Thursday, June 28, 2007

Stone or Water

short story for the storytelling competition as part of "The Works" arts festival, time limit 5 mins, gong at 7... to be presented Canada Day @ city hall


This is a story of two very different characters and how they came to see that perhaps they were not so different after all. One lived in a village of stone and not water, a village of rock and not sea in the mountains where he lived alone, so maybe it’s not fair to say he lived in a village. Can there be a village of one? The other lived in a village of water and not rock, a village of sea and not stone in the oceans where she lived alone, so maybe it’s not fair to say she lived in a village. Can there be a village of just one?

Now, I wasn’t there, so I can only tell you what could have happened. I could tell you about them coming together or I could tell you about them moving apart. I could tell you about a cliff face wearing away from the waves or I could translate the chatter of beach rocks in the tide. If you wanted a seedier story I could tell you about water’s infatuation with the moon and what they get up to as he waxes and wanes. I could tell you anything. That’s what a story is. But I don’t have to. You know how all the stories end.

A man and a woman lived together in a house. They had a cat named Tawny and a ferret who loved to dig tunnels in the big potted plants. She was an artist who worked in driftwood, beach glass and twine to make a mobile or a phoenix or a whale. She combed beaches and the bottom of Niagara Falls. She found feathers atop the highest hills to decorate the cactus and painted lips on it at Christmas instead of a tree. Their home had a life of its own. It was a zoo of paint and light and the soft sounds of morning and how one time she flushed the toilet when he was in the shower to hear him yelp before being coaxed back by the water when it turned lily warm and she stepped in with him.

But I won’t tell you the rest. You know what happened. You know that she longed for change and the world and had a spirit so free it could never be asked to be still. I don’t need to say anything about the heartache of her choice or how it ground him to sand such that he swore he’d never try again. I don’t need to tell you because everybody knows, stone stays water goes.

And I needn’t mention what remains of a lady named Sylvia, living on the streets of some big city filled with concrete monkeys driving their steel buffalo -- her duffel bag satched through and stuffed to the gills with tattered rags and pictures of a better time, her trench coat seemingly on a broken-down umbrella frame, the pockets spilling marbles and crushed cheese slices as she sprang to. I won’t tell you about the rock she tried to defend herself with and how feeble a fight she put up as the bus driver took it from her and shoved her into the rain. What happened to Sylvia next? You already know. You’ve seen how water will seep beneath stone.

And I won’t tell you of a car bomb in Kandahar or the size of the crater left behind as the phosphorous settled on a wedding party instead of confetti. You don’t want to hear about the Canadian soldiers who responded to the scene or the secondary explosives that lay in wait for them. I won’t say how killing begets killing. I won’t say stoned to death when it’s closer to say bludgeoned with frigging big rocks. It’s not worth saying how tragic it all is and how like water politicians are, babbling away while beneath stone buries stone buries stone. I don’t think it’s worth telling a “rich against the poor” kind of tale. They’re not good for the soul.

Then maybe I’ll tell a reel about wanderlust. How a young man came to open his heart again when he followed a young lady to a distant place, and how he never told her he was going to be there, hoping he was in her heart. He didn’t know how to find her in the sea of people in the city, flowing among the buildings and pavements and homes. He was beginning to lose hope and was afraid he might forget her smile, her soft words of comfort. He was broken on the whim of the world as time sanded away perspective. But you know what happened next? He saw her on a train to the university and said the first words, “I love you”, as the tunnel opened up above the river to reveal a sun shower double rainbow and their lips met like never had been apart, because they knew, like knows water like knows stone, nothing can live for too long on its own.

So let me tell you truth now, because all the stories are the same one story. If you live in your own village of rock or of sea you would learn, after a time, that we are both water and stone, flowing and subtle and life-giving once, cold and hard at others once again, and that when people seem the most like stone all it takes is to strike them just right and they’ll open up like shells and show you that spark of fire in the place where we love and care for others more than we care for ourselves.


lme said...

I really like this....Should be a winner. we all miss you back home...

Nikky said...

Like most of what I read from you, I couldn't look away, it's good :) . Good luck Mr Writer. btw I have pictures for you, I'm looking for somewhere to post them.

Sam said...

I loved this. You gave me this at the perfect time... I'm still not sure what i took from it exactly but it was something really great. It remiminded me of something inside myself that gets lost sometimes... Thank you. I think it should be a winner as well.

Hopper said...

Incidentally, it was a winner.