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.”


“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.

Black and Gray Knit Glove. West A and Jackson Streets. She Hoped She Didn’t Need It.

Another glove story. This picture has been hanging around, poking its fingers at me for a while. The picture itself is interesting. You can see that the glove had been there for a while before I captured the image. And the glove continues to have staying power. As of this writing, it’s still there. But I could never place it in the world I’ve been building- until I recently looked at the date of the photo and thought about Janie from Story 5.

Black and Gray Knit Glove. West A Street.

And that’s when I discovered that this glove belonged to that hopeful young woman and that she had discarded it in anticipation of an event. An anticipation that – as it turned out – languished and deteriorated over time as the glove did.


At 9:45 on the morning of Sunday, 7 January 2018, a lanky man in a gray jacket; brown Carhartts; a black, wool knit cap; and a gray backpack was walking south on North Jackson Street in front of the farm supply store at A Street. As he approached the intersection, the light changed and he didn’t break stride, stepping into the crosswalk. As he strode across the street, his head was focused right and down, the right and down angles increasing as he moved. When he reached the south side of A Street – face now pointed at a spot just south of the aluminum pole on the corner, he immediately stopped and pulled out his phone. He muttered, “Huh. Still there” as he crouched and pointed the back of the phone at a black and gray knit glove folded untidily just south of the base of the pole.

Four-tenths of a mile to the north and slightly east – as the lanky man looked at the screen of his phone – two women came out of the east exit of the coffee shop on Sixth and Main Street.

“I guess that purchase was a bit premature,” said one of the women, smiling and looking to her left directly at the other’s hands while pulling a white knit glove onto her own left hand. She pivoted on her left foot and started north on Main Street. After three steps, she abruptly stopped and turned to look to her left and behind her.

The second woman had stopped and was looking down at her hands, held chest high. They were balled into loose fists, side-by side, cocked up at the wrists, knuckles up; each hand held a brown leather glove. The young woman’s gaze was focused slightly to the left.

The woman with the white gloves took two steps toward her friend while saying, “Oh, Janie. I’m. I didn’t mean -”

“It’s been ten months, Lace,” Janie said.

Lacey stopped and took off her left glove. She paired it with the right glove and stuffed both into the pocket of her coat. She reached out and took the gloves out of Janie’s hands. Lacey then put her arms around Janie. A moment later, Janie’s arms wrapped around Lacey’s back. Both women took a breath.

. . .

Ten months earlier, on the morning of 4 March 2017, Lacey and Janie were standing in an apartment on A Street. Lacey said, “Why did I need to come in?” Her head scanned the apartment as she said, “Urf. I hate boys’ domiciles.” When her gaze returned to her friend she said, “Janie! What are you so happy about?”

“Stand right there,” Janie said. She then walked across the tan carpet to a door which stood ajar across the living room.

“Janie, what the hell?”

“Just listen,” Janie said as she opened, stepped through and re-set the door to its previous angle.

“Janie, I thought we were -” Lacey stopped talking when she heard her friend’s voice, lower and huskier through the gap in the door.

“Bro, I just need you to hold onto it until I can get the balls to ask her. I know I’ll give it away if it’s hidden here somewhere,” Janie said.

Neither woman spoke as Janie re-emerged from the bedroom. She stopped just outside the door, carefully pulled it to the same gap as before and said, “Did you hear?”

“I did. You shouldn’t eavesdrop.”

“Lace! He knew I was coming. I have a key. It’s…” Janie trailed off.

“Does he really call his friends ‘bro?'”

“Lacey!” Janie stamped her left foot down onto the carpet. There was silence in the room for four seconds.

“Janie and Alex sitting in a tree!” Lacey burst out, the corners of her mouth rising and her eyes crinkling from the outside folds.

“I’m not crazy, am I? It is what I think it is, right?”

“You’re not crazy. It is. But it shouldn’t be a surprise, right? You told me you started picking Alex’s tux when you seventeen.”

“No. Yes. I know! I just… Lace! He’s going to ask me!”

Lacey crossed the tan carpet to her friend and put her arms around Janie and pulled her into a hug. “He is. When do you think the wedding will be? I need some warning so I can save up for the bridesmaid dress.”

Janie pulled back from the hug and put her hands on Lacey’s upper arms. She said, “Oh, not for a long time. A long time. He’s got to get his shit together before we get married.”

A deep, rich “Ha!” exploded from Lacey’s mouth before she exclaimed”Good!” Then she reached up, place a hand on either side of her friend’s face, pulled her head forward and kissed her forehead. Lacey was quieter when she continued, “Good. Now let’s go get coffee.”

The two women separated and Janie picked up a green wool coat from the couch near the door. Janie put the coat on and reached into the left pocket. Her hand emerged with a pair of black and gray striped, knit wool gloves. She held the gloves in her left hand while Lacey exited the front door ahead of her. Janie pulled the door closed. While she dug in her right-hand pants pocket, Lacey pulled a bright blue knit glove onto her right hand. Janie’s right hand emerged from her pocket with a key. She slid the key into the lock.

“You know,” Lacey said as she pulled her left hand into the blue sheath of the second glove. “You’re going to have to get different gloves.”

The lock snicked and as Janie pulled the key out with her right hand, she brought her left hand up, looked down at the gloves in her hand and said, “What? Why?”

Lacey pointed to her friend’s left hand and said, “Because the giant rock will catch on the snug fit knit of those things.” The muffled slap of her palms punctuated her next words: “And you shouldn’t eavesdrop.” Lacey turned and ran into the parking lot.

Janie followed, saying “ha, ha, ha!” and then yelling “snug fit knit” while looking at the gloves in her left hand.

The two walked to a white 2008 Subaru Forester. Lacey pushed a button on a remote with her left hand and the car beeped twice. There was a faint thunk. The two women opened the car doors simultaneously. Lacey entered, sat and closed her door. Janie was looking back over her shoulder at the apartment door. “Yo! Get in the car!” Lacey yelled. Janie turned, sat, and pulled the passenger door closed.

Seven minutes later, the Subaru was pointed east on A Street, stopped at the light at Jackson Street. Janie said, “I wasn’t eavesdropping, Lace!”

“Janie and Alex sitting in a tree, K I S S I N G,” Lacey chanted with a huge grin on her face.

Janie joined in on the next line and both shouted the words of the third, “Then comes marriage!” There was a buzz of a window motor as the traffic light changed. The car began to accelerate, the window slid down, and Janie threw her gloves out the window.

The thumb of the right glove caught on the top of the steadily retracting window and that glove tumbled down the side of the car. It was pulled forward as the car moved into the intersection and ended up in the first lane of Jackson Street. The left glove flew unimpeded to the sidewalk. The acceleration of the car gave it enough eastward impetus for it to tuck itself behind the silver-gray aluminum base of the traffic signal post on the corner.

As the glove was tumbling to a stop, Lacey turned toward her friend and said, “What did you just do?”

“My gloves!” Janie said, held up her empty hands and laughed.


“What? You said they’d snag!”

Both women laughed as the car bumped through the dip on the east side of Jackson Street and three snowflakes drifted through the open window, landing on Janie’s bare right hand.

Behind the car, on the sidewalk, the first accumulation of flakes melted on the glove. But 37 minutes later, it was hidden by a thin blanket of white. That evening a state-operated snowplow roared south on Jackson Street directing a snow from the street onto the sidewalk. The pressure of that thin cover of snow began to form creases along the folded palm and pinkie finger.

In mid-May Janie and Alex had an end-of-the-school-year dinner at an intimate, candlelit table at a restaurant Alex couldn’t really afford, during which Janie could be seen, if anyone was observing closely, periodically grasping the fingers of her left hand in her right hand, then releasing the grip and placing the hands gently on the tabletop and then moments later moving them to her lap. As she unconsciously performed this action for the fifth time that early evening, 1.2 miles to the north in the gravel lot on the southwest corner of A and Jackson, the right rear tire of a black Dodge Ram pickup spun and spat gravel across the glove.

In the late afternoon of 8 July, Janie and Alex stood hand-in-hand at the Narrows Overlook on the Ridgeline Trail in Ponderosa State Park in McCall, Idaho. They stood in silence, looking west and slightly north over a narrow span of lake with the sun warming their faces. Alex shifted his weight, took in a breath and pivoted slightly toward Janie. He said, “Janie” and as he paused, Janie’s exhalation stopped. Just over a second later, he continued, “I’m glad we came up here. This is pretty.” He put his right arm around Janie’s shoulders and Janie’s briefly held breath puffed from her mouth. 170 miles north-northwest the glove sat exposed in the bright sun of the fourth 90-plus degree day in a row in Moscow.

On the evening of October 21, Janie and Alex sat on the couch in Alex’s apartment watching the closing credits of season 2, episode 10 of “Game of Thrones” scroll up the flat screen in front of them. Janie’s head was on Alex’s shoulder. Alex reached to the table in front of them, picked up a remote control and turned off the TV. He set down the remote and picked up Janie’s left hand with his right. He lifted it and said, “Happy birthday, babe.” Janie turned her head up and to her right in the silence that followed. Three seconds later, she again faced forward. Three-tenths of a mile east of the apartment, the glove absorbed the moisture of a late fall rain.

