Gloves are obviously the most common unpaired item I find. So now, I only photograph the most interesting ones. This white knit glove, I must have come across soon after it was dropped. It clearly hadn’t been kicked or stepped on. And even as I took the picture, I was sure that it would soon be picked up and taken into a nearby business.
When I looked at the picture later, it looked to me like it had been dropped from near the ground. And so I immediately thought of our friend Emma and her penchant for strewing things from her low-slung rolling throne. And then I thought of her babysitter, Lacey, and how this glove might have been driven from Emma’s hand as an illustration of the moral of a modern fairy tale.
“Once upon a time,” the young woman said to the bundle in the stroller. She was sitting on a bench at the playground in Friendship Square. It was January 20 at 10:56 AM. Although it was sunny, the temperature was just above freezing. The stroller was in front of her and there was a small hand projecting from the pink and purple blanket. The hand was waving a white knit glove right to left. The movement exposed a face whose plump lips could be seen working a chant: “pon time venture pon time venture pon time venture.” Each iteration of the words grew louder and squeakier.
“Emmaaaaa” the young woman said, extending the final syllable until it’s sound brought the repetition from the stroller to a halt.
There was the sound of an intake of breath from the stroller. Then, “Wacey.” The bundle’s – Emma’s – voice was now low and solemn.
“Do you want a story?” The young woman’s – Lacey’s – tone was gentle, but serious.
“Pon time venture, Wacey.” Almost pleading.
“Yes, we’ll have a once upon a time adventure, but you have to let me tell it. Do you know what that means?”
“Um. Emma zip wip?”
A chuckle bubbled out of Lacey’s mouth and she said, “yes” with a grin. Then over the span of four seconds while Emma murmured “zip lip zip lip zip lip zip lip,” Lacey’s face transformed. Her eyes turned and suddenly focused on the glove in Emma’s hand. Her brow furrowed and she took her lower lip between her teeth.
. . .
Twenty-three hours earlier, she was standing outside the Clearwater room in the Idaho Commons. She was putting a white knit glove on her right hand while she expressed her opinion about storytelling in modern marketing practice – the topic of the talk she had just attended. As she was talking, she dropped her left glove. The young man standing next to her immediately bent to pick it up. And almost immediately, the young man interrupted her, waving her glove at her and saying, “Well, actually…”
. . .
Lacey’s focus returned to Emma, she took a breath and she said, “wait. No.”
“zip lip zip lip zip lip zip lip,” Emma continued.
“Emmaaaaa,” the extended syllable brought the chant to a halt again. “You know you don’t always have to zip your lip, right?” Lacey increased the volume of the first syllable of “always” by approximately 20 percent and extended the length of the second syllable by approximately 1.5 times what her normal cadence would dictate.
“All ways?” Emma asked.
“You’re allowed to participate in social discourse and have your voice heard.”
“diss corpse, Wacey?”
“Discourse. Discussion. Talking back and forth. I – we – you can be female and human without being silent.”
“Kay,” the little girl said and nodded slowly, eyes locked with Lacey’s. Then she smiled and waved the glove up and down and said, “Venture?”
“Right,” Lacey said and then she said, “right” at a volume about 20 percent higher and with an explosive emphasis on the closing “t.”
“Wight,” Emma bubbled.
“Right. So, Emma, how does this story start?”
“Once pon time was a pwetty pwincess,” Emma said in a sing-song tone.
“That’s almost right. Listen. Once upon a time, there was a princess. She was a curious princess. She was a princess who wanted to know everything. She was a princess who asked questions and looked for answers. She learned to read when she was two years old. She knew her multiplication tables when she was five. She was studying the stars at Ten. And all those years, she observed, and wondered and asked questions and learned.”
“That’s right. Her parents thought being a smart princess fine for a child, but they had other plans for their soon to be grown up daughter. They needed her to attract a prince to marry. So when she was 11 they stopped her math lessons and brought in someone to teach her to sing. When she was 12, they took away her books and told her she had to learn to sew. When she was 13, they put away the telescope and explained that she would now have to stop looking at the sky and instead act like a lady.”
