The Talking Rock

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Yes, this really happened

 

THE TALKING ROCK

 

PART ONE: IT APPEARS

 

So, I was working down in Medicine Hat as a furniture mover, and it was a Friday. It was my mid-month payday, the move in the afternoon got canceled and we didn’t have any moves scheduled for the next couple of days. That means I had time and money, and for once my weekend had actually lined up with the rest of the world's weekend, yay.

I wanted a beer in a bad way, it was a hot one and the morning move was easy, so I had the energy to spare. My buddy/neighbor/workmate Rusty had some stuff to do so he took off home and I went straight into the bar. My watering hole at the time was the Cecil Hotel and it wasn’t fancy, but the beer was cheap, and I knew everyone in there, so it felt like my home away from home.

My favorite waitress, Jillian, wasn’t busy so I got my jug ordered right away and headed over to the jukebox to plug in some tunes and get the party started.  It was still early, only noonish, so I pretty well had the place to myself. After setting up my favs, I went and sat down to my cold jug and that’s when things started to get strange. I should be really happy, juiced up and ready to rock, but I wasn’t, it felt like something was missing, but I couldn’t think what it was.

I tried to shake the feeling off, take a couple of big slugs from my beer, close my eyes and enjoy my latest favorite music mix, light up a fresh smoke and take my mind off it by flirting with Jillian. I’d always thought she was awesome, but she wasn’t that into me and it was okay, we were still friends and she always took time to verbally spar, but today it wasn’t as much fun as it should be. Nothing was.

I didn’t like this melancholy crap my mind was playing at, I had earned this Friday, I worked hard, paid my bills, and put up with all the shit life had thrown at me this week. It wasn’t fair that I couldn’t enjoy it and it made me a little mad. I decided to fight back and force the fun to happen whether it wanted to or not.

 I waved Jillian over and ordered two shots of tequila, normally one would be for her if she wanted it, but I knew it was too early for that and didn’t even offer, the second one was just gonna have to be extra ammo for me, in the battle to come. She gave me a curious look, but she didn’t ask, and I didn’t fill her in. She brought them back, with the lemon and salt, just the way I always had it, and the curious look was still on her face when she set it all down, but she knew that if I wanted to talk about it, I would, so she didn’t push. I could tell that she could feel something was wrong; I never ordered shots this early in the game, but I appreciated her not asking. I didn’t know what was happening either and I wouldn’t know what to tell her.

I slammed the shots back and finished my jug in record time, but it still felt wrong somehow. When Jillian came by and asked if I wanted another jug, I told her no and ordered a double rye and coke instead. Now, she knew, something was definitely up, but still, she didn’t ask. I think that’s a big reason I liked her (besides the fact that she was good looking of course) She was smart enough to know when to pry and when to leave it alone.

Two rye and cokes and 5 songs later, and I was still somehow stuck, in this weird, sad little branch of reality where everything was muted and far away. It was like trying to watch a great movie play out with smudged glasses and my ears filled with cotton. Even things that were supposed to be near, seemed far away, and everything was greyed out and unimportant. It was like trying to live in an old sepia-toned photograph, with relatives I’ve never met, doing things I didn’t care about.

 I’d had enough of this shit, time for the big guns.

I told Jillian I’d be right back and headed for the door. I lived right across the alley and I had two grams of really, nice, black, hash and of course, a bottle of vodka in my freezer. Shit just got real, and I needed the heavy artillery to deal. I was not going to go gently into this dark night, not without a fight.

One of the little tricks the owner used was age-old. but still very effective. There were no windows in the bar, and no clocks, time inside was frozen, it was a mental thing, if you didn’t realize how late it was, you’d be more inclined to buy another round. The illusion broke if you looked at your phone or your watch, but people tend to avoid that shit when they wanted to play a little hooky from life.

