Friday, May 3, 2013

Not Quite There


It was Monday. Stoney was in the quarry. He moved slow, pushed the rusty wheelbarrow from one path to the next, careful he watched the rocks. Very gentle he passed the wheel of the barrow along the worn path. Rocks are not like people; they need nothing, they lay around peaceful when not disturbed, they do not ask questions.

Yet rocks are like some people, they are vacant and empty of importance -- like Stoney. No rock is able to think about itself or able to know itself; there is no mirror in which the rock can recognize its face; no rock can do anything intentional: it cannot help but sit, and its lack of motion has no meaning, since a rock cannot reason or dream.

It had often been unsafe and insecure in the quarry, the region of dynamite explosions and flying stone shards separated from the road by a high, chain link fence with warning signs, and the sounds of the trucks that passed had disturbed what little peace there was. Stoney ignored the sounds -- over time he had grown habitually deaf. It came upon him slow and he did not notice like when lichen eats away on the surface of an old stone. Also, the sounds and the turmoil and the explosions had diminished from day to day as the quarry business went under. Though Stoney had never stepped outside the quarry, he was not curious about life outside the fence. He was not curious about life inside. He was not curious.

It was Monday. Stoney was the quarry. He moved slow, pushed the wheel barrow from one path to the next, careful he watched the rocks.

The structure at the front part of the quarry where the Boss Man worked might just as well have been another part of the universe. Cars parked around it. People went inside and outside and drove off. In the rear of the maintenance shed in the old quarry that faced away from the new quarry soon to be old, and away from the world, Stoney had his small room and his bathroom and his path that lead to the heart of the hole in the earth. When the rain struck upon and rattled the corrugated metal roof Stoney did not hear it. In the shelter from the weather he would hold onto his collection of special rocks. His favorites, he would hold them close to his breast. He would nestle with them in his bed and on cold nights sleep with them curled beneath his thighs.

What was particularly nice about the quarry was that, at any moment, from a stand in the narrow paths or amidst the broken rock, Stoney could start to wander, he would never know whether he was going forward or backward, unsure whether he was ahead of or behind his next steps. All that mattered was that he moved the barrow in his vacant time, like a tumbled rock round and round.

Once in awhile Stoney would sit on a rock and not think. Nothing was easy for Stoney and like a sun basked lizard he could sit for hours. The wind, mindless of direction, intermittently pushed up clouds of quarry dust that settled evenly, whitened the flat surfaces of the stone that waited patiently to be rinsed by the rain and dried by the sun. And yet, with all its stillness, even at the peak of noon, the quarry held a mysterious and intimate biosphere. Under every rock lay a centipede or a lonely spider. Stoney did not care to know which was more important: the quarry's muted surface or the life that grew hidden within it. Stoney did not care. It was all the same to the rock.

For example, there were some stone slabs cut for retail, then forgotten when the deposit check bounced, stacked over near the south wall. Beneath them lived a family of chipmunks in complete disregard of the bustle and noise of the quarry. Like albino fish in a cave, like Stoney, they were deaf chipmunks adapted to their environment. Stoney did not care.

Stoney set in his own light, in his own color, in his own time. When he placed his hands down upon the rock he followed the law of gravity that forever pushed all limbs downward. Everything for him when he sat with the rocks was as one. In this vacant world, the vibration of the bedrock in the quarry was the lone hearing aid of a deaf man.

By changing the pressure of his hand upon the surface of the rock, first lightly touched then hard pressed, he could change himself. He could go through phases, as the quarry wind and the driven rain went through phases, but he could change as he wished when he twisted his palm against the stone backward and forward with varied pressure. In some cases he could spread out his consciousness into the rock without an end. If he moved his hands against the rock Stoney could bring the world of the rock inside. Thus he came to nothing.

The rock looked like Stoney.

He sank into the rock. Like sunlight and fresh air and mild rain, the being of rock entered Stoney, and Stoney floated into the rock, buoyed inward by a force he did not hear or speak.