“No books. She didn’t have time. She now had to spend time sitting at fancy dinners listening to princes talk about guns and hay and livestock.”
“Wivestock?” Emma’s face scrunched and turned up to look at Lacey.
“Animals that the princes’ families raised for food: cows, sheep, even fish and bees.”
“Wivestock. Bzzzz,” Emma buzzed excitedly, darting the white glove left and right, up and down.
“That’s what bees say, but that’s also what the princes say. Or so it seemed to the princess at the very first of these fancy dinners with a prince. You see this prince decided to talk about the moon and how it goes around the earth once a day and that’s what causes the tides that impacted the oyster beds his family farmed.”
“Oysters. Small sea creatures,” she cupped her right hand to show size. “They have a shell that opens like this,” she put her left hand next to her right hand pinkie to pinkie and fanned the two cupped appendages opened and closed. “They make pearls,” she touched the pearl in her right earlobe with her left index finger.
“Kay,” Emma said.
“So the princess waited until the prince was finished and then said, ‘That’s all very interesting, but I do want to correct one important matter, you see the moon goes around the earth once a month – a little more than 27 days to be precise.’
“The prince looked at her and smiled and said ‘actually, that’s true but my point isn’t about months it’s about daily tides.’ The princess took in a breath to speak again, but saw her mother’s face across the table. It was a face that was saying ‘be quiet’ quite clearly.”
“Pwincess zip wip?” Emma asked in a low, even tone.
Lacey chuckled. “That’s what the mother was saying. And the mother – and the father too – started to say it to the princess a lot. The princess got the ‘zip lip’ look when she corrected one visiting prince’s obvious math error that caused him to over-state the profit of his family’s farm by a factor of ten.”
“How much money the family made from their farm. She got the ‘zip lip’ look when she asked a prince whose family ran a toy factory how they decided when to stop making a toy car and when to start making a toy plane and he couldn’t answer.”
“It’s place where stuff like toys is made. She got the ‘zip lip’ look again when she suggested to a prince that horse racing was cruel.”
“Mean,” Lacey said.
“Pwince was mean to hosseys?” Emma’s voice was high and wavered slightly. The little girl threw the glove on the ground.
“Yep.” Lacey picked up the glove.
Lacey handed the glove back to the little girl. She sighed and said, “Because he didn’t know any better. Raising horses for racing is what his family had always done.”
There was a brief pause before Emma said, “Did the pwincess save the hosseys, Wacey?”
Lacey took in a breath and began to answer, but then stopped for just a moment before she said, “yes.”
“Kay,” Emma said and smiled.
“So at fancy dinner after fancy dinner, the princess sat and ate and listened to the princes who were being paraded before her – and before her father and mother. At first she tried to participate in the social discourse.”
“Diss corpse!” Emma interjected happily.
“That’s right. For a while she expressed opinions.” She turned away from Emma and her voice got 10 percent louder. “For a time she tried to correct the most egregious errors of fact or logic in these conversations.” Her tone grew more harsh and the volume increased another 15 percent. “For a time she tried to recycle the trash that spewed from these princes’ gaping maws into useful information.” She paused to take a suddenly needed breath. She looked at Emma’s face and saw the little girl’s eyes were wide. She heard a chuckle from behind her and glimpsed a figure striding by headed west. She turned back to Emma and smiled. The corners of her lips trembled slightly.
Emma said, “kay, Wacey?”
“Yeah. I’m good, Emma,” Lacey said. She took in a deep breath and said, “But the princess wasn’t. You see, she gave up on trying to participate fully in social discourse.”
“Diss corpse!” Emma said with a squeak.
“And she just listened and smiled falsely as princes said inane things. And she grew accustomed to being corrected, having her ideas co-opted or simply being ignored.”
“Pwincess sad?” Emma’s voice was low and shaky.
Lacey let out a quick low “ha” before she said, “Princess numb.”
Lacey’s eyes focused on the glove in Emma’s hand again. She looked up into the little girl’s eyes and smiled. It was a shallow smile, but a firm one. Lacey said, “Then one day, she was out on a horsey ride with a prince.”