 So, when I stepped out the back door, the sun hit me straight in the eyes, and I was bat-blind and blinkin’. You ever stand in the light so bright, even squinting didn’t work? So bright, that even the light coming in through your closed eyelids was too much light and you had to hold your hand up over your eyes or it would hurt? It was like that, only worse. All the booze I was putting down must’ve made my eyes dilate and they were taking longer than usual to adjust.

The worse part was the dust. For some reason, this alley was prone to dust, a whole shit-load of white dust. Me, I thought it might be something coming in off the trains. Medicine Hat is a train town, built on the tracks and even though the actual train yard was still a few blocks away, the trains ran right by this place, and I was sure that there was some kind of dust being thrown around by the container cars. Anyway, the entire alley was covered in it, all the little rocks painted in a whitewash that only a good rain would wipe off. It was like being snow blinded, getting it from both ends, up and down.

Since I was a kid I’ve always looked both ways before crossing (nobody wants to get smoked by a car crossing a fuckin’ alley) so, I looked up and down the alley. Or tried to at least. as best I could with my fried eyes, nothing to the right, and…nothing to the left, except…

(this is where the weird shit starts if you’re the type that needs to know)

Off to the left, there was just a tiny spot, on the ground about 30 feet away, amidst the sea of white rocks. It was only a tiny speck of quiet in the cacophony of glarity, white noise. it was different, comfortable somehow, like shade in the desert for my poor eyes. Something normally not that big a deal, but when you were being blitzed into oblivion by the blast furnace of the beating sun, well…, well, it was like a special blessing from God. An atoll of calm amidst the glaring maelstrom assaulting my senses. My overworked eyes could somehow rest on it, an island in the storm.

I blinked and shook my head, I was buzzin’ enough now to know I was starting to get lyrical in my thought processes, a sure sign of a very interesting night ahead. After double-checking that it was still there, and real, I just had to know what it was. I’m not the type to walk away from stuff like this, if it’s different or weird, I want to see it. Especially right then, I needed all the weird shit I could get to take my mind off this strange gloominess that was trying to take over and ruin my perfectly good Friday.

So, after taking a few moments to let my eyes start working again, I walked over to this calm, hole in the glare. It turned out to be just another rock, slightly reddish-brown, flat-ish, irregularly shaped, and about the same size as a toonie. Nothing special, bummer, oh well, fuck it, back to business.

I went up the back stairs to my apartment, let myself in, and went directly to the stove and got the knives going. I grabbed the hash from my room and went back into the kitchen and busted up a few nice chunks on the back of a plate I kept there for just this purpose. I pulled the bottle of vodka out of the freezer, for afterward, and proceeded to blade up three of the biggest tokes I could handle. The last one made my head spin a little and after the purple spots faded from my eyes, I took a couple of big pulls off the bottle of cold vodka and replaced the burn from the hash with the burn from the booze. Mmm, num. I usually don’t use vodka as a chaser for the hash, it’s a little harsh for that, but circumstances seemed to demand the extra kick it would give me, and it seemed to be working. I shut down the stove, put the bottle back in the fridge and the hash back in my room, and locked the door on my way out.

This time, when I was crossing the alley, the rock was off to my right, and still clearly visible, something was bothering me about that. I stopped for a minute, checking it out and thinking about it, and then walked over to take another look. I know, it's just a fucking rock, who cares? Right? Wrong. Even as stoned as I was, my mind had managed to figure out what was bothering me about it.

When I got there and stood right over it, my suspicions were confirmed. What I’d said before about the dust was true, there was a coating of white dust over everything, and every other rock and pebble in that alley was coated with it, except for that one rock. It was completely clean, and that’s why its rust color was so clearly visible from 30 feet away, and why it had stood out amidst an alley full of rocks. Strange.

How the hell, did this one rock, remain clean when all the other ones were coated? There didn’t seem to be any marks in the dust around the rock, so how did it get here? Did a bird drop it? If it did, it must have been a really good shot, because if it would’ve bounced and rolled to this spot, it would still have some dust marks on it, or disturbed the dust on the rocks around it. What the hell was going on here?

