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The Missouri Review 29.2 (2006) 52-57

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Our Stone

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I found a large brown boulder one day and I decided to bring it in. I put it in our living room and then, to please my wife, swept up the trail of dirt it had left on our carpeting. The big brown boulder sat there like it owned the place. I could almost see it cross its arms. Its top was pointy; it had a big bulging belly and a squat base.

My wife came into the room. "What's that doing here?" she asked. She pointed with her chin, a habit that has always bothered me, as I prefer people who point with their fingers.

"It's a big brown boulder," I said.

"Why's it in our living room?" she said, and the words "living room" echoed in my mind: living living living room room room. Sometimes this happens to me. I cannot stop a phrase or a snatch of song. If I take a minute to analyze, then the reason becomes clear. "Living room," I thought. Every thing in the world has its opposite, I thought. Black white. Cold hot. High low. What is [End Page 53] the opposite of living room? A dying room? and where, in our house, was that?

"I don't want it in here," my wife said. "You didn't even consult me."

"But it's very . . ." I paused, staring at the rock. Sun slanted across its flanks, and flecks of mica embedded in its body glittered. It was a thoroughly ordinary rock, but it didn't feel that way to me.

"You make all the decorating decisions," I said. "Look around you." And we did. We saw her couches with their floral slipcovers and the coffee table of distressed pine and in the bedroom the whitewashed four-poster bed, when really, why not a futon on the floor?

"My decisions," she said, "reflect a basic consensus about what is normal and what is not."

"In this society maybe," I said, "but do you think that a Pygmy owns a china hutch?"

"We're not Pygmies," my wife said. She had that angry look.

"Well, then," I said, "what are we?"

"You tell me," she said. She gave the rock a swift kick and left the room.

She didn't talk to me for two days. This is not unusual. Find me a marriage, I say find me a marriage anywhere in the world where the couple doesn't fight. Even the Pygmies fight. Arguments are cross-cultural.

Eventually, though, the silence wore me down and I decided to get rid of the rock. I opened our front door, leaned into its mass with all my weight and pushed, but the rock wouldn't move.

"Juliet," I called. "Juliet, come here." She pushed. too. Her hands on the granite looked so small and white, like two tiny starfish, and I fell in love with her for the four thousandth time. The rock wouldn't budge. I became so frustrated that I, too, gave it a swift kick. Juliet smiled when she saw this. "It's okay," she said. "We'll live with it."

So we did. The fact that I had been able to roll the rock in but not out bothered me. It was as though, once domesticated, the boulder had somehow gained weight. Or, perhaps, when outside the house, I have a certain strength that domesticity denies me. I began to use the rock, which sat stuck in the middle of our living room, as an exercise machine. I lay down on my back and pushed against it with my legs. I leaned into it and firmed my flanks. I climbed on top of it and did my push-ups, and my stomach grew strong, but still, we couldn't move the rock.

We grew used to having a huge boulder in the middle of our living room. It became, eventually, a part of who we were. We began to incorporate it. [End Page 54...


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