He suddenly saw the yellow front loader moving above his head and the face of the straw boss at the controls. Reluctantly he got up, careful to lift his hands free of the rock – he took it slowly to become himself now separate from the quarry -- and stepped to the handles of the barrow. The straw boss leaned out of the cab of the front loader and flapped his arms. Stoney did not like the straw boss. Mike Pernit had come to work at the quarry as a cutter some time after Julio Gutierrez had gotten hurt. Mike was a last hold out. He was fat. He was from the local community. He smelled of bad cheese. He was rumored to cohabit with cows. Stoney did not understand. How could he? As a rule Stoney had little to do with the straw boss, and he had never eaten cheese except on the crackers that he on some days got from the roach coach. Now Mike wanted Stoney to come up to the office real quick.

Stoney pushed the barrow along the upper path that lead towards the quarry office. He did not trust the lower path since the time Julio Gutierrez had been trapped beneath a stone fall for hours before they had to amputate his legs. Stoney pushed the barrow along the upper path until he reached the rear entrance of the office.

The last time he had seen this part of the office the walls of the quarry, now tall and lofty, had been quite small and insignificant. He caught sight of his reflection in the large glass window. Stoney saw the image of self as a small pebble and then through the window the Boss Man busy on the phone in a huge chair at his desk with papers and folders and empty beer cans piled on top. The Boss Man's hair was gray, his hands wrinkled and shriveled. The Boss Man breathed heavy and smoked a cigar. The Boss Man smelled of tobacco and moldy underwear and old stinky cheese. He did not smell like the bottom of a wet rock when it is first pulled up to out the air.

Stoney set the barrow down then walked through the entrance door. The offices seemed empty; the disheveled and broken blinds at the windows barely admitted the daylight. Slowly he looked at the desks and copy machines and telephones covered over with plastic. Beneath the flicker of fluorescents he looked at the walls where the yellow paint slowly turned to a gray smudge. He looked at the carpet that bore stains of stone dust and glacial footprints.

There were no words between Stoney and the Boss Man. There could be none. Stoney could not hear, and he could not read, and he could not write and the Boss Man was not very good at pantomime. Stoney was like a rock, and it was the Boss Man himself for his own secret reasons who had sheltered him in the quarry ever since Stoney was a child.

Stoney's mother had died a few minutes before he was born. No one could or would tell Stoney who his father was. It was like he was an immaculate conception. No one could tell Stoney where he was born. No one could tell Stoney that he had once had parents. No one could tell Stoney much of anything. Stoney would never be able to understand what others said to him or around him. Stoney was to work in the quarry, where he would push the barrow in peace and harmony. He would be as one of them: quiet, a rock set in the sunshine and heavy with dampness when it rained. His name was Stoney because it was. He had no family. 

Although his mother had been ugly as sin, her mind had been as solid as his: the dense compaction of his immovable brain, the bedrock from which all his thoughts froze, had been stalled forever. Therefore, he could not look for a place in the lives led by people outside the quarry gate. The limit of Stoney's life was his quarters and the quarry; he must not enter other parts of the quarry or walk out into the road. His food would always be from Bob's roach coach. No one else besides the straw boss was allowed to enter the old portion of quarry. Only the Boss Man himself might walk and sit there. Stoney was often forgotten.


It was Tuesday. The straw boss shouted into the phone. He turned and he saw Stoney. He pointed to the desk. Stoney approached. The Boss Man in his executive chair was propped against the wall and seemed poised intently, as if he listened to the ring of a stone wedge struck by a hammer. His shoulders sloped down at sharp angles, and his head, like a heavy stone, hung down to one side. Stoney stared into the Boss Man's face. The man's mouth was open and large like a small cavern. His complexion was gray and only one eye remained open, like the eye of the sick crow, the one with the hole it its wing that would let the sky through, that could often be seen in the quarry. The straw boss put down the receiver. He went to the desk and pulled out a lower drawer and removed the cash box, emptied it out. He gave Stoney three tarnished quarters. He then went outside and got in his pickup truck and drove away.

Stoney gazed at the Boss Man for nearly two hours then he took his three quarters and walked out. Utah, North Dakota, and Hawaii. The Boss Man smelled funny. Stoney sat on a rock in the quarry and was one.


It was Thursday. Sitting on a rock in the quarry Stoney did not hear the sounds that came from the office. He looked up and saw the ambulance and the police cars parked in the lot just inside of the quarry gate. Hidden behind a large cube of cut stone he watched them carry out the Boss Man's body. When they left they shut the gate behind. Stoney sat on a rock and was one.