It was way too hot to stand out in the sun thinking about it, and the fucking thing had grabbed my eye, not once, but twice, so it must be meant for me. I quickly picked it up, put it in my pocket, and went directly to the backdoor of the bar. As I grabbed the back-door handle of my small suburban oasis, I could feel in my bones, somehow, that grabbing that rock, would turn out to be one the best moves I’d ever made.

The light was squeezed slowly out of the room by the hydraulics on the door behind me. I stood at the entrance and waited an eternity for my eyes to adjust to the gloom. Then slowly…carefully…I hit every beat/step, beat, and made the circuit; hit the john, order another jug at the bar, put some more bucks in the jukebox, and then, finally, sat down to enjoy the air conditioning. Say what you will about sliced bread, but I still think the best invention was AC. If a caveman ever experienced AC, he would probably shit his furry little loincloth in shock, but he’d love it just the same.

 The jug came, and Jillian smiled at me and put it down, she seemed to notice that I was in a better mood and I could see she was feeling better too. Things were starting to pick up a bit and she wasn’t as bored. She liked people and they tipped better than empty tables.

While I was digging for some cash my hand came across that rock in my pocket. I pulled it out and set it down on my smoke pack to keep it out of the way and still keep an eye on it. I wanted to be able to figure out why this thing had grabbed me and what it was supposed to mean. As I handed her the cash, she noticed the rock and an eyebrow rose. She counted out the change and as she was getting her tip she asked, “What’s with the rock?” Her grin was contagious.

The question itself was a puzzler however, I had no idea why I’d picked up this rock, or what it could mean, but somehow the mystery of it intrigued me, and that was hella-better than what I was feeling before. A modicum of magic and mystery was exactly what I’d needed to make my day a little brighter.

So, still holding my grin I said, “I’m not sure, it grabbed me…and seems to have something to tell me.”

She gave a little chuckle and said, “It talks? It’s a talking rock?”

It was getting a little uncomfortable, and slightly embarrassing, trying to answer questions about a rock that was no more than a crazy whim brought on by boredom, frustration, and more than my share of inebriants. I didn’t know why this rock was here any more than she did, but the thought of it talking sounded like fun.

So, I said, “Yeah, but it’s shy, so it might take a little while to open up to me.”

 I said this with a deadpan expression that brooked no argument like a talking rock was a commonplace thing, and she should know better than try and make the rock uncomfortable by prying too hard, too soon.

She rolled her eyes, shook her head, and said, “Chris, Chris, Chris” then she smiled, like only she could, grabbed up the empty jug, and headed off to take care of the rest of the Friday crowd.

 I could tell that she kinda liked the idea of a talking rock, and she knew that if anybody could pull this off…it would be me.  Suddenly, her Friday was a little brighter too and I was starting to feel better about the whole night.

There were more people in the bar now, and because it was Friday, they all seemed to be in a good mood. I saw her ask; at a table over by the wall, what they wanted to drink, and one of them asked why she was smiling, she leaned in and told them. I knew what she was talking about because she pointed over to me, and then down at the rock, it was still sitting in plain sight on my smoke pack.

They smiled with her for a moment, and then shook their heads. They didn’t seem all that surprised, more like they were pleasantly pleased, and that made me grin too. I loved that I didn’t have to explain myself in here. I could say the wildest shit, and they knew it was just me, being me.

 I was starting to have fun again, and I didn’t know where this was going to go, but it was starting out well, after a bit of a rough patch… and that was good enough for me.

 

 

 

PART TWO: IT SPEAKS

Things started picking up then, more people were showing up all the time, the beer was flowing, and the music box got turned up a little, so we could hear it over the happy chatter of all the new Friday people. Fridays at the bar are the best, everybody’s just so damn happy to be done with their week of toil in the trenches. Thirsty Thursdays aren’t bad, but if you’re looking for a really good time it’s gotta be Friday. People are rarin’ to go and they know they don’t have to get up for work the next day. Even Saturdays can’t compare, because you have to fight through the hangover leftover from Friday.

