When I first wrote about this sock, I wondered how long it would remain in its spot. In nearly two months since I started that story, it didn’t move. Then one day in mid-March, it wasn’t on the grass. After a quick breath and a quick scan of the area, I found it about 50 feet from where I had grown used to seeing it.
I took the picture. And I began to wonder what Edward’s reaction would be. And if anyone else had noticed.
On the first day of Edward’s spring break in mid-March, he was at the window of his bedroom in the house on the northwest corner of Third and Howard Streets. He was kneeling on a green-painted ladderback chair looking out, watching a man across Howard street as he worked the soil of a long narrow garden with a roto-tiller. Edward looked intently at the dark soil that the man walked through as he trailed behind the machine. Edward’s gaze didn’t follow the man, but focused behind him. His eyes narrowed and he continued to stare at the tilled soil for 43 seconds when suddenly his eyes widened and his head pulled back slightly. The roto-tiller had just come back down the narrow plot and passed the patch of dirt Edward had been focused on. Edward continued to look at the dirt as he stood up. The he turned, walked out of his room, closed his door, walked down the hall and down the stairs.
At the bottom of the stairs, he turned down the hall, walked past the kitchen and bathroom. He turned and entered the last room before the living room. Edward’s dad sat in a brown, leather chair with a black laptop computer on his lap. The boy stood just inside the door for 94 seconds before the man’s forehead wrinkled with three vertical creases above his nose and his eyes drifted up from the screen. Edward’s dad’s eyes went wide and he took in air sharply before he smiled and said, “wow.”
Edward said, “Can I ask you about dirt?”
“Dirt,” Edward’s dad said. “Sure. But first, tell me how long you were standing there.”
Edward’s forehead wrinkled with three vertical creases above his nose and he looked down in silence for two seconds before he said, “more than a minute, I think.”
“Okay. Well, thanks for not interrupting me. We may have to talk about incorporating a gentle, unobtrusive knock into your office entry routine, but we’ll table that for now. So, dirt?”
Edward turned and left the office, walking into the living room and going to the window directly under his bedroom window. He stood there looking out as his dad came out of his office and walked up behind the boy. When the man put his hand on Edward’s shoulder, Edward pointed.
“Dirt.” Edward’s dad said. “Oh, he’s tilling.”
“Tilling?” Edward asked.
“Tilling. Turning the soil so that – ” The man’s statement stopped when first the boy and then he turned their heads to watch a lanky man striding eastbound on the opposite side of Third Street. They watched the man stop, stand for a moment looking down and to his left and then unsling a bag from his back and crouch down on the sidewalk.
Both sets of eyes squinted slightly and both foreheads wrinkled as they watched these actions. After just under two seconds, Edward took in a breath. Less than a quarter of a second later, Edward’s dad also inhaled.
Edward said, “the experiment.”
Edward’s dad began his statement, “that sock?” just as Edward’s lips widened for the initial “e” of the boy’s second word. They watched the man put his camera away and stand up. As the man adjusted his bag on his back, Edward left the window and scurried 11 feet to small tiled spot next to the side door. He sat on the floor and began pulling on his bright, white tennis shoes. As Edward tied his left shoe, his dad stood next to him with one hand on the wall above the boy, slipping first his left then his right foot into a pair of gray wool hard-soled slippers.
As Edward tied his right shoe, he said, “It’s March.”
Edward’s dad lifted a small blue canvas jacket from a hook and held it as Edward finished tying his right shoe. The boy stood up and took the coat. Edward’s dad said, “March 12. You know, it might not be the sock.”
Edward had his left arm in the coat but his right hand was searching unsuccessfully for its proper location. Edward’s dad lifted the shoulder of the coat and the boy’s right arm slipped into the sleeve and the coat settled on his shoulders as he reached out with his left hand for the door handle.
Two minutes and twenty-two seconds later, Edward crouched and his dad stood to the boy’s left. Edward was in the same spot on the sidewalk where the lanky man had been. They looked down at a dirty white and blue sock that sat in the gravel of the driveway 63 feet east of Howard on the south side of Third Street.
“It moved,” Edward said.
“It got moved somehow,” Edward’s dad said.
“It was in it’s original spot until two days ago,” said the young woman who had been walking west towards them and was now standing on Edward’s right.
Edward turned and looked at the boots to his right and then up. He recognized the zippers on her boots. He said, “you were sad.”
The young woman laughed, crouched next to Edward and said, “I was. But, you know, every time I passed this sock, I got less sad.” Edward nodded once. She looked up at Edward’s dad, who was smiling down at them. She stood up said, “Your son and I had a discussion about the sock and me about me being sad a few months ago.”
“Just before Thanksgiving,” Edward said. The boy continued to focus on the sock. The young woman’s head turned slightly away from the older man and her gaze lengthened.
Edward’s dad turned and said, “I’m Edward.” Placing his right hand on Edward’s head, he added, “This is Edward Junior.” He then lifted his hand from his son’s head and offered it to the young woman.
“I’m Lacey,” the young woman said, Shaking Edward’s dad’s hand; she didn’t look at the man, instead continuing to stare beyond him, west down Third Street.
Edward stood up and his head seemed to separate the adults’ hands. He turned to his right and looked up at Lacey for a moment. Then he turned to his left, reached up and pulled down on his dad’s sleeve. Edward’s dad leaned down and Edward whispered into the older man’s ear for a moment. Edward’s dad straightened, smiled at his son, took a quick look to his left toward the house and then looked back down at Edward and nodded.
Edward nodded and turned to Lacey. He looked up into her face and said, “I’m glad my experiment made you not sad…” He trailed off and the three creases came into his forehead again. After two breaths, his forehead smoothed out and spoke again, “I’m glad my experiment made you less sad and I would like to give you a hug.”
Lacey breathed out a chuckle and leaned down to the boy. He embraced her and quickly let go. He nodded and said, “I’m going to leave the sock here so that maybe you’ll get even less sad.”
He turned back toward his father and reached out to take the man’s hand. Lacey said, “Edward.” Edward turned back to her. She said, “can I have another hug?” The boy looked up at his father who quickly nodded. Edward turned back to Lacey and hugged her again. She pulled his head into her abdomen and held the boy while a tear formed in the corner of her right eye nearest her nose. The droplet grew until gravity pulled it down the side of her nose. It rolled until it met the slight bulge of her nostril then it turned and continued to the tip of her nose. It hung and grew there for the span of one breath. When she inhaled a second time, the droplet broke free and dropped into Edward’s brown hair.
She let him go and he turned back to his dad and took the man’s hand. Edward’s dad looked at Lacey and smiled. She smiled back at him. She looked down at the back of the boy’s head and then back up at the man. Edward’s dad shrugged gently and raised his eyebrows. She let out an almost silent breathy laugh before turning and going back up the sidewalk east toward her house.
As Edward led his dad down the sidewalk he said, “I think you should tell mom that you know Lacey so that I can hug her again if she needs it.” Edward’s dad said, “Okay. I’ll do that.”