Boy’s White, Blue and Gray Sock. East Third Street. It Touched Off a Spark.

Story number three in the saga of Edward’s sock. I think the story can stand by itself, but you might read the other two – story 3 and story 12 – for context and, maybe, richness before you read this one.

Boy’s white, blue and gray sock. East Third Street.

I sought out this particular picture. Because when the construction started on Third Street in mid-June, I wondered if the sock would be disturbed. I finally made my way through various barricades ten days after the project began and found the sock and took this picture. And now we hear again from Edward and see how his science experiment continues to impact those around him.

~

The young man in the fluorescent green t-shirt, orange safety vest, brown work pants and white hard hat put his hands on the retaining wall in front of him, looked up and said, “You’re Edward, right?” The boy, sitting on a miniature picnic table in the raised yard of the blue house on the northwest corner of Third and Howard Streets, looked down at the man but said nothing. “I’m Hal. Your dad told me to tell you he knows me.” Edward looked at the man for the span of a breath, then stood up, turned and walked across the yard to the steps up to the front porch. He climbed the steps, opened the door and stepped into the blue house. Hal didn’t move.

Forty-three seconds later, Edward came back out the same door, came down the steps, crossed the yard and sat down on the picnic table.

“My dad says you’re telling truth,” Edward, said. He turned his head over his right shoulder and looked toward the window to the east of the door he had just used. A man in that window waved. Edward turned back to the young man in front of him; the corners of Hal’s mouth rose by just under 1/8 inch.

“I’m Hal,” the young man said and he put his right hand up and out toward Edward.

Edward immediately climbed off the table, reached down and shook the offered hand. “Hello, Mr Hal.” The boy then climbed back onto the table and sat down again.

“It’s just Hal.”

“My mother says I have to say mister, and miz to all adults because of respect.”

Hal opened his mouth and closed it again. Three and a half seconds later, Edward said, “Are there four dump-trucks and seven shovel machines?”

Hal laughed and said, “Your dad said you would probably have questions.”

“Are the tubes going to go under the street?” Edward asked.

Hal took a breath and said, “Yes, those big tubes – pipes – are going to go under the street. I don’t know what the actual count of the different machines is, but I’ll find out. But here’s what I wanted to say… after I assured you that I knew your dad. My co-workers and I have seen you out here every day and we’re glad you’re supervising the project.”

“What does supervising mean?” Edward said.

“Well. Let’s say keeping an eye on it.”

“Okay.”

“So, do you have any other questions?”

Edward raised his eyes from Hal and looked 50 degrees to the left. He looked back at Hal and said, “What’s going to happen over there?” Edward pointed in the direction he was looking. Hal turned and looked in the indicated direction. He turned back to Edward.

“Nothing special. The whole street along here is getting the same treatment.”

Edward said, “What about the sidewalk over there?”

“Well, we’re only doing curb ramps the rest of the sidewalks won’t be touched.”

Edward continued to look at the spot. “What is curb ramps?”

“Well a curb ramp goes in on a corner to lead from the sidewalk into the street – the crosswalk.”

“The yellow bumpy thing is a curb ramp?”

“Yes. Well, that yellow bumpy thing is on – it’s part of – curb ramp.”

“Okay. And you aren’t putting a curb ramp there?” Edward raised his hand and pointed at the same angle as before.

“That driveway?” Hal said. Edward nodded. “No curb ramp there.”

“Okay.” Edward said and he returned his hand to his lap and his gaze to Hal’s face.

Hal looked at the boy for just under a second and then looked back over his right shoulder. He turned back to Edward and said, “What’s over there?”

“Edward! It’s time to come in,” A voice came from the open ground floor window almost directly behind Edward. Down Third Street to the west, a clock bell rang once.

Edward said, “It’s my experiment. I have to go.” The bell rang a second time as Edward climbed off the picnic table.

Hal said, “Experiment?”

Edward stood next to the table, turned and said, “Yes.” The bell rang a third time as Edward turned and began walking toward the front steps. Over his shoulder he said, “I will be back out to supervise tomorrow.” The bell rang a fourth time. Edward finished climbing the steps and put his hand on the door.

Hal said, “We won’t be here tomorrow. It’s Saturday.” Edward looked over his shoulder and said, “Okay.” He opened the front door and disappeared into the house.

It was 4:00 on Friday, 22 June.

Hal stood next to the retaining wall looking up and to his left, toward the front door of the blue house, for seven seconds after it closed. He then blew out a breath, shook his head once and pivoted to his left. As his turn stopped, the corners of his lips curled up and a three-gust chuckle blew gently out of his nostrils.

