Some of the unpaired items I’ve photographed are dirty and blend in with their surroundings. Some of them like this bright blue mitten are truly striking. The visual prominence of this mitten led me to believe that it couldn’t have been there very long – though the dusting of snow on it told me it had been there at least overnight. These facts and the mitten’s proximity to Edward’s experimental white sock, sparked the notion that Edward might have influenced one of his classmates to do an experiment of her own.
At 4:57 PM on the 30th of November, a girl in a pink coat with pink artificial fur around the cuffs and hood stood on the sidewalk on the south side of Third Street just east of Howard Street. She was facing north and looking down into the grass between the sidewalk and the street. In the grass was a sock. After three seconds, she looked up and to her left. She waved. In the window of the house on the northwest corner of Third and Howard Streets, a boy waved three times and then disappeared. She looked back down at the sock.
. . .
Fourteen minutes earlier the girl stood inside that house on Third and Howard on a patch of off-white tile near the front door. “Mommy said to give,” the girl dug around in the right hand pocket of the pink coat hanging on the wall hook for a moment. Her eyebrows drew together when her hand emerged empty from the pocket.
“It’s fine, Crystal,” the older woman standing next to the girl said. “Edward’s daddy doesn’t mind seeing you home safe.” Then she turned her head toward the hallway behind her and yelled, “Ed!”
“Safely,” said a boy’s voice from the seat at the window twelve feet to the woman’s left.
“My mom said it was ‘portant I give you the enlope.” Crystal dug into the left hand pocket of the coat. Her lips curled up and her hand emerged from the pocket with a small light blue envelope. Crystal turned and handed it up to the woman.
The boy in the window seat rasped out, “Crystal!” in a harsh, loud whisper. As the woman opened the envelope, Crystal stepped over to the window seat. The two children knelt on the window seat and looked out the window. The boy pointed at an angle to the right and said, “there. In the grass. Just wave if it’s still there.”
The girl’s brows drew together again and she said, “a sock, Edward?”
“A white one,” the boy, Edward, said. A loud exhalation of breath caused both children to turn and look over their right shoulders at the older woman..
Crystal turned back to Edward and whispered, “why is her face red?”
Before Edward could answer, Edward’s mother said, “Put your coat on, Crystal.” She then lowered the volume of her voice by 40 percent, “Your mother apparently believes the world is a safer place than it is.” She carefully folded the paper in her hand and returned it to the envelope as Crystal scrambled from the window seat and walked back toward the door.
Edward’s mother lifted Crystal’s coat from the hook and handed it down to the girl. Crystal took the coat and laid it carefully on the floor with the hood between her feet. She opened the coat to expose the ruby red satin lining.
“Crystal!” Edward’s mom said quite loudly when she turned and saw the coat on the ground. “You’ll get your lovely pink coat dirty if you…” The older woman continued to speak and watched the girl begin to fold at the hips, arms pointed down. The scolding trailed off as the girl inserted her hands into the sleeves and swept the coat off the ground, up past her face and over her head. As Crystal straightened and her hands emerged from the cuffs, Edward’s mother said, “well.”
Edward’s brows drew together and a slight crease formed just above the bridge of his nose as he watched his friend’s actions. His lips tensed and flattened when he heard his mother’s response.
Crystal carefully worked three white wooden toggle buttons through their loops starting at the bottom of the coat and working her way up. Her head was pointed concentratedly down at her hands so she couldn’t see Edward looking at her and pointing in the same general direction he had been when they were both on the window seat. Girl and woman both looked up at him at the same time. They both said, “Edward” at the same time. Crystal said it with an upward inflection. Edward’s mother said through familiar flattened lips and followed it with a burst of air through her nostrils.
“Be careful, young lady,” Edward’s mother said, ushering Crystal out the door. The older woman lingered in the open doorway, watching the little girl walk up the sloped driveway and turn right when she reached the sidewalk. She lifted her left foot to step out for a better view of the girl’s progress when a low male voice inside the house behind her said, “you think I’m made of Methane? Close that door.”
Edward’s mother turned inside the house as Edward’s dad approached. He put his right hand on the edge of the door and his left hand around on the small of her back. He pulled her close to him with the one, while he gave impulse to the door with the other. The door swung closed and latched as he planted a gentle kiss on the top of her head. She flattened her lips but a moment later laid her right ear and temple on his chest. “It is not safe for a girl that little to cross those streets,” she said.
Edward’s dad looked over the head on his chest to see Edward scramble up onto the window and kneel, facing out. The older man said, “Well… You usually ask me to -”
He cut himself off as her left hand suddenly shot up in front of his face. It held the small blue envelope. “She sent her with a note,” Edward’s mom said. Her head remained on his chest. Above her, the man’s eyes widened and is lips twitched up at the corners before flattening again. He took the envelope from her hand. He lifted his left hand from the small of her back and extracted the note from the envelope. Arranging paper in front of envelope in his right hand, he returned his left hand to her waist while reading the note.
“Situational awareness,” he quoted. “She wants Crystal to learn situational awareness?”
“She was a soldier,” Edward’s mother said.
Edward’s dad turned toward the window seat in time to see the third of Edward’s three waves. The boy climbed down from the window seat, took eight steps toward his parents and stopped. He looked up at them and said, “What’s methane? And what’s situational awareness?”
Edward’s mother’s lips flattened and she blew her breath out through her nose. Her head began to move slightly as Edward’s dad’s chest began to oscillate in and out. A gentle laugh bubbled out of his mouth and seemed to lift her head off his chest. Edward’s mom turned out of his arm and moved down the hall saying, “Ninety minutes until dinner.”
On the sidewalk on Third Street, Crystal turned her head up and to her right as a young woman approached her from the east.
“The sock?” the young woman said when she was seven feet away. She stopped and looked down at the sock.