. . .

Outside the coffee shop, Lacey and Janie with their arms still wrapped around each other, sighed out a simultaneous breath. They both chuckled. Then, with her chin on her friend’s shoulder, Lacey said, “He’ll ask, J. He’ll ask. You know you’re not in a big hurry to do the thing, anyway.”

“I know,” Janie said. “I just…” She trailed off as the two women moved back from each other. Lacey looked at the brown gloves in her hand for a moment. Then she took one, and held the open cuff out toward Janie. Janie slipped her right hand into it. Lacey then did the same with the left glove. Janie hesitated for a moment and then reached forward. As her hand disappeared under the calfskin, she said, “Okay. Okay. I really do think he has something planned. I just need to be patient.”

“Yes.” Lacey pulled her gloves out of her pocket and sorted them in her hands. She slipped the right one on.

“I just wish I hadn’t been eavesdropping that day,” Janie said. Her face was turned down, looking at her hands as she smoothed the back of her left glove with her right hand. She didn’t see Lacey look up at her.

“You shouldn’t sneak into his apartment,” Lacey said.

“I don’t sneak,” Janie said as she turned her face up to her friend’s. She was silent for just over a second.

The corners of Lacey’s lips rose slowly during the silence. She ended the pause with, “One of these days you should just appear in his bedroom naked. That he’d like.” Janie’s eyebrows drew together slightly and then they rose and her eyes opened wide as she turned slightly and gazed into the empty space over her friend’s right shoulder. The corners of her lips rose and her mouth opened slightly as a barely vocalized chuckle bubbled out of her.

Lacey watched this reaction for a moment before her eyes opened wide and she said, “Janie…”


Gray Sock. Chipman Trail. He Accepted a Replacement.

This sock, photographed three miles west of town on a particularly empty stretch of the Chipman Trail, perplexed me. I have wondered about it since the day in January when I saw it, laughed and took its portrait. I truly couldn’t fathom how it had gotten there.

Gray Sock. Chipman Trail.

One day this week as I walked through Friendship Square, I discovered that the sock’s story, and that of its owner, was briefly intertwined with our curious, young friend Edward. 


At 11:55 AM on Saturday, 27 January, a boy in a puffy red winter coat, jeans and navy blue snow boots crouched next to a free-standing, enameled metal drinking fountain on the south edge of Friendship Square on south Main Street. He was closely examining the fixture at the bottom of the fountain. After 37 seconds of silent contemplation, a man’s voice nearby said, “It’s for dogs.”

“I know,” the boy said without looking up. “I’m looking at the ice. It’s -” He interrupted himself and pivoted slightly left and turned his head over his left shoulder to the source of the voice – a man in a gray canvas coat, tan work pants worn almost to white at the reinforced knees and a  black knit cap that sculpted a wispy halo of silver hair over his ears and the nape of his neck. The silver-haired man was sitting on a bench 14 feet north and slightly west of the boy. The boy’s eyes widened slightly and then he turned back to the fountain as he said, “My mom says I can’t talk to you.”

As the boy said this, 2.8 miles west of them on the Chipman Trail a lanky man was striding west. He suddenly stopped, looking down and to his left. He laughed out loud. He looked up and pivoted 360 degrees, eyes wide and lips slightly apart.

“To me?” the silver-haired man in Friendship Square said and the corners of his lips went up by less than a quarter of an inch before he said, “Me specifically?”

The boy rigidly faced the steel bowl at the base of the fountain as he said, “I don’t know what spec-i-fall-ee means, but I can’t talk to strange men because they’re dangerous.”

The lanky man on Chipman Trail unslung his gray pack from his back, set it upright on its side on the asphalt trail, crouched next to it, unzipped a long, curving pocket and pulled out a camera. Just off the side of the trail, 28 inches in front of the man, a thick dark gray sock lay in the shape of a hockey stick.

The corners of the silver-haired man’s lips went up a further quarter of an inch. He nodded. He said, “Okay.” His head then turned eighty degrees up and to his right. In the direction of his gaze, a man sat 27 feet almost directly west on the end of another iron and wood bench. The man across the way was younger with medium brown hair. He wore a corduroy sportcoat over a gray sweater.  He held a paperback book in his hand, currently closed with his left index finger separating one third of the book from the other two thirds. The silver-haired man’s brows went up and he twitched his head to his left. The younger man nodded once and held the older man’s gaze.

After 13 seconds the silver-haired man nodded again and turned his head straight ahead and down. As his head turned, he brought his right lower leg up and rested it across his left thigh. The hem of his pantleg pulled away from the gray, white and blue of the worn Nike running shoe on his foot, exposing skin all the way to the padded collar of shoe. He untied the shoe, loosened the laces and pushed his left index finger between the heel tab and the skin over his achilles tendon. He muttered and then hissed in a breath as he pried the shoe from his foot.

On the Chipman trail, the lanky man re-stowed his camera, zipped the bag, put his arms through the straps and settled it on his back. He turned west and began to walk.

The boy’s head turned toward the hissing noise. He watched the shoe uncover the bare foot. The silver-haired man unfolded his leg and placed the rough sole of his right foot on the brick. He then lifted his left leg up, resting that calf across his right thigh. He untied the laces on that shoe, loosened them and quickly removed the shoe. His left foot was covered by a thick gray sock. He placed the sock-clad foot down next to the bare one.

The boy looked at the two feet for just over three seconds and then stood and walked to the younger man. The boy stopped and placed his left hand on the man’s right shoulder. The man leaned toward the hand and the boy turned and raised his mouth to the man’s ear. After 11 seconds, the man nodded, straightened. The boy turned to face the silver-haired man. The younger man placed his left hand on top of the boy’s messy, medium brown hair and said loudly, “Sir.” The gray-haired man looked up at the pair. The younger man continued, “I’m Edward and this is Edward, Junior. He’d like you to meet me so he can talk to you.”

The silver-haired man looked up at the younger man, Edward’s dad, and drew his brows together. Just under a second later, his forehead unwrinkled and his lips curled up slightly. “Had to parse that,” he said. “Hello Edward. And Edward’s dad. I’m John.”

The boy, Edward, turned under his dad’s hand and faced the silver-haired man. Edward then ducked out from under his dad’s hand, shuffling 11 inches to his left. He turned his head and looked at his dad’s face. Edward’s dad raised his eyebrows. Three seconds later, Edward turned his head back to John. Edward then took a breath and walked across the square to the older man.

He stopped. He set the tip of his right snow boot 19 inches from the toe of John’s left sock. He placed his left 19 inches from the bare toes of John’s right foot. Edward looked down at the four feet.

“If you wear a sock on that foot, your shoe won’t hurt your heel,” the boy said.

“You are right about that.”

“I know I am. I hurt my feet without socks once last summer when I walked a lot without socks between my feet and my shoes.”

“Didn’t do that again, then?” Edward looked up at John’s face.

“No. So you probably shouldn’t,” Edward said.

“Well, I don’t have the other sock.”

Edward looked back down at the arrangement of the four feet. He looked back up at the older man’s face and said, “Are you doing an experiment?”

A short burst of laughter wafted into the conversation from behind Edward. John’s eyes flicked from Edward’s face, over the boy’s left shoulder. The corners of his lips twitched up and he said, “Why would you think I’m doing an experiment?”

“Because I have a pair of socks that’s only one sock right now because the other sock is sitting in the grass across two streets from my house and it’s been there since September and my dad’s – my – pothesis is that it will last until March because it’s not an organic sock from the co-op.”

John was silent for just over a second. Then he took a breath and opened his mouth, but remained silent for a further two seconds. Then he closed his mouth, opened it again, took in a breath and said, “Ah.”

Behind Edward there was a bark of a laugh.

“Are you?” Edward said.

“Am I what?”

“Doing an experiment?”


Both were silent for just under five seconds. Edward looked back down at the four feet still arranged in two upended equal signs, and said, “Why do you have only your left sock?”

“Yesterday it was  my right sock.”

Edward looked up at the man’s face and his brows drew together creating a 3/8″ tall vertical divot above the bridge of his nose. John said, “The day before that I don’t know which foot it was on because it was still working in partnership with this one.” John nodded his chin down toward his feet and slightly to the left.

Edward continued to look at the man’s face then his head tilted down and he looked at the four feet. “Why is it not working in part-ship any more?”

John said, “Because a squirrel peed on it.”

“Oh,” Edward said.

“It might have been a raccoon.”

“Oh,” Edward said.

“Or a possum.”

“Why did a squirrel or a raccoon or a possum pee on your sock.”

“I wish I knew.”

“And you couldn’t wear the sock because of the pee?”

“Well, I wanted to, but I spent $14 on these almost brand-new shoes and I plan to wear them for a while. I didn’t want one of my shoes to smell like rodent pee for the next year.”

“An opossum is a marsupial.”

“That’s true.”

“Not a rodent. Raccoons aren’t either, I think.”

