One Saturday me and Catfish were out exploring the bayou and we’d gone farther than we usually did. We came to a patch of woods that we’d only ever seen off in the distance. It was a tangled mass of Holly and Poplar, Greenbrier and wild Raspberry. Scattered Pines towered above it all, like in all forests in East Texas. It was deep and dense and dark in there, even though it was the middle of the day. The forest whispered to us Come inside, Come inside. We stood on the edge looking for a way in, unable to resist the allure.
We found a game trail and crawled in, entering a world that was bigger on the inside than it was on the outside. Flies and mosquitoes buzzed around us, and we had continuously to swatted them. We kept moving to try and keep them at bay. A little ways in the forest cleared up a bit, and we walked on for a good while. The ground was soft and squishy, like walking on a sponge. The leaves and pine needles on the floor were moist, and every step released the sweet scent of decay.
Eventually we came to a part of the forest where nothing grew but twisted and tangled oak trees. The floor was barren of any other kind of plant life. We kept walking, everything now was brown and grey. The ground was getting squishier and squishier with each step, and our footprints were filling up with water as soon as we stepped out of them. In front of us the ground was covered in water. My feet were getting wet.
“Catfish” I said, “I think we should turn around.”
“I think you’re right. Do you think it’s quicksand?”
“No” I said, “I think it’s a mog.”
“What’s a mog?”
“It’s like, this swampy place in the woods.”
“That’s a bog,” Catfish said, “and that’s exactly what this is. We better get out of here. I heard some people go into bogs and never come out again.”
We turned around to go back and saw nothing but water. We were standing on an island. The bog had crept up around us.
“Where’d the trail go?”
“I don’t know” said Catfish, “it must’ve sank after we walked on it.”
“Well how are we gonna get outta here?”
“We’re gonna have to walk through it” he told me, “it’s no big deal, we walk through the bayou all the time. It’s just mud.”
I gathered up my courage. Catfish was right, we walked through mud all the time. But we were so, so far away from home, and he’d heard that some people go into bogs and never come out again. And we’d spun ourselves around so many times that we’d both forgotten which way we came in.
“Alright” I said, “I’m pretty sure we came from that way,” I always felt like I had a good sense of direction, but this time I was totally guessing. “I think I can see the edge of the forest over there.” I hoped I could, anyway.
We started back and the ground was even squishier than it was on the way in. The water was well over our shoes now and each time we picked up our feet it made a slurping sound. The walking was slow and each step was a concentrated effort. My foot got stuck and I tugged and tugged at it but couldn’t get it loose.
“Catfish, help!” I shouted, “I’m stuck!”
Catfish grabbed my arm and counted to three, then I lunged forward while he pulled with all his might. I felt a momentary sense of elation as my foot came loose of the ground. Then I heard a whoosh. Me and Catfish watched helpless as my shoe filled up with muddy water and disappeared.
“Dang” said Catfish, “the mog just ate your shoe.”
I fished around in the mud for it and found it but couldn’t for the life of me pull it out. It felt like it weighed a hundred pounds.
“I can’t go home without my shoe” I said, “I’ll get in trouble.”
“Come on” Catfish said, “I’ll give you one of mine. We gotta get out of here before it eats us too.”
We walked a few more yards and I realized that I was having a much easier time with my barefoot than the one with the shoe on it. We stopped and took off our remaining three shoes and walked out of there with the mud oozing between our toes and cooling our feet. It felt surprisingly good, and we talked and laughed the rest of the way out of there.
When we got back to the bayou, to familiar territory, we parted ways. Catfish promised to bring me a pair of his shoes later on in the day. Mom didn’t even notice until a couple of days later and I just told her that me and Catfish had traded shoes. She was fine with that.
Forever after, that part of the woods was known as the bog that steals your shoes. I imagined that years later, when I was grown up, I would go back there and find the bog all dried up, and there’d be hundreds of left shoes sticking up out of the ground..