Frankie picked up the CB and spoke again. “Mr. Jones, did I ever tell you about my stone collection? I’ve had these stones with me all my life: magic stones, plain stones, fossils, heavy stones, boulders, little stones, big stones, the stones of ugly old and gray memories.
When I was a boy I had none; no boy does. He accumulates them over time. It starts with the small stones of the smallest crimes, boy crimes. The stones grow heavier and get larger as the crimes become more complex and life turns from daylight and sunshine to twilight and darkness. The bag we carry just gets fuller and fuller, but it seems there is always room for one more stone. The stones of long-dead relatives, the stones of my dead father, impossible to carry; the stones of my dead grandfather and the stones of his life, again, impossible to carry; the stones of their existence, the passing of the weight of their stones to me. Somehow, one day, their weight, their stones, became my stones; my load to carry through this life.
Someday I know these stones will kill me. The weight will drag me down, back down into the earth with them. I do not go higher. I cannot. It’s not my place. I don’t soar. My place is under the earth, in the cold dirt, in the deep and dark and moist and violent forest, in the ground with the mud and worms and decay. It is not my place to rise above. It’s my place to fall below. I cannot give these stones away. I cannot throw them in the stream and watch them disappear.
Nothing can lighten my load. I can’t lose them; they are always with me, following me, reminding me. This night, my friend, watching Eddie burn, is going to bring many of his stones into my bag. I can feel his weight already upon me. I’ll carry his weight with me through the rest of this life. I know now that is how we die, how men like me die, how violent men die. The weight of all the stones of all the lives we’ve twisted and broken and manipulated and disappointed just weigh us down until we are slowly dragged under the ground, until forward motion stops, and breath stops and life stops. Finally, expectedly, predictably, perfectly, we become one with the ground.
Every woman, every fight, every loss—they all add stones—every lie, every drink, every pill, every crime, every defeat, they are all stones. I can feel Eddie’s weight now, Mr. Jones, and it is dragging me under. Never fit to carry my father’s stones or the broken promises of my grandfather’s stones and his father and his father before him. Don’t all men carry the weight of their past and their father’s past? I’m too young to die of this weight, but I feel them all on me now. The bag just grows to allow one more. Just one more and one more and one more. In an imperceptibly slow avalanche until I become buried in the stones.
Who will carry my stones, Mr. Jones? When I die and I’m free from all this, who will drag this bag of stones on? The sins don’t die with the man, his crime, his dishonor. These are the things of every man’s legend. These are the things that never die.
I love listening to eulogies, Mr. Jones, all the flowering, positive words from the preacher. He’ll talk for what seems like hours about what a good Christian man this guy was, and how he’s now in this Heaven place and seated at the right hand of God. And I want to interrupt the flow of the speech, the imagery and prose and ask the preacher a few questions. I want to ask him if he ever met this guy, and then I want to ask if he knows about the neighbor’s wives, the stabbings, and the people he abandoned; the violent fights, the thefts and the lies, police records, and all the stories he created to cover the stories. I want to walk up to that ugly casket and ask the dead guy who now will carry his stones, and hope it’s not me.
I’ll watch from a distance as they lower him into the ground. I’ll feel the weight of his stones come upon me as they throw shovels full of rich, brown, sweet-smelling, moist dirt on his casket. I’ll walk away slower, heavier, and a few inches closer to the ground. I’ll struggle to stay upright, above ground.
I don’t want some preacher to paint a lie for me, Jones. I want you boys standing there telling the truth. Tell them who I was. Break open the lies, for one moment. In the last moment anyone will pay any attention to me, tell the truth. Paint the picture in black and red and dark, dark blue and gray. Paint it in the colors of my life. Tell the stories that will make the well-dressed ladies get up and leave as the men shift uncomfortably in their seats, look at the floor, and pray they are not named.
Then look around the room of that funeral chapel. Look for that one guy sinking down, staring at the floor. His face is ashen. He may be crying. That’s the guy; he’s already picked up my stones. Leave him be. He’ll leave alone and in silence. Please, leave him be.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish