A young Edna discovers it's best to mind one's own business.
A combination of limited skill and youthful curiosity found her catching snatches of thoughts, the tail ends of ideas, from people passed on the street. Her classmates babbled as loudly with their minds as they did with their mouths. It was often difficult to shut it all out. However, it wasn’t overhearing people’s thoughts that her mother was worried about. Such things people tended to project whether they knew it or not and were nearly as public as words spoken aloud. It was one’s private thoughts, in the back of the head or tucked away in the memory, that were not to be disturbed. Many people left their minds as open as their homes; unlocked and unprotected, trusting that everyone else was as honest as they were. To say that it would be easy to enter unannounced and unnoticed would be putting it mildly.
“I wonder what that man is so upset about?” one of her friends had remarked while they waited for the trolley. “He seems so cross, just look at his face!”
The man, dressed in a long black coat and hat with a duck feather against the cold November day stood with his shoulders hunched into the wind, his head stooped low between them, a sour look dragging the folds in his face so harshly that Edna was reminded of an angry bulldog. He had a long parcel under on arm wrapped in paper and tied with string. There was no label on it that she could see. The girls continued to twitter among themselves, speculating what could have possibly spoiled the man’s day. Edna looked up, attempting to sense for feelings or extra-loud thoughts. All she caught of his emotions was a sharp whiff of irritation at the lateness of the trolley and the coldness of the wind. His thoughts, however, seemed to be clustered together in his head, bundling themselves together for warmth much the way the man had hunched into himself against the weather. The image of a long knife, bright and gleaming as silver and brilliantly sharp, met her proddings and she hurriedly drew back. The trolley had come and the man was already stepping on board and handing over his fare.
“Hurry up!” one of her friends called, pushing Edna ahead of her onto the trolley. Being so much shorter than the rest of the girls, Edna hastened inside and found a pole to hang onto. Gripping the finger-smudged brass she noticed that she was nearly eye-to-eye with the dour-faced man’s parcel. It was the perfect size in which to conceal the knife that had flashed its razor edge in his mind’s eye. Surely…surely he wasn’t planning to do something bad with the knife? Against all caution, she peeked into the little knot of thoughts again and almost shrieked. Gripping the pole tightly, she tried to will away the image of sliced flesh and spilling blood.
The trolley jerked to a halt, jarring Edna back into reality once more. It was her stop. She and her friends got off, the man with the parcel leading the way before them. Evidently, they were all traveling the same direction. He paused only to give the knot of giggling little school girls a brief glance and a shake of his head before bending his back into the wind and plodding on. There was a sweet shop between the trolley stop and the block of homes where Edna and her friends lived. Agreeing that it was much to cold not to stop inside for a piece of caramel, the girls crowded inside. Edna, still distracted by the idea of knives and blood, kept her eye on the black-coated man who had ducked into a shop two doors down. Peeking out the far window of the confectioner’s shop, Edna felt her eyes grow wide.
The man in the black coat, now sans parcel, was smiling an extremely bull-doggy smile and tipping his duck-feathered hat to a stout man with a handlebar moustache and a red-spattered apron. The man with the moustache was smiling and nodding, a long gleaming knife turning over and over in his thick hands. Edna nearly fainted with relief. A delivery to the butcher’s shop! She resolved on the spot never to go nosing about again.