(from the artist's collection)
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|The Found Stone
It was Thursday. By maybe ten minutes, which is to say that it was just before midnight. I was driving slowly along an unmade road, peering through the rain at the mud that gleamed moistly under my light beams.
I was lost, of course, but too angry to admit it. So I just kept driving in the grim determination that insisted that being wrong long enough, and loud enough, would make me right by force of will. The trees crowded in on either side, their black trunks almost invisible in the dark. The raindrops on the leaves gleamed and disappeared as my lights caught them and passed.
As if to make matters worse the road, not content to wind, had begun to heave into slippery, dangerous inclines and falls. The wheel fought against my hands, my knuckles grew white, and my teeth were clenched as tightly as my stomach muscles.
If only I kept to this road I would, I thought, eventually win the highway. Blessed tar and winking guide posts marching firmly along to my destination. Beside the mud road a grim, black body rose into view - a grotesque man-shaped log felled by the storms. My temper pounding as hard as my heart, I forced my way slowly onward, willing the tyres to grip. Willing the highway to be just over the rise, just behind the next corner. It wasn't. Exhausted by my anger, unable to judge whether my eyes were filled with sweat or tears of frustration, I dragged the car, sliding, bucking and resisting to a bare patch of Earth that my lights revealed lay beside the road.
The wonder of it is that I slept. Overcome by exhaustion, my adrenal glands gave up their merry manufacture and released me to a cramped, uncomfortable sleep.
Tapping awoke me. A lone man, looking concernedly through the misted glass. Behind him was a road, beginning and ending over less than a hundred metres. And beyond it, before it, behind it, were the trees; black-trunked, their leaves laden with rain, weighing the branches down to the wet earth below.
There were nature-noises, birds perhaps, and rustling creatures in the scarce undergrowth, and the rapping of my visitor.
I wiped the window clear with my sleeve. He looked unlike a threat, so I cautiously let down the window.
"Lost?", he asked.
I persuaded my locked knees to move back under the wheel, and twisted, ready to drive.
He nodded. He pursed his lips. He made the "hmmm" sound in his closed mouth.
"Most people find this place by getting lost." he said. "You lost?"
"No," I replied, "I'm heading up to the highway. I have a great sense of direction."
The man nodded again. He reached down beside the road and ran his finger lightly over the wet ground, questing through the stones. He grunted, satisfied, and dug out a smooth stone. Small, dark, grimy. The man's nails filled with mud as he took it from its resting-place.
He straightened, and carefully rolled the stone against his trousers. Cleaning the mud from the stone, sometimes passing the mud back from his trousers. He lifted the stone to his eyes and squinted at it against the growing light. Then he carefully, still in silence, polished the stone on his old, grey scarf. Finally he passed the stone to me.
I took it.
"It's a found stone." he said. "Your found stone. Once you have held it you can never be lost. Anywhere."
"Thank you." I said, hoping he'd leave. Hoping he wouldn't want a lift.
I slipped the stone into my pocket and started the car. It complained slowly. Beyond the next rise I saw the highway. I could have reached the highway easily.
As I moved along, my tyres rolling happily over the smooth surface, the found stone nestled itself comfortably amongst my change.