“I heard you coming,” Crystal said.
“You know about the spearmint?”
The young woman cocked her head to the left and squinted her eyes slightly. After just over a second, her head straightened, her eyes opened and the corners of her lips rose. She said “Experiment! Yes. You do too?”
“He told me.” Crystal pointed to Edward’s house.
The young woman looked in the direction indicated. “Me too.” She turned back to the girl. “You live on Monroe across from the park, don’t you?” The young woman pointed at a 45 degree angle to their right. “Do your parents know you’re out here?”
“I’m walking home by myself because so I can have swashonal wariness.”
The young woman took in a breath, held it for just over a second and then said, “ah.”
The little girl said, “bye,” turned and took three steps east on the sidewalk. She stopped. “Do you think I could have a spearmint?”
The young woman said, “I don’t have any -” She stopped took a breath and said, “I think you can do an experiment, yes. You might want to ask an adult first.”
Crystal looked at the young woman for a moment, scanning her from boots to long brown hair. “I did,” she said. She turned and walked east on the sidewalk. The young woman watched the girl’s deliberate progress. As the girl stopped at the corner of Third and Monroe, the young woman smiled and said, “spearmint.”
When she turned back to the west, she watched A Moscow Police SUV turn left onto Howard Street in front of her. The SUV stopped and as the young woman moved past its rear bumper in the crosswalk, she heard a voice say, “Excuse me. Lacey?”
She stopped, turned her head toward the SUV and saw that the officer was out of the vehicle and looking at her. He moved toward her around the back of the SUV. As he approached, her head began to tilt back. When he stopped three feet in front of her, her neck was at a 38 degree angle. “Hi. Yes?” she said.
“I know we’ve met and you live on this street but I’m going to ask you for your driver’s license,” He said. His eyes were not on her face but were pointed directly at Edward’s house on the opposite corner.
“Okay,” the young woman, Lacey, said. She reached into the front left pocket of her jeans, pulled out a card and held it out to him. He reached for it without looking down. He missed three inches to the right. Then he looked down, took the card with his left hand while extracting a small notebook from his breast pocket with his right hand. He flipped open the notebook, slid the card under his left thumb, pulled a pen out of his breast pocket and began to write in the notebook.
“Is your friend doing better? I’m going to write for a bit because I need to be seen writing,” he said. He then looked up at Edward’s house again. Lacey looked over her shoulder. She turned back, looked at the notebook which was at eye level and then bent her neck again to look up at the officer’s face.
“Huh,” she said. The officer’s lips curled up slightly at the corners.
“I probably shouldn’t have said that,” he said. “She calls a lot.”
Lacey said. “Why does she call?”
“She worries about her son,” The officer said. He paused for just over a second and continued, “I get that.” He held Lacey’s driver’s license out. She reached up with her right hand – almost at eye level – and took it.
As she slid the card back into the pocket of her jeans she said, “How tall are you?”
He smiled and closed his notebook.
As the officer’s hand moved to put his notebook back in his pocket, just over two blocks northeast Crystal opened the front door of the fourth house north of Third Street on the west side of Howard. Crystal entered the house, leaving the door open four inches. On Third street, Lacey turned and began walking westbound, the officer adjusted his equipment belt and turned toward his SUV and a figure moved out of the side window of Edward’s house.
As the SUV started on Monroe and Third Street, Crystal re-emerged from the house on Howard, holding a blue striped mitten in her left hand. She turned right on the sidewalk and walked toward Third Street. When she passed the property line between the second and first houses north of Third Street, a loud voice behind her said, “Crystal! Dinner in five minutes!.”
She immediately stopped and looked down, scanning in front of her and to her left. She turned and faced the grass between the sidewalk and street. She crouched down and set the mitten down in the grass. She quickly stood up and began walking north on the sidewalk. After four steps she stopped, turned and looked back toward the mitten. She then turned back north and began running. 23 seconds later she went through the front door of the fourth house and it closed behind her.
. . .
At 7:47 PM, Edward’s mom came out of the side door of the house on Third and Howard Streets. The beam of a powerful flashlight swept in front of her as she quickly crossed Howard street headed east. Her steps sounded loudly on the concrete when she turned left on Monroe Street. About 40 feet north of the corner, her flashlight highlighted a flash of blue in the grass and she stopped. She turned and picked up the mitten Crystal had left there earlier in the evening. She looked at it for a moment then turned and scanned the area. She walked back east to the concrete step next to the house on the corner. She laid the mitten down on the step, turned around and continued north on Monroe. When she reached the walk up to the fourth house, she turned to step up the walk, but stopped still on the city sidewalk. After a moment, she turned off her flashlight, facing the house, but looking at the sky. She stood in the dark silence facing the house for 87 seconds. A voice came out of the darkness, “did you go in?” The flashlight burst on and swung around for a moment before finding a pair of untied Sorel boots on the sidewalk 12 feet south of her. The light quickly swept up to shine in the eyes of Edward’s dad.
“Ed!” she gasped out in a harsh whisper. She took two breaths and then said, “no.” The flashlight beam fell and lit up the rubber toes of her keen hiking shoes.
“You need to have better situational awareness,” Edward’s dad said as he took the flashlight from her left hand with his left hand. “You didn’t hear me coming.” He then took her left hand in his right hand and said, “let’s go home.”
. . .
At 12:05 PM the next day a lanky man strode around the corner from eastbound Third to northbound Monroe. When he was even with the concrete step up to the first house, he stopped. He unslung his backpack, pulled out a camera and crouched down next to the blue mitten. As he placed the camera back in his bag and hefted the pack back onto his shoulders, across town in the Palouse Prairie Charter School lunch room, Crystal sat down across from Edward and said, “I’m doing a spearmint too!”