Some of the items I’ve photographed are so mundane and everyday that I have trouble inventing an interesting fiction for them. As I looked at this glove – which I actually shot twice in vastly different light – its mundanity sat in my brain for a while. Until its very boringness began to tell me its story.
The glove became a gift whose importance was more about the giver than the object – the best kind of gift, perhaps. And the story began to form. A young man. His grandma. And a series of simple, everyday events and their simple, everyday consequences.
The young man laughed and said, “Cookies, of course. You would do this happily too if you truly valued her cookies.” In the late winter, late afternoon light, the aging silver finish of the 2004 Oldsmobile Alero which he leaned against glowed with a slight lavender cast. The car was parked on First Street, across from East City Park, in front of a tattered blue house. The young man held a smartphone to his right ear. He wore a brown tweed coat with blue suede patches at the elbows, brown Keen hiking shoes, and blue jeans washed and re-washed to a fluid gray/blue that almost blended into the door panel. In the silence, he reached up and covered his left ear with his left hand. He took in a deep breath and then said, “As soon as I can. I’ll get her list; I’ll go to Winco; I’ll buy what she needs; I’ll bring it back here; I’ll unl- Okay. Yeah. It sounds like a lot, but I’ll be as quick as I can. It’s not like the party will be over by nine o’clock.” His eyes fell closed and his eyebrows rose as he took in his next breath. “I know… I’ll be there… She’s my grandma!” This series of statements each rose in pitch and volume. The last reverberated through the park which he faced. He took another deep breath before he said, flatly and quietly, “I said I’ll be there. I’ll be there.” Then, “As soon as I can.”
Less than a second later, he took the phone from his ear, looked at the screen for a moment and blew a breath out between fluttering lips. He lifted himself off the fender and moved around the front of the car. He stepped carefully through the snow and onto the sidewalk, took three steps east and turned left up the walkway to the house. As he stepped up onto the chipping blue paint of the eight foot by four foot wooden deck, the front door opened and a tiny figure was silhouetted in the light. A high, elegant voice said, “Oh my dear Johnny, I forgot to turn on the porch light for you!” The figure began to move stiffly out of the framed light as the young man, Johnny, pulled open the storm door and said, “It’s okay, Gigs! I have excellent night vision.”
“Oh, well, okay. Come on in and let’s close the storm door while I give you the list. It’s sweet of you to do this for a tired old lady.” The young man, Johnny, engulfed his grandmother’s right hand with his left and allowed himself to be pulled across the threshold. He said, “I’m happy to do it, Gigs. I mean I’m driving your car.”
As the storm door closed, she put her left hand to her lips and then patted it on his right cheek. “You’re too tall for me to kiss your cheek directly any more,” she said.
Four minutes later, the storm door opened and Johnny stepped out onto the porch. “I’ll be back soon, Gigs! I’ll let myself in,” he said as he pulled the blue door closed behind him and looked at the powder blue paper in his hand. As he stepped off the porch, he slipped the paper into the front right pocket of his jeans. He then reached into the left pocket of his coat and pulled out a pair of leather gloves. He pulled the right one on, held the left glove while his left hand fished a ring of four keys out of his pocket, place the keys in the palm of his gloved right hand, and pulled his left glove on while pinning the keys to his palm with his pinkie finger.
. . .
On a late fall afternoon three years, five months earlier, Johnny was standing on the freshly painted blue deck of that house on First Street. He waved as the silver Alero drove up, shining from a recent wash. The car parked and his grandmother opened the driver’s side door and stood up slowly. If you were to look levelly across the roof of the car, the top seven inches of her head would show. Johnny was looking from a slightly elevated angle so he could see her chin, under which the gauzy blue scarf that covered her hair was knotted. He smiled. He said, “Hi Giga!”
“Oh my dear Johnny!” she said as she made her way around the front of the car and stepped carefully up onto the curb. “I’m sorry I’m late. Am I late?” She asked as she walked across the grass and onto the sidewalk.
“Have you ever once been late, Gigs? Ever once in your life?” he said. “I’m just actually early today for once. It’s my birthday present for you.”