I was just finishing a game of pool with some poor bastard and he was on his way to get my beer, you’d think people would learn not to play against me for beers when I’m dancing to the tunes and grinning like a monkey sitting on a pile of bananas. There were no more takers, so I took my cue over to my table (just because nobody wanted to take me on didn’t mean I didn’t own that fucking table) and was just about to light up a smoke when Rusty came in. Wooo hoooo!

He snagged the waitress, on her way by, ordered another jug for the table, and then came over grinning like he had his own special sharable pile of bananas. He sat down and after our usual pleasantries, I remembered that I was going to light a smoke before he came in and reached for my pack. I grabbed the rock off the top, pulled out a smoke, sparked it up, then put the pack down and set the rock on top of it again. He saw the rock and his eyebrows rose, but before he could ask Jillian showed up with his jug.

She set it down and while he was digging for some cash she filled him in on the rock.

“He says it’s gonna talk, but it hasn’t said anything yet, we’re all waiting, but he says you can’t rush these things” She rolled her big beautiful blue eyes, gave him his chance, and was off again without a backward glance.

We looked at each other for a moment, me trying to look all innocent, and him trying not to grin too much, then we both burst out laughing. He didn’t know what was going on either, but he knew it was me and it was going to be good. Suddenly his Friday was a hella better deal than the one he was expecting.

While he lit up his smoke and poured himself some Friday juice, I filled him in on what had happened. The weird shitty feeling when I came in, finally going over to get a toke, seeing the rock. Getting a couple of big hoots in, coming back, seeing the damn rock again, all of it.

I told him that I didn’t plan the whole talking rock thing, it just kinda happened, but now I was in it up to my neck and after Jillian spread the word, EVERYBODY was expecting that fucking rock to talk. He just chuckled and shook his head.

“Only you bud, only you. Do you realize that you have to make it talk now? And when you do, it had better say something really good? You dumbass, hahaha, let's play some pool while you try and come up with something.”

Just like that, he’d never come across anything like this before, had just sat down, and was already up to speed and on my side, that’s why he was my bud. Fucking love that guy.

 

We played a few games of pool and I beat him two to one, the only reason I lost was I was getting distracted by all the looks I was getting from people curious about the rock, word had gotten around. When I sunk the cue going after the 8, I told him we had to stop, and we sat down to lubricate and ruminate. He knew it was serious because he never won when I was feeling the groove and even though it was his turn to break, he didn’t argue.

We sat back down, refreshed our beers, and lit up, then we both tried to come up with something the rock could say that would be funny, but not something either of us would say. We had to make it seem like it was the rock talking, and if we were going to keep this illusion alive we had to come up with something good. I loved the fact that he got on board with the idea so readily and so enthusiastically. I think part of him wanted that damn thing to talk about, it would make for a buttload of fun for our Friday and if we could pull it off it would be talked about for weeks.

After a while of racking our brains, we decided we were going to have to boost our brainwaves with a blast, so we told Jillian to keep an eye on our jugs and we’d be right back. She knew what we were up to and just smiled and nodded us out the door.

At my place, we set the knives up for a monster session and pulled out the vodka for a little extra inspiration. Then we spent about 20 minutes bouncing ideas and tokes off each other’s heads. At this point try and think of the teacher’s voice from Charlie Brown:

“muUAW, MUaah me meaugh ma. MA, mewa mwa mee moo me mway?”

 “Meh” (cough cough)

“How about mwah mawaah meuup meuup?” (cough cough cough)

“Mmmmm, naahhhhhhh. HACK, COUGH, cough

“Oh, I know, how about mweee mwa mwa mia, me mo mam?” small choking session

Okay, you get the idea.

When we just couldn’t take another hoot, we ended up heading back to the bar, sans answer. Even though we were a little disheartened, we were more than high enough to make up for it. After all, when our combined, and more than a little formidable, formulating abilities came to the fore, nothing would be impossible. At the moment, however, we would have to seek solace in our neglected suds.

