Author : Lynette Aspey

My grandfather was a stone disciple. I only began to understand what that meant when he stopped speaking and began to stiffen. Yet, even then, when the cost to him was clear, our neighbors still brought their sick and their wounded for him to heal.

I guess they cared for him, honored – perhaps even worshiped him – but they used him all the same.

He gave of himself to others but the cost of that giving etched lines into skin slowly hardening to stone. Strong and healthy as I was, I could only watch as his stubbled cheeks became smooth bedrock for tears spent on others’ pain.

I became jealous; I wanted him to give me something too.

One day, I captured and broke the wings of a wild bird and brought it to him to heal. Afterward, he could not lift his hand above his shoulder. He cried when she flew away.

After that, I brought him whatever I could catch so that he could lay his hands on them and I could watch as the stone took more of him.

Then came the day mother brought her sister’s baby home. The infant was strong, healthy like me, but it had killed my aunt coming out. I was curious. If I broke the baby, would he fix that too?

It cost him his legs. Afterwards, he stopped moving altogether and took root in the stone of our kitchen floor but he could still see, so now we watched each other.

It became our secret. I brought him things that squawked, or squeaked and squirmed, and I would break them in front of him.

Do you see, Grandfather? I would ask. I have power too.

Then the bird came back. It sat on his shoulder and sang into his deaf ear. I could see how it distracted him, how it brought something back into eyes that were rigid inside his stone skull.

I tried to catch the bird again but it knew me now and fluttered out of reach, dancing between his shoulders, then his head, then onto his hands.

Aha! I thought, as I went to snatch it up – only to be caught myself. Fingers so hard, so strong, curled around my own and held.

I felt him die in that moment, as he used the last of his magic to heal me, sick and broken as I was.