Boy’s white, blue and gray sock. East Third Street. It became a science experiment.

As a kid, I remember spending a lot of time feeling not normal. It’s not that I didn’t do kid things. I did. I played football in the side yard and “Risk” on the Family Room floor, but I also spent vast swaths of time reading, or watching TV or just sitting in the corner of a room and observing. I remember discovering, as my self-awareness increased, that this behavior was “different.” I remember becoming more and more isolated at school, more and more quiet at home and less and less comfortable in my skin.

And like most of us, I must have grown out of it.

Or I grew into it.

Either way, I find that I have a special awareness of the quiet, isolated, observing – “weird” – children I sometimes see on my walks.

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

So, when I passed this boy-sized sock on the grass next to Third Street, and it looked to me like it had been placed on the verge of the street – not dropped, not thrown from a car, not discarded, but intentionally placed – it stayed with me.

And as I continued to see it day after day (I took the first picture perhaps a month after its appearance), I decided to wonder if it had been placed there in service to an investigation, abandoned there in service to a whim and left there in service to, perhaps, an experiment.


“Edward! … Edward! Edward!” The woman’s rapid-fire shout projected up and down Third Street and south toward the houses on Howard. She didn’t see Edward – sitting on the grass kitty-corner from their blue house – look up at her. She was standing on the porch. He was thinking about standing up when the woman growled in exasperation and stomped back into the house. Once she disappeared, Edward looked back down at his bare right foot. He was trying to figure out why the top of the knuckle on the second toe hurt. He poked it and discovered a blister. He knew what blisters were. His dad had explained blisters to him. Skin rubs against something over and over and a pocket of liquid forms under the skin. He’d probably pop it later, but why just on that toe? He looked at his foot. That toe was the longest on his right foot. He was about to take off his left shoe when he heard a familiar, quick “hist” and looked up toward the side door of the house. His dad was looking right at Edward. When their eyes met, the smiling man flicked his hand once in a “this way” gesture.

Edward slipped his bare right foot into its shoe and stood up as he watched his dad re-enter the house. The sock he had earlier taken off, turned right side out and flattened carefully onto the grass glowed whitely on the dark green grass. He stepped onto the concrete curb at the edge of the crosswalk.

Time to cross Third Street. He knew how to do this. He looked left. No cars. He looked right. No cars. He looked left again and stepped into the crosswalk. He looked right again as he reached the halfway mark and continued across and onto the sidewalk. He pivoted left and looked further left to begin the process of crossing Howard  Street to get to his house on the opposite corner. No cars. He looked right. No cars. He looked left again. There was a car that was going to turn left from Third onto Howard, but he could see the driver smiling at him. He had learned that that smile meant a driver was going to wait for him to cross.

He stepped off the curb and froze when he heard a screech. Not of tires but of “Edward! Stop! You didn’t even look! That car was about to kill you!”

He stood with left foot in the gutter and right foot on the curb as his mother stood on the other curb and shouted apologies to the driver. She waved and waved at the driver until he finally went through with his left turn. All the while she held her left hand up to Edward in a “stay there” gesture. As the car passed, the Edward saw the driver turn to him. The driver smiled and shrugged as he went by. Edward thought that shrug meant the driver thought Edward had done something wrong but wasn’t completely sure.

His mother crossed into the middle of the street in front of a Moscow Police SUV trying to go south on Howard toward Third. She had her “I apologize for my son” smile on her face as she gestured “stop” at the police car to her left and a small yellow car ahead of her and to her right (it was trying to turn right onto Howard.). “Come on,” she shouted. “It’s safe now.” As he was crossing, he turned and saw the huge police officer in the SUV smiling at him. When their eyes met, the officer winked. Edward’s brow furrowed. He wasn’t sure what that wink meant. His mother put her arm on his back and ushered him up onto the curb.

As they entered the side door, Edward pulled his shoes off. He looked down at one sock-clad and one bare foot and said, “Mom, can I see your toes?”

“What? No.” That exasperated growl again as she started down the hall. “You can read for 15 minutes and then I want you to wash your hands for dinner.” He was still looking at his toes as his mother stopped halfway to the kitchen. She said, “On second thought, wash your hands first then read. We’ll keep the library books clean this time.” She started walking again, “Then wash your hands again when I call you. And you’re going to get your homework done perfectly after dinner. I don’t want you getting behind in your first week of third grade.”

