[Author’s Note: I’m stepping WAY out of my comfort zone here with a rare piece of fiction here. I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship and struggle and some things that I can’t quite process yet. This seemed like a good way to try and make sense of some things that just don’t make any sense. Thanks for reading.]
The stonecutter lived in a small house at the top of a hill that overlooked the town below. Behind his house was his workshop, where he retreated every morning after drinking a cup of coffee, kissing his wife, and walking his son to school.
All day long, he would hammer away. It was hard but good work.
And each night, he would sit in a chair outside of his house with his friend, the painter. Sometimes the two men would talk about work – the painting and the hammering – or their families or the town or the stars or God, but mostly they would just sit in their chairs and smoke their pipes, watching the sun set on the town below.
Most days, the two men could be heard talking and laughing, the smoke from their pipes billowing in a haze around their heads. When there was something to celebrate – the birth of the stonecutter’s son or the painter’s marriage to a pretty girl from town – they would slap each other on the back and laugh a little louder. Other days, when the words and laughter didn’t come easily, they would offer each other a wry smile and sigh and sit. Together.
Their wives would shake their heads at them, annoyed with the smoke but grateful for the laughter that would occasionally sneak in through an open window. Their children would nestle into their laps for a few minutes before racing off down the hill toward the town, with its people, adventures, and opportunities.
Every so often, the painter would offer to repair the stonecutter’s chair, pointing out all of the discolorations, scuffs, and tarnishes, but the stonecutter just shook his head. No thanks, he’d say.
For years the two friends sat side by side, celebrating and grieving, laughing and sighing, smiling and smoking. When the painter’s wife died many years later and he smashed his wooden chair to pieces in a mixture of confusion, anguish, and anger, the stonecutter hammered him a new one with legs of stone. The stonecutter looked into his friend’s watery eyes when he set down the heavy chair, but he did not look away. They sighed deeply, in unison, letting the tears fall. And they sat.
And a few years later, when the stonecutter grew ill and could not leave his bed, the painter carried the worn and tarnished chair inside to sit next to his friend until the stonecutter grew well enough to return to his post on the hill.
Each year the cracks and tarnishes on the chair grew bigger and more plentiful. Like rings on a tree, they marked the years of friendship, the experiences shared and the challenges survived and the pleasures enjoyed.
For many years, the stonecutter and the painter would continue to sit side by side in their chairs. The painter’s chair chiseled in stone by his friend, the stonecutter’s chair worn and tarnished with memories. Each night, they would sit and smoke, talk and smile, sigh and laugh.
And every night, the stonecutter would look down at the twinkling lights of the town below mirroring the twinkling stars in the sky above, and he would say a prayer of thanks. For his family. For his friend. For his chair.
To the stonecutter, it was more than he could ask for. It was a tiny slice of heaven on this side of things.