted to have my parents live with us in their own little cottage. We can keep an eye on them. I know we are lucky to be able to do this for them.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Genius Mary. I am still reeling. What shocked me most was my own reaction. George is 52 and lost his sight.. so needs care. Not too far on the other side of that age I am outraged and offended by Margaret’s ‘professional caring’ attitude and the fact that despite he’s blind he might as well be deaf!
    Then I got thinking what if George was 82 or 92? And I realised it would have made a difference.
    Then I got to asking if he was and if I was the carer, would I be Margaret? In truth I don’t know. Would I? Our prejudices and assumptions run deep!
    A superb horror story. At least it chilled me to the bone on so many levels.
    Job done I would say!

    Liked by 2 people

      • I think you are right Mary and they probably cannot see that they do any wrong. And I think that what is was trying to say in my comment. We come to every situation with so many preconceptions that influence our behaviour… often because we don’t know how to behave in some situations. I suppose we are overwhelmed.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Paul. Glad it got you thinking. I think George can take care of himself despite losing his sight but because he’d been in hospital and needed building up he was sent to a care home and found being treated like a child very frustrating. There are a lot of Margarets in the care profession – and I htink they do care but only in their own way.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Smorgasbord Short Story Festival and weekly round up – and The Mummy! | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  6. You had me hooked your story felt authentic and I felt that I was there wanting to chastise Suzy and Margaret for their lack of empathy and shouted ‘take your own shoes off woman step into his then see how you like it’. Now I have calmed and reminded myself that it is a story, I hope I never meet those two or have to suffer the indignation of people like them.

    Liked by 2 people

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