Edward turned and walked down the hall toward the bathroom. As he was passing the first door in the hall, he heard “hsst” and turned to see his dad standing barefoot just inside his office. Edward smiled and crouched down to look. His dad’s big toe was the longest. He stood up put his bare right foot toe-to-toe with his dad’s. “Hmm,” he said and his brow furrowed. “Thanks, dad.”

“Sure,” his dad said and Edward started off. “Hey, where’s your other sock.” Edward stopped. There was a thoughtful silence and then he pointed. His dad said, “Outside?”

Edward nodded and said quietly, “Should I get it?”

“Noooo. That would be unwise at this moment.” He looked down at Edward’s feet, “It’s one of the cheap ones I got you so she won’t care unless she notices one bare foot right now. You can get it tomorrow.” He chuckled and said, “Heck, since it’s not one of her organic cotton jobbies, you could probably find it there in March.” Edward’s dad watched his son’s brow furrow in thought before the boy turned and continued toward the bathroom.

“Edward!” his mother shouted from the kitchen. “I don’t hear the water in the sink!”

. . . 

On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, Edward, put on his white puffy snow pants, his red, puffy winter coat, his navy blue mittens, his navy blue stocking cap and was about to pull on his navy blue snow boots when he turned and walked down the hall to the first door. “Dad,” Edward said,”can I go outside?”

“In this snow?” Edward’s dad looked up from his laptop computer. “Well, you’d better go or you’re going to get really warm. Where’s mom?”

“She went to the store.”

“How long ago?”

Edward thought for a moment and said, “Ten minutes.”

Edward’s dad’s brow furrowed and after a moment he said, “Okay, Thanksgiving shopping. Can you be back in in 30 minutes?” Edward nodded and turned to leave. “Are you going to put your boots on?”

Edward turned back and Edward’s dad saw the very same “I know you” flat-lipped smirk that his mother used. Then Edward nodded and started down the hall. Edward’s dad was still chuckling a minute later when he heard the side door open and close. “Okay google,” Edward’s dad said. “Remind me to get Edward in 35 minutes.” A voice in the corner of the room said, “Okay. Reminder set.”

Outside, Edward crossed Third Street – look left, look right, look left – crossed Howard Street – look left, look right, look left – walked a few more steps and crouched down at the edge of the sidewalk, facing Third Street.  He began to clear the snow from a spot in the area between the sidewalk and the street as carefully as an archaeologist in Egypt. Though no archaeologist would likely use a pink plastic sand castle shovel so seriously.

After about five minutes of digging and clearing, Edward was peering down into a one foot square five inch deep hole in the snow. He could see grass and he could see his sock.

“Whatcha lookin’ at?” Edward turned right and saw empty sidewalk. He turned left and saw a pair of boots like his mom’s church boots, but with more zippers. He looked up from the boots and saw a woman smiling down at him.

“I’m looking at my sock,” Edward said. He turned back to continue looking at his sock.

“Ah. Your sock. Yep there’s a sock there,” the woman said as she crouched down next to him. He looked at her face. She was younger than his mom. Younger than Miss Bain, even.

“It’s an experiment,” Edward said.

“An experiment?”

“I want to see if it will still be here in March. Are you a teacher”

“No, I’m a college student,” she said with a smile. “How long has it been there?”

“I left it on September first,” Edward said. He paused. The woman chuckled and stood up. She was inhaling to say goodbye when Edward said, “Why are you sad?”

“I was just -” the woman took a breath and then said, “Why do you think I’m sad?”

“You have streaks down your face like when my mom was sad at my grandma’s funeral in January.”

The woman quickly pulled out a smartphone and put it in front of her face. “You’re very observant. And I’m sorry your Grandma died. And I’m sad because my friend is sad.”

“Did you make her sad? And it’s okay; she had cancer. And my dad says that I’m that I’m absorbent, too.”

The woman took in a surprised, shaky breath. She swallowed and carefully swiped the side of an index finger under each eye as she said slowly, “observant.” She looked at Edward who had watched her carefully through this process and said, “I’m not sure why I’m saying this to you, but I’m afraid it was at least partly my fault… what happened… why she’s – sad.”

“Did you mean to make her sad?”

The woman said, “God no! I thought…” Her voice trailed off into a small choking noise. Edward’s forehead crinkled in thought.

