With the first thaw of February, the streets of Chicago offer up their usual winter collage of crud. Foul gray flecks of stuff embedded in a matrix of crusty slush.

The alley behind my son Richard’s school is a bleak black strip of cinders on the brightest of days; today it’s the Nordic tar pits. The kid steps gingerly out of the car, slaloming through the icy craters.

Partway to the school door, Richard turns and calls his mother’s attention to something frozen hard into the ground. It’s a grungy old workman’s glove, flat and gray as a dead squirrel.

“Look, mommy, look!” the little boy calls out brightly. “It’s the glove they’ve been missing from the O.J. Simpson trial! You should pick it up and tell somebody.”

Everybody, consider yourselves told.