He should have gotten off at Middlefield, but he has no ticket. He turns out his pockets slowly, not to attract attention, cupping his jackknife–they might confiscate the jackknife. But not his rock. He forgot the agate, but he always has it, or it has him, remembering all his pockets like a man remembers where he slept. Shiny even with the varnish worn off, white and black lines between blotches of red blood and chili beans. He asks the stone where he’s going, reads the lines like music. He hears the press of magma from the violence of its birth, heat rising, cracking cool. Grassroots intrude, then probing mesquite and live oak searching for water, and that moment the cliff fell, skein of basalt unraveling like the bus on a downward slope, no brakes. No ticket. If pressed he can show the driver his rock, must be worth something. He changes seats, farther back. Don’t be shy, she says, everyone has a rock. Look, mine is sandstone, a chip from my mother’s fireplace. Only she wasn’t my mother. They found her waiting at a bus stop. Not waiting for a bus; she had just gotten off. She kept her rock on the mantle to prop the short leg of her chair. But that would have scratched the hardwood, pegged oak like a mansion. He studies her eyes, sees a bare concrete floor rimmed with gray dust. Your rock is pretty, she says, looks like limestone. Do you have any money?
Terry Tierney’s collection of poetry, The Poet’s Garage, was published by Unsolicited Press in May 2020. His poems and stories have recently appeared in Rust and Moth, Fiction Pool, Typishly, The Mantle, Valparaiso Poetry Review, The Lake and other publications. Lucky Ride (Unsolicited Press), an irreverent Vietnam-era road novel, is set to release in 2021. His website is https://terrytierney.com.
A Song for Terry