“You don’t give presents on your birthday,” she said. “You get them!” She had made her way up the walkway and he stepped down off the porch. She reached up with her right hand and pulled down on his shoulder. He leaned down and she kissed his cheek. “Still my favorite cheek to kiss,” she said. He smiled as he straightened up. She patted his cheek and said, “Though it’s not quite as soft as it once was.”
His face reddened and he said, “I should have shaved today, Gigs. I’m sorry.”
“Oh, Johnny, don’t be sorry. You’re a grown man and even growner today! Now, let me run in and get your present. Presents! I’m sure you have better things to do than pass time with an old lady.”
He pulled open the screen door. She passed through the door, unknotting her scarf as she stepped over the threshold. “Two shakes of a lamb’s tail,” she said as she disappeared, her scarf trailing behind her.
Johnny let the screen door close and leaned against the jamb. Fourteen seconds later, there was a muffled buzz and his hand shot to the back pocket of his jeans. He pulled out a phone and swiped the screen. He smiled. He tapped once with his thumb and his grandmother appeared behind the screen door. His right thumb began to move rapidly over the screen. There was a pause. He laughed and then his thumb moved nine times in an apparently familiar pattern. There was a decisive tap and his right hand cradled the phone and began moving toward his back pocket.
“And how is your young lady?” Johnny’s grandma said, pushing open the screen door. “Alexis isn’t it?” Johnny unleaned as she came out onto the porch.
“How did you…” he said but trailed off and sniffed the two parcels his grandma was carrying. “You made my cookies?”
“Your birthday. Your cookies. I had to take advantage of you living in my town, didn’t I?.”
“And I don’t have to share them!”
“Your brothers are hundreds of miles away. Though your Alexis might like one.”
“Maybe,” he said and his eyebrows twitched inward for just a moment before they raised slightly as his lips formed a smile. “But I’m going to gorge on them!”
“Well, I have a secret. The best part of being an adult is that you get to choose when you eat your dessert and how much of it you eat!” They both laughed. Then she handed him the small flat box that has been sitting on top of the bigger, brightly painted square tin. “Open this before you get too focused on the sugar.”
Johnny took the box. It was black and textured like linen, it was nine inches long, four inches wide and two inches deep. He laid the box in the palm of his left hand and pulled the nested lid off with his right hand. He looked at the black leather that was revealed. His brows pulled in and his head cocked to the right seven degrees.
His grandma laughed. “Gloves. Every young man needs a quality pair of gloves. You’ll see.” She reached up with her left hand and patted his right cheek. “And you did get cookies.”
. . .
Johnny stood in aisle eight of the Rosauer’s supermarket on Main Street. The blue of his grandmother’s list hung in his left hand which was resting on the gray plastic handle of a shopping cart full of groceries. He was staring at a colorful array of plastic wrapped packages. Into his smartphone at his right ear, he said, “Lex, please stop laughing. I can’t figure out which one she means.” He held the phone one and a half inches from his ear for four seconds. When he returned it to contact, he said, “Are you going to – ” He turned toward the front of the store. “Why did you.. Well showing up at the store isn’t going to make me go faster…The car’s unlocked. I’ll be out in a minute.”
As he tapped the screen and swept the phone toward his back pocket he heard a small, squeaky voice saying, “peshal kay peshal kay peshal kay” and then a young woman’s voice say, “Johnny?”
Johnny looked to his left and his cheeks reddened as he watched a young woman push a stroller past his cart and stop next to him. He turned 180 degrees to face her. “Hi Lace,” he said. She smiled.
Hetook a breath and opened his mouth, forming a tight “o” with his lips. But then he closed his mouth and lifted the blue piece of paper up in front of her. They each angled their shoulders and heads so they could both see the list and he pointed to a spot near the bottom.
The young woman’s, Lacey’s, eyelids pulled closed slightly and she said, “this is beautiful handwriting.” She looked up at his still-red face. “Sorry.” She nodded as she left her spot behind the stroller. She scanned the shelf behind him for a moment. The voice from the stroller said, “Twained ‘digty.” Lacey turned and looked at Johnny’s profile. “Hush Emma,” she said with a tight smile.