As the woman’s index fingers ran under her eyelids again, Edward said, “My dad says that when I make my mom mad or sad or mad-sad and I didn’t mean to that I have to kiss her cheek, tell her I’m sorry, and try to fix the sad thing if I can.” He took a breath, “And I have to ‘member what made her sad so I can try to not do it again. My dad says sometimes people don’t even know what will make them sad until the sad thing happens.” After a quick breath he added, “Oh, and you’re not supposed to say the lord’s name in pain.”

The woman looked at Edward for a moment. She smiled slightly and let out an almost inaudible, breathy chuckle. Then she took a deep breath and said, “Can I give you a hug?”

Edward shook his head and said, “That’s one of the things I did that made my mom mad-sad last year so I promised never to hug someone she doesn’t know.”

Edward wasn’t sure what the changed look on the woman’s face meant, but when she held out her right hand he knew to take it firmly – but not too firmly -and shake it up and down no more than two times. She moved off up the street and he crouched back down to look at his sock. After a moment, he began to cover it up with snow again. He didn’t see the woman look back at him before she turned down the steps to a side door on a house a block and a half up Third Street.

. . . 

On the day after Christmas, Edward was standing outside the side door of his house, waiting while his mother shouted inside, “Dad! Come on! You need to walk Edward to the park to try his new sled.” Edward wanted to say that he could get to the park himself, but he knew it wouldn’t do any good. Inside, he watched his dad come out of his office and walk down the hall. He pulled his coat off the rack by the door and slipped his feet into his tall brown boots and put his hand on the doorknob. “Aren’t you going to tie those boots,” Edward’s mother said. Edward’s dad kissed her on the cheek and came out the door. He smiled at Edward and gave him the “go on” gesture.

When Edward stopped at the crosswalk on Third Street, clearly intending to cross, Edward’s dad said, “Where we goin’?” Edward looked up, took his hand, looked left, looked right, looked left again and started into the street. He had to lean around his dad to look right again when they reached the middle of the street. They turned left and crossed Howard. Edward pulled them to a stop, crouched down and began to clear the snow away with his mittened hands.

Edwards dad watched the process. He said, “is that a sock?” Edward nodded. “Your sock?” Edward nodded and said, “It’s an experiment.”

“Excellent! What’s your hypothesis?”

Edward knew what hypothesis meant. His dad had explained this word to him. “That I can find it in March.”

Edward’s dad paused for only a moment. “Okay. How long has it been here?”

“Since September first.”

Edward’s dad chuckled as they looked at the sock. “God. That’s one tough sock. Don’t tell your mother I used a bad word.”

“I won’t,” Edward said. He covered the sock with snow, carefully leveling the disturbed area and they went to the park. They never used the sled. When Edward’s dad received the text message about lunch, they were looking at the rings and layers of ice on a puddle of water about 100 yards from the sledding hill.

. . . 

The sock. January 22.

On a Monday afternoon in late January, Edward looked out the window in the side door of his house, hoping to see snow. He liked snow. It hadn’t snowed since Christmas. He stared up at the gray sky. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a movement on the opposite corner. He turned and saw a tall, skinny man standing there. The man pulled something out of his bag… a camera. Hey! He’s taking pictures of my sock, Edward thought. Or he thought he just thought it. “Hey, what?” Edward’s dad said walking up behind him and putting a hand on his shoulder. Edward pointed.

They both watched as the man crouched down and held the camera to his eye for a few seconds. The man stood up and put the camera away.

“Just over five more weeks,” Edward’s dad said. “how’s it doing?”

“It’s dirtier. But it moved.”

“No holes?” Edward’s dad watched the man walk away, west on Third Street. His eyes followed the man and his brow furrowed slightly. After a moment he said, “Moved. How much?”

“No holes. It kind of folded more. In the top part.”

“Maybe pushed down by the snow?”

“Maybe,” Edward said. Then his face scrunched up and after a moment he said, “Yeah, maybe so.”

Edward’s dad reached down and touched a spot between his eyebrows and said, “you’re going to get wrinkles there.” The boy scrunched his face again and after a moment smiled and reached up with a pointed finger. Edward’s dad’s brow furrowed and then he smiled and leaned down. And Edward touched the same spot on his dad’s brow.

“What are you two gawping at?” They turned to see Edward’s mother standing in the hall.

Edward looked at his dad and said, “A man.”

Edward’s dad said said, “With a camera.”

The boy said, “Taking pictures of my sock.” Edward’s dad heard Edward’s mother inhale with dangerous intent and moved quickly.

