A Kid and His Rocks

A Kid and His Rocks

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When Nick was a child, he was fascinated by rocks: the feel of rocks, the color and the texture, the shape and the size. He collected them by the boatload. And if he had a boat, you better believe only the helm would be free of his rocks. However, for as much rocks as he gathered, he was very specific—friends would say picky—of the rocks he chose. He had a system that he wouldn’t dare deviate from.

First, he’d look for a rock that stood out to him. The rock could shine or somber or have any color in between, but it had to stand out. To do this, he would walk at a turtle’s pace, being sure to survey as many rocks as he could with his brown eyes that moved back-and-forth like a fan watching Ping Pong. When a rock would pass the eye test, it then had to pass Nick’s feel test. This was a hard test to pass because, if he felt the slightest bit of discomfort from holding the rock, he would toss it like a…well—a rock. Very few rocks make it passed this stage, but if they did, they moved on to the final criteria: does it fit in the handbag.

There is only so much room in the handbag Nick carried; it was a small blue bag originally used to hold marbles, but the marbles had been lost in the Brother War of 1999, when Nick was cornered by his younger enemies (or brothers), and his only hope was to heave the marbles at their innocent, five-and-seven-year-old bodies. The mission was a success, but at what cost? As the marbles had disappeared under furniture that no clean freak would ever place their hand under. Anyway, the bag was small. So, and this brought Nick great sadness, he had to choose which rocks would have a place in the bag. This process would take hours some days, other days it would go as quick as a glass of lemonade on a hot day.

When he had his final selection, the rocks that survived the strenuous tests in the bag, he would carry them back to his bedroom that he called, the den. From there, he would wash them and dry them until they were without fault in his eyes, place them on his homemade shelves with the rest of the chosen rocks, and stand back to take in his rock-collection masterpiece. Perfect, he would say, just perfect.

The Friends We Once Were

The Friends We Once Were

The nails that used to cover his fingertips were now scattered on the hardwood floor, leaving only his skin to munch on. He tried to escape his mind, but the mindless chatter of the acquaintances he once called friends kept bringing him back like a seesaw.

“Bro…like…I can’t believe she didn’t respond to my nudes. She’s literally the worst.” Tim said; while at the same time using his hand to fork up chicken tenders covered in hot sauce.

He was sweating profusely and using the back of his hand as a napkin.

Back in high school, Tim was that guy: he was 220 pounds of pure muscle, captain of the football team, and his hair had the flow of a Greek God. But now—well now he’s just plain repulsive. His muscles turned into 250 pounds of pure fat; his football years are too far gone for any relevance; and his hair has gone like the ocean level at low tide. He was a mess

“For real?” said Erik. “That’s insane.”

Ugh, Erik. How have you stooped so low? Cormac thought to himself. Erik used to be his closest friend. The kind of friend who just says something and you know where his thoughts were going and where they came from.

They used to do everything together: make-fun of their biggest enemies, play any given sport on any given day, goof off in ways they could never do in public. It was a true friendship—even the name, Erik, was pretty cool. But years passed, and Erik spent more time with liquor and weights than with Cormac. Whereas Cormac began spending all his time with his wife and his thoughts. Eventually, those things took over their friendship little-by-little. And the name, the name that Cormac loved, was now ruined. Erik couldn’t go anywhere without over pronouncing the k: “It’s Erik, with a k,” he’d say. Sickening.

“Literally.” said Tim after a few moments of silence. “Fuck ‘er though,” he continued with irrational confidence in himself, “she’s missing out—he paused and gave his next sentence some thought—but it don’t matter ‘cause I have mad bitches on standby.”

Wow! I can’t believe she would do something like that. He thought; mocking their tone of voice in a sarcastic way. How could anyone ignore that body and not text back. His thoughts produced a genuine laugh. But lucky for him, they were all too drunk to hear anything and they continued their aimless conversation. Cormac, on the other hand, wasn’t drunk, not even somewhat, and his current setting—loud music, dirty table, messy finger foods, twenty-five-year-old drunks, dense talk—was testing his patience.

“Cormac?”

He was lost in his thoughts, and didn’t hear his old buddy calling.

“Cormac!” Erik with a K was trying to get his attention. Still nothing. Erik with a K, proceeded to throw a fry in Corma’s direction.

“What?—What?” Cormac snapped, not realizing he had done so.

“What’s up? You haven’t said a word.”

“Yea,” Tim butted in, “what’s your deal? Marriage getting to you buddy?” They all let out a laugh with that one. Cormac didn’t smile, his body was a stone.

“Yea, I’m fine. Just tired; that’s all.”

“Cormac.” said Erik, with an evil look in his eye that Cormac never noticed. “How’s it feel to be leashed up? Whoopash”—he made the sound a whip supposedly makes.

“Seriously? Back the fuck off!” Cormac said. “That’s my wife!” He kept going; his words had no mind and were rolling off his tongue like boulders. “I’m here ‘cause I want to be here! And I don’t come ‘cause I don’t feel like being around this nonsense.

“Whoa, look at Cormac, the new tough guy!” Erik said, now looking more intense than ever before. Tim was stunned, taking it all in.

“At least I can have a conversation without dirt or”—he hesitated—”chicken juice flying out of my mouth.

“Just shut up…Cormac! You’ve changed, bro.”

I’ve changed? No;” he chuckled in a menacing tone, “I haven’t changed in the slightest. I’ve,”—he paused…shot up from his chair…pressed his fists against the table like a businessman arguing his point, and glared at Erik with intense, lion-like eyes—”I’ve grown up! And I’ve lost all interest to deal with people who can’t seem to understand that. And now…well, now I’ve found my voice and I plan to raise Hell with it! He slammed his fists on the table to put an exclamation point on his words, and with that, he stormed out.

“Bro? Cormac!” Erik gave one final-effort to calm his once best friend; but he was gone.