“Hossey ride! Pwincess saved hosseys, Wacey!” Emma squeaked again.
“That’s right. The princess was riding horseys with a prince on a cool spring morning. About 20 minutes into their ride, they stopped at a river. While the prince decided which way to go, the princess removed her glove so she could reach into her pocket to get a… chap stick. When she was done… balming her lips, she put the chap stick back in her pocket. In this process, she dropped her glove. The prince immediately leaped down from his horse – horsey – and reached down to pick up the glove. While he was leaning over, the princess’ horse got nervous and sidestepped and knocked the prince over. The princess laughed and said, ‘I’m sorry.’ The prince stood up and dusted himself off and said with strained dignity, ‘I understand. It can be hard for an inexperienced rider to control a horse.'”
Lacey took a breath and then said, “Like your dad after your mom laughs at him.”
“Kay,” Emma said without a pause and nodded three times.
Lacey continued. “The princess said, ‘you made her nervous. You were on her right side.’ And the prince said, ‘Well, actually, if the horse is under the control of the rider it shouldn’t matter which side I was on.’ The princess almost started to say something but then she seemed to change her mind and remained silent. The prince said, ‘I accept your apology and return your glove.’ As he reached up, the horse – horsey – sidestepped again and bumped the prince again. The prince took hold of the reins with his right hand and continued to hold the glove up to the princess with his left. She looked down at his smug face and then at his hand on the rein and then at the glove. She took a breath and said, ‘I didn’t apologize.’ The prince said, ‘well, actually you did. You said ‘I’m sorry.’
“The princess looked at him for a long moment. She took in a breath, started to say something and stopped. She did this again. And finally, nodded, took in one more breath and said, ‘I did say those words but they weren’t an apology for any action on my part or on the part of my mount. They were, let’s say pity, for your clumsy fall to the ground.’ The prince laughed with strained dignity and said -”
“Twained digty!” Emma said and nodded three times.
“That’s right. With strained dignity, the prince said, ‘Well, I’ll just have to keep your glove until you do apologize.’ He then leaped onto his horse – horsey – and galloped back toward the stables. The princess expression flashed to anger. She turned her horse and leaned forward as if in preparation to spur her horse into a run. But then she seemed to change her mind. She sat back in the saddle re-arranged the reins in her hand and urged the horse – horsey – into a calm trot back toward the stables.
“She arrived 20 minutes later and saw the prince lounging on a bench outside the stable. She walked by him without a word, dismounted, handed off the horse – horsey – to a groom and started toward the house. She heard the prince’s voice behind her. He said, ‘don’t forget your glove. And my apology.’
“She stopped, turned to him and said, ‘You aren’t due an apology.’ The prince was clearly confused. Then the princess looked him in the eye and said, ‘And I don’t need the glove.’ She then turned back toward the house and walked away.”
“Don’t need gwove,” Emma said and she threw the glove onto the ground in the playground.
Lacey stood up, picked up the glove and handed it back to Emma before moving to the back of the stroller and saying, “let’s walk a bit more before we eat lunch, okay?”
“Kay,” Emma said.
Lacey pushed the stroller out of the square onto the sidewalk on Main Street and turned south. As they rolled past the Chamber of Commerce, Emma was buzzing and making the glove dart around in front of her face. As they passed the pawn shop, Emma was chanting “diss corpse.” As they turned the corner onto Sixth Street, she said, “twained digty” three times.
As they rolled past the last window of the coffee shop on the corner, Lacey waved to someone inside. Just at that moment, Emma quietly said, “don’t need gwove” and tossed the glove to the sidewalk on the left side of the stroller. Six seconds later, they turned right into the alley and headed north again.
. . .
Seventeen minutes later, as Lacey and Emma rolled through the park at Third and Hayes Streets, a lanky man striding east on Sixth stopped next to the glove that Emma had dropped. He looked around for a moment, then unslung his bag from his back, pulled out a camera and crouched down. He moved the camera down near ground level, held it there for a moment and then pulled it up to eye level. He did this same set of motions three more times before he stood up, stowed the camera and continued eastbound on Sixth Street.