Edward’s dad said loudly, “Of a scientific experiment in progress!”

Edward said, “Scientific! Yes!”

Edward’s mother growled in exasperation and said, “What in the world are you talking about?”

Edward’s dad said gently, “We were just looking at the world, Moll.” He looked down at Edward and said, “The world?”

The boy furrowed his brow, shrugged and nodded. And the man chuckled, scooped the boy into his arms and stalked toward Edward’s mother.

“What are you -” she said and then her lips flattened into her “I know you” smirk. A moment later, Edward and Edward’s dad each planted a gentle kiss on one of her cheeks. She said, “Go wash your hands. Both of you!”

Blue knit child’s glove. East Third Street. Emma dropped it 17 days ago.

Most days I encounter at least one parent/stroller pair while I’m walking. I don’t have kids of my own so these brief scenes are a bit of a mystery to me: a taste of the mundane daily life of parent-childhood. Sure, I have nieces and nephews – but they are now all teenagers and adults. I have friends with children – who I see on “occasions” where the child is in a special “visitor mode.” I even did some babysitting as a teenager – but those memories are staticky streamed re-runs featuring vague moments of terror bounded by anxiety at the opening credits and relief when the screen goes dark.

So, I don’t have any true experience with – and I sometimes find myself wondering about – the ongoing parenting “process.” The events of a day that’s not an event.

Blue knit child’s glove. Third Street.

This little glove appeared on my walk in the fall, just as the weather started getting truly cold. Sitting bluely on the sidewalk just on the edge of a driveway off Third Street, the glove sparked the image of a crisis of a cold hand, a favorite article of clothing gone missing and a mom’s search for this moment’s solution in a yet one more day of solving many, many small problems for a little girl named Emma.


“Mama. Cold fingers,” Emma said, holding up the splayed, pink hand for inspection over the top of the stroller. They were downtown, passing the playground. Would she want to climb? If so, it could only be for a few minutes. They had to get home to get the lasagna started.

“Oh dear,” Emma’s mother said, turning the stroller slightly to remove the slide and spinning letter blocks from Emma’s immediate field of vision. “We can’t have that. Let’s put on your gloves before we start home.” Emma’s mother began to search the small bag slung from the handle of the stroller for Emma’s favorite blue gloves.

“Gloves!” Emma seemed to be testing out the word. “GlovesGloves!” Emma liked the word. “Glooooovvvveees” Extending the word was fun too.

“Gloves,” Emma’s mother said, continuing the search. Emma’s mother paused when she only found one glove. The pause was full and fraught. This could be a crisis. These were favorite gloves. The last time Emma had worn them she had remarked – at length – how soft and warm and blue they were. “Remind me,” Emma’s mother said to buy a moment or two to deepen her search, “what color are your gloves?”

“Blue, mama,” Emma gently chided her mother. Of course they were blue.  Since grandpa had installed the blue painted mirror in her room, everything had to be blue. Emma’s mother now remembered that she needed to get the rear-view mirror in the Honda re-attached. It had fallen off in her hand yesterday when she adjusted it to examine Emma’s blueberry covered face before they went into –

“Blue blue blue blue blue blue -”

The last time Emma had worn them… more than two weeks of warm weather until today, Emma’s mother thought as the “blue” chant rose in pitch and volume.

“Blue gloves!” Emma’s mother interrupted the repetition before it could wind up too far. Emma loved the sound of certain vowels this week. Was it the sound, Emma’s mother thought, or the feel – the taste? of them. “Blue,” Emma’s mother said, tasting the word. This was a mistake.

“Blue Blue Blueblueblueblueblueblueblueblue -”

“Well, here’s one blue glove!” Emma’s mother interrupted again, choosing the distraction of the glove – and the potential crisis of its singleness – over continued minutes of blue-ing. “Can you put it on while I find the other one?” Emma had learned to put on gloves the last time she had worn these, hadn’t she?

“I can!” Emma’s exclamation was that recently familiar mixture of determined independence and unwilling uncertainty. This process occupied Emma for the time it took to cross Main Street and reach the crosswalk next to the police station on Washington. Emma’s mother wondered if she had learned to take gloves off that same day.

“Both ways, mama!”

“Well, we -” Emma’s mother chuckled as she decided it wasn’t yet necessary to explain one-way streets to Emma before continuing, “That’s right we have to look both ways. Any cars coming?”

