Ezra, resting his sweaty forehead on the cool stone, fights for his breath. The hitch in his side is like a fork twisting into him. His tiny feet are slipping, and his arms feel like rubber from the strain.
How will he get this giant boulder to move any farther?
Ezra turns his head just enough to see the distance from where he began. It has been a long, long way. The hill is steep and he is far now. There is no turning back.
Another stone rolls up next to his, rumbling and shaking the mountain side. A tiny wisp of a girl peeks her elfish face around the side. “Hi!” she squeaks in her adorable little voice. Her cheeks are rosy, her eyes bright.
“Hello, Alice,” says Ezra a little miffed that the tiny elfin girl seems energetic and is moving a boulder twice the size of his own with a fraction of the effort, while grime and sweat coat his body and he heaves with every push.
“Beautiful day!” she exclaims, holding the giant chunk of earth with only one tiny finger.
Ezra merely grumbles, liking the teeny sprite less and less. He pushes on his stone, willing it to move. The rock rolls a few inches but stops on a pebble and rolls back, threatening to steamroll him and return to its resting spot on top of the village below.
He stops, panting again.
“You’re working really hard, Ezzy,” she chirps.
Ezra feels his face turning red with anger. “How is it that you don’t even sweat while rolling boulders uphill? Are you a witch of some kind?”
Her laugh tinkles like crystal bells. “I’m no witch, Ezzy. The difference between us is ever so slight, my friend.”
“Oh it is, is it? What difference would that be then?” he demands.
“I refuse my mind and hold firmly to belief. You hold firmly your mind and refuse to believe.” The tiny elfin girl shrugs as though it is the simplest thing to comprehend. Ezra’s rage grows.
“Belief?...Belief in the strength that the ancestors say the UNSEEN has given us?! Didn’t the UNSEEN promise us peace? I have no peace. I’ve been rolling these boulders my whole life and they just keep coming! There is no peace, only fighting against gravity. And for what? We do not know, do we? We do not even know why we roll the boulders, but we do. To serve what end, Alice?”
A sparkling tear of reverence rolls down Alice’s smooth cheek as she gazes at the village below. “Oh Ezra, you know we must roll the boulders out, or our gardens will not grow, and we are surrounded by mountains, where else would we roll them but up and over the other side? Where else can they go?”
“That’s just it! WHY? Why were we put here, in the valley between mountains, where boulders threaten to crush us every day? We are waiting to die, Alice. Why? How can you smile and enjoy rolling boulders uphill your whole life only to be crushed one night in your sleep? What is the point?!” he screams.
Alice’s glistening eyes look upon Ezra’s face with so much care that he bows his head. “It is not that we have boulders; every village like ours has boulders to clear. That is simply the nature of our world. The point, Ezzy, is the magic along the way, running into a friend and sharing the wonder, the quiet peace of just you, your boulder and the mountainside, and, of course, there is the summit. To reach the top and look down upon the village you’ve saved. You get to roll boulders, Ezzy, you get to experience the magic within you. That is why my boulders are light, Ezzy, I know the magic in me, and it is strong,” she says with awe. “Some are not so blessed to have your experiences or your capacity for joy.”
“There is no joy in this!” he bellows and a small avalanche of pebbles tumbles around them.
Alice looks upon her friend with sympathy. “Then your problem isn’t really that you have boulders, but that you have no joy. That is a different issue entirely. Perhaps you should not focus so intently on the piece of rock, but try to look around it, at the beauty which He has placed abundantly to support and encourage you along the way?”
Alice turns to look at the path ahead of her. “Almost there!” she squeals joyfully. “I’ll wait for you up there, Ezra. We can witness the magic of our world together when you get there!” The wispy elf rolls her enormous rock quickly up the hill, singing a happy song about blue jays and sunbeams.
Her words stun Ezra. He had never thought about it like that before. He had been so focused on loathing the boulder that he’d never looked beyond it. He had always painstakingly pushed the chunks up and grumbled his way back down to do it all over again. But he had never once just enjoyed the silence of the mountain. He’d never given a thought to the other elves he passed along the way, friends like Alice, whom -he is elf enough to admit- lifts his spirit with her sweet songs and bubbly enthusiasm.
Suddenly, his boulder feels lighter, much like his heart. A hummingbird hovers overhead whistling, and a cool breeze caresses his skin. Ezra is supported by the mountain. It’s alive with the energy of life thrumming through it. He feels silly thinking that, but his heart beats fast with the excitement of his new perspective.
“The boulders are a fact, no getting around that,” Ezra says to himself as he steals a glance at the village below. One thing he and the other rollers know from their time at the summit, there is nowhere else to go, there are only mountains and valleys as far as their eyes can see, as far as any elf has travelled, there are mountain tops and grassy valleys.
Ezra has always seen that as a curse. His heart has cried out to the powers that be, so often, “WHY?” But answers have never come. Pain and loss are a part of Ezra’s world. Alice looks at the present moment, and she feels peace, he thinks as he gazes around again, seeing his worn path with new eyes. And Ezra’s heart brightens as he realizes, he is needed. Without the boulder removers, the village couldn’t survive. Without his service and his sacrifice, his family would not survive.
Ezra’s heart grows, and with a sweet song on his own lips, he rolls his boulder effortlessly up the mountainside, excited to share the magic at the peak…with his friend, Alice.
*** THE END***
*Copyright © 2012 by Dee Streiner