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A Tale Of Two Stones


David Robinson

Seldom had it been grasped tighter by human hands, never had it known the sweat of raw hate, the darkness of a man’s hand was darker than the ground it had struggled to be free from. It had been the play thing of children, a football at times why it was even used to skim across water by giggling youth and lovers on moonlight nights. It had spent days being pushed and kicked aside by angry humankind who cursed it for being in the way of weary feet and frustrated hearts. No pity ever flowed in its direction; no one ever gave it a second glance except when its kind was needed to create a place to shelter the ungrateful.

Small stones always counted themselves lucky, at least they would not be pressed into becoming a wall, at least they were independent but today gripped by anger, probed by sweating fingers they would have willingly changed places. Larger stones sitting pressed together on the road side could almost be seen to smile as they watched the spectacle unfold.

Angry man and unloved stone in unlikely partnership both as hard as each other, both unyielding and well matched. Both stone, one in heart one by nature, one driven by hate the other taken by force, one walking in his own will the other held in captivity.

One stone that was being squeezed beyond anything mother earth ever accomplished looked out from between a finger and thumb and saw his redemption. A priestly robe swished by in a hurry, hope of freedom sprang up before being dashed as it saw that even priests got angry enough to carry stones. How can this be that a man can be harder than I, that the most precious of all Gods creation, the one he created to be like him can have the nature of a stone? I was born a stone; I was born to be unyielding and hard but man? He was made to be my master better than I and yet here we are acting like we are both stones. The story of creation had been passed down from generation to generation, our ancestors the mountains spoke of watching God create from dust the man that today creates hate for another. I may be just the size of a man’s hand but I am old enough to remember better days, days when I was hidden in the dampness and darkness of the earth, days when I could not see such a sight.

I never asked to be a stone I was born a stone, I never asked to be changed I fully accepted my lot but this? I wish that I had joined the union of stones when I had been asked; I can see the benefits now at least I would have had someone to stand up for me. My political representative the Master Stone was on permanent leave of absence having been crushed by a cart. He never was much help anyway, as I recall he was only ever seen around big stones his own kind, the rest of us were too small for our voices to be heard. I had always tried to better myself, I always wanted to be recognized, always tried to be better than the dust that was to be my destiny. I had fought against this enemy of mine I tried to stay fit, tried to always look my best, I avoided confrontation with both man and other stones. One of my shoulders carried the gaping wound left there by my last fight; it was a Saturday night that a cart wheel hit me on the back of the head with a hammer blow. ‘Drunken dri!
vers’ I had screamed after him, dust dripped off an open wound, my once proud shoulder laid at my side. No ambulance came, passers by passed by, here I was wounded and they just carried on as usual with their lives, hours later a child picked me up and took me home. He was a Samaritan to me even though he unknowingly had left my shoulder behind; I had become his plaything all-beit until his mother threw me out the next morning. Back to my own kind back among old friends who would at least sympathise with my predicament or at worst remind me of my destiny.

The noise around me was deafening, scrambling crowds had joined together to make a mob, individual hate joined with corporate anger and I was an unwilling participant in their race. I found myself pushed through an opening in the crowd as my masters hand pulled and finally pushed its way forward to get a better view. What was the object of such fury; it must be a giant to need such an army of people to overcome it. Suddenly the hand that had held me so tightly gripped me even tighter, was this affection? Boiling sweat washed over me as I tried once again to see the source of such hate through narrowing fingers.
The crowd ground to a halt, the voices ceased at least to a whisper, it was then that I noticed fellow inmates, stones from the same street; I recognized many of them as we had been lifelong companions on this stretch of road. There was ‘Old Grumpy’ imprisoned just like I was, he was always one for moaning never happy, never smiling, always complaining about other stones. ‘Pride’ was there too, his fine flint no longer shining, he was just like the rest of us caught up in someone else’s war, and he had fallen just like many said he would. Out of the corner of my eye I witnessed an old twisted stone called ‘Bitterness’ he was the ugliest stone of all in our commune, no one stayed around him because he tainted everyone with his ways. I heard one young stone called ‘Backbiter’ cry out with pain as he was being crushed even harder than I was by a hand that resembled a shovel. Now she knows the pain that her words caused so many other stones as she carried tales and gossiped as a!
lifestyle. Old Mrs Whisperer was there too, still whispering even though she could barely be heard from her five fingered cell. We made quite a bunch all of us, me; if truth were known I was no better than anyone else, I had loads of faults; I needed to be set free just like everyone else.