“Blue blue blue…” Well, at least she’s only muttering it rather than shouting it, Emma’s mother thought as she pushed the stroller out into the crosswalk. “Blue blue blue blue…” The mantra continued as they turned the corner up Third Street. Emma’s mother used the time to try to recall where the gloves had come from. Could she get another pair? They might have been an impulse purchase. But where? “Blue blue blue blue blue…” The co-op? Perhaps if Emma had seen them on the right day at the right time, there might have been motivation enough to overspend on organic cotton, hand-knitted, locally sourced single season – or less now – gloves.

“Blue indeed,” a lanky passerby agreed with Emma as he flashed by, walking with startling speed and pulling Emma’s mother from her contemplation. Well, at least she’s not screaming for the missing glove. Passing the high school – 10 minutes from home. Should she have stopped at the co-op? Emma’s mother again reviewed the lasagna recipe and her memory of the refrigerator and cupboards. Sausage already browned in the fridge. Mozzarella and ricotta in the fridge. Noodles in the cupboard. Emma will want one with butter, of course. Before Emma’s father gets home, she thought, mustn’t let him see any possible bad habits, god forbid. Canned tomatoes and tomato paste –

“Look mama, it’s like Grammy’s computer messages,” Emma said. Emma’s mother was accustomed to having to decode random obscurities from her creative daughter so she leaned over to look before she commented.

Emma had placed both hands, palm to palm within the one stretchy glove and held them in front of her. They did indeed look quite like the icon that Emma’s father’s mother used to punctuate the end of every one of her rambling Facebook messages. “I’m praying mama,” Emma said and then continued in a somber voice that mimicked her Grammy’s voice remarkably well, “dear God, thank you for my beautiful blue glove…”

Emma’s mother tuned out the the prayer, glad that they were on the other side of the street from the big, old Methodist church. She looked again at Emma’s hands. At least they weren’t expensive co-op gloves. No natural fiber would stretch like that.

They were passing the driveway that served a battered rental house about five minutes from home when Emma’s mother suddenly realized that Emma’s father’s mother had given Emma these gloves. Emma’s mother didn’t notice the splash of blue next to the fallen leaf on the edge of the worn concrete as Emma intoned, “amen” and Emma’s mother contemplated how personally Emma’s father’s mother would take the loss of the one blue glove.

Gold knit glitten. East Third Street. Its mate was in the young woman’s coat pocket for 245 days.

Sometimes I pass a person on the street and get a sense that something isn’t right. A look in her eyes. The timbre of his voice. A robotic stiffness of her limbs as she opens a car door. Or it may be me projecting own my worries and insecurities. Whatever the cause, though, I sometimes find myself wondering for a moment or an hour what happened. And sometimes if my mind is particularly engaged – or I’m looking for a distraction from the new pain in my foot or the ongoing pain in my heart or just from the depressing news of the moment – I find myself speculating.  Wondering what happened – and what will happen – to this person haunting my thoughts.

Gold glitten. Third Street.

I saw this gold “glitten” hanging from a fence on Third Street – just a block from the blue knit child’s glove. As I leaned across the fence to take the picture, I took in its bedraggled state and realized it had been exposed to the elements for some time – likely many months. So I began to wonder about what happened to a young woman when she dropped the glitten and how she fared as the glitten took its punishment from Moscow’s four seasons.


The young woman stepped onto the porch of the house on Third Street. She looked calm. She looked like she was headed off for coffee. It was a cold mid-March morning; she was putting on her midnight blue wool pea coat. Her right arm was in its sleeve. Her left hand was searching for its proper spot – unsuccessfully. A hand reached out from the dark doorway, took the collar of the coat and lifted it slightly up and to her left, helping the lost hand find the armhole.

A close observer would have seen and heard this sequence:

  • The left sleeve stiffens and a hand shoots from the cuff.
  • The knuckles of the assistant brush her neck as the coat settles on her shoulder.
  • She pivots quickly on her right foot and the coat collar jerks from the assisting hand.
  • Her body continues to turn until she’s sideways to the open door.
  • A surprised “Oh!” jumps from her mouth.

A lanky man striding by on the sidewalk opposite noticed only the strange loudness of the exclamation.

He turned his eyes back to his path and strode on. He might have heard the figure in the doorway if he had directed his attention, but he didn’t. The young woman heard though and replied as she turned back toward the street, “Sure. Sounds good. Text me.” The passerby might have noticed a flatness in her tone, but he was most of a block away and his back was to the exchange.