“Nope. They once were classified with bears, actually”

“Okay,” Edward said.

“Do you get picked on at school?”

“Picked on?” Edward said. A cough behind Edward punctuated the end of the boy’s question and caused John to look over Edward’s left shoulder.

“Never mind,” John said, bringing his eyes back to Edward’s face.

Edward said, “Okay.” He took in a quick breath and said, “So, are all your other socks dirty?”

John looked at the boy and then flicked his gaze over the boy’s left shoulder and then turned his face to his right and down, toward the faded green pack sitting on the bench next to him. After just under three seconds, he turned his face back up to the boy’s face and said, “There are no other socks.”

Edward’s brows drew together again. The divot above his nose was 1/2″ long this time. He said, “Are you going to wash the sock you’re not wearing?”

“That was my plan, but it seems to have disappeared.”


“It was hanging off my backpack when I started walking this morning. When I got into the restroom over there,” He flicked his chin up and slightly to the left as he continued, “and was ready to wash it in the sink, it was gone. I suppose it fell off somewhere.”

Edward turned his face down to the four feet and then back up to John’s face. He said, “Do you want my socks?”

John’s brows came together slightly and his head cocked five degrees to the right. He said, “No. But thank you.”

“Are you walking far today?”

“The plan was fifteen or twenty miles. But I will get by with one sock.”

“I have lots of socks. And I’m not walking twenty miles.”

“Your socks wouldn’t fit me.”

Edward’s brows came together and again the divot formed. He looked down at the four feet. Two small ones in blue snow boots. One larger in a thick gray sock and one bare. His head came up and he looked at John’s face. Then he turned and tilted his head to the right, looking over John’s left shoulder. His eyes went wide and he turned and ran the 27 feet to his father’s side. He put his hand on his father’s left shoulder and leaned in so his mouth was at his father’s ear. After four seconds, Edward’s dad’s head straightened and he turned to look at Edward’s face. “Really?” Edward’s dad said. Edward was silent, simply looking at his dad. Edward’s dad raised his eyebrows, flaattened his lips and nodded once. He then reached his right hand into his coat and produced a small leather wallet. He opened it, looked inside, reached in with thumb and forefinger and extracted two bills. He handed them to Edward.

Edward took the bills, folded them carefully and put them in his left front pants pocket. The boy then turned and looked toward but not at John. He didn’t move for three seconds. Edward’s dad said, “Go ahead. Look both ways when you cross.”

Edward took a breath and then began walking just north of east. He passed the north end of John’s bench and stopped between two 40 inch high posts at the west edge of main street. He looked left, then right, then left again and stepped into the street. He crossed both lanes and passed between two posts on the west side of the street. He changed direction slightly south, angling directly toward the shop just south of the inert fountain that dominated that half of the square. Eleven steps later, he pulled the shop door open, entered and disappeared as the door closed behind him.

John’s head had followed Edward’s progress but turned back toward Edward’s dad as the door to the shop obscured the boy’s form.

Edward’s dad had opened his paperback and held it in front of his downturned face.

John looked at the Edward’s dad’s head for five seconds and then glanced over his left shoulder. His face turned forward again and then down. He leaned his elbows on his thighs, just above his knees, stared at his feet and breathed in deeply.

Edward’s dad’s head came up from his book 17 seconds later when red Mazda Miata with a lightning bolt of silver duct tape across the rear window passed southbound on Main Street.

Eleven seconds after Edward’s dad’s eyes returned to the paperback, a white 30 passenger bus moved north on Main Street and stopped with it’s rear bumper 18 feet north of where Edward had crossed. The doors opened. And 13 seconds later, the doors closed with no one having entered or exited the bus. It accelerated slowly north again.

The door of the shop opened a further 24 seconds later. Edward emerged carrying a 12 inch by 12 inch plastic bag that bulged to a breadth of three and a half inches across its full width and 2/3 of it’s height.

He angled northwest and stopped between the same two posts through which he had passed earlier. He stopped, looked left, looked right and looked left again. A Moscow Police Department SUV slowed and stopped in the northbound lane. The giant officer inside the vehicle looked at Edward and smiled. Edward nodded and began crossing the street.

As he stepped into the street a female voice said, “Where’s our son?” Edward’s dad slapped the book closed and stood. He turned his head to the left, the direction of the voice, and then back toward his son who was directly in front of the MPD SUV.

The woman, Edward’s mother, was just shorter than Edward’s dad. She was three feet away and had her mouth open with her lips forming tight oval. Air was hissing into this oval and her chest was expanding. Her eyes, directed past Edward’s dad, toward Main Street, were wide. The inhalation stopped and her expanded rib cage shuddered under the white cotton of her shirt.

As the corners of her lips drew back to flatten the opening of her mouth, Edward’s dad pivoted directly in front of her, placing a hand on each of her upper arms and crouching at the knees to lower his eyeline by the three inches necessary to put it precisely on the level of hers. A high vowel sound had just begun to pulse from her mouth, but he interrupted this, saying, “Don’t.”

She took a breath. Edward was past the SUV and was in the southbound lane. She said, “But -”

Edward’s dad interrupted with “Watch.”

She took a breath. Edward was passing between the two 40 inch high posts on the west side of Main Street. She said, “He’s -”

Edward’s dad interrupted with “Fine.”

She took a breath. Edward was at the end of John’s bench. She leaned to her left. She said, “Who is -”

Edward’s dad shuffled to his right 13 inches, placed his face in front of her eyes again and interrupted with “Please.”

She took a breath. Edward was directly in front of John. Edward’s dad released his left hand from her right arm, pivoted on his right foot and slid his right hand from her left arm across her back to her right shoulder, turning so they were both facing the interaction between Edward and the silver-haired man.

Edward was in front of John, the two pairs of feet returned to their previous configuration. He held the bag out at shoulder level.

The woman’s upper back began to tremble under Edward’s dad’s arm. That arm tensed slightly and the woman was drawn closer to Edward’s dad.

“What’s this?” John said after taking two quick breaths.


“They’re not my socks.”

“When you take them from my hand, they will be.”


Edward flattened his lips for a moment. Then he said, “Because possession is ten-ninths the law.”

“Nine-tenths. I mean why are you giving me socks.”

Edward drew his brows together. The divot was 5/8 of an inch high. “Don’t you need socks?”

“Well, yes.”

“That’s why I’m giving them to you.”

John looked at Edward. They each took a breath. They both released their breath simultaneously. They both breathed in as John took the bag from Edward’s outstretched hand. The boy immediately turned and began walking toward his parents. The plastic bag crackled as John reached inside.

Edward was seven feet from his parents when John stopped him with, “Edward.” Edward turned to face the older man. “I only needed one pair. You didn’t have to buy me three. That’s a lot of allowance money.”

“I only bought one.”

John cradled three identical pairs of heather gray hiking socks in his hands. He offered the hands forward and raised his eyebrows.

“I only bought one. The man behind me in line bought one. And the lady behind the counter bought one.”


“I don’t know.”

A slight breeze rustled the trees that surrounded the square.

Edward’s dad said, “Edward, what did you say when you were buying them?”

“The lady behind the counter asked if they were for you and I said no they were for a nice man who had a squirrel or a raccoon or a possum pee on one of his socks and that he needed socks because he was walking 20 miles today and that I wanted to get him some socks because of that.”

“Ah,” Edward’s dad and John said in unison. They both laughed. Edward’s mother put her right hand to her mouth and swiped her left knuckle across her right bottom eyelashes.

“Really? People would just..” John said, moving his gaze up to Edward’s dad’s face as his sentence trailed off. Edward’s dad shrugged his shoulders and smiled broadly.

“Jesus,” John said. “What’s the -”

Edward interrupted, looking over his right shoulder and then back at John as he said, “Please, don’t use the lord’s name in pain.”

All three adults said, “Vain.” in unison. All three laughed gently.

Edward raised his voice by almost 50 percent in order to say over the laughter, “Pain makes more sense.” The only sound for the next ten seconds was their breathing. Another slight gust caused the trees to whisper.

John said, “I’m sorry. Pain or vain, I apologize for the usage. Now, my question was: what’s the name of this town?”

“Moscow,” Edward said.

John said, “And Moscow gives random strangers socks?”

Edward turned over his left shoulder. John looked up from the boy to Edward’s dad who thrust his lower lip out slightly and cocked his head 20 degrees to the right, turning his eyes skyward. Then Edward’s dad breathed in, straightened his head, looked at John again and said, “Maybe more often than some other places.” He placed his left hand on Edward’s brown hair. “Maybe the town has ways of knowing when someone really needs socks.”

John looked at Edward. He took a breath, released it, took another and said, “Maybe so.” He then turned up to Edward’s dad. He flicked his gaze to Edward’s mother briefly and then looked back at Edward again. Edward watched the movements and then met the older man’s gaze. John said,  “Thank you, Edward.”

“You’re welcome” Edward said. He nodded and began to pivot on his left foot. He reached up and took his dad’s hand from his head, simultaneously taking his mother’s right hand. He put the two hands together and crouched and walked under them. Once he was behind the adults, he sidled behind his dad and took his dad’s free hand with his left hand. He started walking west, pulling on his dad.