 .’ll>

We showed up back at the table just in time to keep a couple of dudes from stealing our spot, whew, and got down to some serious butt-busting brainstorming.

Jillian came by to get our okays on a fresh set of jugs. Oops, that sounded weird. Uhh, what I meant, was that we each ordered separate jugs. We had to, neither one of us wanted to be the greedy bastard that drank more than his share or left the other guy with the dregs and not enough to fill his glass. Smokes were still up for grabs from each other’s packs, but it was easier to keep track of the ebb and flow, as it were, if you only had to keep an eye on one jug at a time, each.

She didn’t ask about the rock, but she definitely, gave it a meaningful glance as she was grabbing the empty’s and picking up her tips. I met Rusty’s eyes and we both pretended not to notice the glance. Not yet, we telepathically agreed, make them sweat.

We sat there for an indeterminant and almost intolerable, stretch of verbal volleying.

I’m not saying that we didn’t come up with a few gems, we did, but the more time that went by, the more carats we wanted our gem to be. It was intimidating, not only was Jillian giving us the weird side-eye, but after a while, I noticed that most of the bar was more than normally interested in our table. I saw more than one set of eyes, flick over to the rock and then back to mine.

After about the third time she asked about the rocks musings, I got a brainwave. I made sure that everyone was watching, then I would make a big show out of picking it up, putting it to my ear, listening to it intently for a mo’, and then putting it back down and giving it an ugly stare. Like it had somehow pissed me off. Then I would look around, make sure I locked a few stares on my way around the room, and shake my head.

We stretched this out as long as we possibly could, me, rust and the rock; and then just a minute or two more.

At this point, even Rust was starting to look sidelong at the door, and I could see the doubt in his eyes. Both big blue-eyed and begging, SAY ANYTHING!!! They silently screamed. Say anything, just make the fucker talk, shift-rock-shift. I could almost smell his fear. Don’t fuck it up man, I told myself, I was worried now too.

This time when she came to the table, she didn’t even have to ask, I just automatically picked the damn thing up, put it firmly to my ear, and said: the very first fucking thing I could think of…

“_____________”

I wrote it like that for 3 reasons:

  1. It was so cool and funny that the mere act of writing it down would demean its awesomeness.
  2. You wouldn’t be able to keep reading because your eyes would be shaking too much from the laughter
  3. Because, for some reason, completely unbeknownst to me, even as I sit here I, well. I STILL, TO THIS DAY…DON’T FUCKING KNOW!!!

 

I’m going to have to step back for a moment and “splain some shit at this point, um, you’re probably NOT going to like it. This is not a lazy-writer trick or something to extend the suspension of disbelief. I, TO MY GREAT CHAGRIN, HAVE NO CLUE WHAT IT SAID. AT ALL. AD INFINITUM.

I’ve told this story a million times in a million different ways over the years, and I have NEVER, not even once, E V E R been able to remember ONE FUCKING THING that that talkative semi-talisman shared with us. Not one word, and what’s weird is, well, I remember a lot of what happened that night. I know, I was drunk and more than a little stoned, but still…

I REMEMBER: keeping that little Stoney-eyed sum-bitch talking shit and homespun wisdom, take your pick, for a beer a pop at one time during that long night.

I REMEMBER: answering any random question it was asked, with alacrity and adroitness, for the rest of the night, right until the bitter dregs of the red-eyed and dreaded, morning sun, broke the spell.

I REMEMBER:  pulling not one, or two, or even five or six tables together, but ALL 14!

(the shape It ended up making was an elongated lower-case j, like a stretched anchor, in case anyone was curious, I know I would be)

I REMEMBER: for the first, and probably last, time, the owner of the bar/hotel told everyone that he was keeping the place open, the doors were going to be locked and nobody else could come in, but for those of us that wanted to stay, the drinks would be the same price, and the secret would forever remain, untold. The loss of his liquor license was reverently mentioned.