He stepped across the grass verge and off the curb onto the rough dirt of the former roadbed of Third Street. He made his way west, weaving through the machines and trenches in the construction zone. When he reached the cut edge of the asphalt and concrete, just west of Polk Street, he stepped up onto the street and toward a three bar warning barrier with a “Road Closed” sign on it. He centered the barrier in the roadway seven feet from the end of the asphalt.

He turned and looked back directly up the street into the construction zone to the east. His head snapped four degrees to the right as a black, tan and gray form rose and began to move away from a gravel covered driveway, a little more than a block east.

Hal stepped off the edge of the roadway into the dirt of the construction zone as the figure quickly moved away from him. Hal’s eyebrows drew together and he said quietly, “Experiment?” He moved quickly through the construction zone to the east.

. . .

Four minutes earlier, as Hal was looking in the cab of a front-end loader 90 feet west of Edward’s house, a lanky man in a black t-shirt and tan shorts skirted around a “sidewalk closed” sign on the southeast corner of Third and Howard Streets. As he turned from Howard east onto Third, his face was directed down and to his left. Just under 70 feet from the corner, he suddenly chuckled and stopped. He quickly shrugged off his backpack, set it on the ground, unzipped a side pocket and extracted a camera. Crouching next to the pack, left foot in the gravel of a driveway, right foot on the concrete of the sidewalk, he folded up the screen on the back of the camera and held it low to the ground. After 48 seconds of manipulation, he lifted the camera, folded the screen against the body, secured the lens cap, stowed the camera in the bag and zipped the pocket closed. He stood, slung the pack on his back and started eastbound on Third toward Hayes.

As the lanky man crossed Hayes Street 78 seconds later, Hal stepped up from the dirt in the construction zone onto the curved corner curbing and then onto the sidewalk in the lanky man’s wake. He approached the location where the man had been crouching and scanned the ground. His eyebrows lowered and moved together and his lips flattened and tightened. He leaned over at the waist and reached his right hand down and forward. When the hand was four inches from the gravel in the driveway a voice east of him said, “Oh no! Leave it! It’s an experiment!”

Hal’s head snapped up and to his right. Quickly thereafter, his frame began to tilt backwards. His right foot shifted quickly back, but caught on the edge of the concrete sidewalk. The tilt accelerated and less than a second later, his butt hit the ground. His upper body continued to move backward, but its momentum was stopped when his arms swiveled back at the shoulders and his hands contacted the concrete (right) and gravel (left) behind him. His hardhat tumbled off the back of his head and hit the concrete behind him with a hollow crack.

The young woman who had spoken the words that had caused his fall was still on the sidewalk fourteen feet east of Hal. She had her hands in front of her mouth, hiding whatever configuration her lips currently held, but the corners of her eyes were crinkled and her abdominal muscles were contracted. When her hands moved from her mouth, she said through the revealed grin, “That was dramatic.”

“I can only imagine.” Hal placed his left hand on the ground beside his hip and pushed. He drew his left foot under his rising hip and planted it. He then pushed himself erect, straightening the left leg slowly and bringing the right in and under him as he rose. When he was standing, he said, “Experiment?” He pointed behind him to the blue house, “He used that word.”

“Oh, you know Edward?” The young woman smiled broadly.

Hal’s eyes widened and he took in a breath with his mouth slightly agape. Then he closed his mouth before opening it again to say, “I just met him.”

“Lucky you,” the young woman said. “Anyway, yes, that sock you were about to pick up is Edward’s experiment.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Testing a hypothesis through observation? Did you ever take a science class?” Her mouth was curled up, her eyes slightly closed and the corners of her eyelids crinkled again.

He smiled too and said, “Yes. I get what an experiment is. I just don’t understand how this sock,” he pointed with his left hand to the gravel three feet in front of him. He continued, “How this sock is an experiment.”

“It’s been there since September.”

“Holy sh…” his statement trailed off in a brief hiss as he looked up at her. He then said, “Wow.”

“Holy shhh is a fair statement. Anyway, I think he has a notebook of observations.”

Hal shook his head, smiled and then looked back over his right shoulder. He turned back toward the young woman and said, “He’s been sitting out in his front yard watching us every day since we started this job. The guys made me ask his father what the kid’s deal is yesterday. The kid’s dad said something like, ‘Ask him yourself. But be sure to tell him you know me first. He may go in the house to check with me, but he’ll talk to you after that.'”

The young woman laughed. “He made his dad introduce himself to me so he could hug me.” Her mouth flattened and she turned and looked into the distance over Hal’s left shoulder.