Lacey reached up and pulled a green, four inch by four inch by six inch, plastic-wrapped package from the shelf four feet to the left of his left shoulder. She stepped back to him, dropped the package in his cart and said, “that’s the one.” She paused and said, “You’re sweet.” One more pause and then, “That’s not Lex’s handwriting. It’s too… elegant?”
He smiled and squeezed small chuckle out through his nose. “My Grandma.”
“You’re sweet,” she said again. “And that,” she pointed to the cart, “makes so much more sense now. That is not a young woman’s brand of choice.”
His face went red again. “She makes me cookies,” he said.
“Well, it’s totally worth it then,” she said.
“Totally,” he said and then he said “God” through a gust of breathy chuckling.
She laughed and the voice from the stroller said, “twained ‘digty.”
. . .
“She’s going to want to run your life,” the young woman said. Directly in front of her was the black box, open and showing the glowing black leather of the gloves. She was sitting across a table from Johnny at a Mexican restaurant on Main Street downtown. “You mark my words. You’ll be doing chores and answering questions about your activities,” she said.
“She makes me cookies, Lex,” Johnny said, looking up from the plastic covered menu. As his eyes swept toward her face, they were arrested at the gloves. He reached out and ran his right index finger along the finger of the exposed leather. “So soft,” he said.
“Well, you’ll need a lot of cookies if you’re not getting any from me because she’s interfering with our lives. Didn’t we come here to get away from our families?”
He lifted his hand from the glove and retrieved the lid of the box. He carefully mated it over tray holding the glove and slid it down, listening to the hiss of air being expelled from the box. “We are away from your dad… and his shotgun.”
She smiled. “He only showed it to you once.” She laughed and a moment later so did he. “Happy birthday, J.” She took his hand from the top of the linen-textured box and kissed the tip of his index finger. “And happy one-year dating-versery.”
. . .
The street was dark when Johnny lifted the five grocery bags from the trunk of the Alero parked in front the house on First Street. As he stepped out of the snow onto the sidewalk, the passenger window of the car rolled down seven inches and a voice said, “I told you three years ago that her chores were going to cramp our style, J. Hurry up; we have a lot of partying to do tonight.”
“I’ll be quick, Lex,” Johnny said over his shoulder. As he stepped from the concrete of the walkway onto the chipped gray and blue of the porch, a yellow glow erupted from the sconce on the wall next to the door. The blue door opened and his grandma began pushing open the storm door.
“Five bags at once!” she said as Johnny hooked the door open with his right elbow.
“I told you I’d let myself in, Giga!” He stepped up and across the threshold.
His grandma peered out toward the Alero and waved. “Doesn’t your Alexis want to come in?” she said as the storm door closed behind them. The two figures disappeared into the house.
After two minutes and twenty-four seconds, a glow flared in the passenger seat of the Alero. It went out after eighteen seconds. Forty-four seconds later, the glow reappeared and extinguished fourteen seconds later. After a further thirty-nine seconds, the glow appeared again. Twenty-two seconds later, the storm door opened and Johnny appeared. As he pulled the blue door closed behind him, he said, “Good night, Gigs! I’ll come by on Sunday.” He leaped off the porch and jogged down the walkway. As he bounded across the sidewalk, a dark shape fell from the pocket of his coat, unnoticed. He carefully placed his left foot in an existing print in the snow and pushed off. His right foot landed on the street behind the Alero. As he stepped around the back of the car, he pulled his phone from his pocket. A moment later, his face lit up from the glow of the screen. Two seconds after that, he turned the phone off, put it in his pocket and opened the driver’s side door. As he got into the car he said, “Did you seriously text me three times while I was unloading groceries?”
Ninety seconds later, the car pulled away from the curb. As it crossed Monroe Street westbound, a lanky man stepped into the crosswalk on Monroe, walking eastbound on First. As the Alero disappeared down the street, the man stopped in front of the blue house, his head pointed at the sidewalk. He looked around for a moment and then unslung his bag and crouched down on the sidewalk. He pulled a camera from the bag, manipulated it for less than a minute, put it away, stood up and strode off eastbound again.
. . .