“I guess we’re going home. Take care, John,” Edward’s dad said as he began to follow Edward.

John nodded and watched as Edward led his parents past the playground and into the parking lot beyond it. When they disappeared around the corner, he looked down at the three pairs of socks in his hand. He shook his head and smiled.

A voice to his left said, “You look like you could use a cup of coffee.” A young woman in a black dress and a charcoal apron held a white, 12-ounce waxed paper cup out to John. He turned his head and took in a breath. His mouth quivered slightly and then closed. He took the offered cup and said, “Thanks.” The young woman nodded and turned to the south, walking toward and then into the restaurant on the south edge of the square.

“Jeez-” John started. Then he took a breath and said in a rumbling whisper. “No need for that. At least by Edward’s way of looking at it.” A gust moved through the square and he said, “At least for this morning.”

He took a sip of the coffee and leaned his back against the bench.




Gray Mitten. East Third and Van Buren Streets. She Only Lost It Briefly.

I’ve seen so many items that stay in their unpaired locations for extended periods of time that when an item is only in a spot very briefly it can stand out. This gray wool mitten was on the curb when I took this picture in the early afternoon, but was gone when I walked past the spot less than an hour later.

Gray Knit Mitten. Third and Van Buren Streets

As I pondered that short duration and thought about how the mitten appeared to be fairly new, I decided that it could have been the replacement for the Gold Glitten . And that it had helped that young woman take one more healing step.


At 12:54 PM on 18 February 2018 a silver 2003 VW Passat station wagon turned north onto Van Buren Street from eastbound Third Street. The car stopped next to a man who was crouched, all elbows and knees, half on and half off the curving curb on the northeast corner with a camera in his hand. The passenger window slid down and a female voice from inside said, “What is it this time?”

The man twisted on the balls of his feet and turned his head over his left shoulder. His left hand quickly stabbed the concrete next to his foot as he started to tilt that way. He said, “A mitten!” as he pushed with his left hand to tilt himself back onto the balls of his feet.

Neither the driver nor the crouching man noticed the woman on the sidewalk 3/4 of the block east of them stop and turn when the man said “mitten.” When she was facing directly west, she pushed a hand into each pocket of her navy blue wool coat. Just under a second later both hands reemerged into the cold afternoon air. The right hand held a gray mitten. The left was empty. She looked at the empty hand. The woman said, “Damn.” as she raised her head and watched the Volkswagen move away northbound. She stood and watched the man as he manipulated a camera near the ground for 17 more seconds.

She shook her head and said, “No.”

When the lanky man put the camera into a pack at his feet and began to stand up, she started walking back east toward the corner. Eleven seconds later, the two passed each other on the sidewalk.

. . .

Sixteen minutes earlier, the young woman in the navy blue wool coat was walking eastbound on the north side of Third Street in front of the 1912 Center. Her steps landed almost exactly at half-second intervals as she passed the east end of concrete retaining wall in front of the building.

Approaching Van Buren Street, her head snapped 19 degrees to the right. In the direction her face had turned, a block and a half east, a young man in gray sweatshirt and worn jeans came down the wooden steps of a house on the south side of Third Street.

Less than a second later, an inhalation stopped with a slight snapping noise as the young woman’s eyelids opened wide and her mouth closed. As she stepped onto the pavement of Van Buren Street, a brief gurgle came from deep in the back of her mouth. Her hands, clad in gray mittens, rose from her waist. The right hand pressed against her right cheek while the left curled gently around her throat. She took three more quick steps before her right toe slapped against the curb, touching the line where yellow paint ended on the gray concrete.

A block and a half east, a car door thudded closed.

She began to tilt forward. Her left thigh suddenly lifted to almost to a 90 degree angle with her body and the left foot shot forward. Almost immediately, the foot landed on the grass just past the curb as her upper body continued to tilt forward. Then both hands shot forward and down, thudding into the grass and simultaneously forming two corners of an equilateral triangle with the ball of the left foot as the third.

A block and a half east, a car engine cranked briefly and then started smoothly.

Her upper body seemed to convulse slightly as a quiet, low squeak radiated gently from her throat. No air moved past her lips. She pushed off the grass with her right hand. As it lifted, her body pivoted clockwise over her left foot. Her center of gravity transferred quickly and her body twisted in front of her left hand and arm. Less than a quarter-second later, her butt made contact with the curb, left arm behind her. Her right hand came back up to her throat and her upper body convulsed more violently as her mouth opened wide.

A blue Audi rolled by westbound on Third Street.

The young woman’s left hand shot up and stabbed into the pocket of her coat. It emerged a moment later with a smartphone cradled in the gray wool of the palm of the mitten. She raised her right hand, also clad in a gray knit wool and her eyes went very wide. Then she raised the hand further and her mouth came forward and bit the top of the mitten. The arm jerked downward and the hand emerged from the mitten. She twitched her chin to the left and opened her teeth and the mitten flew and landed atop the curb. Her right index finger stabbed at the side of the phone and then swiped up on the screen. The finger tapped four times and then once. The phone vibrated slightly in her hand. Her mouth opened wide and seemed to vibrate as well; her eyes widened, causing two tears to fall from her left eye onto the screen of the phone.

The blue Audi stopped for a pedestrian in the crosswalk at Jefferson Street, two blocks west.

The young woman’s right index finger moved to the screen again. It trembled as it tapped the screen, moved, tapped, moved, tapped, moved, tapped, moved, hovered uneasily for a moment and tapped. She hunched forward slightly as the screen changed. She then tapped on an icon shaped like a phone handset. The screen changed again and the shaky right index finger tapped on a square with a young woman’s face and the label “Lacey”.

The young woman’s eyes were fixed on the screen. Two more tears fell onto it and rolled down the glowing glass. Eleven seconds after the last tap, a small, soprano voice came from the speaker on the phone: “Where are you? I have donuts!” The young woman’s eyes closed and a moment later, a shrill scraping chirp came from her still opened mouth.

“Are you alright?” came from the phone. After just under a second, the voice on the phone said, “Oh, God. Breathe, sweetheart. You’re having a panic attack, aren’t you.” The young woman’s chin began to nod up and down quickly. Five tears splattered onto the screen.

“You have to breathe, hun. Remember what works? Force that breath OUT first”

Still nodding, the young woman squeezed her eyelids tightly closed and she hunched forward, curving her chest and shoulders over the phone. A hissing started deep in the back of her wide open mouth. The noise grew for a moment then with a sudden shudder she coughed weakly. Her back straightened and she made a rattling slurp as air rushed past her soft palate into her trachea for the first time in 64 seconds.

The next exhalation was a sob as she raised the phone to her ear. She cycled three deep fast breaths before she said, “He came out of that house practically right in front of me.”

She listened to the phone for just under two minutes. Her breathing slowed and evened. She nodded occasionally. She said “no” twice. She said “yes” three times. She said “you’re right” three times. And she said, “yes. It’s been getting better” once at the end of the conversation. As the young woman put her phone into the right hand pocket of her coat, she stood up. She was facing south, looking at the white picket fence across the street. She turned her head to the right almost 90 degrees. She then turned her head to the left and looked at a point north-northeast of her. Seven seconds later, she nodded her chin down and up once and stepped up onto the sidewalk. She started east.

. . .

The one mitten was clutched in the young woman’s right hand when she reached the curb at the end of the sidewalk at Van Buren Street 18 seconds after she passed the lanky man. She planted her left foot on the grass, pivoted on it and dropped her right foot down onto the street. She bent at the waist and reached with her bare left hand to pluck the gray mitten from the yellow-painted concrete. She straightened and looked at the white picket fence across the street from her. She turned her head 40 degrees to her left and then quickly back and down to the gray wool in her hand. She took in a breath, exhaled and took in another. She held it briefly. “Not one more thing,” she said.

She looked up and to the left again and said, in the same low tone, “I’m not going to lose one more damn thing.”

Brown Work Glove. South Main Street. It Turned Out She Never Missed It.

When I saw his somewhat worn and deteriorating glove in front of the Chamber of Commerce office, I thought it looked as if it had been buried for an extended period. I only briefly pondered it before I began to imagine the grandmother from Story 17 – a careful community gardener who lost the glove after being distracted – by a particularly favorite kind of distraction.


Brown Work Glove. South Main Street.

At 3:23 PM on 30 May 2015, a woman knelt on a white and blue, flower-patterned dense foam pad next to a 22 inch high, four and a half foot long, two and a half foot wide rough wooden planter box on the west side of South Main Street. Her straight back and wispy gray hair reflected in the angled windows of the Chamber of Commerce  18 feet behind her. There was an orange, plastic five gallon bucket to her left, half-full with the stalks, leaves and petal-less blooms of tulips and daffodils. To her right were two  two-by-three plant flats. Ten of the spaces in the flats were empty. The other two each contained a four-inch high plant rising from soil. To the right of the flats was a loose triangle of three, four-inch square, green plastic greenhouse pots. The pot closest to the woman held a pile of dirt-encrusted bulbs. In the next was a small trowel with a wooden handle whose blue finish was rubbed shiny and almost transparent in places. The last pot was empty.