I REMEMBER Rusty, trying like hell, to buy that fucking rock off me. First, it was every penny he had on him, and then he slowly upped the ante to things he thought I would like out of his place, I seem to remember his stereo being thrown into the kitty at one point…

I REMEMBER: people making sure to include the rock in any thanks and goodnights we were given when everything was said and done.

I REMEMBER: being blinded by the morning sun and having to fight off Rusty on the long trip across the alley and up the stairs. I had to peel him off me like a leach when I left him at his door and continued down the hall to my apartment. He REALLY wanted that rock.

The next day I woke up feeling pretty gribbly and out of sorts. I felt like I was forgetting something important…something weird…then my eyes found the rock on my dresser and everything, well, almost everything, came flooding back.

I had to slowly let Rusty down over a period of days until he could deal with the fact that it was MY rock dammit. Then I slowly forgot about it. I used to carry it everywhere, and then I started leaving it at home, in my key/change bowl on my dresser. I don’t know how it happened, but I just didn’t have the guts or the gumption to bring it out at the bar again, it’s sad, but I never made it talk again.

For a while, people would ask after it, try and make me pull it out and start it yakking again, but I never did. Pretty soon, even Rusty, dependable and loyal to the end, stopped asking about it.

It really was magical you know, people remembered it, and they held us in good standing, me, Rusty, and the Rock. But I guess everything’s got to end sometime, and the time of the rock had come and gone. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

PART THREE: IT MAGICALLY REAPPEARS

A while later, probably at least a few months, it was Rusty’s birthday. Normally, I try to remember these things, but sometimes I get caught with my proverbial pants down. It was right between paycheques, and like a dumbass, I forgot all about it when I did have the cash from the last cheque, so now I was broke. All I had on me was enough to buy us a beer each, so I could toast him, so I figured that would have to do. I’d buy him the beer, clink glasses, tell him I’d get him a present next cheque, and try and get out of there with some semblance of dignity.

What I hadn’t planned on was what was waiting for us when we got into the bar after the shift. There must’ve been 30 people standing around yelling surprise, decorations set up, and a whole table full of presents just for him. Popular guy, dammit, I was hooped. How the hell was I going to make this work now?

I went directly over to the bar and ordered us a couple of frosty’s and made sure to be the first one to put a beer in his hand, I got my solitary clink, and my one-armed bro-hug then proceeded to fade into the background while he was surrounded by more thoughtful friends and more generous guests.

I had started out feeling like shit, but after he started tearing into his presents, damn, I just couldn’t handle it anymore. I waited until he was busy doing shots with some of his real friends, then slipped out the back door and went home. Fuck I felt bad.

I moped around my place for a bit, trying to rack my brain and figure out a way to fix this mess and get back to the party and salvage some of the night and help my bud enjoy his birthday. I called around to see if I could beg or borrow some cash from somebody and managed to squeeze 30 bucks from my brother Jimmy. I don’t normally try and borrow cash, but after I told him what it was for he came through like a champ, love that guy.

I knew it wouldn’t be enough to buy drinks and a present, so I started ransacking my place for something I could give him that wouldn’t make me look like a total asshole. The hardest part of that plan was the fact that Rusty had seen all my stuff and would know that I fucked up and was trying to give him some of my second-hand crap to make up for it. He wouldn’t say anything, of course, he would smile and thank me, pretending the whole time like he didn’t know, and everything was fine. But I would know, it would show on my face and it might put a damper on the mood. Fuck it, no time left to hang around wishing, I had to get back before he noticed I’d disappeared.

I thought maybe I’d be able to get away with just buying some drinks, hang out, be his buddy and just try and have fun with him. At some point during the party, preferably after he was nice and drunk, I’d pull him aside, tell him I fucked up and promise to make it up to him big-time as soon as the next cheque came around. It wasn’t the best plan ever, but it should work, and it would beat the hell out of the alternative. If I completely skipped out on the party he’d be pissed at me, and even if I tried to explain my dilemma he would give me shit for being a dumbass and say that he didn’t care about a present, that my being there would be blah, blah, blah. Shit. Oh well, time to go.

