The Pebble - By Brian Law

Hearing him turn the lock on the back door, she waited until he entered and moved closer to her. Then, obviously annoyed, she asked, “Where have you been all this time? You just went out for a short walk and that was three hours ago! We’ve got a dinner party to go to!” 

As he took off his coat and hat and laid them down, he shook his head in response as he approached her. Slumping down in his chair, he sighed heavily and began, “I’m sorry I didn’t call, but things happened. Can I explain? Can the party wait for a bit?” 

Intrigued, she sat down across from him and waited, taking a quick look at her watch as she did. He continued, “Okay, I did intend to just go for a quick walk. But I got a small stone in my boot out by the old Jacob’s place and so I sat down on their stone wall to take it out.” He watched her for any indication that she might still be annoyed but got just the opposite impression. She was leaning in and was clearly expressing interest in his story. “So, I shake my boot and this small pebble drops out. And here’s where it gets interesting. This little stone looks nothing like any of the gravel on the path. It’s completely different in color, texture and shape. And I’d never seen anything like it myself. Ever.” 

She interrupted, “Did you keep it? Can I see it?” 

“Wait,” he replied, “I’ll get to that. So, I put my boot back on and am getting ready to head home when what’s-his-name walks up, the Professor who lives over by the creek. You know, the old guy who walks his dog all the time. Turns out he’s a geologist. What are the odds, right?” 

“You mean Dr. Weisenberg?” she wondered. 

“That’s him. He told me to call him Aaron,” he answered excitedly. “So he saw that I was holding this little pebble and asked if he could take a look at it. So, I gave it to him and he took out this eyepiece he carries around with him and he took a really, really close look at my pebble. And he’s mumbling and whispering to himself as he does. You know, sort of like what you’d expect from the typical absent-minded professor.” 

She looked at her watch, pointed to it and asked, “The party, remember? And did he mumble and whisper for three hours? Or is there more? Please tell me there’s more.” 

Smiling for the first time since he got home, he told her there was more, much more. “So, after he’d finished inspecting this little pebble, he gave it back to me and he sat down next to me on the stone wall and wanted to know where I might have picked it up. He’s really excited. I could tell. So I asked him straight out - ‘What’s so interesting about this little pebble?’  . . . and that’s when he offered to buy the pebble from me. Just like that! Cash!” 

“You’re kidding? How much?” she asked, forgetting all about the party, and watching him closely. 

Grinning, he replied, “Five hundred bucks!” 

She said nothing, expecting her husband to show her the money, but he didn’t. Instead, he continued, “I told him I’d like to have the little rock appraised before I gave him my answer. And that’s when he raised his price to five thousand bucks! Five thousand! Right there on the spot. He took out his checkbook! Can you believe it!” 

“Wait, wait,” she urged him. ”Is it possible that he lost the pebble and was actually out there searching for it?  Did that cross your mind?” 

“Yep. Exactly my thinking. So I played hard to get. I shook my head, stood up and again told him I think I ought to get it appraised . . . but that I’d give him first dibs on the rock when I got an independent appraisal.” 

“Oh, this is getting good,” she said, completely absorbed by his story. “So, what did the Professor do then?” 

“Well, he looked at me and then asked me to sit back down on the stone wall. He said he had something important to tell me about the pebble, something that might change my mind,” her husband related. “So, I sat back down and he started to tell me this story. And after he finished, I gave him the pebble and came home.” 

“You just gave him the pebble! He was willing to pay you five thousand dollars, but instead you just gave it back to him!” she yelled, jumping to her feet, clearly upset. 

“You haven’t heard the story,” he calmly said. “Please, sit, and maybe you’ll understand after I’ve finished the story.” 

Still upset, she sat stiffly and waited for his answer. “Okay, here it goes,” he began. “It was early 1943 when Aaron and his family were taken from the Warsaw Ghetto to a concentration camp. He never saw his mother or sisters again, but he and his father and three brothers were housed in the same barracks together.” 

“Oh, my God!” she uttered, a horrified look on her face. 

Her husband continued, “And one night his father got them all together and showed them a rock he’d picked-up in the yard. He told them that each day one of them would have custody of the rock. And that whenever possible the one with the rock would roll it over and over in their hands and . . . “ 

She interrupted and finished his sentence in a voice shaken with pain, “ . . . and would work to smooth the rough edges off the rock. And as they did that they would forget where they were and remember their family. Am I right?” 

“Yes, and he was the only one to survive and today he was walking the path with the pebble in his hand  .  .   . and he lost it! Can you imagine?” her husband managed to mutter. 

“And then there you were with it in your hand! It must have been like a miracle to him!” she said, her face brightening with joy. 

“But the strange thing about it is that I was wearing high boots with my pants legs over them. No way that pebble could have gotten into one of my boots! No way!” he said, puzzled. 

She got up, went to him and put her hand on his shoulder. “Oh, there’s a way, alright. There’s a way.” 

End

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