The woman patted the topsoil around the base of an eight-inch high begonia with a right hand sheathed in a well-worn, too-large work glove. Her navy blue cardigan sweater was open and the sleeves were bunched up to her elbows, revealing ivory white, bone-thin forearms.

A small, piercing cry to her right caused her to straighten and turn her head until she saw a younger woman with an infant swaddled to her torso a few steps away.

The gardener smiled at the mother as she moved closer. The older woman then tilted her head and looked at the red face peeping out from the ivory wrap, and said, “Oh, why so unhappy?” Then her neck straightened, the corners of her lips drew even higher and the skin at the outside corners of her eyes folded along well-worn creases. She said, “Oh ho! This must be Emma!” She then placed both palms on  the lip of the planter and drew her right knee up and placed her right foot just off the pad and directly under her hip. She exhaled a gentle “ooph” as she pushed with arms and legs and slowly straightened to her full 5’1″ height.

The young woman, Emma’s mother, stopped on the sidewalk three feet from the older woman. As she watched the process of standing, she slowly said, “Oh. Yes. You’re…” Her eyes narrowed slightly and she tilted her head as she looked at the older woman.

“Bea. I gave your husband piano lessons. Some years ago. This is such a small town.” She burbled a soprano chuckle and her hands reached down towards the blue fabric on her thighs. The hands stopped three-quarters of an inch from contact at which point she turned the palms up and looked down at them. She then shook her head briefly, raising her eyebrows and flattening her lips. Almost immediately, the smile returned and she looked back at the younger woman and said, “And my grapevine is particularly well-informed about children.” Emma’s mother smiled then looked down at Emma’s head as the infant’s wail intensified.

“That’s right. Err. Mrs. F?”

“That is what the boys always called me.” The older woman, Mrs F, looked at Emma’s mother’s face and said, “Four months?”

“Five. January.” Emma’s mother shifted her weight and the angle of her hips. Her left hand moved to the small of her back and pressed. Mrs. F’s eyebrows drew together and her lips pressed slightly flat. She cocked her head three degrees to the right. Another wail drew the eyes of both women down to the wriggling bundle strapped to the younger woman. Without looking at her hands, Mrs F pulled first her left and then her right glove off her hands. She set the gloves on the rough wooden lip of the planter and reached out toward Emma’s head with her tiny white hand.

As the hand moved, Mrs. F looked up into the mother’s eyes and raised her eyebrows slightly. Emma’s mom smiled and tilted her chin straight down less than an inch. Mrs F gently placed her hand on top of Emma’s head. When the palm made contact with the brown-blonde hair, darkened with sweat at the temples and curling at the top of the tiny head, Mrs F exhaled quietly. Emma took in a breath and then snuffled through her nose. As the new silence settled on the street, Emma’s mom let out a breath. All three drew in their next breath in near unison.

Emma’s mom raised her head and closed her eyes in an extended blink. Her right hand joined her left at the small of her back. Mrs F’s hand stayed on Emma’s head and she murmured, “Sweet girl.” Then her eyes strayed up to the mother’s upturned face. She said, “Sweet girl” again. After one more silent shared breath, Mrs. F nodded.

“Would you indulge a deprived grandmother and let me hold her?” Mrs. F said. Emma’s mom’s eyes popped open and looked wide at the older woman – who was again focused on Emma. She expelled a quiet, extended, “Oh,” But Mrs. F continued, “Other than my own oldest, I’ve been blessed with boys – two sons and seven grandsons – I don’t know when I last cradled a baby girl.” Emma remained quiet. Mrs. F looked at the infant. Emma’s mom took a breath and smiled. She put her right arm along Emma’s body. Her hand cradled the infant’s head. She reached up to her left shoulder with her left hand and untucked a corner of the ivory fabric.

Twenty-three seconds later, Mrs. F sang, “Of course, she’s wearing blue!” as she cradled Emma in her left arm and caressed the girl’s cheek with the pad of her right index finger. She began to sway at the hips. Emma’s head began to move three inches left and up and three inches right and down in rhythm with the hip movement. Mrs. F’s eyes remained fixed on the girl’s face.

Emma’s mom pivoted and sat down on the edge of the planter. She closed her eyes and shifted slightly. Her left hip brushed against the tip of the middle finger of the right glove on the lip of the planter. That glove dropped into the planter, landing on its side, pinkie finger down. It leaned against the wall of the planter, almost vertical and almost exactly the same color as the wood. The left glove teetered and then fell into the greenhouse pot atop the trowel.

Neither woman noticed the disappearance of the gloves.

“You do this for…” Emma’s mother said.

“Joy? Because it needs to be done? Because green growth is life?” Mrs. F said with a smile. Her eyes strayed from the little girl’s face to that of the mother. “There are a few of us who take care of these planters each spring.” She gestured south along Main Street and then looked at the closed eyes of her adult companion, smiled widely and shrugged.

“That’s nice,” the younger woman said. Her eyes remained closed. She had tilted her face up into the sun.

Mrs. F looked up from Emma’s face and watched the mother take in the sun on her face. Seven seconds later she said, “Would you like to plant the last two mums?”

Emma’s mother opened her eyes and turned to Mrs. F. Mrs. F looked down at the two remaining plants. The younger woman’s eyes followed and she smiled. “You don’t mind holding Emma for a few more minutes?”

“Mind?” Mrs. F said.  “That offer was a naked ploy.” Both women laughed. Emma burbled. They both looked down at the girl’s face. Her eyes were open and her lips curled up at the corners.

. . .

Fifty-one minutes later an old man rolled a wheelbarrow next to the planter into the space where the bucket, pots and kneeling pad had been. The steel bumper in front of the wheel thumped against the planter and caused the glove inside to fall, palm down, onto the soil. The wheelbarrow was half full of reddish-brown bark mulch. The man scanned the fifteen plants neatly laid out in the planter and said, “Bea” quietly and smiled. He then bent at the waist and with two hands scooped a mound of mulch out of the wheelbarrow and transferred it to the planter. He mounded it on the soil between plants and spread it carefully. He repeated this set of movements fourteen times. On the seventh of these repetitions, he covered Mrs. F’s glove. After a total of eight minutes at the planter, he straightened for a final time, scanned the inside of the planter, took up the handles of the wheelbarrow and rolled north.

Mrs. F’s right glove was now covered by 1.25 inches of bark mulch.

. . .

On 18 May 2016, Emma’s mom pushed a stroller west on First Street from North Hayes. Emma was vocalizing a high “boop” noise repeatedly. Emma’s mom had a smartphone to her right ear. She said, “We just turned off Hayes and we’re – Oh I see you!” She waved to the west and slightly north as she pulled the phone from her ear. She then touched the screen once with her left index finger and placed the phone in her right front pocket. 86 yards down the street, the storm door of a blue house was open and a tiny figure stood on the threshold waving.

A minute later Emma’s mom maneuvered the stroller up the walkway and parked it parallel to the steps up to the blue painted deck. “My sweet girls!” Mrs. F said from the doorway. Emma’s arms could be seen projecting and waving from deep in the over-sized stroller. Her vocalization had changed to a repeated, “Mizz, mizz, mizz.”

“I have your Tupperware right here!” Mrs. F said pointing down to a paper shopping bag at her feet. Emma’s mom was bent at the hips, reaching into the stroller. “Not having to stand in that kitchen every night has certainly been a blessing since I’ve been home.” Emma was now in her mom’s arms, perched on and straddling a slightly projecting left hip. The two mounted the steps onto the deck. When they reached the door, Emma’s mom put her right hip against the storm door and Mrs. F’s right hand came off the door. The older woman extended her right index finger and caressed Emma’s left cheek. The child chuckled musically. Mrs. F bent down – at mid back – just slightly and Emma’s mom immediately flexed both biceps and raised Emma by 18 inches. Mrs. F’s lips gently touched Emma’s cheek and the little girl held out her arms toward the older woman. “Oh I wish I could hold you my sweet girl,” Mrs. F said and placed her right hand atop Emma’s head. As Emma’s mom settled the toddler back on her hip, she pivoted to the left. The older woman’s hand remained on Emma’s head. The head and the hand began moving up and down by approximately three inches in time with a gentle sway of Emma’s mom’s hips.

“How is your hip?” Emma’s mom said. Mrs. F’s left hand tightened on the rubber handle of the aluminum cane upon which it rested.

“Good as new!” she said. “Well, almost. The physical therapist wants me to take it easy for another few weeks.” Mrs. F had sharply emphasized the two t’s in “take it easy.” She now paused. Emma had reached up with both hands and taken Mrs. F’s hand from her head. She now held the older woman’s finger in her right hand and was touching the tip of it with her left index finger. “Which means I’ve roped my grandson into doing my planter downtown this year.” Mrs. F took the tiny left hand and kissed the tip of the left index finger. She said, “Oh! Speaking of which. Could you possibly move the begonias from my kitchen onto the porch?” Mrs F released the girl’s hand. Emma’s eyes widened as she moved the still extended left index finger and touched Mrs. F’s right cheek. Mrs F said, “He said he might have to come some late evening and I go to sleep so early.”

