The Stone

Laura held the dark stone in her cold hands. It was a cloudy, dark stone that matched her mood. The surface had tiny nodules that stuck up from the black surface as empty eye sockets sucked into eternity. The world would be a better place without this stone, Laura thought.

 

She had been planning to throw it at Mildred’s car. She lifted the stone over her head and hurled it at the windshield of the Lexus. The stone bounced off with a satisfying thud. It made a crunching noise, but it didn't leave a mark. The wind howled through the trees and brought with it a shower of dried brown leaves which danced across the yard.

 

She bent into the low job of moving another stone. Sweat beaded on her forehead and underarms and she stripped off her shirt. She kept moving stones until her arms were too sore to lift anymore. She sat down next to the car, under the shade of a tree, and looked at it, hoping for a miracle. Her shirt lay beside her in the grass. It let out a soft puff as the heat from her body rose into the air.

 

She had always hated crowded Tokyo. The streets were steep and hard and the buildings sat awkwardly on the earth, like a jumbled tower of broken glass. Their bony fingers scratched at the sky as if trying to escape their ugliness. She had not visited for nearly a decade, but the city seemed more bitter, more bulbous, and more orange. Its inhabitants clung to their homes as if each one was their last chance to grab onto a piece of life. The city weighted it, like an anvil that pulls the heart down with each step.

 

And then, Mildred was there. Mildred was an incredible juggler with shea butter lips and pink toes. The rumble of her voice was deep and rich. She tasted like a mandarin slice tangling in the throat, like a bouquet of wildflowers crushed in the fist. She tasted like a sugar cube melting on the tongue, like a mouthful of songbird feathers. Her lips tasted sweet and salty. Laura found it hard to focus on Mildred. Her eyes fluttered and she was pulled back to the aftertaste of bitterness in her system, an acrid taste in her mouth. The taste of her lips was always sweet and her skin was always soft and it was like the world was balanced. When she smiled, it made Laura think of someone who made songs from inside their head and sang them on the moon.

 

"What are you doing with this stone?" Mildred asked her. Mildred had a hardness to her, like a light flickering in a coastal breeze, like a butterfly fluttering in a tornado. Laura picks a stone out of the dirt at the edge of the road, dark gray rock with a gray speckled surface. She holds it to her ear. "It wants to be someone's dog."

 

Mildred was cutting up a pineapple. Her fingers were covered in juice and she lifted a piece to his mouth, but her fingers slipped and she dropped the piece of pineapple on the floor. She tried to pick it up, but her shoes slipped in the juice and he fell on her side. She laid down on the ground.

 

Laura looked closer. It wasn't Mildred at all. It was a Japanese businessman. He was tall and wore a pinstripe suit. His head was bony and he had bright, buggy eyes that darted from side to side, taking in everything like a gazelle when it senses danger nearby. His strangely long legs looked as if they were about to bend backward and his elbow joints pointed at the sky. His cheeks were hollow and he had a crooked smile, like some of the pictures she had seen of reptiles. His thick black beard was pressed against his neck and jutted out from under his chin like the branches of an old oak tree.

 

"What are you doing with this stone?" said the man.

 

Laura had a small, dull moment of clarity, like a single pollen-covered flower floating in a puddle of melted roadkill. She ignored him. She ran as fast as she could. She followed the stone into the city of Tokyo and watched it leap over the buildings. When she was a child, she loved to play with her dog, a big brown poodle that was two times her size. Laura would throw the ball and the poodle would run after it, bringing it back and dropping it in her outstretched hands. But the poodle grew too big to catch the ball. The dog was the size of a car and it would just sleep in the corner when she tried to play with him. She started to cry and the dog ran away.

 

A lot of cars in the streets were broken, smashed with big stones.

 

She ran to her apartment and sat on the toilet and watched the piss go down the drain. She watched the water wondering if there was a message in the swirling brown water. She took a magazine and read an article on the history of Tokyo. She read an article on making a salad out of crickets. She read an article on cultivating moss on your roof. She read an article on the five stages of a garter snake's life.

 

She was about to throw up. Nausea subsided for a few minutes and she tried to read an article about a tribe of people in the mountains who had never been exposed to the outside world and the people who were trying to bring them out of the jungle. She tried to concentrate, but her mind kept wandering to Mildred. She kept thinking that the person she loved was the one who abandoned her in that room, alone, with all the ropes and belts. Then she saw the shame in Mildred's eyes. She wondered if there was a way to tell Mildred she loved her.

 

Then she thought of the stone that was crawling up the stairs, scratching away the paint on the third step, dragging itself into the darkness of the house, through the darkness of the house.

 

Her phone started ringing and a text message popped up. Laura’s heart beat faster as she read the message. The phone said: MOM IS PREGNANT.

 

A burst of light shone through the thin ceiling and an enormous crack ran through the earth. She looked out the window and saw that the earth was splitting in half, miles and miles of new land were forming. She saw buildings and people and animals that had been frozen in time for a thousand years and then she saw the sky. The stars and the planets and the universe, cracking and dying with the rest of the world. The sky was expanding and bright and the sun was breaking up, dying with the rest of the universe. Suddenly it was gone and there was nothing: no pain, no sadness, no memories, no guilt, no souls.

 

Her body began to let go. She felt a pain in her abdomen, like a thousand needles, like a million needles. She felt something flow down her legs and onto the floor of the bathroom and she felt a sudden clarity, like a single blossom floating on a hot summer day. She sat back, feeling a little lightheaded. She looked down at the floor and saw a small white stone, a perfect oval. She picked it up and held it in her hands. She felt it between her fingers, the sharp edges, the smooth texture. She walked over to the sink and held the stone underneath the faucet, watching the water rush over its surface.

 

She sat on the toilet and thought about Mildred. Eros is like a disaster. The wind blew like swimming owls. "I am sorry," said Mildred, "to live in your memory." The screeching and pounding of the wind, the dripping of the rain, the clattering, and thumping of the wall. The storm blows, listless and morose. The wind takes shape, a single angry voice. Lightning cracks. Birds flee.

 

She watched the water rush over its surface. She wondered what Mildred would look like. She could dress her up in dresses and skirts and teach her how to be a lady. She could teach her how to do makeup and how to put on lipstick. She could teach her how to dress up in a fancy party dress, to wear a corset and heels, to even make her cupcakes.

 

She heard the flow of water and smelled the cow manure in the air.

 

A grey sky, thick with storm clouds, a jagged lightning bolt ripping through the sky of Tokyo.