• Vol. 06
  • Chapter 01
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His Mother’s Rock

Sedimentary rock is formed from the particles of things that once lived. The rock is fairly soft and may crumble.

In the chair beside the bed, Antony waits for them to take his mother. Not long now, he says. It is cold in the micro-climate of this make-shift refrigerator. He is wearing three pullovers.
The room is plain, apart from the postcards lining the mantelpiece: a sun-bleached Turkish wall; London Bridge with its jaws open; a coral reef; a lighthouse with scarlet stripes. One, he has cut into the shape of a crown. It made his mother laugh, the sight of her grown son playing dress-up. I am your prince, he had said, kissing her slender hand as if the act might bestow magic on her shrinking, yellowing self.
He places the crown on his head and chooses a video from the pile beside the telly. His mother had the colour all wrong. A too-pink Doris Day sings about windy cities but it doesn’t seem right, all that smiling and sunshine, so he turns to the snooker instead.

Metamorphic rock is formed under the earth’s surface due to intense heat and pressure. It may have ribbon-like layers.

The green baize of the snooker table is almost phosphorescent, like something scooped from a pond. While the snooker man chalks his cue, Antony strokes his mother’s still-warm hand. Just him and her and the sound of snooker balls being pocketed in some far off room.
Their world has always been small; no one else has dared step inside. Trips to the corner shop for tomato soup, a string bag swinging at his side. Evenings cataloguing his collection of rocks. Reading the latest postcards. He asked for them, when each class left. I want to see you out in the world, he said. And they obliged: the Great Wall of China, the limestone pavements of Malham Cove, the excavated city of Pompeii, buried under dust for so long. Sir, they said, you would love it here!


His Mother’s Rock

Their messages were scattered with exclamation marks, a sign of their youthful exuberance. They described for him the stacks carved by the sea, straight as sentries; the strange boulders left behind by a retreating glacier; the fierce heat at the lip of an active volcano, the way the molten rock moved like syrup beneath its blistered, blackened skin, just as he’d told them. You know so much about the world, they said. And all of it from books.

Igneous rock is formed when magma cools. Sometimes this happens beneath the surface. Other times, it erupts onto the surface and cools quickly, causing tiny holes and spaces in the rock.

You, to me, are like these rocks, she’d said, fingering the precious samples in his collection. He kisses those fingers as the warmth ebbs from them. Not long, he says, and he recognises the shifting molecules, the re-ordering of things inside. He knows that he must learn the world anew.