I flipped off all the lights, took one last look around and a big part of me wished I could just crawl into bed, pull the covers over my head and somehow escape the shame to come, so such luck. Quit stalling Chris, time to face the music.

As I grabbed my keys out of the catchall bowl by the door, my hand came out with the keys and something else, I looked down to see what it was and BAM, problem solved. Suddenly everything was going to be okay. I ran around and grabbed a couple of other things I would need to make this a little bit more special and then headed back to the bar. The whole way down the stairs and across the alley I was grinning like an idiot, but after all the stress of the day, it was the best feeling ever.

I walked back into the bar and my brother Jimmy came right over and gave me the cash with just a quick locking of the eyes, and a grin (Fuck I miss that grin). Thank God he had his cell on him, I hate trying to borrow money in front of other people at the bar. He knew I’d be good for it, he was the one who got me the mover job, and believe me, that kind of trust from him didn’t come easy.  I’m not saying anything bad about Jimmy, he’d been through a lot in his life and trust didn’t come easy after all of that, besides, I can’t say anything bad about him. He’d always looked out for me and was a great brother, he took care of me and my little brothers for a while after my mom died, he got me all kinds of jobs insulating and this latest moving job, and he always had time to listen to my bullshit. He wasn’t afraid to call me on it too. I miss him a lot. I mouthed the words thank you, thank you, thank you, and headed for the bar.

I grabbed myself another brew and then got over to the table just as Rust was opening his last gift. Another video game, nice, not as nice as mine though. I checked out his pile of goodies on the way over to him, it looked like he made out like a bandit. Video games, a cool-looking knife (hope he gave them a coin), t-shirts, a boom box (wow, his parents must be around somewhere), some new CDs, and of course socks. I don’t know what the hell people are thinking sometimes, why socks? Don’t they think we can buy our own? Oh well, the moment of truth.

‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, bud, you got one more!” I yelled over the music and chatter.

Then I pulled the gift out of my hoodie pocket and held it out for him. I’d managed to scrounge up an old ring box I’d had kicking around my place, for no particular reason that I can fathom, and wrapped it in a piece of pink ribbon I’d found somewhere, no clue as to why I had that either. Sometimes I just see stuff on the ground and can’t bear to leave it to be destroyed by the elements I guess. I’m not a hoarder, but some stuff just can’t be left on the ground to be trashed and wasted.

Anywho, he gave me a really puzzled look and took the box from me. I noticed more than a few puzzled looks in the crowd and grinned. They probably thought we were coming out as a gay couple or something, hahaha, I’m secure enough in my masculinity to handle that crap. I don’t have anything against gays, but I’m not one of them and Rust wasn’t either, but it was funny to watch the looks we were getting. I was loving his embarrassment too, he looked so uncomfortable when he untied the pink ribbon that I started laughing. Then he opened the box, his eyes went really, really wide, and… he literally… lost his shit!!!

He ran over to me, yelling,

“REALLY, YOU SURE, REALLY? THIS IS MINE NOW, REALLY?” YOU’RE NOT FUCKING WITH ME ARE YA? ARE YOU SURE? HOLY SHIT MAN, WOW, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, OH DUDE, THANK YOU!”

Now I was laughing so hard I could barely breathe, so I just nodded and opened my arms for a hug. Now I was absolutely sure everyone thought we were gay and just about to announce our engagement, tears were streaming down both our faces, mine from laughter and his from pure joy, and we were hugging like crazy. I almost pissed my pants thinking about it.

He finally let me go and then proceeded to run around the circle of people holding out the ring box, so they could see what was inside.  The looks he was getting were pure confusion, and I started to realize that most of these people wouldn’t understand this situation at all, they weren’t there that night. That’s when my laughter really kicked in and I had to bend over double to try and catch my breath.