Lost in my thoughts I almost missed the main event of the day, from my ‘cell’ I heard a rough accusing voice speak above the maddened crowd, it was so filled with anger and self righteousness that I almost shook at it’s intensity. Wanting to know the object of such an outburst I peered from my cell its fleshly bars yielding little, rags that move? A female form and yet as torn as her clothes, her hands and feet bleeding from many wounds, her heart stripped bare by religious mania.
Dignity had already fallen in a dingy back bedroom of her lover’s house trailed onto the floor by the same angry hands that now held us stones so tightly. Her so called lover was nowhere to be seen, did I say lover? An abuser more the like, and yet she had probably yielded her body to him seeking love and comfort finding instead betrayal and blame and finally shame. They had been lovers in the physical sense but I have seen that physical love almost always dies; I have watched many a young couple going from giggling teenagers to enemies sometimes overnight. People are a strange lot for sure, we stones have our faults but at least we stick together seldom ever fight, well not so that humans would notice.

Where was her so called lover, I pondered it takes two to make love at least that’s the way I had heard it said as smutty remarks were passed within earshot of us stones. He was nowhere to be found, at least I could not see him, and he was not at her side as she quaked in fear in the rising dust. Is there a law for one and not the other? It was then that I noticed something missing, there were no women among the crowd they were all men is anger a male domain or is it that women have softer hearts? The silence grew to an almost deafening roar only to be broken by the one who had thrown the woman so roughly to the ground. He spoke sneeringly to a hand that stroked the dust of the earth just in front of pains new victim, I pushed harder at the bars and because of the sweat born by the heat of madness was able to widen the bars enough to see the elected Judge sitting on the ground. Around him a crowd of onlookers, ears strained, eyes watched and curiosity won the day as the main man became the main man.

I recognized him immediately even though he looked just like everyone else (humans are featureless really not like us stones) there was no beauty that stood out he was well, just ordinary. I had seen him several times always with a crowd of people in tow, always doing good someone once said, I heard that he healed all that came to him, pity I am just a stone cause he could have healed my shoulder.

‘Master’ a voice sneered; ‘this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act, she should be stoned like Moses said’ oh now I saw the reason for our involvement this man was to be her judge and jury we were to become her executioner. Don’t they know that life is precious? Even we stones covet long life, we struggle against man and nature to keep our size; we never willingly give up even when beaten to dust.

‘What do you say? The voice of the chief accuser spoke loudly so that all around could hear his authority, he was a small man crouched over in his bitterness. His eyes ablaze sought for a sign of agreement from the judge, this man of letters, this priestly man had already judged the defendant guilty and merely wanted the well done of the gathering crowd. He did not want to hear the judges opinion all he wanted was his approval to kill the poor unfortunate who lay shaking with fear in her dusty dock. The courtroom hushed now as all eyes turned, all ears strained to hear the master give his judgement, the black wig was held in readiness, and we stones waited.

The judge stooped even lower; silently he stretched out his finger and began writing something on the ground almost ignoring the tempters who sought to judge both him and the defenceless woman.

Again the big mouth opened and bellowed ‘What is your judgement? Do you agree with the Law of Moses that this adulterer should be stoned to death? I had never seen such a stony heart; this guy was harder than any stone on my block for sure. The crowd having been whipped up all began to rehearse the same words over and over again louder and louder came the question until the judge himself stood to his feet.