Alexis was standing on the sidewalk on Main Street in front of the Mexican Restaurant as Johnny emerged from the glass door. “I can’t believe I almost left Giga’s present here,” he said. He was holding the colorful tin in both hands with the black linen box on top of the tin. He handed the tin to Alexis. He then took the black box and put it in the pocket of his brown leather coat. He lifted the lid of the tin and took an irregularly shaped, peanut-butter colored, shiny tablespoon-sized lump from carefully laid out rows of similar lumps in the tin. He popped the entire cookie into his mouth. He closed his mouth and eyes simultaneously and began to slowly chew. Three seconds later Alexis said, “ahem” and he opened his eyes to find hers locked on his face.
“Can we go now or are you going to orgasm right here on the street?”
“I might,” Johnny said. “Try one.”
“I just ate enough for five days. I’m not going to have a ball of sugar and fat.” She pointed across the street to the clothing consignment store. “I bet those gloves would sell for fifty dollars over there.”
“I’m not going to sell Giga’s birthday present!” he yelled.
“Whoa there,” Alexis said.
“Sorry,” Johnny said. “Let’s head to my place, okay?”
She curled her lips into a smile, though her eyelids and brows remained almost stationary. “You’ll never wear those gloves,” she said as she took his right hand in her left hand and led him north on Main Street.
. . .
At 7:59 AM the rising late winter sun highlighted the frost on the glove lying on the sidewalk in front of the blue house on First Street. The same lanky man from the previous evening was walking east on the sidewalk and stopped next to the glove. Almost recreating his movements from the previous night, he took a photo with the sun directly in his face – and against the filter on the front of his lens. This filter bounced a sharp sliver of light onto the front window of the house. Shortly after this light flitted across the window, Johnny’s grandma appeared in that window. She watched the man stow his camera and walk off. She looked directly at the glove for six seconds. She then disappeared from the window. Seven seconds later the blue door opened behind the storm door.
North-northwest nine-tenths of a mile from her house in the basement unit of a duplex house on Brent Drive, Johnny was standing inside the front door, wearing his blue-elbow-patched tweed coat. He had one leather glove in his hand and was shouting, “Lex have you seen my glove? I only have one!”
Lex’s voice, from further in the apartment, said “Who cares! You need new gloves anyway. You’ve been wearing those for two years.”
“Three years,” he muttered as he dug through a pile of footwear to the left of the door.
On First street, Johnny’s grandma was looking out through the storm door. After a moment’s hesitation, she twisted the handle on the door and pushed it open. She stood on the threshold. She looked down at her feet for one second. Her eyes then scanned forward four feet to the edge of the blue deck and held there for just over a second. She then scanned along the walkway until her eyes stopped on the glove in the center of the sidewalk. She scanned back to the edge of the deck and then to the five and a half inch drop off from the threshold below her feet to the blue deck. Three seconds later the bottom lids of both eyelids were damp and a narrow meniscus of liquid began to form. She began to growl just at the edge of audibility. The growl rose in pitch and volume for two and a half seconds, then cut off abruptly. She stood in silence breathing hard, still looking at the gap from her feet to the deck. Her knees began to tremble.
Straightening from the pile of shoes and boots, Johnny pulled his phone from the pocket of his jeans, held it up and said, “Okay google, call Giga.”
Lex’s voice: “What?”
“I’m on the phone!” he said.
“Will you please hurry. I need the milk now.”
Johnny’s grandmother raised her head when the strains of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony began from the left front pocket of her blue cardigan sweater. Her left hand moved to the pocket, reached in and pulled out the phone. The phone and hand were shaking as she raised the silver slab in front of her eyes and moved her right index finger to touch the screen. The music stopped when the finger made contact. But the phone almost immediately slipped from her hand. and tumbled toward the ground. “Giga? Gigs?,” could be heard tinnily from the falling phone.
“Gigs!” Johnny said phone to his right ear and left hand braced against the door jamb. He listened for two seconds longer, then pulled the phone from his ear and touched the screen. “Lex! I have to go check on Giga!”
“No! We have to be at the house by -” she began as she stomped toward the door. She stopped speaking when the door slammed.
