To Be Done
They had spent the better part of two hours moving a schist boulder four feet. A bastard child of some ancient glacier, it was part of a trail of erratics left behind long ago to piss off farmers for millennia. They were taking it old school. Two men squaring off against time, pressure, and the earth itself. Using hardened steel pinch bars for leverage, they pried that unwieldy two-ton mass away from its hollow six inches at a time.
Randall was there to help. He was a good neighbor, always ready to throw his shoulder into something, especially since he thought Fitzy was getting too old for that kind of thing.
Used to be five acres of cornfield that separated them. The drought had changed that.
“Christ.” Randall quipped, wiping his face. “Makes you wonder how the Egyptians did it, huh?”
“Yeah,” Randall exhaled. “ Funny they don’t teach that in school.”
Fitzy kept at it. “We got it more than halfway. Need a break?”
“Nah. I fear if I stop it might be for good. But take a look. Sure we’re not clear of the septic now?”
“Just about one more foot. Then I can get the tractor on it.”
Randall paused. “Alright, let’s do it.”
With no wind to relieve them, they pressed on for twenty more minutes. Even with the clay soil all baked out, it was a slog.
“You heard about that shooting yesterday?”
“Yeah,” Fitzy exhaled. “Saw it on the TV.”
“Hang on a sec, let me get under that more.” Randal pushed the black bar below a crag at the stone’s base. “Seems like that crap is regular news these days.”
“I was down there in the Air Force. Two years was enough for me to never want to go back.”
“I get that. But it seems it’s happening everywhere now.”
“I guess that’s true, too.”
Between the echo of metal pinging off the mineral, a killdeer, wings out and feathers up, squawked angrily at them both for being too near her eggs.
“Damn bird lays there every year.” Fitzy said, and shrugged. “Seems she should know me by now.”
Three years back Randall’s wife miscarried. He couldn’t help looking at that bird and hating it.
With a heavy breath they pushed on, putting their knees into the bars where they bent under the stress. The rock yielded one last time. Fitzy judged they were done.
Randall stretched under the sun. “Damn it’s hot. Think it’s ever gonna rain again?”
Fitzy leaned on his bar and shared a wry grin. “Sure it will. Then it’ll flood. That’ll be our luck.”
They stood there for a silent moment, unashamedly taking some pride in their effort.
“C’mon,” Fitz said, “let me get you a beer.”
They walked, still hunched and muscles swollen, into the cedar clad ranch house Fitzy had owned for the past twelve years. It was showing signs of wear, but for its age still had good bones. Kicks, the old Maine Coon, met them as they entered. Randall bent over to scratch her head in greeting.
The coolness of the house was welcome, but the low afternoon sun was warming the tiles in the kitchen enough for Randall to keep his arms off the counter. Fitzy opened a beer and handed it to him before grabbing his own.
“Thanks,” Randall said, taking a long drink.
“Couldn’t’ve done it without you. Need the bathroom?”
“Nah, I’m good.”
Fitzy sighed, suddenly serious. “You know, it’s the kids that get to you. If grown men want to go around killing each other that’s one thing. But when you start killing kids.”
“I can’t argue that,” Randall answered soberly.
“We are a sick nation.”
“You know why I moved that stone out there Randall?”
“I thought you wanted to put a bed in.”
“Sure. One day.”
“What do you mean?”
“Look out that window there. I look out that window every morning when I have my coffee. And every morning I see that stone sitting there.”
“Well, no matter what else happens, tomorrow morning that stone will be gone.”
Randall got it. Nothing more needed saying. He wiped his brow. “I’m glad I could help.”
Fitzy kept looking out. “Yep. We made a difference.”