Fingers readied themselves to loose the instruments of death; stony hearts became even harder than old Pride the flint stone, uglier than Old Bitterness. I readied myself; this was to be my first time in battle. Oh sure I had met others who had been bloodied in this strange human ritual but to be the cause of someone’s death was abhorrent even to me. Cruelty like this was never ever seen among stones and yet they call us hard? The air was electric, tense beating hearts performed a dance pumping heated blood faster around the fingers that grew ever tighter around me.

Then it happened, the judgement was laid down, no black wig, no angry condemnation of the accused, no sentence, just the judgement of wisdom. ‘Let him that is without sin cast the first stone’ I watched accusers become defendants in the courts of their minds as words ripped open stony hearts. On my left was a priest and on my immediate right was a Pharisee, godly men at least in the temple, respected for their religious ways, their traditions vital to their existence as leaders among men. Surely these men would be able to throw the first stone, they are the pillars of society and so we stones took a deep breath and waited.

The oldest man in the crowd whose stature was one of great pride suddenly shrunk as his shoulders followed the demise of his hatred, the stone that he had held so tightly dropped with a thud to the ground.

It was old Bitterness himself that fell so loudly, another thud followed by a rolling Mr Grumpy, and yet another as Whisperer and Backbiter fell close by, young Pride fell harder than us all as he was the largest and within moment it literally rained stones until the ground around us was littered.

Freedom was mine as I embraced the dust I had often cursed for blocking my way, us stones smiled in approval not just because we were free but because the accused was awarded freedom.

I love a story with a happy ending don’t you? Even old Grumpy smiled out of the corner of his mouth, Bitterness was however extremely annoyed, he just loved a good punishment, and he was always a ready to be used when someone was in trouble. Death was his constant companion, he was always the first to strike, he was the hardest of all us stones always ready to have blood spilt over his many faces. He was the one who stood up almost persuading others to use him to destroy life, he was always quick to speak against all who did not agree with him and devoured many in his time. He could break hearts with a whisper; burden those who were already burdened with guilt and tear down even the stoutest of stones.

If only he could have seen himself, how ugly he had become, twisted by hate and envy, robbed of youth and weakened by his words, foolish stone, I thought to myself.

Pride stopped rolling and settled at my side his many faces hardened by years of trying to be number one, top of the heap among us stones, His sneering face spoke first, ‘I was willing to be used to kill this woman, after all she is not like me, I am tougher, stronger, and more handsome am I not? She is weak and I am strong, she is a sinner and stones cannot sin, she is not as important as I am’ As he spoke his shape changed from cragged to plump as pride pumped himself up to his full height. I remember thinking, one day you’re going to be dust just like the rest of us then we will see how you react to being the lowest of the low. Pride goes before a fall and one day I thought you are going to fall and hard for sure.

Whisperer looked disappointed; the juiciest piece of gossip on the road for months and it had become dashed by forgiveness, what sort of judgement was that she was thinking, how can I get a good gossip out of such a judgement? She could have lived and dined out for weeks on such a morsel now everyone knows so her meal would have to come from some other dark corner.
Her friend and confidant Backbiter the terrible, contorted her face as she too realized that her opportunity to talk about the misfortunes of another was smashed. Both of them sat side by side hugging each other, brooding over the dilemma before declaring there is always another day, another victim to devour with their words.

What of old Grumpy? Well he doesn’t change; he has little good to say about anyone, always moaning about every stone he came across, always nasty in speech, a thoughtless pusher of stones. I often wondered how he ever got that way; Whisperer told me someone offended Grumpy, not just any old stone either, a family member which made things worse.

I digress, let me return to the days news, the crowd dispersed beginning with the older ones, amazingly they were scribes, Pharisees, priests men in long robes, God’s men? Sinners? How can that be, even us stones looked up to them as they swept the road unaware of our existence until one of us tripped them up. I remember them cursing us at times but you could hardly call that sin could you seeing every human I know does it.