Eleven minutes later, the Alero’s tires made a loud thump and screech as they bumped and scrubbed the curb in front of the house on First Street. The driver’s side door flew open and Johnny’s head appeared over the roof of the car looking at the front of the blue house. He saw his grandmother standing on the threshold, still holding the storm door open. He ran around the front of the car. As his foot touched the curb, his grandma said firmly, “pick up your glove.”
He stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, mouth open and eyes wide, breathing hard and looking at his grandma. She pointed just to the left of his left foot. He looked down, then bent down and picked up the glove. He walked up the walkway, stepped up onto the blue deck and took the storm door from her, opening it wide. Still holding the door, he bent down and picked up her phone off the blue deck. As he flipped it in his left hand, she held her right hand out toward him.
He placed the phone in her hand and said, “Gigs, are you okay?” She slipped the phone in the pocket of her cardigan without looking at it.
“I’m old,” she said. “Give me that cheek.” He leaned down and she kissed his right cheek. “Johnny,” she said, “I was scared. I am scared. I couldn’t make myself try to step down onto the porch to go out and pick up your damn glove! Sorry about the swearing.”
The corners of Johnny’s lips curled up just slightly. “Why are you scared of going outside, Giga?”
“I’m not scared of the outside. I’m scared of these two steps.” She pointed to her feet and then to the edge of the porch.” She shook her head and flattened her lips before she said, “I’m scared of falling. Isn’t that stupid?”
Johnny’s phone buzzed in the pocket of his jeans. He pulled it out, looked at the screen and swiped viciously down on with his right index finger before jamming it back in his pocket. “You want to go into the kitchen, Giga?”
“I think I’d better call your mom,” she said and turned toward him as he sidled up onto the threshold next to her. He crooked his right elbow and she turned fully put her left hand though his proffered arm. He pushed the blue door closed behind them as they stepped slowly down the hall.
Seventeen minutes later, the blue door burst inward so powerfully that the glass on the storm door flexed in 1/8 of an inch from the change in air pressure. Johnny appeared in the glass and pushed open the storm door, the hydraulic closer whooshing in protest from being opened so quickly. He held his phone to his right ear. He said, “Then just go by yourself. By the way she’s fine, thanks for asking.” He took two breaths and said, “Lex, I can’t.” Four seconds later he said, “Lex?” then pulled the phone from his ear and looked at the screen. He sat down on the edge of the blue deck.
“Johnny?” a voice from the sidewalk said. “Are you alright?”
Johnny looked up and saw a young woman in black running tights and a bright blue jacket on the sidewalk fourteen feet down the walkway from him. “Hi Lacey,” he said. “I’m fine. I think.” He stood up and walked toward her.
“You look like shit.” Her breathing was fast and there were bright red splotches on her cheekbones.
“Strange morning,” he said and smiled.
He was silent, looking at his feet. Then he pulled out his gloves and put them on. “It’s okay. Life, I guess.” He looked up, scanned left and right. “Where’s your little girl?”
“Emma? She’s not mine-mine, you know. I’m the nanny.”
“I know. But I never see you without her.”
After a two second pause she said, “She is a full-time job. Literally, I work over forty hours a week.”
He looked at her for just over a second. “Do you like it? Taking care of her?”
She took two breaths and cocked her head three degrees to the right before she said, “I do. I really do.”
“Doesn’t interfere with school?”
“It doesn’t interfere with school because school and Emma are all that I do.”
“Makes sense,” he said and he nodded.
“Why do you ask?”
He looked down at his gloved hands and then back over his left shoulder at the house. “I’m not sure.” His phone buzzed. He pulled it out of his pocket, looked at the screen and put it back in his pocket with no change of expression.
“I think so.” In the silence that followed, a robin chirped and his head turned toward the noise. He turned back toward her, but his eyes swept past her face and down to look at his gloves. He said, “I just have to decide how much dessert to eat, I think?”
“Never mind. See you soon, Lace.” She looked at him for two quick breaths then nodded and began running east on the sidewalk.
He pulled out his phone, pulled his right glove off, touched the screen three times and held it to his ear. “Hi mom,” he said eleven seconds later. “Wait, mom. Wait. That’s actually what I wanted to talk to you about. I have a thought.”