“You know he did exactly what his dad said he would do. I said who I was and that his father knew me and the kid walked in the house without telling me where he was going. Then he came out and shook my hand and started asking questions.”

The young woman’s gaze had returned to Hal’s face and her smile returned as Hal spoke. When he was finished, she said, “Sounds about right.” She looked over Hal’s right shoulder and said, “You should get him a hard hat.” Then she pivoted on her left foot and began walking east on the sidewalk away from Hal.

“Hey!” Hal said 30 percent louder than his previous statements. “What’s your name?”

She didn’t stop, but turned her head slightly over her right shoulder and said, “You’ll have to have Edward introduce us.”

7:02 AM on the following Monday, Hal stood next to the sock experiment on Third Street. Two men stood to his right; a man and a woman stood to his left. They formed a semi-circle with a radius of three feet; the sock was at the circle’s center. Hal said, “It’s been here since last fall. He calls it an experiment.” The woman on Hal’s left said, “Huh. He’s a strange kid. But I think I like him.” She lifted her right hand which held a blue hardhat and angled it toward Hal. She said, “Here. I have a pinhead. It might fit him.” Hal took the hardhat and said, “Thanks, G.” Hal pivoted on his left foot and headed west on the sidewalk. The other four dispersed into the construction zone. Each face displayed a smile as the crew from Crea Construction started their work day.

Four hours later, Hal was standing on the sidewalk opposite the blue house, looking west on Third Street, scanning down the hill into the distance. The dump truck between him and Edward’s house was nearly full. When he turned back to look at the shovel and dump truck in front of him, he saw movement on the porch of the blue house. Edward stood with his hand extended behind him on the doorknob, scanning the construction site from west to east. The boy closed the door behind him, came down the stairs crossed to the table and sat to begin his supervision. Edward wore a light green t-shirt and brown pants.

Hal turned when he heard the short blat of the dump truck’s air horn. It began to roll forward. Hal reached his right hand toward his hip but the hand stopped eight inches above the radio holster there. Hal’s eyes were focused on a second truck that had just rolled up to the Polk Street entrance to the construction zone. He raised his right hand to wave at the departing truck and watched as the second truck backed into position.

Edward turned his head 30 degrees to his right toward the source of the beeping sound that had just started – the dump truck backing up the hill toward him. He watched it for a moment and then turned to the yellow tractor with the claw-shovel in front of him. The man in the cabin of that tractor raised his right hand and saluted Edward. Edward’s brows drew together and a crease formed above the bridge of his nose. He raised his left hand and waved at the man. The man smiled and then turned as the dump truck approached.

Eight minutes later, Edward was watching the claw pick up a large piece of concrete and swing it to the back of the dump truck when Hal stepped up to the retaining wall below his perch and said, “Edward!”

Edward looked down and said, “Hi Mr. Hal. I’m supervising.”

Hal laughed quietly and said, “Good! Hey. I have something for you.” Hal raised his right hand. It held the blue hardhat by the brim.

Edward looked down at Hal for two seconds and then climbed off the table crossed the grass to the steps, climbed the steps and entered the house. Hal’s brows furrowed and then flattened. He looked at the door then shrugged, turned 180 degrees and leaned against the retaining wall. Thirty-six seconds after the front door of the blue house closed, it re-opened and Edward emerged pulling a tall man, wearing khaki pants a blue button-down shirt and a corduroy sportcoat by the hand. The two came down the steps from the porch and then down the second set of steps that cut down through the retaining wall, they turned left and met Hal on the sidewalk.

“Hi Hal,” Edward’s dad said. “Edward is concerned that you want to give something to him.”

Hal held up the hardhat and said, “Loan, really. For the duration of the work. We figure since he’s supervising every day, he ought to have a hardhat.”

Edward looked up at Hal and said, “Do you put on sunscreen every day?”

Hal’s brows drew together and he looked up from the boy’s face to Edward’s father’s face. Edward’s father smiled and shrugged. Hal looked back down at Edward and said, “I do, actually.”

“So do I. Because of skin cancer my mother says.”

Edward pulled down on his dad’s right arm. The older man leaned down and Edward put his mouth to his dad’s ear. Edward’s dad listened and then straightened and said, “Sound reasoning.” He gestured forward with his right hand.

Edward’s eyes followed the path of that hand and ended looking up at Hal. He said, “A hardhat is like sunscreen. It’s for protection.”

