I cast my stone, p.1
I Cast My Stone, page 1
I Cast My Stone
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For my beloved Clairee
I miss you more each day
I cast my stone into a pond. I watched as a turtle swam through the ripples it created. He was headed into the path of a snake and the ripples made him change his course of direction to a safer path.
I watched as a duck and her ducklings rode the tiny little waves of the ripple; just sitting there, enjoying the bobbing sensation of the water. Beneath the surface, tiny vegetation flowed in rhythm to the ripples of my stone. The mama duck showed her little ducklings how to provide for themselves from the fluttering vegetation.
As the ripples expanded, they shook the reeds along the bank. Ladybugs and beetles came out of hiding and went about their daily business. The ripples shook the dewdrops from an intricate spider’s web. Insects scurried from the trap while the spider scurried along the vibrating threads.
And the daily life cycle began.
I sat in my favorite coffee shop, reading my favorite local news magazine. My familiar waitress served me coffee, but she was not her usual cheerful self. So I asked her what was wrong.
She sighed and shook her head, her red curls bobbing with the motion.
“It’s this dead end job,” she said. “I’ll never get anywhere with it. And it doesn’t pay well enough for me to go to school.”
I nodded. “I understand where you’re coming from,” I said. “But it is a job. Always be grateful you have that. No matter what it is. But do you have a dream?”
Her face brightened. “Oh, yes. I want to be a dancer.” She placed the coffee pot upon my table and, much to the delight of everyone, she performed a perfect pirouette, then bowed to the applause.
“You know,” I said, “I was looking through this news magazine and I saw this.” I folded back the page to show her an ad. “The local theater is auditioning for dancers. There’s no pay in it, but you would be dancing.”
She picked up the paper and gazed at the ad. “Oh, wow. Can I keep this?”
“Absolutely. I can get another one just outside.”
I walked around the town square, treasuring such a beautiful day. I noticed a young black man sitting on a park bench across from a convenience store. He was dressed in a black t-shirt with the sleeves cut out, black jeans and black tennis shoes, the silver stripes on them the only color to his wardrobe. He leaned forward with his elbows on his knees, hands clasped tightly before him, his ebony skin stretched taut with tension across his muscular arms. His face, though young and smooth, reflected the despair he so obviously carried upon his shoulders.
“Hello,” I said.
He looked up at me, surprised that anyone would speak to him. “Oh, uh, hello.”
“Do you mind if I join you?”
“No. Go ahead.”
As I sat on the bench, I noticed a sketch pad beside him.
“Are you an artist?” I eyed the pad.
“Yeah. Well, sort of. I’ve never been to art school or anything.”
“May I?” I tentatively reached for the pad.
“Sure. Go ahead.”
I opened the pad onto another world. Colored-pencil drawings displayed beauty and grace in the people he drew: a baby in her mother’s arms, a merchant placing oranges in a basket, a wide-eyed child letting go a balloon. Clean lines formed the edges of cityscapes. You could almost hear the playful kitten purr, the spotted leopard roar and the pandas bleat out a greeting.
“These are beautiful,” I told him. “Have you ever considered selling these?”
He looked as though the thought had never occurred to him. “Oh, no ma’am. I’m not that good.”
“Oh, but you are,” I said.
“Thank you,” he said humbly.
I looked closely at this young man. Despair was etched into his young face: the deep lines across the forehead, dark circles surrounding puffy brown eyes, the taut muscles along the shoulders, the thin lips and firm set chin.
“If you don’t mind my asking,” I said, “are you all right?”
With that question, his shoulders sagged. With a very deep and long sigh, his tension seemed to seep out of him, leaving behind a weary soul.
“My mother has been sick for awhile now. She hasn’t been able to work. I’ve been looking for a job everywhere but I have no experience and no one will hire me. The phone’s been cut off. The electricity will be next. The mortgage is behind.” He sighed again, glanced at me, then looked back at the convenience store. “I don’t know why I’m telling you this, but I was thinking about robbing that convenience store.” After a moment of silence, he said, “Huh. But that’s what everybody expects a black man to do, isn’t it? Rob a convenience store?”