Fourteen minutes later Emma’s arms could be seen again projecting and waving from deep within the stroller. “Call if you need anything Mrs. F,” Emma’s mom said, turning the stroller down the walk.” Mrs. F waved and let the storm door hiss closed, leaned on the cane, shuffled back and closed the blue front door. Three begonias in four-inch square green plastic, greenhouse pots were lined up on the east edge of the blue deck.

. . .

At 4:12 PM on 1 June 2017, Emma’s mom stood on the chipped blue paint on the deck of Mrs. F’s house on First Street. A nested stack of three four-inch square, green plastic greenhouse pots sat at the east edge of the deck, the top one mostly full of dirt-encrusted bulbs. Emma stood on the threshold to the right of Mrs. F who was bent 45 degrees at the waist. Her right hand was extended and her right index finger caressed the toddler’s cheek. Mrs F said, “My favorite cheek in town!”

Mrs. F began to straighten and Emma began to extend her left arm. Emma’s mom reached her right hand to the older woman’s left elbow and her left hand took Mrs. F’s left hand. Mrs. F continued to straighten. Emma’s arm was now fully extended above her shoulder and her index finger pointed at Mrs. F’s face. The little girl said, “Cheek?”

Mrs. F looked down at the extended finger and said, “Oh dear.” Her brows drew together for less than half a second then she turned her head to her right shoulder and at a volume 75 percent louder than her previous statement said, “Johnny could you bring one of those stools here?”

Emma’s mom said, “Oh that isn’t necessary.”

Mrs. F chuckled out, “It most certainly is!” as a dark sienna, 29-inch high, red oak stool appeared next to Mrs F out of the dark hallway. “You should be able to reach from there, my sweet girl!” Emma’s mom put her hands under Emma’s arms and lifted the girl up. Emma lifted her feet up as she swung over the seat of the stool. As she settled on her knees on the seat, Mrs. F put her right hand on the girls head and Emma reached out with her left index finger and caressed Mrs. F’s right cheek.

. . .

At 9:33 AM on 15 May 2018, Emma’s mom was kneeling next to the planter on Main Street. Her left hand held the handle of a trowel. To her left on the rim of the planter, there were two four-inch square, green plastic greenhouse pots – one empty, one almost full of dirt encrusted bulbs. On her right was a similar pot. It held a begonia plant. Emma’s face appeared between the begonia and the older woman’s arm. “Done?” the little girl said.

“One more plant,” Emma’s mom said and she began to push the trowel down into the dirt immediately in front of her. Her head cocked to the left and her eyes narrowed. She looked down, laid the trowel down and reached with her left hand into the dirt. That hand rose above the level of the lip, holding a seven and a half by three and a half inch object encrusted in dirt. She held the object at one end and began to tap it against the lip of the planter. Dirt cascaded off and revealed an expanse of brown leather. After a two more taps Emma said, “Gwove, mommy!” and reached for the glove.

Emma’s mom looked over her right shoulder and then over her left shoulder. Then she handed the glove to Emma and turned 90 degrees and pointed toward the front of the Chamber of Commerce. “Can you go put it on the post over there?” she said.

Emma took the glove in the palms of both hands, supporting it at shoulder height. She walked across the sidewalk to the plinth at the south end of the Chamber of Commerce entry and set it carefully on the concrete. “There!” she said. Then she turned back to her mom and walked toward her saying, “gwove gwove gwove.” She swiped her dirty hands down the blue fabric covering her thighs as she approached.

When the little girl was back by her side, Emma’s mom turned back to the planter. “Can you hand me that plant, Emma?” she said, pointing to the begonia pot to Emma’s right. Emma backed up a step, put both hands on the pot, lifted it from the wood and pivoted slowly. Her mom took the bottom of the pot in her right hand. Emma released her hold and her mom swung the pot over the planter in front of her. She placed her left hand on top of the soil in the pot with the stalk of the plant in the curve between thumb and index finger. She then inverted the pot and shook it in her hands once. Loose dirt fell around her left hand and then she pulled up on the pot, leaving the dirt-covered root ball of the plant resting in her left hand. Emma took the pot from her mom and set it next to her on the rim of the planter. Emma’s mom cupped her right hand over the root ball and inverted the plant again. She then lowered it into the hole in the dirt in front of her. She swept the loose dirt from around the hole into the gaps. Then her bare right hand patted the topsoil around the base of the plant. Her eyes scanned the planter, seeing a familiar arrangement of three begonia plants and twelve other seedlings.

She brought her right hand up onto the lip of the planter, shifted her weight to the right and brought her left knee up and left foot under her hip. She then pushed with hands and legs and straightened.

. . .

At 10:35 AM on 15 May 2018, a lanky man emerged from the coffee shop at the corner of Sixth and Main Streets. He turned north on Main Street and strode quickly past the pawn shop, the bookstore, the breakfast restaurant and the print shop. As he reached the Chamber of Commerce storefront, he suddenly stopped, eyes focused on the plinth under the south corner of the triangular overhang at the front of the building. After less than a second, he unslung his pack, and set it on the sidewalk. He opened the pack, pulled out a camera and began taking pictures of the glove posed on the plinth.

As the lanky man put his camera back in his bag, on First Street Emma and Emma’s mom stood on the chipped blue paint of Mrs. F’s front deck. Emma stood to the left of her mom, with her hand in her mom’s hand. The stroller sat at the bottom of the deck steps. Emma’s mom held a stack of three four-inch square, green plastic greenhouse pots cradled in her right arm.

The blue door opened. Two aluminum struts of a walker appeared in the dark doorway. Mrs. F’s soprano “My sweet girls!” sounded and her bony white hands appeared on the handles of the walker just before her scuffed, navy blue leather flats shuffled into the light. Her face caught the light just under a half-second later. She was smiling broadly. She said, “Oh my goodness, she grows and grows!”

Emma tilted her face sharply up and to the right and said, “Up? Kiss?”

Emma’s mom looked down at the girl’s face and then up to the older woman. Mrs. F smiled and nodded once. Emma’s mom pointed into the house and said, “The stool’s right there. Be careful.”

Emma put her left hand on the door jamb and lifted her right foot toward the threshold. The toe of her pink high-top sneaker tapped the blue wood under the aluminum threshold and the girl said “Oop!” and put out both her hands. She landed with hands on the blue wool runner on the hall floor and knees on the aluminum. With hands planted firmly on the blue carpet, she immediately drew her right foot up and under her hip. She pushed with arms and legs and quickly straightened to her full 3’3″ height. She immediately disappeared into the darkness of the hall. Both older women turned and looked the way she had gone.

A moment later a squeaking, scraping noise could be heard approaching the door. After just under three seconds, the dark sienna legs a stool appeared and stopped next to the aluminum walker. Emma’s voice could be heard saying “miz cheek. miz cheek. miz cheek” then her face appeared over the seat of the stool. The little girl carefully brought first her left knee and then her right up onto the seat of the stool and then placed her hands on the handle of the walker. She then leaned toward Mrs F’s face. Mrs F turned and kissed the little girl’s left cheek. The older woman then reached up with her right hand and caressed the cheek with her index finger.

As the bony white hand  withdrew Mrs F turned her head to face forward. Emma then reached up and with her left index finger extended and caressed Mrs F’s left cheek. When Emma withdrew her finger, there was a 3/8 inch wide, one inch long swath of dirt decorating the ivory and rose of Mrs F’s right cheek.

Mrs. F smiled and reached her right hand out and placed it atop the brown blonde hair of the little girl kneeling on the stool next to her. “Thank you, my sweet girl,” she said.



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.


Black Leather Glove. East First Street. It Had Hidden Value.

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.

Black Leather Glove. East First Street.

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.

. . .

Black Leather Glove. First Street. The Next Morning.

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.

“I’m sorry?”

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.

“Okay, Johnny?”

“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.”



Purple Knit Glove. South Main Street and West Sweet Avenue. She Needed Her Skin to be Exposed.

Gloves. Everywhere. They’re what sparked this concept and they’re what I see most often. This glove was in a spot off my usual routes. It seemed particularly prominent and yet because of the arrangement of the wet spots around it, had clearly been there all day. It seemed to have been pulled off in some haste – balled up partially and partially inside out. I began to picture an urgent need to interact with a smartphone. And then I thought of who was answering the call and who was calling. And I found myself back with the very first character we met on this journey, wondering how she was healing.


Purple Knit Glove. West Sweet Avenue.

At 9:47 AM on January 17, the young woman, walking east on Sweet Avenue 100 yards west of Main Street, extracted her smart phone from the left pocket of her midnight blue peacoat. She looked at the screen, cradling the phone in her left hand. Almost immediately, her brows pulled together and she tapped the screen with the index finger of her right hand. The finger, covered in a purple knit glove made no change on the screen which showed “Incoming call – MPD OFCR Hugedude.”

