Lisa Beebe

The Rock on the Desk

It sat on his desk for years. It was just a rock. Rough-edged and gray.A little larger than a man’s fist. None of the kids remembered when he got it, or where it came from, but they knew it meant a lot to him. When he died, their father left them each the same amount of money. He believed in fairness, and loved all of his children equally, even when it wasn’t easy to do so.

        When the children arrived home for the funeral, their mother urged them to pick something from his den to remember him. They each told her, in almost the same words, that they didn’t even need to look.They wanted the rock from dad’s desk.

        There were four kids, and only one rock. The mother didn’t know what to do. She took the rock from the desk and told the children that she would think about it overnight and try to find a fair solution.

        In the morning, the mother had an idea. She went for a walk in the yard and picked up more rocks.When the kids came down for breakfast, they found six rocks on the kitchen table.Each one was gray, and rough around the edges.Each one was a little larger than a man’s fist.

        “Which rock was dad’s?”she asked her children.

        They each picked a different rock. All four were confident they’d made the right selection. They asked their mother which of them had chosen their father’s rock. She refused to say. Instead, she told them they could each keep the rock they had picked.

        Later in the day, the mother found a moment to be alone with each of her children. She told each one, in turn, “You chose right. Yours is dad’s rock, but please. Never tell the others, because they’ll be so disappointed.”

        After the memorial service, each child carried a rock home. The rocks were tucked in suitcases, wrapped in clothes for protection. The rocks were special.

         Back at the house, the mother was worn out from the stress of the weekend. It was only 9:30, but she was ready to go to sleep. She sat on the edge of the bed, and pulled a rock from the drawer in her night table. She hugged it to her chest.

Lisa Beebe lives in Los Angeles, where she sometimes talks to the ocean. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Pacific Review, Indiana Review, Switchback, and Psychopomp.