The jogger stopped to catch his breath, feeling his heart slam against his ribs. As he wiped his forehead with his already damp arm he stared up at the sun that filtered through his lenses. He popped the lid off the weightless canteen on his waist and sighed after pouring the final few drops onto his tongue. The jogger plodded over to a nearby rock and massaged his calves as he sat down.
“Do you mind?” A voice said. It was deep and resonated through the ground around him. The jogger shot up and looked around, expecting to see some disgruntled suit whose sandwich he’d just sat on.
There was nobody around apart from the school kids playing cricket in the middle of the field.
“Hmm.” The jogger sat back down.
“What do you think you’re doing?” That voice said, angrier than before.
“Hello?” The jogger called out.
“Hello, get off!” The voice said.
The jogger looked down between his legs at the grey rock underneath him. He raised an eyebrow and knocked three times on the cold stone.
“How would you like it if I did that to you?”
“Don’t ‘what’ me, young man.”
The jogger jumped off the rock and crouched, head-height with it and stared, his eyes and his mouth both wide open. The rotund stone was mottled with moss and dirt and the bottom was caked in damp mud from last night’s rain. It sat shaded by the trees and the rainwater had pooled in a small sinkhole on its surface, a woodlouse clung to the overhanging edge.
“Hello?” The jogger said, asking himself just what on earth he was doing.
“What do you want?”
“You’re a rock.”
“What’s your point?”
“Rock’s don’t talk.”
“Who said so?” The rock snorted. “Just because you’ve never seen or heard one, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Do you have a problem with that?”
The jogger sat on the tarmac and crossed his legs. “No, do you?”
“As a matter of fact, yes I do.” The rock raised its voice. “You sat on me.”
“You’re a rock.”
“So what. Does that give you the right?”
The jogger scratched his head. I knew it, I’ve overdone it and got heatstroke, he thought. He looked up and down the street to make sure nobody was watching him sitting there, talking to a piece of stone. The road was empty. The jogger rolled his eyes and stretched his arms out.
“Do all rocks talk?” The jogger leaned forward and extended his finger towards the stone.
“Have you tried asking them?” The rock replied, very matter-of-fact.
“What’s your name?”
“That’s not important. You sat on me without asking permission. How would you like it if I did that to you?”
“Can you?” The jogger said. His fingernail scraped along the rough surface.
“That’s far beside the point. Stop that!”
“Why?” He pressed his palm against it. The rock was freezing cold.
“Because I didn’t give you permission to touch me. Stop it!”
“You’re public property; I can sit on you and touch you if I want.”
“Who says so? Just because some fellow in a suit says he owns me, that automatically mean he does, does it?”
The jogger half-rose to sit on the rock again. It roared. The ground shook around the jogger. He jerked his arm back and shuffled a few feet away. The trembling dissipated. The rock snorted.
“Sorry.” The jogger felt his heart race. Shivers ran through him.
The rock said nothing. The wind blew from the jogger’s right and threw a pile of leaves around the rock.
“I’m gonna go now.” The jogger stood up. The rock sat silent.
The jogger left.
After a sleepless night and hours of self-doubt and fruitless internet research, the jogger returned to the park the next morning as soon as the sun cracked over the rooftops. Sure enough, the rock was there, unmoved and silent. The jogger said hi, but it didn’t return the favour. He asked the rock how it was doing. Nothing.
“Great, I’m going mental.” The jogger said. He gave a long sigh, tutted and sat on the rock’s wet surface.
“Oh it would be you again.”
The jogger smiled and hopped off. I’m not going crazy! He thought. Or am I imagining this too?
“Don’t call me that.”
“What can I call you then?” The jogger sat down on the road. The bottom of his shorts dampened.
“Nothing. I don’t want to talk to you.”
Wind blew through the silence and the jogger smirked as he knew that the rock was thinking of something to say next.
“Ok, I won’t call you Rocky.”
“So… How are you?” The jogger asked.
