Like all the pebbles before it, this one made a ripple in the water, just a little ripple, but a ripple.
Laura watched the ripples, listened to the birds, and waited for the next pebble to come. It did, again, a ripple. Still he was staring. Still Laura continued watching. Still the day went on with monotonous regularity. Laura stretched.
Another pebble. Another little wave.
He'd do that for hours.
Her back didn't like sitting this way. Her back didn't like sitting any way these days. She considered asking him to watch. No point in it, there wouldn't be anything coming for today. There was never anything coming up this old road.
He was so bloody quite these days. Whatever happened must have done something to him.
The hand reached down and scooped up more pebbles.
Laura wondered what they'd shown him in there. Maybe they'd just snapped his mind. But that didn't seem likely, he was just the same when he talked. He just didn't talk as much. He'd sit for hours just staring. Maybe he just sat there, but she thought that he was thinking, it would be like him to have so much to think about that he would just decide not to talk for eight or nine hours at a stretch.
Laura rose, arching her back to relieve the stiffness. The road was dusty, even this close to the stream. Probably should just call it a gutter and be done with it. Laura touched her toes a few times, and considered running through a few training exercises. She'd just get sweaty though, and he'd become a prude since that night, so she'd have to wash herself alone in the muddy little river, gutter, whatever.
Another handful of pebbles.
Laura walked over to the tree that held their food, and pulled out an apple. She walked back to the road, cutting out rotten spots with her little camp knife. Laura quietly crunched the fruit, then continued through the core.
He used to hate it when she did that, he'd make a face, then ham around as though he were being cut from the inside by razor sharp knives.
She threw away the core. He wouldn't be making any faces at her today.
Damn Peter for putting them on sentry duty in the first place. Stuck out here in the middle of nowhere, nothing to do, a silent partner who just stared at the water and threw handful after handful of pebbles, acting like his mind was working overtime, so that she felt guilty asking him even the simplest of questions or trying to get a conversation going.
Laura flopped to the ground on her roll. Let him watch the road for a while. It was just as contemplative as the water and the blasted stones. Gods, how many did he need to throw.
One every what, a second?
Yes, probably one per second, and they'd been here for two weeks.
You'd think he'd run out of pebbles, especially since he hadn't moved to another spot, always perched on the same stump, always reaching to the right side of it.
Laura lay quietly, trying to remember when he'd been resupplying the spot with stones. She couldn't remember, probably just too much sun. He had to be restocking it. But she'd remember that, wouldn't she? He was so still, if he moved he would make an impression on her. She'd say to herself, look, there he goes, getting another load of stones.
It would be that next level of time, from the pebble to the hand, to the gathering run, it would make the days seem shorter, but he didn't , he just kept pulling the stones from the right side of his trunk and throwing them in.
It was him that was making these days so long. He was doing this on purpose to drive her crazy.
Laura drew her knife from her sheath again. Somehow she'd forgotten to clean it. She could feel the sticky juices all over it as she poised it in her hand, searching for the grip which would end his life the quickest.
She was up and on him in seconds. He never stood a chance, stabbed through the heart and tossed into the water to follow his precious pebbles.
He, too, made a ripple.
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This work is Copyright (c) Mike Fletcher 1996