Days passed and no one came. Not even Bob's roach coach. Stoney ate sardines, stale pretzels and spoons of uncooked lemon-lime gelatin out of their little boxes. Each morning he rose early and went into the quarry and pushed his barrow. Everything was in order. It had rained during the night. He sat down on a rock and dozed in the sun.

As long as one does not look at it the world will not exist -- it only began to exist as it is when one turned to look at it. One is responsible for all of this. Otherwise like a mirage a few more Mondays are nothing. Only when you look does the world stay in one's mind before being erased and blank. The world is as a dead rock or the eye of a sick crow with a hole in the wing. The same is true of Stoney. If you take one look at him he can exist, otherwise his image will blur and fade out to nothing and he will be forgotten. Stoney is missed from not being watched by one.

Stoney had no presentment of a future. He was contented. The Boss Man had died. There was nothing to be known good or evil from this death, or from any death. It simply was not life. Stoney, like a rock, did not know of life or death but he was hungry just the same.

When Stoney saw the gate pushed open by the child he sat and watched and did nothing. His barrow had a flat and he was tired and did not care to push where it would wander off the path and crush and scrape against the bare rock. In the past whenever the barrow had a flat it was repaired by the straw boss, and before that by Julio Gutierrez. Stoney had not seen the straw boss for more than a week. There were tools in the maintenance shed with which to make the repair but Stoney did not know them. They had never held his hand. The workshop of the shed was dark with no electricity and smelled of oil and burnt straw. There was not the life of warm sun on rock inside the shed and Stoney staid outside. The trespassing child picked up and threw a rock at the plate glass window of the empty office building. The window was broken. The glass shattered. Stoney sat silent in the sunlight as one with the rock.

It was Wednesday in the morning when Stoney put on his work clothes, his jeans, a pair of large sunglasses, his canvas coat, and his hat. He filled a cloth sack with empty tubes of toothpaste, a stone hammer and his favorite rocks. He carefully trimmed and combed his hair. This morning Stoney was driven by his hunger. He wandered over to the barrow and felt of the wooden handles, lifted the weight of the metal body. He set the barrow down. All was peaceful there. He set the sack down and then he set himself down on the rock and felt of it.

It was Friday in the morning when Stoney put on his work clothes.

It was Monday. Stoney was leaving the quarry but he did not particularly know this. Outside the quarry the world was gray. Other than for the gate and the fence there was no boundary distinction between one place and another. Gray is grey. Where he had never been did not exist. It had taken Stoney several hours of meandering around the quarry from his room to the gate to his room to the quarry to the gate. He would stop and sit on the rock and feel one with it. The rock did not move, and hardly did it seem that Stoney would move any faster. The instinct of life, unlike with a lifeless rock, pushes one around and Stoney eventually found himself standing on the shoulder next to the road outside of the gate. He did not know how he had got there and he did not know where he was going. It was all new, an invention. He was outside the gate.

Stoney remained standing alongside the road, not knowing what to do. The sunlight dazzled his eyes. The road was a darker shade of gray; it might have been a slab of stone though it more than likely resembled a long stretch of black salt-water taffy. For some time he stood along the road looking around lazily in the morning sun. Around him he saw rocks that he had not yet seen in their lives and their lines were unfamiliar and their angles badly shattered and without pattern. They seemed to reach toward him.

There was a lumber truck come along and as it passed a large board fell off the back, bounced on the asphalt, then flew up and hit Stoney in the left shin. He was struck. He had not been looking in that direction and he did not jump up out of the path of the board as it bounced. Stoney was in pain, he could not stand on his leg and he fell over onto the gravel berm that was hard. He felt a pierce of pain, and cried out. Stoney felt of his pain and he felt of the hardpan that vibrated calmly beneath him. It was all new, an invention.


When Stoney came as one to see the world once again he rose up on his good and on his bad leg and he left behind him on the shoulder the bag of empty toothpaste tubes and his favorite rocks as he limped his way back into the quarry. The rocks of the quarry stood silent and erect. Stoney felt with his fingers their edges. Then he walked back to his room at the back of the maintenance shed where he slept.