She stopped walking. She shook her head three times and then pinched the back of the phone onto her left palm with pinkie, ring and middle fingers. With her free index finger and thumb, she dug under the cuff of her coat and then under the hem of the purple glove on her right wrist. She pulled the glove off, took it in her right fist, jabbed that fist into the right pocket of her coat and brought the now bare and free right hand back toward the left hand.

She didn’t notice that the balled up glove was drawn out from its intended destination by the retreating hand and now hung in the opening of the pocket.

She moved the phone with the thumb of her left hand back so that the phone was again cradled face up in her cupped, purple-clad hand and touched the screen with her right index finger. She held the phone up to her ear and said, “hello?” After just under a second she said, “Hello” again. Her brows drew together and her eyelids squeezed partially closed as she brought the phone in front of her face again.  She flattened and tightened her lips as she looked at the screen. It showed the message “One Missed Call: MPD OFCR Hugedude – 09:48AM January 17, 2018”  laid over two rows of four icons and a picture of an orange tabby cat with a paw over it’s right eye and its right ear folded inside out. She stood motionless, staring at the screen for 11 seconds. The phone buzzed in her hand and the message changed to “New Voicemail From: MPD OFCR Hugedude – 09:48AM . 1:08.”

She breathed in, her chest expanding noticeably under the dark blue wool of her coat. She blew the breath out noisily through rounded lips as she touched the notification. She looked around her on the sidewalk and put the phone to her ear. For 73 seconds she stood in silence, almost immobile. The only movements were the slow rise and fall of her chest and the growth and travel of a droplet of liquid in the corner of her right eye near her nose. It began forming after 23 seconds. By 56 seconds it was approximately 1.5 mm in diameter and began to move away from the eye down the side of her nose. At 64 seconds the liquid began to gather in the crease around the nostril. By the time she pulled the phone from her ear, there was a droplet clinging to the underside of her right nostril.

She began to walk, eastbound, looking at the screen for a moment before squeezing a button on the left side of the phone with her left index finger and jabbing the phone into the pocket of her coat. After 18 seconds, she flared and contracted her nostrils and then swiped her right hand up and across her nose. This movement raised the right side of her coat by five inches. When she brought her hand back down to her side, the coat fell abruptly and a ball of purple polyester fell from the opening of the right pocket onto the ground. It landed on the sidewalk and bounced.

She continued to walk and was three steps away from the glove when she pulled her phone back out of her pocket, held it seven inches in front of her mouth and said, “Okay google. Call Lacey.” She put the phone to her ear as she curved around on the sidewalk headed up south on Main Street. Seventeen seconds later, she said, “Hi Lace. You’re probably in class.” She took in a breath unevenly, let it out, breathed in again without impairment and said, “Officer Gigantor wants to talk to me again. Can you…” She stopped again. She breathed in and out deeply and deliberately again. “Can you come with me? At noon? At the police station? Call me. Or text me. Or just meet me in the square? Love you.”

. . .

58 minutes later, a young woman came out of the door to Shoup Hall on West Sixth Street. She stopped on the concrete slab outside the door, set down the off-white canvas bag dangling from her left hand and lifted the green gore-tex coat in her right hand. She used her left hand to open the coat, put her left hand in the sleeve and searched with her right hand for a moment. As the coat moved during the search, the right side swung like a pendulum. Just as she found the sleeve and began to slide her arm into it, a shiny black object tumbled out of the rising right pocket. Her face turned quickly toward the movement and she said, “shit” as the smartphone landed on the embroidered rose petal on the canvas bag.

She leaned down and picked the phone up with her right hand. She looked at the screen, moved her thumb on the side of the phone once.  A moment later, her thumb tensed and held on the same spot for four seconds and the screen of the phone lit up. She picked up the bag and put the straps over her right shoulder. She began angling on the walkway toward Sixth Street eastbound. When she reached the sidewalk she began muttering to herself, “That’s funny. I can’t find it anywhere.” She took two steps and then said, “I packed it myself and can’t remember where.” She took another step, then, “To the Ragulins…I’ve arranged to take care of the house… as a housekeeper… if you like…”

Her head came up and turned to the left. Her brows drew slightly together and lowered. Her eyes flicked right and down, back to center then to the right again. Her voice came again, this time just below conversational volume, “Where can it be… maybe I put it in the trunk…” She took in a breath with some difficulty, then said, “Yes. Life in this house has come to an end!” Her voice lowered in tone and went up in volume. And both eyes were filled with tears as they looked at the residence hall tower in the middle distance.

Her left foot stepped into the grass as two women moved by her on her right, their heads turning to look at her as they passed. She stopped walking, breathing in deeply and looked down at her left foot in the grass. She looked up and around, turning her to look over her right shoulder at the backs of the two women. She swiped the back her right hand across her right eye and then wiped her left eye with her right middle finger. Still standing one foot on the grass and one on the sidewalk her mouth broke into an enormous smile. Her gaze swept up and to the right then back to the left as she said breathily, “Holy shit. I saw the fucking orchard. I saw it and he was standing right next to me.”

There was a buzzing sound and she let out a small, muffled squeak. Her right hand, which still held her phone, swept up from her hip and in front of her. The hand spasmed open and the phone buzzed again as it rose on a steep ballistic arc that peaked at six feet six inches. Just over a half second after it reached its peak, the phone landed in the grass four and a half feet directly in front of her. It buzzed again just as it landed.

She huffed out a breath and then began to laugh. She bent over and picked the phone out of the grass and looked at the screen. There were three lines of text visible under the glaring glass. The first read; “New voicemail from BFF” The second read: “Emma’s Mom: Any idea why E is suddenly…” And the third read: “Stinky: We didn’t set a rehearsal t…”

She quickly moved her thumb up the side of the phone. The screen lit up and she swiped her left index finger up. She tapped on the screen four times waited a moment and then tapped once more and put the phone to her right ear. After 27 seconds, she moved the phone in front of her eyes and tapped the screen. She scanned up the screen for a moment. Her eyes moved down on the screen and she brought her left index finger back toward the screen. The movement stopped when a voice behind her said, “Lacey!” She turned and a young man, approaching from the west said, “I’m glad I caught you. We need to figure out when we’re going to rehearse.”

The young woman, Lacey, turned. Her eyes located his face and again her mouth formed a wide smile. “St – Jason! You won’t believe what just happened.” Her right hand moved to put the phone in the pocket of her coat while her left hand rose to his arm. Her right hand followed and as it touched his left upper arm, Jason’s eyes went wide. She said, “Jase, I saw the orchard. I saw it!” She looked over her left shoulder and then turned back. “Do you have time now?”

. . .

At 12:02 PM, the young woman in the midnight blue peacoat stood up from the wide concrete edge of the now dry fountain just east of Main Street and just west of the entrance to the police station. She held her left hand up in front of her face and looked at the smartphone cradled there. Here eyes slowly closed and then reopened. The right side of her upper lip quivered slightly before she sucked in an enormous breath. She raised her bare, balled up right hand to her mouth and blew the breath out over and through it as she took a step toward the station. It began to rain lightly as she curved around the dead end circle of Fourth Street.

. . .

Just over three hours later, the young woman passed the fountain again, westbound from the end of Fourth Street and across Main Street. She curved left onto the sidewalk on Main Street. As she passed the front of the Chamber of Commerce, she turned and looked at the windows to her right. She stopped in front of the last window and turned to intently at the poster hanging just inside. She began to closely focus on the upper left hand portion of the image and a smile formed on her lips. She nodded once, turned to her left and began walking again.

On Sweet Avenue, a lanky man had just turned east on the sidewalk from the WAMI building and was walking toward Main Street. As the sidewalk began to curve south, he looked down and to his right and stopped. He pulled his phone out of his pocket, crouched down and held the phone upright, pointing toward Main Street. Just under three seconds later, he stood up and continued around the curve and onto Main Street.

Six-tenths of a mile east, the young woman passed the gyro restaurant. Her right fist was at her mouth and she was blowing into it. A voice ahead of her said, “where’s your glove?”

The young woman said, “Hi Lace. I honestly have-”

Lacey interrupted, speaking quickly and at a slightly higher than normal volume, “I am SO sorry I missed the. Are you okay? Is everything all. I got so caught up. I’m so selfish.” Lacey was crying.

The young woman reached out with her bare right hand and caught Lacey’s left wrist. She pulled and extracted Lacey’s hand from the coat pocket and slid her own hand down the wrist and took her friend’s hand. “Lace. It’s okay.”

Lacey, only as her friend tugged her arm, began tilting her head up to catch the other’s eyes. She began to speak, “It’s not, I should have…” She trailed off as  her eyes took in the eyes of her friend and she felt the skin of her friend’s hand contact the palm of her left hand. “Holy shit. You’re. You’re you.”

“Maybe almost,” the young woman said over a chuckle.

“So the meeting with Officer Gigantor was okay?” Lacey smiled.

“It was what it was. He said that, he – the – he is going to…. There’s not going to be a trial.”

“Is that -”

“He’s going to be punished so, yeah it is.”

