Gray Child’s Sock. South Main Street. He Was Almost Late.

Child’s Gray Sock. South Main Street.

The red 1998 Toyota Paseo was still rocking slightly as the man slapped his right foot onto the curb on the east side Main Street in front of the car. Less than half a second later is left toe tapped the vertical side of the curb and his forward motion slowed abruptly. His left hand shot out and he bent at the waist. The unzipped front of his charcoal sweatshirt flapped up around his elbow and then abruptly down. He touched the concrete of the sidewalk with the palm of his hand and his left foot shot forward under his hip. He stopped in this position for less than a second before unbending neck, hips, knees and ankles to rise again to his full height of 6’2″.

He turned his head to his left, nodded and then pivoted on his left foot and began a rapid stride north on Main Street. As his morning shadow moved behind him, the unmasked sun shone on a small gray sock sitting on the sidewalk.

. . .

Nineteen minutes earlier in a second floor apartment eight-tenths of a mile east, the man said, “The interview is in less than twenty minutes, love.” He slipped a scuffed black loafer onto his left foot. As he put his left hand on the wall and raised his right foot, a smaller copy of that hand was reaching toward him. The man’s right foot slipped into it’s loafer and the small hand placed a gray sock into the pocket on the front of the man’s charcoal sweatshirt.

“I know. I know,” a woman’s voice said from further in the apartment. “I just want to give you something. For luck,” the woman said as she walked down the hall. Her right arm was at a 95 degree angle up from her body and the hand held a three inch by five inch photograph. She approached him and he turned toward her. She reached up and slid the photo into the breast pocket of his blue and white checked shirt. She patted the pocket and kissed his left cheek. “Good luck,” she said.

“For luck,” said the small voice below him. Both parents looked down at the boy and smiled. His left index finger was extended from a pudgy fist and aimed at his father’s waist. The man reached down, extended his right index finger and touched it to the tip of his son’s finger.

“Thanks,” he said. Then he leaned down and kissed his wife. “Thanks,” he said again. He turned, opened the door and stepped onto the landing.

. . .

The man patted the breast pocket of his shirt before he pulled on the handle of the second door from the right at the front of the theatre. It didn’t move. He shifted the angle of his head and after a moment he smiled and reached down with his right hand to the handle on the last door on the right. He pulled and it opened. A woman’s voice said, “You must be Simon.”

Seventeen minutes after he disappeared into the lobby , a lanky man was striding North on Main Street from Sixth. He was seven feet from the gray sock in the middle of the sidewalk when he stopped. He looked down at it, looked around for a  moment then swung his backpack off his shoulders. He crouched down, pulled a camera from the pack and held it low on the sidewalk.

Ninety-three seconds later, the man stowed his camera, straightened, put his backpack over his shoulders and began walking. As he passed the theatre, his head turned to the right. When he reached the corner at Fifth Street, he stopped and turned to face south. A moment later, he pulled out his phone and said, “Okay, Google. Call Jamie.” After twelve seconds of silence he said, “Hey, any chance one of your favorite boys is missing a gray sock?” Three seconds later, “It’s on the sidewalk just down from the theatre.” Four seconds later: “Oh, I already took the picture.” As he pulled the phone from his ear, a tinny laugh was faintly audible from the phone. The sound cut off when he touched the screen with his left thumb.

He was still standing at the corner looking south when the theatre door opened and a woman stepped out. She stopped and looked north. Her left eyebrow ticked upward and she smiled. The man pointed beyond her to the south. She turned her head and looked in that direction. A moment later, she turned back toward the man. He waved, pivoted to face east and strode off down fifth. The woman, Jamie, began to laugh as she turned and walked toward the gray sock. When she reached it, she bent down at the hips, reached with her left hand and picked it up.

As she turned to walk back to the theatre, the last door on the right swung open and Simon stepped out. He stood, holding the door with his back to Main Street while a woman’s voice from inside said, “I appreciate your time. I’ll be in touch.” Jamie now stood behind and to the left of Simon. The voice from inside said, “What’s funny.” Simon pivoted and opened the door further. Jamie stepped forward, pivoted to face him at a slight angle toward the door, and held out the gray sock in her right hand. She said, “He thought it might belong to one of the boys.”

Simon said, “Actually, it belongs to my son.”

Both women started to laugh. Simon smiled and his brows drew together slightly. Jamie said, “Sorry. How old’s your son?”

Simon took a breath, then reached into the breast pocket of his shirt and pulled out the picture. He held it out to Jamie and said, “He’s four.” Jamie took the picture in her left hand, immediately swapped it and the sock in her two hands and then shifted to place her left shoulder next to the opening. She held the picture up to eye level. A moment later she and the voice in the dark lobby said in unison, “How adorable!”

There was three-quarters of a second of silence before both women began to laugh – again, simultaneously. Simon smiled and then began to laugh with them.

Jamie turned to look into the darkened doorway. A moment later, her head cocked two degrees to the left. And less than a second later, she nodded once. The voice inside said, “You’re hired if you want the job.”

“Wow,” he said. Then after a moment’s hesitation he said, “Do I get the sock back too?”

After less than a second Jamie and the voice in the darkened doorway said “Yep” in precise unison. And they all three laughed. Jamie said, “You’ll fit right in. God help you.” She held the sock and picture out to him.


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