Peter Francis May

Rocks in My Head

n the south side, when you want to get rid of something that’s too good to toss but not worth selling you put it at the curb. You don’t need a sign. It’s understood; on the curb – free for the taking. Out there by dusk, gone by morning.

One morning on the way to work I drove past six large rocks on the side of the road; neatly spaced, smallest to largest, right along the curb, free for the taking. And, coincidentally, I’ve got the perfect place in my yard for a rock garden. All its missing is rocks.

So, one Saturday night, after SNL and most of a bottle of Cabernet, I remembered the rocks. I hopped in my station wagon and drove the half mile to this house with the intention of grabbing all six.

Now, I’m smarter today than I was that night. For example, now I know how to recognize granite. Now I know that granite weighs 208 pounds per cubic foot. From that fact I’ve been able to calculate that the smallest of my rocks weighs about 300 pounds. The largest, around 450. Well within my deadlift capabilities … 40 years ago. If I’d learned all this before that night, I could have saved myself some time, trouble and what now seems to be a permanent elbow injury. Though I wouldn’t have those sweet, sweet rocks.

So, unencumbered by facts and sober thought, I attacked rock number one. I managed to lift it, turn and step twice to the back of my wagon and drop it. Rock number two I was feeling the strain, sweating and questioning my sanity. Rock number three, I’m sober again, my legs are shaking, my grip is weakening and stubbornness is all I’ve got left. That’s when I felt the pop in my elbow. That should have stopped me but no, it was rock four that stopped me. I could get it off the ground but I couldn’t stand up. I think it was the 40 years. So, I decided, it’s only a half mile to my house and I own a hand truck … OK, maybe I was still a little drunk.

1AM, curbside again, I’m ready. I decide to tilt the hand truck so the blade is resting on the top of the curb and the handle is leaning back. I’ll just roll the rock onto the blade. I come around to the front of the hand truck and begin lifting. I’m just guessing what happened next; the rock rolled, hit the blade, stood up the hand truck and, well … has anyone ever been hit on the top of the head really hard? Stars? Lights dimming? I’m suddenly standing there wondering if I’m going to fall backwards into the grass or face first into Grange Avenue.

Again, thanks to shear stubbornness, I regained my wits and continued. Now I’ve got a rock on the blade of the hand truck but not far enough on that I can lift it over center. I’m able to get it off the ground thanks to leverage and my girth but with all my force directed down, there’s nothing left to move me forward. Finally I managed to work out a sort of rocking movement (no pun intended) that allowed me to lean forward a short distance and then catch the rock before it stood the hand truck up … all the time in serious danger of involving my genitals in this adventure.

Sunday morning I slept in. Until my wife woke me up to find out why there were rocks in the driveway. I explained about the rock garden and about “free for the taking” and she nodded and listened and then asked, “What if those rocks had just been delivered?” Like maybe that’s why they were neatly lined up along the curb.

Great. Now I’m haunted by lingering doubt. For a year I drove by every day, hoping to see someone in the yard, wondering if I should stop and ask. One day I got my chance and took it. Turns out the former owners had put them there but when this lady moved in she’d decided to build a rock garden but, before she could, I stole the rocks. I apologized and offered to return them but she said no. She told me the two remaining would be enough and she’d have her son move them into the back yard.

About eight months ago I noticed that one of the rocks was gone. I don’t know if some other neighborhood thief thought, “Hey, rocks! Free for the taking,” or maybe her son found out how much granite weighs.