Religious men, clothed like good men but acting like wolves in sheep’s clothing, wolves that had their teeth extracted forcibly as wisdom was wielded better than any instrument. Bitterness and pride reigns in mankind too I noted diligently, proud grumpy talebearers the lot of them, seems that the only difference between us and them is that we get kicked around more often and yet hold our tongue.

The younger men had held onto their stones longest running their lives under the microscope that the judge had set before them all until one by one they too dispersed, shoulders as low as their spirits, hearts crushed as they realized the truth ‘they were as bad as the one they were going to slaughter’ Perhaps some of them remembered the night of illicit passion with married women or young girls and sighed a sigh of relief that they too were not abused like the young woman they had tried to destroy. Perhaps some thought that if she was dead she would not be able to tell of other affairs she had which may have included them.

Imagine being willing to be party of such gross abuse just to cover up your sin, why I know of no self respecting stone that would be party to such a thing.

The street was emptying quickly now, even the onlookers, those without stones wandered off pondering their own sin, an empty street now except for the still weeping, fear filled woman and her judge. She would not lift her head as much as to look at her judge eye to eye, the dust was more comfortable than his gaze, will he abuse me with his words, will he condemn me as did the rest of these religious men folk? Thought followed fear in a race to escape but just then he spoke, his voice was astounding even to us stones, it was as though eternity spoke, as though the creator spoke in gentle tones to his creation.
‘Woman where are those that accused you, has no man condemned you?

Here was love so vast that it filled her emptiness, love that was real, love that she could trust began to heal her wounded ness and envelop her pain with healing ointment. She struggled to sit up but her body still weak from the beatings and sore from the verbal abuse refused to move. She wanted to see her deliverer, she wanted to say thank you but her head was as heavy as her heart, struggling with guilt, laden with condemnation.

She wondered would he abuse her, was he to be her accuser rather than religious men? Was he to stone her? She cut a pitiful spectacle as she struggled to compose herself, trying to cover her nakedness with bloodied, bruised arms and bedraggled hair.
His voice rang still as her mind dissected every syllable seeking for the reason for such kindness, when a full analysis was carried out she whispered ‘no man Lord’ what now she wondered, bowing her head expecting more stony abuse for her sinful act; the voice spoke again this time with even greater compassion flowing over each letter, binding words together with justice and love that would bring her liberty.

‘Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more’ The Judge had spoken, the sentence was passed not on the woman but rather on the men now scattered to the street corners in order to bind their wounds once again with the salve of religion and tradition...

She was free, never to be judged for the same crime, never to be trailed through streets again, never to have to seek love again because she found true love in the righteous Judge.

I looked around once again at the scene, the roadway littered with stones that had been removed from old buildings and walls by men only interested to see tradition win over compassion, law over love and mercy. Many stones moaned about the waste of a good day, me? I was glad that this stone was allowed to be part of setting someone free rather than be an instrument of their death.

Many moaned that they were a long way from home, me I was just glad to be free, by the way I never did tell you my name it’s Petros seeing I am just a small stone. Many other stones joined me in my delight, this man was worthy of praise from man, why even we stones would praise him if we could, he had not come to judge or condemn the woman he was there to set her free.
It was later, much later that we heard that the stony hearted religious men crucified the righteous judge, he had come to them and they did not recognize his goodness, a stone would never treat another stone like that, what’s wrong with these human beings after all they are supposed to be intelligent.

The world, well at least the street where we lived saw two types of stone today, one the stony heart of mankind and us stones. I wondered since if the righteous judge would judge us would we be found guilty of being the hardest of all or would it be those that were so hard hearted that they would have killed a woman just because she sought love?

What of the girl? She was free for the first time in her life, free from chasing love because love came and found her, here is a truth that humans should know ‘a stony heart can never be free, a stony heart is condemned by its action, stones like us however are never judged after all, we are only stones.

Makes you think doesn’t it?

David Robinson ©

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