The young woman was three quick steps down toward the sidewalk as the door began to close behind her. The door latched as her foot reached the sidewalk. She began to turn east and lifted her foot. She put her foot back down. As she looked up the street and then turned and looked down the street to the west, her hands seemed lost.

A close observer would have seen this sequence:

  • Both hands pat and smooth the front of her shirt.
  • Her fingers absently comb her shoulder-length hair.
  • Her right hand rubs the left side of her neck.
  • Her fists plunge into her coat pockets.
  • Her right hand springs out of the pocket and moves to the back pocket of her jeans.
  • A ball of yellow-gold knitwork bounces on the sidewalk next to her right foot.
  • Her right hand emerges from under the tail of her coat with a large smartphone.

The young woman was alone on the street.

The young woman touched the screen three times, pivoted to her left and began walking west as she put the phone up to her ear. After three steps, she said, “Hey.” Six steps down the street she said, “I – I’m fine. I.. I’m fine.”

Twelve minutes later as the young woman was crossing the highway five minutes from her apartment, a man pushed a stroller up Third Street. A voice from the bundle in the stroller said, “Yellow, daddy!”  Emma’s father leaned over the top of the stroller and watched the yellow/gold knitted something pass between the front wheels. He stopped and rolled backwards until the something re-emerged from under the stroller. “Someone will be looking for that.” He rounded the side of the stroller, picked up the item, examined it and mused, “With a button! Simple. Best of both worlds.”

Emma said, “What is it daddy?”

Emma’s father said, “It’s someone’s…” He looked up and reached out to stop the stroller which had begun to roll backwards down the hill. “I think I would call it a glitten. Shall I put it here?” He set it on the knee-high, concrete retaining wall next to the sidewalk.

Emma said, “Yes.” Then carefully, “Glitten.” Emma’s father said, “Sure, glitten.” And Emma said, “I want glitten!” Emma’s father said, “Tell your grammy. I’m sure she’ll – ” Emma interrupted with, “Glih ten… glih glih glih.” Emma continued her experimentation with the sounds as they continued up the street. It began to snow; the last snow of this winter.

. . .

Six weeks later, the young woman stood up from a chair in front of a desk in an office at the university. The figure silhouetted in the spring afternoon sunshine streaming in from the window behind the desk said, “Okay, you’re registered. It was just one semester. Get those grades back up and you’ll be good to go for grad school apps.” On Third Street, a bored teenage landscape laborer waved a string trimmer at the long, thick grass at the bottom of a white picket fence. After a moment, the machine burbled with tangled discontent; at the same time, the young woman in the office nodded and turned to the door. As the teenager let the machine wind down, across town the figure behind the desk said to the young woman’s back, “Hey. You’re sure there’s nothing going on?”

The young woman paused. A close observer would have seen and heard this sequence:

  • The young woman’s neck stiffens slightly.
  • A quiet “ding” comes from the laptop on the desk, sitting just left of center.
  • The young woman flattens the front of her shirt with both hands.
  • The head of the figure behind the desk tilts down and to the left.
  • The young woman inhales as if to begin speaking.
  • She finger-combs the tips of her hair – now much shorter than it was six weeks ago.
  • She feels the left side of her neck with her right hand.
  • She turns back to face the desk.
  • She looks toward the face of the figure behind the desk and then down to the back of the laptop screen.
  • The young woman exhales without speaking.
  • She turns back to the door.

The figure behind the desk only noticed the young woman’s exhalation.

On Third Street, the teenager put his foot on the yellow glitten and pulled the strings of his trimmer free as the young woman said over her shoulder,”I’m good. Looking forward to the summer.” The teenager nudged the glitten to the left where the grass was already shorn as the young woman stepped toward the door. The figure behind the desk said, “Okay see you in August!” to the young woman’s retreating back as the teenager started up the string trimmer again.

Through the summer, the glitten sat under the picket fence on Third Street, 35 feet west of the steps up to the porch of that house.

