Stone Breakers

Image by Annabel_P from Pixabay

Cool wind whipped about the mountain side, whistling across stone and rattling rubble only to hush against the gentle touch of pine trees. Sunlight shone across a blue sky, glittering off snow caps and dancing about the lakes, and as always, the thundering thud of the stone breaker echoed across the slopes.

Little Jason marched out of the wooded highlands and ambled onto the road into town, and again he would stop and wonder at the one who laboured upon a great boulder. He was shirtless in the sun, every hammer blow sent ripples through his wiry muscles, forged over decades of toil in the mountains. As always, he would stop and lean on his sledge hammer as Jason walked by, he’d tip his hat in salutation with a crazy big smile that beamed through his mighty beard. Jason would scurry off, frightened despite himself, and the shuddering echo of the stone breaker’s work would continue behind him.

There were dozens of similar boulders littering the roadside, but he only worked on the one, hammering away over years to chip dust and chaff in pursuit of some unknown goal. “It’s not unknown, little Jason,” his mother would say when he asked about it, “just… unlikely.” But she would say no more.

“The boulders were left by a wizard,” his father would say, “the founders of this town did a great deed for the wizard you see, so he left them a gift. He said that a great wealth resides in each stone, and each founder would be entitled to it should they work to break it open.”

“The wizard locked up their gifts within stone?” Jason would ask, “Hardly seems fair.”

“That’s what many of the founders thought, so they scoffed and left this town. We’ve made good what we can without them.”

“So for decades the town has housed and fed this stone breaker? Sure he may have founded the town, but since then he provides nothing,” little Jason pondered.

“That’s not all he does, he greets every single person as they enter and leave this town—it makes this a community—he dissuades bandits and he warns us when someone does not return from the woods, like that time you scurried into a ditch like a little rascal.” his father would nudge him playfully at this. “He is as much this town as the houses, or the walls, or the mountain it’s built on.”

So one day, little Jason resolved to approach the stone breaker and speak to him. As he left town that morning he heard a troubling sound, or, did not. The stone breaker was not hammering as he always did.

In a panic Jason rushed along the path to the stone breaker’s spot and found his boulder split asunder and toppled outwards. Within the crater made by the boulder’s ruin, the stone breaker sat crouched, cradling a red ruby that shone brighter than the snow caps in the morning light.

“W-what will you do?” Jason stammered, breaking the stone breaker’s revelry, “Will you wander off now that you have your fortune?”

The stone breaker looked up and smiled that crazy grin, tossing the precious gem over his shoulder. “But then I would not get to say hello to you every morning, little Jason. I won’t get to enjoy the mountain air and keep myself fighting fit.” He punched the air with a cackle and hefted the sledge hammer over his shoulder as he stood. “I’m strong, I’m happy, I have a view to die for, and I’m a part of a family. Why, I met my wife here, greeting her each time she travelled up the mountain to trade. Perhaps that wizard really knew what he was doing. Maybe I’ll get started on the other stones now.”

“But the treasure?” Jason mumbled.

The stone breaker shrugged, “Take it into town for me, give it to my wife. She’s good with those things, will know how to use it to help the town thrive.  She knows what to do… and so do I.” He hefted his hammer and clambered onto the next boulder to begin his work anew.

The next morning, Jason was out there with him, on his own boulder with his own little hammer—given to him by the stone breaker’s wife. The two stone breakers worked together, hammering away, greeting the townsfolk and enjoying their little paradise on the mountainside.

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