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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 5: October 2020
Haibun Story: 480 words
By Terri L. French

Tzur Hei HaOlamim

 

Three times a week I come in to care for the old man. Pick up after him. Keep his coffee cup full. Make a simple lunch, always the same: packaged bologna on white bread, a smear of mustard on one slice, a smear of mayo on the other, two dill pickle spears on the side. On Wednesdays I wash his clothes, mostly flannel shirts, sweat pants, jeans. I’ve made it a habit to check all of the pockets after finding the rock clattering around in the dryer. The first time I almost tossed it out the backdoor into the weeds, but instead set it on top of his folded jeans on the edge of his bed.

Abe never says much. I bring him coffee first thing in the morning on the screened-in back porch where he sits at a desk all day, staring out the window or pecking away on his old Underwood. He always says “Thank you” when I set the cup down, but never looks up. It’s the same when I bring him lunch in the afternoon, and his daily two fingers of whiskey before I leave in the evening. And though I’m curious about what he’s writing I never ask.

But I do want to know about that damn rock. A small thing really, no bigger than the end of my thumb, grayish in color, flat on one side, with a divot on the other. Rather nondescript as stones go. One Wednesday, instead of placing it on his stack of folded jeans, I bring it to the back porch and set it down next to his coffee cup. He stops typing and picks it up, shoves it into his pocket, says “Thank you,” and then stares out the window.

After a moment I turn to leave, but he says, “That stone...” I come back and sit on the overstuffed ottoman in the corner. “That stone contains all of the stories I can never write.”

“Why can’t you write them?” I ask. “Are they just too sad?”

He sighs. “Well, yes, some are too sad, too painful. But some...well, some are just too beautiful for words.” He takes a sip of coffee then turns to look at me for the first time ever. “Someday soon I’ll take this stone”—he retrieves it from his pocket and rubs it between his thumb and forefinger—“and skim it across the pond.” Making a motion as if to fling it across the room, he says, “Maybe it will get a few good hops in before it sinks.”

mitzvah
what we take with us
to the grave

 

 

Footnote:

“The Tzur Hei HaOlamim is where the soul arises after having its embodied nutrients returned to the earth to nurture the cycle of life...” by Rabbi Goldie Milgram, quoted in “Placing a Stone” at shiva.com. Link retrieved in September 2020:
https://www.shiva.com/learning-center/death-and-mourning/placing-a-stone/

Terri L. French,
Issue 5, October 2020

her husband, and their dog live the nomadic life as full-time RVers. She is former editor of Prune Juice Journal of Senryu and Kyoka and currently serves on the editorial team of contemporary haibun online.

Author’s website: https://terrilfrenchhaiku.com

 
 
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