The young woman had a friend who lived on Third Street, in a duplex five blocks east of that house. The young woman visited the friend eleven times in the first weeks of that summer, but never walked past the glitten, the porch or that house. She always walked up the steep hill on Sixth and came down Third from one of the cross streets further east. A twelfth visit was to happen one day in mid-July. The young woman and her friend ran into each other in a coffee shop downtown. They decided to watch a movie together that evening and they began walking to the friend’s house. They crossed Washington Street at Fifth and when they reached the sidewalk, the young woman turned right to go to Sixth. Her friend who had turned left toward Third, said, “I’m this way, silly!” The young woman laughed and followed her friend north toward Third Street. As they turned up Third, the young woman began to slow. “Keep up, slowpoke,” the friend said. And then, “You okay?”

The young woman stopped. Her hands seemed to flutter for a moment, first at waist level then on either side of her head before she quickly pulled her phone from the back pocket of her jeans. She said, “I’m fine. I just remembered that I’m supposed to call my mom but my phone’s almost dead. I’m going to walk home and then I’ll drive over in an hour or so.”

The friend didn’t protest, and the two parted. The young woman walked home and the friend continued up Third Street. As the friend was passing the white picket fence and a yellow-gold glitten under one of the pickets, she wondered about the young woman. Something seemed off. Something had seemed off for awhile. She thought she ought to say something. She thought about sending a text but decided she’d talk to her during movie night. 90 minutes later, the young woman texted “Can’t make it tonight.”

. . .

Late in the afternoon on the first day of October, a teenager was clearing leaves from the six inch wide strip of grass on the street side of the white picket fence on Third Street. He had finished two-thirds of the length of the fence when a tine of the rake snagged something heavier than a leaf. He pulled and extracted a gold knitted something. He muttered, “Again” as he pulled it off the rake and shook it to break loose the leaves and grass. He started to throw it toward the half-full black plastic bag on the other side of the fence, but stopped. He hung the glitten from the top of one of the pickets and continued his raking.

An hour later, just as the sun was setting, the young woman and her friend turned up Third Street from Washington. As they passed the high school, the young woman still walked normally. She had visited her friend 16 times since that day In July. And though she didn’t think of it this way, this would be the fourth time she had taken Third Street to the friend’s house. They reached the yard with the picket fence.

The young woman suddenly stopped; she was next to the picket with the glitten. A close observer would have seen this sequence:

  • The young woman’s eyes flick right toward the fence and briefly narrow.
  • Her hands flatten the front of her midnight blue pea coat.
  • They move up and massage her scalp.
  • They reach slowly into the pockets of her midnight blue pea coat.
  • The right hand emerges and reaches to the back left side of her neck.
  • Her fingers feel and then curl to gently scratch at her neck.

The friend had stopped one step after the young woman and had watched this sequence.  The friend looked at the curled fingers. The friend said, “Hey. You okay?”

“Yes. Yeah. Um, sort of. It’s. I’m fine,” the young woman said as her right hand dropped from her neck. After a moment, the friend said, “No. You’re not.”

The young woman inhaled, exhaled, inhaled again, paused, pointed up the street and said, “Do you remember that house?” The friend looked at the house and then back at the young woman. “We went to a party there once, didn’t w…” her voice trailed off as she found the young woman’s eyes. The friend took the young woman’s outstretched hand in hers.

. . .

At noon on the Sunday after Thanksgiving a Moscow Police Department SUV parked on Third Street next to the white picket fence. Atop its picket, the gold of the glitten was barely visible under light coating of snow. There were four people silhouetted in the vehicle. A giant of a man in the driver’s seat. A stocky woman in the front passenger seat and the young woman and the friend in the back seat. After a moment they emerged almost simultaneously from the four doors of the car. As they converged on the sidewalk, the female officer looked up the street, then back at the young woman and said, “That’s the house?” The young woman flattened the front of her jacket and nodded. The friend offered, “He still lives there.” The male officer said, “Good. That helps. You don’t mind walking your friend back to her car?” The friend nodded.

The young woman looked up the street toward that house and said, “Thanks.”

The other three responded simultaneously. “We’ll call you in a couple of hours,” the male officer said. “Thank you for your courage,” the female officer said. “I love you, you know,” the friend said. The young woman took a breath, nodded and turned as if to leave. But then she stopped.

Facing the fence, the young woman took a step forward. She pulled the glitten from the top of the picket and knocked the snow from it. She looked down at the faded yellow-gold in her hand.

“Miss?” the male officer said.

The young woman reached into the left pocket of her coat and pulled out a much brighter gold glitten. She handed it and its damp mate to the male officer. She took the friend’s hand and they started down Third Street toward downtown.