“Oh I’m alright, can’t complain. It’s not so bad being here. Had worse.”
“You mean Moor Park?” The jogger gestured to the road and the field behind him.
“I’m twenty-three. How old are you?” The jogger shuffled closer.
“I was chipped away a long while ago. Lot more than twenty-three years.” The jogger thought he heard a faint quiver in the rock’s voice. He moved beside it and rested his arm on the top.
“What are you doing?”
“I’ve never had a rock for a friend before.” He patted the overhanging bottom and his fingers came back flecked with damp moss.
“And you still haven’t.”
“Oh come on, don’t tell me you don’t get lonely here all by yourself.”
“Who says I’m alone? Look around. There’s the grass, the trees, a family of woodlice what’ve been living underneath me for weeks. You’re the lonely one here, sonny: Coming here at the crack of dawn to hang about with a rock.”
“Do they all talk too?” The jogger smiled at the possibility.
“That’s beside the point.”
“You always avoid the question.”
The rock grunted.
“I don’t know why you’re so tetchy. I bet you’d like having someone to talk to. Face it; I made your day interesting yesterday.”
The rock said nothing.
“Fine, be like that. I’ll be back tomorrow, or maybe I won’t. We’ll have to wait and see.” The jogger stood up and wiped the back of his shorts before leaving the rock.
“Hi Rock. I know I didn’t come around yesterday, but I’m here today and I’ve got a surprise for you. I’m going to clean you.”
The rock said nothing. The jogger felt as though if the rock could see, it was watching him, probably frowning. The jogger knelt beside the rock and pulled out a scouring pad, a bottle of washing-up liquid and a large flask of water from his backpack. The rock stayed silent but the jogger felt small vibrations in the ground.
The jogger squeezed the yellow liquid onto the top of the rock in a spiral and waited for an outburst. He raised an eyebrow when nothing came. Then came the scouring pad.
“Get off me! I’m not your friend! Leave me alone! I never asked you to do this!”
“I know you didn’t, I’m choosing to clean you.”
“Why?” The ground around the jogger was alive with rumbling. “You can shake the ground all you want, I’m not leaving. Just accept it.”
The vibrations died down. “Go on then, get it over with. Sooner you’re done, the sooner you get lost.”
“Yeah, yeah.” The jogger scrubbed the liquid until the whole surface was covered in foam and bubbles. Next, he scraped off all of the mossy patches.
“So, what was it like during the war Rock?”
“Noisy and boring. A lot of kids around too.”
“Oh? Hey, I’m just gonna roll you over a little-”
“No you are not!”
“OK, OK. How am I going to kill those woodlice?”
“You leave the woodlice. They don’t deserve that. Just leave them alone.”
The jogger looked at the rock, wondering hundreds of things at once about this inanimate stone.
Once the rock was clean the jogger stood up and rubbed his hands together.
“All done now. How do you feel?”
The rock said nothing at first, and then it grumbled “Thank you. Nobody normally takes the time to clean a rock. We’re just sat on or thrown or kicked around.”
“You’re welcome, Rock.”
“You do realise you’ve just spent a whole afternoon washing a rock, you weirdo.”
“You’re very welcome, Rock.” The jogger smiled. “So…”
“So can I sit on you?”
“What? You did all this just so you could sit on me? The cheek of it!” The rock scoffed. The jogger heard a very quiet chuckle. “Go on then, you earned it. But if you eat on me, you’d better not leave any crumbs or by gum…”
“I promise. Well, see you later.” The jogger packed his bag and walked away.
“Bye.” The rock sighed.
The next day it rained and the jogger took a hand-towel to place on top of the rock when he sat down. The rock grumbled at first, but soon settled down.
A short written some time around May/June 2011, published by the LEP on 13/8/2011
A jogger takes a short break by sitting on a rock and the rock’s not too happy about it.
Came from a conversation with a friend about things to do when the creative well runs dry.