When Stoney came to see the world once again he was not surprised: the road, the rocks, the birds, the smells were all new and as such they were neither expected nor anticipated. It was all new, an invention. He had the feel that there was nothing to them. They meant nothing to Stoney. He began to walk. He limped. In the middle of the road, he became conscious of the weight of the bag of empty toothpaste tubes and his favorite rocks and of the heat: he limped in the sun. The road went up a rise and slow it bent around a curve and shimmered in the afternoon heat. Now he could never return to the quarry. It was invisible and behind him. When there is truly nothing in front of a person is the time when there is nothing absolutely behind. Behind Stoney was the bag of used toothpaste tubes and his favorite rocks that he no longer had the energy to hold high as he dragged the bag along and made a trail in the dust behind. He could look at this trail, but he did not.

There was a gas station with two bays and an office small enough to hold a coffee pot and a candy bar dispensing machine. There was a car up on the hydraulic lift with two mechanics and a gas jockey. Stoney was thirsty and hungry and limped his way into the office.

"Where the hell you going old man?" said Raul the gas jockey.

Stoney did not reply to Raul. Stoney would not have replied because Stoney did not see Raul and he could not hear him. Stoney proceeded to pour himself a cold coffee into a dirty cup. He tasted of the coffee and found it burnt bitter. He poured a few tablespoons of sugar into the coffee and twice as much non-dairy creamer. There was an unwrapped tuna fish sandwich that sat on wrap paper where it unsuccessfully warded off flies, next to the coffee pot. Stoney groped up a half of the sandwich and sniffed it. It did not smell foul, but it was a new smell -- the smell of fish. Stoney bit into the sandwich. Raul Menendez who had come in behind Stoney then hit him in the back of the head with an empty gas can. Everything spun around him; then his mind blanked.

He awoke in a room flooded with a pink sunshine. He lay on a very large bed.

"Was it the bread?" he thought. Then he thought, "What?" Then he thought, "Thought?" There were no rocks in the room. The walls were a sickly pea green. He wanted to follow this new voice that had been invented in his head when he was unconscious and he kept looking behind himself. There is nothing much to see in an empty room. His breath smelled like old fish. Stoney floated on the bed, tucked in naked beneath the sheets, and he looked at the green ceiling.

Stoney pulled up the sheets free of his left leg. The middle of his calf swelled in a red-bluish blotch. There was pain.

"Mr. Trow Holden," she was saying slowly. "You lost consciousness."

Stoney closed his eyes and looked inside for the voice that he heard. He could not find it.

"Raul can be, let us say, a bit hasty. Don’t you think?"

Stoney squinched his eyes closed tight. It was as if he were worried that his brains would escape. Then, in fear that he had not done enough, he put his thumbs over his eyeballs and pressed hard. There was pain all around him and it hurt. There were colors inside of his head.

There was a knock at the door; it opened and a man appeared wearing a bloody blue smock and bottle-thick glasses. He carried a fat leather case. "I am the veterinarian," he said, "and this must be Mr. Trow Holden?"

"All that we know is that he had with him a bag of used toothpaste tubes, a few rocks and a hammer. We assume the name on the hammer is his."

The vet joked, "Raul’s victim is very well endowed. But now I'll have to examine him, and I'm sure you will prefer to leave us alone." The vet with a slight smile slipped on a pair of latex surgical gloves over his rather large and meaty hands. They snapped tight to his wrist and one finger escaped.

When Stoney pushed on his eyeballs there was a curious effect and the vet seeing the solid muscular priapus beneath the bed sheets had aptly remarked on this phenomena. But it was all lost on Stoney who, when he heard these strange voices in his head, pressed all the harder on his eyeballs.

"I dare not leave the room, Randy, lest you take unfair advantage of our unfortunate guest in your examination."

"This is something compared to a donkey, I admit, but it is nothing to an elephant. You need not worry Sophia on my behalf. I’ve held the best in man or beast that god has to offer."

"It is not your behalf, or your other half, either, that worries me."

"You are such a tease, Sophia. I would think you want this lost boy for yourself the way you go on."

"It is not any business of yours, and if you don’t mind stay to your business. His leg is badly bruised, as well as the lump from Raul on his head."

Stoney's leg was tender; a purple bruise covered almost the entire shin.

"There was no other damage?"

"Not that we know of."

"What fun is there in that?" said with a wry flicker to his lips. "I'm afraid that I'll have to give him an injection so I can examine the leg without making him faint when I press it."

