IN GLOVER PARK, ON A SMALL PATCH of grass, a tiny strip between the sidewalk and a certain street, a person can unload just about anything: a small white telephone table amateurishly painted with '60s-style graphics and a matching undersize chair; wheat- colored fiberglass curtains and valance rod; highball glasses, never used, decorated with monarch butterflies; old clothes on hangers; old clothes in laundry bags; the inevitable box spring and the inevitable mattress.

Items left there, it is guaranteed, will disappear, swallowed up whole. It can take as much as 12 hours, or as little as 10 minutes. This is true for items one wants to be rid of, as it is true for items one cherishes.

Consider the case of the mattress and box spring. It came to pass that on a certain summer night four years ago a certain couple found themselves in possession of a gift from his parents: a time-honored four-poster bed, complete with Posturepedic mattress and new, firm box spring. And seeing as how they pulled into town late at night with a pickup truck bearing this gift, they unloaded by moonlight, knowing full well that they were now in possession of two mattresses, two box springs and two bed frames, when they needed only one. And wandering through their one-bedroom-with-two-beds apartment, and struggling under the weight of the old box spring and finding they had no place for it, they reasoned that they had no choice but to go right out the door.

As is the case with most couples, one person firmly believes that, in general, most things will take care of themselves; and the other person firmly believes that, in general, the worst will always happen, and in particular that the police will come, trace the mattress, then embarrass the couple publicly and fine them hugely. But the box spring hit the parking strip anyway, followed by the decidedly non-Posturepedic mattress. The couple went inside, collapsed on the new mattress and slept soundly.

Sure enough, by 7 the next morning, all old bedding was gone, clean. Not a sign in the grass of where it had been. Not a skid or a drag mark. Nothing. Vanished. Without a trace.

There were theories: 1) They had been watched by thieves; 2) They had been under surveillance for months; 3) Someone lived in the woods across the street. The couple were, in varying degrees, frightened, freaked, embarrassed but most of all blissfully unencumbered of stuff they didn't want. This was, after all, Glover Park, neighborhood of the student-type high-turnover garden-style apartment. Where people acquired cheap serviceable goods, then slowly outgrew them and, finally, needed to be rid of them instantly.

And so it went, through the years, with the curtains, the chairs, the tables, the whatever. So it sadly went one year with the Christmas tree, which was kept outside the apartment in the week before Christmas in an attempt to keep it fresh. Left perilously close to the patch, it too vanished overnight, still wrapped in twine.

There were more theories: 4) It was one person; 5) It was a gang of people; 6) It was the workmen building the Russian chancery up the street; 7) It was a lone man, who circled the neighborhood incessantly in a truck.

The couple got older. They got slightly richer. They bought a house. They moved uptown. But still, for those particularly unwieldy items, they occasionally return, make their humble deposits and leave. But they, for their old neighbors' sakes, will never disclose the exact location of that particular, mysterious patch of Glover Park.