The Magic Rock, a short story by Jim Bates at Spillwords.com
Ralph Nas

The Magic Rock

written by: Jim Bates

 

It was the afternoon of Halloween when the bell rang at the entrance to his small shop, Rock Hounding. Cal looked up from behind the counter, happy to see it was Cindi, a friend who lived in an apartment a block away with her young son and her sister. It’d been a week or so since he’d last seen her.
He smiled a greeting, “Hey there, stranger. How’s it going?”
She grimaced, “Not so good.” She joined Cal at the counter as he pulled up a stool for her to sit.
“Sorry to hear that. What’s up?”
Gratefully she sat down. “It’s that idiot customer again. He was in last night.”
Cal’s shop was in the Tangletown neighborhood of Minneapolis, a mile from downtown. Cindi worked at a nearby bar, The Rusty Nail, and had started getting hassled by one of the new regulars, a guy she referred to as The Jerk.
“Can’t your boss do something?”
“No. He likes it that the bonehead and his buddies drink like crazy and spend tons of money. Never mind the fact that they never leave much of a tip.”
“That sucks big time.” Cal frowned, turning serious as he thought for a moment. “You know, I might have something to help. If you’re up for it that is.” When Cindi gave him a questioning look he said, “You know what my shop is all about, right?”
“Yeah. You sell rocks. What of it? I don’t see how they can be of any use. Unless you’re thinking I should throw one at him.”
Cal smiled, “No, my rocks aren’t for throwing. Just hold on a second.” He went to a display, took a rather non-descript grey rock from it, and handed it to her. It was the size of an orange and surprisingly heavy. “Yeah, I have rocks for people who want to buy them, collect them, or polish them. But, I also have some special ones and this one is very special. I found it years ago on the north shore up near Canada. It’s a Lake Superior Agate. Plus, today is Halloween. It gets even more special around this time of year. Hold it. See how it feels.”
“Hold it?” She took the rock in her hand. “What are you getting at?” Then she paused before saying, “Oh!” A wondrous expression appeared on her face as a feeling of warmth made its way from the rock into her palm and the tips of her fingers. Then it spread up her arm, across her shoulders, and down, until it filled her entire body with a feeling of comfort and a sense of pleasant security – like being wrapped in a warm quilt that her grandmother might have made. She felt wonderful. She also felt confident. Like she could do anything. “This feels great,” she exclaimed.
Cal was relieved. Not everyone experienced what his friend just had. “Yeah, it’s got some real magic going for it,” he said. “I call it the rock’s mojo. It’s a very special feeling. Not everyone gets it, but it’s what you’re experiencing right now. You and the rock have a connection, a bond of sorts. You’re meant to be together and that’s great because it might help you. Being that it’s Halloween makes it even better.”
Cindi smiled at him. She felt relaxed, not as tense as when she first came into the shop. “It feels wonderful, but I don’t understand what it can do to help me.”
Cal leaned close and said, “Just listen and I’ll tell you.”