Hal smiled and said, “You’re right.” He handed the hat to Edward. Edward put it on and it fell down over his eyes. He lifted it off his head and looked first at Hal and then at his father. Hal said, “I can adjust it.” Edward’s brows drew together and he flipped the hat over in his hands. He looked at the band inside for a moment and then suddenly sat down cross-legged . He cradled the bowl of the hardhat between his knees and began to work the back of the band with both hands. Hal watched the boy work at the band.

A movement caught his eye and his head came up to see Edward’s father waving his right hand. Hal looked at the man’s face and then turned in the direction of his gaze. When Hal turned he saw the young woman from Friday evening. He quickly pivoted his body to face her waved as well. The young woman looked across the construction zone at him and pointed her right index finger at the boy sitting at his feet. She then raised her left hand, index finger extended and tapped the top of her head. Finally she brought both hands in front of her at waist height and thrust them forward with thumbs in the air. Hal smiled and a flush rose from his collar, up his neck and to his ears.

The woman turned and began walking south on Howard Street toward Sixth. Hal watched her walk away for a moment then looked down at Edward and took two deep breaths. Hal looked up at Edward’s father and said, “Who is that?”

Edward’s father said, “I’m horrible with names. She’s a friend of Edward’s. She lives up the street.”

Both men looked down as Edward stood up with the hardhat now securely fit to his head. The boy skirted around his father turned into the break in the retaining wall, climbed the steps, turned back toward them in the yard above and climbed up onto the picnic table.

“Okay then,” Edward’s dad said, smiling and looking up at his son.

Hal nodded, smiled and said, “Okay then.” He looked up at Edward.

Edward looked from Hal’s faced to his father and said, “Okay.” Both men burst into laughter. Edward’s brows drew together. Then a loud beeping behind the two men caused him to turn his head up and to the right to watch a dump truck backing into the construction zone.

The following Friday, Hal stepped up to the retaining wall below Edward’s perch. He looked up and said, “Hi Edward.”

Edward looked down and said, “Hi Mr. Hal. Are we done? The trucks and diggers have stopped.”

Hal smiled and said, “We are done for today. I was wondering if you wanted to go look at your experiment?”

Edward’s eyes opened wide and he scrambled quickly off the picnic table. When his left foot hit the grass next to the table, he began to tilt forward. He reached out with both hands. He ended up settling into a rough trapezoid with arms, torso, legs and ground as his blue hardhat tumbled forward off his head. It landed on its rim in front of him. As Edward bent his knees slightly and pushed up with his arms to center his weight over his feet, the hardhat rolled to his left, off the retaining wall and into Hal’s hands. Edward stood, watched as Hal caught the hardhat. Edward nodded and turned toward the front porch. He ran up the stairs, opened the front door and entered the house without closing the door behind him. Twenty-four seconds later he reappeared in the doorway. He emerged with his left arm trailing behind him. Edward’s dad’s right hand appeared attached to that trailing arm. The man stepped out onto the porch behind the boy and the two came down the steps through the yard and then down the steps through the retaining wall. Edward turned left, let go of his father’s hand and reached for the hardhat in Hal’s hands.

The boy took the hardhat, put it on his head and said, “Do you have one for my dad?”

Hal took a breath and opened his mouth and began to emit a long-i vowel sound. Edward’s dad talked over that sound, saying “You can go with Hal. I can stay here where I don’t need a hardhat and watch.” Edward looked up at his dad. They shared eye contact for two synchronized breaths before Edward’s dad reached out with his left hand and knocked twice on Edward’s hardhat. Edward nodded and pivoted back to look up at Hal.

Hal nodded at Edward’s dad and then said, “Ready?” looking down at Edward. Edward said, “Okay.”

Hal said, “We’ll just walk straight across the dirt here, but there might be some rocks, so be careful.”

The clock bell to the east rang once as Edward said, “I’m very agile.” Both men barked out laughs.

Hal turned and stepped across the grass verge and off the curb, 15 inches down onto the dirt of the demolished roadbed. Edward followed, stopped at the curb, looked down, looked over his right shoulder toward his father, looked down again and hopped off the curb. As he landed, his left hand rose to the top of his hardhat and the clock bell rang a second time. The young man and the boy started across the construction zone, angling southeast toward the site of the experiment. They were near the middle of the construction zone when the clock bell rang a third time and a voice came faintly from the blue house, saying “Edward! It’s time to come in.”

Edward stopped and pivoted back toward the house. Edward’s dad flung both arms out in front of himself, waist high, hands hanging down at the wrists. He then flicked his fingers forward three times as he yelled over his left shoulder, “He’ll be in in 15 minutes mom; we’re in the middle of something!” The bell rang a fourth time.

