Image courtesy of Andrew Mackenzie
THE PEBBLE ON OLD CHURCH ROAD
An old pebble, sitting on a bank, decided to fall onto the road.
It had been considering the move for a long time. It had tested the softness of the ground for bounce. It had measured the drop (16cm roughly). Doable, with a smooth dismount, without clipping the curb. There was, perhaps, the risk of a grazed knee but nothing it couldn’t cope with.
On the morning of the decision it had woken as usual, eaten its breakfast, combed its hair and sat back on the bank taking in the air.
There was a strange smell.
The pebble couldn’t put its finger on it. The scent had come on a new wind and it reminded the pebble of blueberry skins and the insides of faucets, cold feathers of puffed up hens and plastic building blocks, the hinges of garden gates, raw sausage and rain. And although the pebble couldn’t say why, the smell told it that it was time for a change. It gave it a good hard sniff.
Despite the fact that it had been using ample amounts of creative visualisation to mentally prepare, the prospect of the move still made the pebble shake, and as it stared over the edge, clutching a handle of grass, it felt really quite embarrassed. It did not know that nobody else was watching.
The bank itself was hardly a clean drop. The ledge jutted out enough, but the side curved in and back out like a halfpipe, and there were the pieces of flint, quartz, granite, the two shells, the bottle cap and that one shard of pottery sticking out. The pebble found it hard to motivate itself. It’s harder when it cannot jump high and get a good bit of distance between it and the earth. Being a small pebble, and an older one at that, meant that it could only really roll itself off and fall, which is not an easy thing to do.
So there it was, leaning over the edge a little closer, a little closer, and a little closer until half itself was off. All it had to do was tip forward and
It did it! The pebble felt the wind pass its face and take away with it all the fear the pebble felt. It wiggled and spun in the air and spread its toes and fingers to feel the cold in between them. And the cold excited it. And it looked forward to the ground.
And now every time a car passes the pebble on Old Church Road it is picked up and carried further where it sees new banks and new grass and new curbs and new roads and new pebbles, some of whom drop from their places and join it for a trip.
Soon, it will become the most famous pebble in all of Wolfhill, and rumours will tell you it was born from the Witches’ Stone. It will start its own school of thought in a few weeks; 5th Phase Communi-Peryageism. It will fall in love with the root of a tree. It will write a cookery book featuring all the local young sprouts. And it will even be given a recording contract after so long, interpreting local folk music with an electropop twist. And when the old pebble comes to the end of its life, as it has to, and will do, without a fuss, it will shatter itself into two dozen tiny chippings who will roll off to start their own adventures.
Some, they say, will even travel as far as Burrelton.
As she swings, he looks. On the downstroke of the seat, where she is standing, bracing, the draft catches her skirt with a fatty finger and lifts for him just a littleOop See? No. There is nothing there to see, but
he still looks.
Her knees bend and push and straighten and cut, forcing herself higher. He is eight. She is eight, and she has taken off her socks. He lies on the bark and watches her swing back and forth above him with her skirt and her knees and nothing to see.
It was a miracle really, such a life that circled as it did. Now boxed up in her half-beat regenerative sleep, just look at the girl.
Every white hair, every wrinkle, they’ve been pricked by an event, spreading like an unpicked seam free-forming tell-tale tapestries across her face. And around her eyes; the chalk colours of her home, the sun-catching folds of trips abroad, lamp sparks, embers of the sea, pictures of war, of quiet, smooth calm, then deep-set worry, those shadows of her family. Around her mouth; half-popped laughs, every new-year cheer, almost a hundred years of quick-kissed fancies, T-dimples from pouting disagreements, upturned corners of hard-to-not-smiles. On her head; a hair for every person in her life, a succession of strands bending to listen to her voice, waiting for her to brightly call out that she was “Never better!”
Rose Taylor is reading for an MSt in Creative Writing at Kellogg College, Oxford.