Once a stone wondered whether it should say something. There certainly was no lack of call to do so. Every day, the man who owned the garden in which the stone found itself did something that left little question he was in need of advice. Not that the man knew he needed advice, but the stone did. It had been some time now since it was brought down from the mountains and placed here in the garden. The man had gone searching for rocks that would fit his landscape design and had stumbled across this one in the process. Stumbled was the best term for it, as the man hadn’t paid much attention to this particular stone at first. Instead, he’d been intent on prying loose a neighboring rock that fit his vision of the garden more closely. But he’d broken that stone in his efforts and was forced, cursing roundly, to settle for the one he’d been standing on and prying against in its place. When he returned home, the man pored over the plans he’d drawn, trying to figure out where to put the stone he hadn’t really wanted now that he had it. He drew it on the paper here and drew it there, but the result never satisfied him, and the plan itself began to disappear beneath angry smudges. Furthermore, no matter how much the man studied the stone, it just didn’t look right to him. From every angle it was either too flat or too uneven for his liking and never suggested anything more than a nondescript chunk of granite. He ultimately rolled it to the back of the garden in disgust, swearing even more than before, and left it there. From its new resting place, the stone had watched the man go about his garden building. He dug and hauled and planted and pruned to make everything reflect the ideal he had in mind. When something didn’t, he’d double his efforts to force it to, and if he still couldn’t, he’d rip it out and start over again. Eventually, he got what he wanted. But never for very long. A tree might die from overwatering or underwatering, a blossom might not match the catalog illustration that had prompted its ordering, any one of a hundred pests and blights might appear. Most galling, however, were the weeds. They sprang up everywhere if given any opportunity at all and rooted themselves too deeply to be pulled up. Instead, they snapped off and then bided their time to come back again twice as hardy after the next rainfall. The stone saw how all these setbacks drove the man to distraction. Whatever had moved him to embark upon the garden in the first place, it had now grown into the tyranny of the unhinged. Even those corners of it that he’d worked and reworked still failed to look exactly as he was certain they should. There was something unsatisfactory about each of them, and it exasperated the man that he could never figure out how to right their faults. Sometimes, when his frustrations were at their peak, the man’s eye might fall on the stone at the back of the garden. In that moment, all of his discontent would be directed against it, as if the stone itself were somehow to blame for the failure of the garden as a whole to match his dreams, as if things had gone steadily wrong since that day he’d made the mistake of settling for it rather than a better rock. It was at moments like these the stone wondered whether it should say something. Something that would help the man see what the true failure was. But then, stones don’t speak, do they.
Copyright © 2003-2004, revised 2009, by Geoffrey Grosshans