The Sloth’s Pawprint, Fiction

I have a magic To Do list. It’s not as much fun as it sounds.

The discovery was everything one could have wished for in a magical adventure. I was traveling in the appropriately exotic foreign country. I went for a walk. Got lost. Stumbled on the archetypical small shop in a small alley. I went in. Who wouldn’t?

Lots of intriguing, exotic items. Or at least, they enthralled me. It might all seem like trash to someone who lived there. Oh, more of those. Yawn. My local thrift store might be full of exotic treasures to someone not familiar with the detritus of American culture.

In the back of the store, naturally, I found a beautiful wooden box. It had an odd-shaped print carved into the lid. Later, I found out that it was the pawprint of a Three-Toed Sloth, scientific name Bradypus. At the time, I just thought it was cool.

Inside was a note pad with the words To Do printed on the top of each page. The size was little odd but the paper felt ordinary enough. Kind of a weird thing to find in such and elaborate box. Oh well. Bought them both.

When I got home, I put it on the mantel. Took the notepad out. Tossed it in a drawer. Went on with my life.

The trip receded in my rearview mirror. Looked thorough the photos I had taken. Sent a few of them off to anyone I thought would be interested, or at least make polite comments.

I saw the box every day. Admired it. Forgot about the notepad. Eventually it bubbled to the surface of my junk drawer. Took it out, Used it.

Get milk
Stop by bank

Every have one of those days when you feel super-organized and each errand seems to be a matter of moments rather than a rock to be rolled endlessly uphill? I had a spate of those. Three or four days when I was knocking my To Do list out of the park.

Gradually, I noticed that if I used another pad, I had my usual success rate. Some days good; some days bad. Rarely completed. If I used the sloth pad, I’d get the entire list crossed off.

Is there a better feeling than a crossed-off To Do list?

Well, yes. Many things. But it is definitely one of the minor joys of life.

After a while, I began to notice that the chores didn’t always go as I planned. In fact, they *never* went as I planned.

Buy shampoo

Yes. I bought shampoo. All the store had was a trial size good for one wash and then I’d have to go back.

Stop by bank

I needed to amend my account. I stopped in, thinking I could get it fixed. No, they gave me a form that I would need to take home, fill out, and mail to their headquarters in Pacific, Missouri.

See Francis

I did. Briefly. We were both running flat out and did not have time to talk.

And so it went.

I was getting what I asked for, but not what I meant.

I began experimenting.

I paint. On a very amateur level. I exhibit at a few local art shows. I have always wanted a ribbon from a show.

Win ribbon at art show

My local art store had a small, in-house show for customers only. I was the sole entry in the oil painting division.

I won.


Remember the Monkey’s Paw? It started as short story by W. W. Jacobs in 1902. It has been adapted many times, including a Twilight Zone episode called The Man in the Bottle. It has become a cultural trope. The list of adaptions even has its own page on Wikipedia. The idea is that your wish is granted in the most horrible possible manner.

This is the benign version. You get what you ask for, as minimally as possible. If you ask the Monkey’s Paw for $200, your child dies. If you ask the Sloth’s Pawprint for $200, you get an unexpected refund on your credit card bill the same day your medical insurance announces that your share of the latest procedure was $200.

Maybe the response is not as dramatic because sloths are anthropomorphically credited with laziness? Maybe it’s less harmful because fate took the pawprint rather than the entire paw. It certainly was less harmful to the sloth.

How did I know it wasn’t pattern matching on my part? Because I can count. The pad had 50 pages when I started. I used it for a few days. Tore off a page each day. 45 pages. Then, I tossed it back into the box because I happened to be standing by the mantel. When I took it out, the little ripped off area of the header was filled. 50 pages again. Left out, the page count decreased; left in box, 50 pages the next day.

Explain that as observer error.

I gave it the ultimate test.

Solve world peace

That night, the daily crossword puzzle was full of puns on food. I often forget to check the title before I start. It wasn’t until I was done that I looked. The title was Whirled Peas. I had solved it.

That was the last straw.

So, I’m giving it away. I’ll be donating it to my local thrift store. Maybe if were a better person, I’d put it away or hide it in a safe deposit box. I know myself. The temptation to use it would be too much. I’d remember that I got stuff done. I’d forget how annoying it was. I just want it out of my life.

I’m not endangering the next person, just inconveniencing them a little. Maybe they won’t be the sort to keep a To Do list.

I considered putting this letter in with the notepad, but didn’t. Who would believe me? Here is a magical item. Yes, magic is real. It’s not that big a deal. People would get as far as “Magic Is Real” and stop listening. I would have. Some things you just have to find out for yourself.

3 thoughts on “The Sloth’s Pawprint, Fiction

  1. Agreed! Keep ‘em coming.

    Did anyone see “Bedazzled”? Fun 1967 movie with Dudley Moore. Same theme with 7 Deadly Sins.

    Your creativity is amazing!

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