They were young, in their mid-twenties, probably. They drove an old blue Chevrolet truck.
Between them, on the seat of that truck, sat a brown dog, some sub-phylum of terrier. All this rounded the corner and came to a quiet halt. They stopped to look at a mattress that leaned against a tree. The mattress had been abandoned like that, left to stand against that tree, a few days before.
Some of us along the street had discussed the mattress. The funny thing was, no one would admit to owning it, or having left it there. No one at all. It just seemed to appear, standing side by side an oak tree, in the yard of a small apartment building. It didn’t seem to be going anywhere else.
The young couple climbed out of their truck to get a better look at the mattress. They climbed out on either side and closed the doors behind them. The truck was parked a few feet beyond the mattress. The dog turned around and, his head resting on the back of the seat, watched them through the rear window. The dog would have to watch this mattress inspection from the sidelines, was how it seemed. The dog had not received an invitation, the way I saw it.
Watching that couple with the mattress, beginning to touch it hopefully, was intriguing. I retreated into a doorway where I could watch them without being seen.
Maybe, I thought, this was none of my business, which was at least partly true. Somehow, and call it an innate sense if you will, I felt this was a private moment. Of inspection for them, of observation for me. There are so many of these private moments, don’t you think? Who can count them all? Who can know just how many? But I am constantly amazed how many of them take place in public, in full view of anyone who cares to look. I think that maybe we are better off because of this.
The couple studied that mattress with a great seriousness. At that moment, nothing else in their lives seemed so important. Standing in a yard, it was like they were standing in a store.
They inspected the thing for quality, durability, for the promise of long, peaceful sleep. They did this without a word passing between them.
When a word did pass, it was the man saying something to the woman. I was not close enough to hear. It sounded like a kind of grunt. Then, just after that, the woman replied with a similar sound. They seemed to have reached a decision.
The man did not hesitate. He reached out and embraced that mattress with both hands. He lifted it off the ground and away from the tree, into the air. The woman, perhaps concerned that it was too heavy or bulky for him alone, tried to help. She held one side of the mattress with her fingertips. She wasn’t much help to him, but it must have made her feel a part of it, of helping. I knew some things were simply matters of spirit.
The mattress flew slowly through the air, coming to rest in the back of the blue truck. It made a hush sound as it settled into the bed. The dog watched all of this, head cocked to one side.
Then, their work done, the couple took one last look around the yard, then up the street in either direction. I wondered if they cared that someone might be watching them. Or perhaps they were thinking that this same street might provide an additional treasure.
A few seconds later, they turned to go. The man followed the woman to her side of the truck.
He opened her door and helped her inside. As she began to climb in, I noticed for the first time that she was pregnant. The man was making sure that nothing went wrong. He saw her inside, where the dog licked her face. The man then closed her door and started around the truck to his door.
He took the back way to check on the mattress again. He made sure the tailgate was closed.
Certain of this, he gave the mattress a kind of slap. I don’t know what else to call it. A slap.
Nothing cruel or hard, but more a slap of waking, was how it seemed. I thought of a doctor slapping a baby to clear the lungs. This man slapped that mattress three or four times, until he was satisfied. Until it seemed right, was how it looked.