Edward nodded and pivoted back toward his original destination. He walked across the dirt with Hal following 18 inches behind him and to his left.

Two minutes later, Edward stepped up onto the curb on the south side of the construction zone, just east of Howard Street with Hal still close behind him. They stopped on the grass between the sidewalk and the street and pointed down to his right. He said, “That’s where the experiment started.” He turned and started walking east in the grass. When he reached the first driveway, he pointed down in front of him and said, “That’s where it was next.”

He scanned the ground for 20 seconds before looking up and back at Hal. The young man pointed 15 feet ahead of them. Edward walked slowly forward. He stopped a foot away from the sock and crouched down, angled toward the street. He stared at the sock. Hal moved a little further up the sidewalk and crouched at a 90 degree angle to Edward, his back mostly to the sidewalk.

They both looked down at the sock. A voice behind Hal said, “Are hardhats required for this experiment now?”

Hal’s head snapped up and to his right. Quickly thereafter, his frame began to tilt backwards. His right foot shifted quickly back, but caught on the edge of the concrete sidewalk. The tilt accelerated and less than a second later, his butt hit the ground. His upper body continued to move backward, but its momentum was stopped when his arms swiveled back at the shoulders and his hands contacted the concrete (right) and gravel (left) behind him. His hardhat tumbled off the back of his head and hit the concrete behind him with a hollow crack.

Edward stood from his crouch and ran to retrieve Hal’s hardhat from the yard of the house they were in front of.

Lacey had her hands in front of her mouth, hiding whatever configuration her lips currently held, but the corners of her eyes were crinkled and her abdominal muscles were contracted. When her hands moved from her mouth, she said through the revealed grin, “Again. Dramatic.”

Hal scrambled to his feet. Edward walked to him and offered the hardhat to the man. Hal said quietly, “God” as he took his hardhat from the boy.

Edward said, “Don’t use the lord’s name in pain.” He then immediately turned to Lacey and said, “Would you like me to hug you?”

Lacey nodded and held her arms out. Edward stepped toward her quickly. She plucked the blue hardhat from his head with both hands as he crushed himself into her abdomen and wrapped his arms around her back. She held the blue plastic hat in her left hand and placed her right atop the boy’s head. After two breaths, he unwrapped his arms, stepped back, looked up and said, “Okay?”

She looked down at him and said “You’re darn right, ‘okay.'”

He nodded.

Hal said, “Edward -” as a voice from nearby also simultaneously said, “Edward.” All three turned and saw Edward’s dad standing in the dirt just off the curb behind Hal.

“Your mother insists I bring you home. I’m going to carry you.” He looked down at Edward’s face, raised his eyebrows and flicked a glance over his right shoulder. Edward leaned to his left so he could get a view of the blue house around his father. His mother was standing in the the middle of the sidewalk below his picnic table perch. She faced them, feet shoulder-width apart and  arms folded across her chest. Edward straightened, looked up, nodded and stepped toward his father. Edward’s dad reached his right arm down and around the boy’s upper hamstrings. Edward sat on the forearm and locked his hands around the back of his dad’s neck. Edward’s dad straightened and said, “Thanks Hal” and began to turn.

Lacey stepped forward and said, “Edward!” Edward’s dad stopped his turn. She held the blue hardhat out. Edward’s dad took it in his left hand. He looked at the young woman for a moment and his eyebrows drew together briefly before returning to normal. He turned and looked at Hal and the corners of his lips moved up by less than 1/8 of an inch. He leaned his head down to put his lips near Edward’s left ear. Edward’s dad straightened his neck four seconds later.

Edward said, “Ms. Lacey this is Mr. Hal. Mr. Hal this is Ms Lacey.” Hal and Lacey turned to each other. A flush rose quickly up from under Hal’s collar to the corner of his jaw and then his earlobes. A bright spot of red appeared on each of Lacey’s cheeks. Edward’s dad’s face remained frozen. Edward’s brows drew together. He took a breath and said. “You are both nice. You should like each other.”

The spots on Lacey’s cheeks doubled in size. Hal’s ears went red to the tips. Edward’s dad tightened his lips and closed his eyes for a moment. He then breathed out a single chuckle before saying, “Okay. Have a good weekend kids.” He turned and began walking northwest across the construction zone toward the blue house.

Lacey started laughing just before Hal did. Father and son crossed the dirt and reached the curb in front of Edward’s mother. Lacey and Hal stopped laughing. Edward’s dad set Edward on the grass in front of their house. Edward looked toward the site of the experiment and waved. Neither Hal nor Lacey noticed. The boy shrugged, turned and walked between his parents toward the steps up to his house.

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