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The Sleeping of the Stones or Mae and Her White Teeth

Story by Cameron Brindise (Read author interview) September 23, 2014

art by Peter Sykes

I sit and wait for it. Father got it. Mother got it. I’m gonna get it.

There are five rocks arranged in a row in my backyard. I didn’t put them like that. The rocks look like gravestones.

From where I am, I remember things. I remember Uncle Bill with his hand in the fish tank at our holiday party. I remember mother with her black sweater and black pants. I remember my baby brother crawling these floors.

I move the rocks during the daylight hours. I put one beneath the forsythia bush and another on the first step of the front porch. The blue one, I cram into a hole near the evergreen, and the largest, on the front door mat. The last, I balance in the bird feeder.

I remember me too. My broken arm. My congested chest. My bible underneath the mattress of the bed.

Our neighbor got it too young. She was out shoveling snow. She left an imprint after they took her. It was cold weather and the imprint stayed there. I could see it from my window.

Every morning when I wake up and go to the front, the rocks are lined up again. It makes me pause. Look at them hard, even reprimand them.

My first funeral was the young neighbor’s. We went to the wake first. I wanted to push on her face in the casket—it looked like rubber. There were leather-bound bibles on every seat. I never read the whole bible, but I like the parts about god’s green thumb.

I imagine the tree of knowledge holding all earth’s soil in its roots. If God made man from a mound of dirt, the tree must have helped him.

Who’s moving the rocks? First, I thought it was God. I talked to him. I said, God, is it you? I asked him what he was trying to tell me. What he wanted me to know from these rocks. One time when I was really angry about it, I screamed, “God, why are you doing this to me?”

Uncle Bill came around for a while. He visited me on Sundays and when the weather was nice. He’d always have a bottle with him, and he laughed when I made him remember how his hand felt in the fish tank. He said it felt like a woman’s legs, and he’d gone back to it.

My baby brother got it before we knew him well. Mother blamed her body, called it poison.

Then I thought father’s ghost was moving the rocks. He played tricks like this.

Some days, I want to stay inside but only recluses stay inside all day and all night. They get amused by things like rain. They listen like it’s the world that’s closing in on them. Mother said the devil is one. But God created everyone even the devil, so he can’t be that different from us.

Once, sometime ago, an icebox salesman came to my door. I didn’t call him, he just showed up.

At the kitchen table, I stared across at him. He wore three sweaters layered one on top of the other. It was hot, and I told him to make himself at home. But he didn’t take anything off. He said his name was Thomas.

My icebox had been dying. The frozen chickens had softened. The hard peas turned from grayish to green. Mother said without a freezer, there’s nothing left.

Thomas looked at me, and his eyes were so dark they looked like stones. He nodded his head and pushed papers in front of me. On his left hand, his pointer finger was much shorter than the others. Sign here, he said.

Where? I didn’t see a line.

Right here, he pounded the finger down, and even though it was so small, it caused a commotion.

There’s nothing here.

Do you want this icebox? His voice was pitched high.

Water had begun to pool underneath the corners and the wood floors were in mounds like something was stuffed beneath but when I stepped on them, the planks sunk down and almost sighed.

I looked at this man again and saw he was serious. His black hair was jet and between each strand, you could see scalp. His cheeks were not red, but bluish or purple like the way I remember father’s toes.

I couldn’t see where I was signing or what I was signing but I felt around for what seemed right and put my name to it.

He grabbed the papers back quickly and flattened out the corners that were curling from the heat. His hands were dried up and crusted. Then he lit a pipe and sat back in his chair. What do you call yourself?


Where’s your family?

There is none.

What do you want from this life?

Safety, and things of that nature.

My house sits on green lawn with tall trees. Two trees are so tall and so thin that they look like legs leading into heaven. The sky is incredibly blue.

Mother got it in her sleep. She just didn’t wake up. I cried then I dialed a number and they came and took her body away. There was no funeral and I never saw the people that took her again and they never called to tell me anything about her body. The days just passed and the nights too.

Sometimes, ice begins hard falling on the roof of the house with a sound that booms like a waking up from a dream. I just sit and wonder. I think about how all things change as time passes on its way, but I never feel like change. What does getting more years feel like? I explore the house and test myself by closing my eyes and walking through it like a blind person. I find new things. Old things that I used to treat with care. I find a frog clock that my father gave to me. It’s grown smaller. And I think, that’s weird how all these things grow smaller and then I feel alone. The ice falling can get so bad that some of the windows break to pieces. Then the sun comes out and it’s like nothing violent has ever happened ever.

After, when I go outside, the rocks are lined up again perfectly.

About the Author

Cameron Brindise holds an MA from NYU and an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College.

About the Artist

Peter Sykes briefly played shortstop for the Bessemer Speed Boys before moving to Brooklyn to make art.

This story appeared in Issue Forty-Five of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Forty-Five

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