***

Later that night there was a knock on the front door of the shop. Cal lived in the back and had been waiting for it. He hurried and let Cindi in.
“How’d it go?” he asked, leading her to the stool he already had set in place for her at the counter. Truth be told, he’d been worried. The magic mojo of the rock didn’t always work the first time.
Cindi allayed his fears when she grinned. “It went great.”
Cal breathed a sigh of relief. “Excellent. Hold on. I brewed some fresh coffee for us. Let me get a couple of mugs and then you can tell me about it.”
When they were settled, Cindi began her story.
“When I got to work, The Jerk and his buddies were at it again, dressed up in some stupid Halloween costumes and acting out, being loud and obnoxious. I was dealing with them just fine by trying to ignore them until The Jerk took things too far. He pulled me into his lap, laughing, and said, ‘How about a little cuddle, sweetheart?’ or something like that. I jumped up but he grabbed for me again.”
Cal shook his head. “Man, I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Not to worry,” Cindi said. “I had it under control. I slapped his hand away and yelled at him, ‘Not on your life, buddy.’ He just laughed harder and said, ‘What are you going to do about it?’ He was actually threatening me. Well, I’d had it. I was beyond angry and ready to fight back.
“While The Jerk laughed at me some more and called me names, I ran into the back room where I kept my purse. I took out my magic rock and immediately felt its weight and its warm glow – its heat. It gave me the confidence to do what I needed to do. I literally sprinted back to The Jerk’s table.
“When he saw me coming he got to his feet, rather unsteadily, I might add, and said, ‘Well, well. The lady’s back for more. Come here little darlin.’
“I stopped right in front of him and held my magic rock straight out, right in his face. The Jerk took one look and started laughing. He was about to say something when I started chanting, just like you told me, ‘Cry, cry, cry like a baby. Let those tears run down. And when they start flowing fast like a river, drop to your knees and start crawling around.’
“He grinned at me and I swear he was about to take a step and do god only knows what when his smile faded and a perplexed look came over his face – like he was major league confused. Then, like a spigot had been turned on, tears formed in his eyes and they started running down his cheeks. In a moment he was crying and not just crying hard. He was weeping and sobbing, hysterically. He grabbed a handful of napkins and started wiping at the tears but they kept coming and coming, turning the napkins into a soggy mess. He was grabbing for more when all of a sudden his body stiffened like a bolt of electricity had shot through it. He stood up straight as an arrow and then collapsed on the floor. In a moment he got to his knees and started crawling around just like the chant had commanded him to do. Like a baby. A big, overgrown baby.”
Cindi paused, took a sip of her coffee, and grinned. “Cal, it was awesome. At first, there was dead silence in the bar and you could have heard a pin drop. The only sound was The Jerk’s knees scraping along on the dirty floor. Oh, and his crying, too. That never let up.”
By now Cal was grinning along with his friend. “That’s fantastic.”
“Yep. Then everyone erupted into laughter and the place went nuts. Even The Jerk’s friends joined in, all the while watching him crawl around on that filthy barroom floor crying like the big baby he was. They didn’t even make a move to help him. People were laughing their asses off, slapping each other on the back. ‘Funniest thing I’ve ever seen,’ was pretty much the conscientious.”
Cal could picture it all. “I wish I could have been there.”
Cindi took another sip of coffee. “You would have loved it. Everyone was laughing so hard and loud that the owner could hear it from his office in the back and it got to be too much for him. He ran out and yelled to The Jerk’s friends, ‘Get that idiot out of here and don’t ever come back.’
“They picked him up by the arms and dragged him out. People were hootin’ and hollerin’. In fact, one of his friends even paused at the door and gave me the thumbs-up sign. It was great. I guess not even his friends cared all that much for him.” Cindi paused, and added, “I have to say that it was the most fun I’ve had in a long time.”
Cal hated guys like The Jerk and had been hoping the magic rock had enough mojo to do its thing. In Cindi’s obviously capable hands, it did. The magic would wear off after an hour or so but the damage had been done. The Jerk was no longer a threat. With relief Cal gave his friend a high-five. “Way to go.”
Cindi returned the high-five and grinned, “It really was amazing.” Then she started laughing with relief. Cal joined in.
After a minute she took out her phone to check the time. “Man, it’s after two in the morning. I’ve got to get home to little Jeremy. My sister’s probably wondering where I am.”
“I was going to ask if you’d like another cup of coffee,” Cal said, “But I understand you have to get home.” He paused and added, “Maybe another time?”
Cindi’s mind was elsewhere. “Wait a minute. I almost forgot.” She rummaged through her purse before finding what she was looking for. “You’ll be wanting this back.” She held out the magic rock. “Here.”
Shocked, Cal held up his hands, “No, no, no. That’s yours. Keep it. I want you to have it.”
While holding the rock, she touched his arm with her other hand, “Really? That’s so sweet.”
And when she touched him, he felt it right away. The warmth. The good feeling. Just like Cindi had felt when she’d first held the rock.
“Whoa,” he said. “That was amazing.”
She reached for his hand and held it. The heat continued. She said, “The warmth? The heat? I feel it, too.”
“I wonder…” Cal started to say.
She looked at him, a smile slowly appearing. “Say, you don’t suppose there might be something special between us? Something the magic rock is telling us.”
He took a chance. “What do you think?”
“After tonight, I have to say…” she held the rock up, looking at it and smiling, “…I have to say that I believe there may be.” She squeezed his hand and the heat went up about ten notches. They both smiled at each other. Cal was going to say something when Cindi interrupted. “Say, I’ll tell you what. I’ve got to get home, but I’m still kind of wound up about tonight and I’ve got an idea. You want to come with? I think there’s an Alfred Hitchcock festival on television. In celebration of Halloween. I love his old television shows. Maybe we could watch it. Together.”
Cal was a huge Hitchcock fan. Plus, of course, he’d be with Cindi. “Absolutely. I’d like that. A lot.”
“Great. Let’s go, then.”
She put the magic rock back in her purse and took Cal’s hand. Even without the rock, the warmth was there. They smiled at each other and made their way to the door, both of them thinking that maybe there was more than enough mojo in that magic rock for the both of them.
It was a Halloween they’d never forget.

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This publication is part 93 of 103 in the series 13 Days of Halloween