Randy removed an enormous horse syringe from his case. While he was filling it, Stoney continued to press on his eyeballs. Not only was he not aware of the proximity of medical care, distraught by these noises in his head and captivated by all of the colors, he did not know that it might be in his interest to show that he was afraid. He lay there beneath the sheet like a tumescent rock.

The vet evidently did not notice that Stoney was not responsive to the outside world. "Now, now," he said to Sophia, "it's just a mild state of shock and, though I doubt it, there may have been some damage to the bone, though from the look of things it hardly seems evident. I’ve used this mix of pain killer, tranquilizer and psychotropic to good effect on raccoons." The injection was quick.

Stoney felt no pain. He removed his thumbs from the pressure on his eyeballs.

"Aha, that is curious," remarked Randy.

"Yes?" inquired Sophia.

"I’ve not seen flaccidity as a symptom in raccoons. Usually it is the complete reverse."

"How can you make more of...? I mean, how can there be more of so very much to begin with?"
Though Stoney kept his eyes shut he felt something. It may have been the movement of the bed sheets. In places on his body it felt cold, like a small stone pressed against his chest, or a thing warm that pushed against his legs. He was rolled with his face towards the window and the light of the sun cut through his closed eyelids.

After a few minutes the vet reported that there had been no injury to the bone.

"All you must do," he said, "is have your stranger, Mr. Holden here, rest until this evening. Then if you feel like it, you can get him up for dinner. Just make sure he does not put any weight on the injured leg. Meanwhile I'll instruct Raul about his injections; he'll have one every three hours and this pill at mealtime."

"That is a pill?"

"Don't mind the colors. The swirls mean nothing."

"I was not worried about the color! The damned thing is the size of a large cookie!"

"If you cannot get him to swallow it whole it is fine to break it into smaller pieces, as long as he swallows all of it."

Sophia's attempt to break the pill in her hands did not seem to work and she now had it wedged against the foot of the bed where, as she applied pressure with her foot, the frame of the bed shook slightly. "God damned, man! We'll have to use an axe to break this!"

Stoney was tired and sleepy. He opened his eyes.


When one is addressed and viewed by others, one is not safe. Whatever one did not do, or say, would then be interpreted by others in the same way that one interprets a rock. Without words to provide a description a rock is a fairly inert element placed at random in the scenery. Some rocks are larger than others, some are more colorful, but there are a good number of them scattered around on the earth and it is very easy to lose track of their identities. Whole entire families and communities and civilizations of rocks can wander around and not be recognized. They are without labels and if we want labels, or words to put with them, then we are forced to invent our own. But it is a risky business; a rock could never know more about one than one knew about them.

"I almost fell asleep," said Stoney. Then he lay there in the bed and wondered where that noise had come from. He would have continued thus but for an intrusion in a soft but harsh voice, something kind of raspy and sweet all at once. A voice hat he had heard earlier as if off in the distance but he had not been able to find the source of. These sounds of voices came at him and he was not able to hide from them.

"I am sorry if I disturbed you," Sophia said. "But I've just spoken with the vet and he tells me that all you need is rest... and these pills, and injections. Now, Mr. Holden —" She filled in a wooden rocker next to the bed. "I must tell you that you can lay about in my bed as much as you need, but this is my bed and I will sleep in it with you. I won't be denied my bed at night. If you snore you go out in the peacocks' shed with Raul behind the station. Do you understand? If you have an objection to share this bed with me then speak it up now."

Stoney did not speak up. Stoney closed his eyes and quickly pressed on his eyeballs.

"I'll take that as an answer."

Through Stoney's mind rushed a vision of rock, glorious and resplendent. Molten hot igneous it flared through him in a hot rush. Unleashed in uncontrolled spasms it was as if a magma fountain had been plumbed to the very core of his being. It came at him, and at him it came in a psychedelic wave of lava. Folded and unfolded it lapped away his strength. It left him blanker than blank. He threw his arms out for the embrace that he felt with the solid earth. He was swallowed in chasms of ageless geology. He was made one with the universe of volcanic disruptions. His hips jumped against the weight that held him. He struggled to free his jewels, gems of the night, the poor pebbles lost in the folds of a primordial creation.