I said quietly, “Not everyone.” The young man looked at me. “Take a look at the building to the left of the convenience store. What do you see?”
He looked at the building across the street. “It’s a news magazine.”
“It would take a lot more courage to walk into that office, show them what you have and ask if you can be an artist for them.”
He considered that for a moment, then shook his head. “They probably have artists on staff. I don’t have any college or formal training. They’ll probably say no.”
“With an attitude like that, they probably will,” I said. “But either way you go, you have a 50-50 chance.” I stood and handed him his sketch pad. “You take care, now,” I said. “In all you do.”
I walked away and then looked back. The young man stood on the sidewalk between the two buildings. I prayed that his decision would be the right one for him and I left him there.
I volunteered in a women’s shelter, making and serving meals to women seeking hope in a safe haven. I placed food before a mother and her two children. The children ate the food with gusto. The mother’s tears fell into hers.
As her children finished their meals and went off to play, I sat across from her. “What’s wrong?”
She wiped her eyes on a napkin and said, “I just never planned on ending up in a homeless shelter. I just feel so hopeless.”
“But, honey, it’s called a homeless shelter, not a hopeless shelter.” She blew her nose and looked at me. The light brown of her Latino skin enhanced the blue eyes. “Tell me what happened.”
“My husband left me and the kids. He never wanted me to work, so I didn’t. Then we lost everything in a fire and my ex-husband got the insurance check because it was in his name. So much has happened and now he can’t be found anywhere to help. I just don’t know how I am going to provide for my children.”
I allowed her a few tears before saying. “For now, at this moment, you have shelter and food for you and your children. Have you any thought about what you need to do next?”
Her tears abated as she gave this question consideration. “The first thing I need to do is get a job.”
“What kind of job?”
She thought for a moment. “Well, I majored in journalism in college. I love writing.” She hesitated. “But I don’t even have any interview clothes.”
A half hour later, her children under the watchful eyes of other moms at the shelter, she and I were at a thrift
“You can find the most incredible bargains at a thrift store,” I said. “Always remember that.” I handed the woman a smart-looking black ensemble with a starched white shirt. “Try this on.”
As she admired herself in the mirror, a worried expression clouded her face. “I don’t know if I can accept this. It’s too,” she paused to find the right word. “Generous.” Then she muttered, “I hate taking charity.”
I shook my head. “This isn’t charity. This is a helping hand. Something everyone needs now and then. All I ask is that, someday, when you are able, you pass it along.”
She looked at me in the mirror. “I can do that.”
As she turned around, keeping her eyes on her reflection, I said, “Looks to me like you’re ready for your interview.”
“I live in a women’s shelter. What do I tell them?”
“You tell them the truth. Life gave you a set of circumstances that brought you to this place. You are now ready to stand up and move forward. If they have an ounce of human compassion, they won’t let that stand in the way of hiring you.
“Just remember that it doesn’t matter what brought you here. What matters is where you go from here.”
She smiled. “I can pretty much go wherever I want from here.”
I returned her smile. “And hold your head up while you’re getting there.”
Several months down the road, I sat in my favorite coffee shop. My new waitress served me coffee with a smile. She enjoyed getting people what they wanted and offering friendly conversation in the bargain. She loved her job. That was as it should be.
On the cover of the news magazine was a beautiful colored-pencil rendition of my ex-waitress. The art truly captured the very essence of the grace and beauty of her dancer’s pose.
The artist was a young black man who once considered robbing a convenience store.
The story was written by a Latina woman with two children who once lived in a homeless shelter.
I cast my stone . . .
Whose lives will your ripples touch today?
by Jaleta Clegg / Science Fiction & Fantasy / Young Adult / Humor and Comedy have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on16 votes