Maybe This One

By Robert Garner McBrearty

You find a big rock, a beautiful round rock, perfect for pushing. You’ve never found a rock like this one before. The crowd that’s on the top of the hill is going to love your rock. You start pushing the rock up the hill. It’s heavy. Your thighs throb with the effort. You grunt, you groan, you sweat, but you don’t fall back. You stop to rest, putting your back to the rock and pressing your feet to the ground to hold the rock steady. You look away into the distance over a meadow and you remember that you found a rock in that meadow once before, a long time ago. A shadow falls over the meadow. What happened to that last rock? But this rock is different. This is the one! You set out again, and the top of the hill comes closer. People look down from the top. You grin. You’d love to wave, but you need to keep your hands on the rock. One more roll, one more, won’t anybody come down to help you? No, you don’t want that. But you wouldn’t mind a shout of encouragement to buck you up on these last few feet. Over the rise and you topple over on top of your rock, panting for breath while the people on the hill gather to look at your rock.

A tall, thin guy with a goatee stares at your rock. Did you push that rock all the way up here all by yourself? he asks.

Yes, I did.

He frowns. Well, get it out of here. We don’t need that rock here.

From the crowd, a mix of muttering and shouting: Nobody wants your rock! What a fool for bringing that rock.

Well, shoot. You fidget about.

The tall thin guy shakes his head. What made you think we need more rocks around here? He waves his hand at a field and you see them now, hundreds of rocks, thousands of rocks, rocks of all sizes and shapes, rocks everywhere.

This one is different, you say, but you hear the tremor in your voice.

He sighs, shakes his head. Yeah, that’s what we all said. Whatever. Roll it over there with the others and come sit with us.

You roll your rock into the field, and it doesn’t look too different from all the others, but you look to the right and you spot it. Now there’s a beautiful rock. Wide and round, chipped on the top as if some sculptor took a hack with a chisel, then thought better of it. There’s another hill, just up the way. They’ll need a good rock there. You give your old rock a sad pat. Good rock, you say, I won’t forget you. But you’ve found this beauty now, this is the real one, and you’d better get started. You’ve got another long hill to climb.

Robert Garner McBrearty is the author of five books of fiction, most recently the flash collection When I Can’t Sleep (Matter Press). His stories have appeared widely including in the Pushcart Prize, Missouri Review, New England Review, New Flash Fiction Review, Fractured Lit,  and The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts. He has been awarded a Sherwood Anderson Foundation Fiction Award and fellowships from MacDowell and the Fine Arts Work Center. He lives with his family in Colorado.

Art by Lesley C. Weston (Direct digital sketch: Pastel, Ink)

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