“So everything’s going to be…”

“No. But I feel better today than yesterday.”

Lacey said, “Still I should have been -” A pressure on her left hand stopped her.

“It’s okay. I managed it and. It’s okay. I don’t want to talk about it. Let’s. Hey.” The young woman turned and began pulling Lacey back north on Main Street. When they reached the Chamber of Commerce, they stopped and the young woman pointed to the poster she had been examining earlier. She said, “That’s you! Why didn’t I…” She trailed off and said, “I’m sorry I couldn’t see you in that one.”

Lacey was looking at the picture intently. After four seconds, she shook her head and said, “No. It’s okay. I was bad in that.” Then she suddenly smiled and turned. She put her hands on the young woman’s shoulders and said, “But you HAVE to come see the showcase. I … had a breakthrough.”

“You mean Stinky is going to -”

Lacey interrupted, “No!” The young woman’s eyes widened. “Sorry,” Lacey continued. “No. It’s not that. It was never about Stinky – Jason. It was always about me. I needed to find me and the world and me in that world and just… Live it. I’m sorry. That probably doesn’t make sense.”

The young woman looked at Lacey’s face and smiled. They both stood in silence. Neither of them took note of the fact that their breathing fell into synchronization.  The young woman said, “I think. I think maybe it does make some sense.”

Blue Striped Mitten. South Monroe Street. Edward Was Partially Responsible.

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.

. . .

Blue Striped Mitten. South Monroe Street.

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.

“That’s good.”

“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!”


Purple Foam Earplug. West Sixth Street. He May Wish He Hadn’t Lost It.

As this project developed and I began to actively shoot unpaired photos, one object that I wondered if I would find was an earplug. Since that wondering began, I’ve photographed two. Here’s the first one’s story.


Purple Earplug. West Sixth Street

At 9:34 AM on Monday, 29 January, two men stood next to a white 2006 GMC pickup truck  at the corner of Stadium Drive and Sixth Street. One man, older, shorter, grayer, balder pointed west down the sidewalk on which they stood. “Blow that walk,” he said. “Straight and then down ’round the corner if ya have time. Just blow ’til yer shift ends.”

A close observer would have seen the young man, press his lips together and tighten his chest muscles before both loosened as he took a breath. He then said, “right.”

“And use yer earplugs. Ya got earplugs, right?” The young man pulled a clear plastic rectangular packet from the pocket of his worn and dirty jeans and held it out in front of himself at shoulder height. There was a flash of purple in the middle of the packet sitting in his palm. “Good,” the older man said. “we gotta lecture earlier about makin’ sure you kids use ear protection with the high D.B. equipment.”

Neither man said anything for a moment. The older man’s expression was flat, eyes focused on the younger man’s face. The younger man took a breath in and as he exhaled, his eyes shifted down to the clear plastic packet in his hand. Each man took in a breath and exhaled. For the next seventeen seconds their breathing was synchronized as they stood facing each other.

They said, “well,” simultaneously. The younger man said it with a downward inflection with a flattening of the eyebrows and a turn of the head to the bed of the pickup. The older man said it with an upward inflection, a shift of his gaze to the packet in the younger man’s hand and an upward pointing gesture of his right hand.

The younger man turned his head from the pickup back to the older man’s face and raised his eyebrows. The older man gestured again with his right hand, pointing at the packet in the young man’s hand and then sweeping his hand up to point to the side of the young man’s head. The young man pulled his eyebrows together and squinted slightly. The older man grunted and said, “put the damn things in.”

The young man looked at the older man’s face. After a moment his lips flattened and his eyelids half-closed. Then he opened the packet, pulled out the first purple earplug, rolled it between his right thumb and index finger and inserted it in his right ear. He then rolled the second one for a moment and inserted it in his left ear. He stuffed the plastic envelope in the front right pocket of his jeans and then turned and reached into the bed of the pickup.

“Didja gas it up?” the old man said.  The younger man continued to lean over into the bed of the pickup. He reached down and a moment later straightened with a gas-powered backpack blower in his hands. As he began to turn away from the truck toward the sidewalk, his back still toward the older man, the older man tapped him on the shoulder. The young man’s shoulders stiffened and his back suddenly straightened. He turned and the older man said again, “didja gas it up?”

The young man carefully set the blower on the ground, reached up to his right ear with his left hand and pinched the purple earplug out of his ear. “Excuse me?” the young man said.

“Didja gas it up?”

“You watched me gas it up, York,” the young man said slowly with no inflection.

The older man, York, nodded and said, “Blow that walk.” He pointed west and continued, “Straight and then down ’round the corner if ya have time. Just blow ’til yer shift ends.”

“Yep. Like you said.”

“And use yer earplugs,” York said, still nodding. “We gotta lecture about makin’ sure you kids use yer earplugs.”

“With the high D.B. equipment,” the young man said as he leaned down and pushed a small dirty red rubber button on the engine of the blower three times. He put his left hand – pinky and ring finger wrapped around the earplug -on the side of the machine and wrapped his right hand around a red t-shaped handle. His legs contracted slightly and the muscles of his back tensed.

“Kid!” York said.

The young man’s back spasmed and levered up and he stepped back quickly with his right foot. He took a breath – in and out – before he turned to the older man. As his eyes met York’s the young man’s mouth was almost flat, corners upturned just a few millimeters. “York?” he said with significant up inflection.

York gestured with a pointing index finger from the young man’s left hand up and across to point at his right ear.

The young man’s facial muscles tensed, but the expression changed not at all. He took an breath in, over-filling his lungs and as he let it out, he hastily shoved the earplug in his right ear.

York nodded and gestured down to the machine on the sidewalk. The young man closed his eyes, held them closed while he took in and released a breath and turned to the machine. He opened his eyes and returned to the t-shaped handle and bracing posture.

“Didja prime it?” York said. The young man simultaneously pulled up and back with his right hand. The engine started and York watched as the young man lifted the machine and slung it on his back. York nodded at the young man’s back.

As York walked around the back of the truck and up to the driver’s door, the young man adjusted the straps and took the blower nozzle handle in his right hand. His hand twisted slightly and the engine RPM rose 25 percent as he turned to face west on the sidewalk.

The young man began sweeping the nozzle left and right ahead of him, stepping slowly down the sidewalk. The truck made a u-turn behind him.

A cloud of dust and an arcing ridge of gravel formed ahead of the young man as he made his way west. After seven minutes, 21 feet from his starting spot, a flash of purple could be seen tumbling from the young man’s right ear. The earplug bounced twice on his neck and was caught between the collar of his t-shirt just above his right collarbone.

Moments after the earplug stopped moving, the young man’s left hand shot up and around and swatted violently at the path the earplug had followed down his neck. As the hand swept from neck to collarbone, it connected with the earplug and propelled the purple foam object into the grass six feet behind and to the right of the young man.

As he scratched his neck with his left hand, his eyebrows pulled together. The young man’s left hand reached up to his right ear. His index finger probed the ear canal for a moment before the hand dropped to his side and his head and eyes fell and began to scan the ground around his feet. Sixteen seconds later, he shook his head and resumed the sweeping motion with the nozzle and the slow movement to the west.

. . .

Just over three hours later, the young man was at a long, high table facing east in the window of the coffee shop on Sixth and Main Streets, sitting to the left of a young woman. He smelled of engine exhaust. Both of them were smiling as he finished the story he was telling, with a low, growling, drawling, “makin’ sure you kids use yer earplugs with the high D.B. equipment.”

“I still don’t understand what you were doing,” the young woman said.

He turned his head toward her and said, “Huh?”

“What were you blowing off the sidewalk?” The volume of her voice increased 20 percent.

“Oh. Traction gravel and sand. We sand the sidewalks. And the gravel gets thrown up from the street.”

She said, “So you put it on and clear it off depending on -”

He turned his head again and interrupted, “what’s that?”

“Never mind,” she said.

“Lost an earplug today,” he let out a breath and took a sip from the white bowl-shaped coffee cup he held in both hands.

She smiled and as he looked out the window in front of him she turned slightly and said quietly, “so you can’t hear out of this ear?”

“This latte is good,” he said.

She smiled and said at the volume level of her question about the sidewalk, “They know their bidness here.”

“Yep,” he nodded and sipped again, looking out the window.

She turned again, leaned toward him and said at a volume ten percent lower than her earlier question about his hearing, “you really should ask me out, you silly boy.”

He pointed out the window and said, “what breed do you think that puppy is?”

She smiled, let out a breathy chuckle and then said at the loudest volume yet, “This is fun. It’s a labradoodle.”

He turned toward with his eyebrows drawn together slightly. When his eyes met hers, the crease at the top of his nose flattened and he matched her smile. “It is,” he said. She laughed he smiled.

“Have you ever seen the movie ‘It’s a Wonderful Life?'” she said.

Nine-tenths of a mile west on Sixth Street a lanky man walking eastbound on the sidewalk on the north side of the street stopped in his tracks. He looked down into the grass to his left. His face broke into a smile and he laughed loudly. He unslung the pack from his back, unzip a large side pocket and pulled out a camera.