From their point of view, they’d all given him awesome presents, all well thought out, reasonably expensive items wrapped with care and given with love and thoughtfulness. And along comes me, a dude who couldn’t even be bothered to stay for the whole present unwrapping, cruises in at the last minute and gets the biggest, happiest reaction of all, for, wait for it, a fucking rock!!!

They were probably expecting, from his reaction, a fucking super-bowl ring, or a really cool dude ring with a dragon or skull or some shit, something really expensive with diamonds and his initials, or even a surprise engagement ring would have made more sense. But not a fucking rock!

He hugged me and thanked me a few more times, and then we got down to some serious birthday drinking. He spent the first couple of hours telling anybody who would listen all about the talking rock and the night we had with it. He was so happy that I didn’t feel bad about giving the rock a new home, I knew it would be in good hands.

 

 

PART FOUR AND FINAL;  IT SMILES, AND SAYS GOODBYE

A few years later, I just happened to be back in town from a stint in Calgary. I’d been trying desperately to find a job up there and staying on my brother Mitch’couch (or Joe, depending on who you talk to) but the only job I could find paid six bucks an hour and I was already three months behind on rent. Yes, I still remember I owe you for that bro, but life is not an exact science and I’m sorry.

Anyway, I got a ten pm call from my other bro, Charlie, and he found a job down in Medicine Hat for 18 bucks an hour and I had to jump on it, Mitch was not too pleased to be woken up at midnight to find me heading out with Charlie to work in the Hat, but there was nothing I could do about it. Once again, sorry bro, but risking my life on a bike in downtown Calgary traffic, for six bucks an hour would have just dug a deeper hole.

It didn’t end up working out anyway, with all the money I owed in Medicine Hat, but you gotta try, right?

A couple of weeks after I got down there, I was in the bar getting my cheque cashed and paying out most of it to pay back rent on the hotel room I’d still owed for from a couple of years back, and I just happened to run into Rusty on my way out. I couldn’t afford it, but I went back in with him and split a jug, so we could sit down and catch up and reminisce about the good old days.

After a while, and another jug, which he ended up having to pay for, we started to wind down and were just basking in the warm silence of good friends remembering good times. I hadn’t thought about it for years, but something about sitting there with Rust must’ve fired up some old rarely used neurons and I remembered the rock.

I had started to think that I’d made the whole thing up in some kind of drunken wish-fulfillment fantasy, my mind does do some pretty wonderful things sometimes, as you can tell. I was almost embarrassed to bring it up, but I had to know if what I remembered was real or if it was just some kind of pathetic mind game I’d been playing solo for all those years.

“Hey man, do you, uh, do you remember the talking rock?” I asked sheepishly.

Immediately his head shoots up and his eyes lock with mine.

“DUUUUUDE!!! Do I remember it? Hah, of course, I do, one of the best nights ever! I think about it all the time man! Hey, wait a sec….” he digs around in his pockets, “Yup, here you go bro, check that out”

He pulls his hand out of his pocket and slides the rock across the table at me. All I can do is stare. My hand reaches out and touches it and it’s almost like an electric shock runs through my fingers from the surprise of seeing it and it being a real enough thing for me to touch.

Rusty smiles at the look on my face, turns and raises his arm to order us another jug, and then leans in and whispers into my stunned face, “and, it…still…talks…dude.” Our shared grins could’ve lit up the darkest night.

I guess he carried it around all the time, and when things got boring at the bar, he could just reach into his pocket and pull it out to change the whole vibe whenever he felt like it. He could just pull it out, tell the whole story, the one I just told you, and then if he was feeling particularly creative and feisty, he could put it up to his ear and…..

From what he told me, it had made him more than one friend, and it had also gotten him laid a few times, hahaha, who knew? So, whenever I’m feeling a little down, I just try and think of my bud Rusty out there, luring some poor unsuspecting girl into his cool-ass world, with his little friend, the rock, that still …talks.

 

THE END?


Submitted: October 02, 2021

© Copyright 2022 chrispy. All rights reserved.

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