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Relationships and the Secrets of Intimacy - A Fable

Updated on September 9, 2013

A Fable about Intimacy


Once, a long, l-o-n-g time ago a French explorer hiked up a dry creek bed in the hills of what we now call western Kentucky, slipped on a moss-covered rock and fell. His pride was the only thing injured, that and a piece of his musket’s ramrod (about the size of his forefinger) that snapped off when it hit another rock and came to rest on a small stone nearby.

The explorer, embarrassed at his own clumsiness, got up and moved on. But the piece of iron lay right where it fell, its jagged bottom end nestled into a hollow place on the stone beneath it.

“My, you’re a strange sort of rock,” said the stone. “We don’t see many of your kind around here.”

“That’s because I’m not a rock at all,” answered the piece of ramrod, his pride not the least bit bruised. “I’m made of iron, can’t you tell? I’m cold and hard and indestructible, which is more than you could say, I’ll bet. What are you made of, anyway?”

“Oh, clay,” said the stone. “Just clay.”

“Clay! But that’s soft stuff. Just a bunch of sand and ground down minerals mixed with water.”

“Oh, I’m hard enough now,” replied the stone. “Just feel me. It took a long time, but then I haven’t moved in ages, not even when the heavy spring rains flood this creek bed.”

“Well, you can’t be that hard,” the piece of iron snapped back. “Just look at you. You don’t have a sharp edge anywhere.’

“That’s because I’ve let the water shape me over the years. When it rains the creek fills and the water splashes and gurgles over and around me. After a while, living like that, all my rough edges got washed away. What’s left is a more gentle me. Actually, I think I’m kind of cute.”

“Humpfh,” scoffed the iron fragment. “That’ll never happen to me. I‘m tough. I don’t let anything change me. I can fight my way right through it all. Why, a cousin of mine is a battle sword; he can cut through the toughest armor. And one of my uncles is a cannonball; when a cannon throws him a whole quarter mile he can break through even the thickest stone wall. I come from a long line of really tough things.”

“Well, tough isn’t everything,” sighed the stone. “There are some things a lot more powerful than tough.”

“I’d like to see one,” said the length of iron. “Nothing could be tougher than me.”

“How about that niche in my side you’re lying on?” asked the stone. “Do you think you’re tougher than that?”

“You’re joking,” said the iron. “Why, I could cut right through that in no time. Just give me a little water to work with and this sharp bottom end of mine will slice right through that soft clay.”

“Well, stick around and we’ll see,” said the stone.

And the iron fragment did. It stayed right there, and every time it rained that piece of iron twisted and turned, jabbing its sharp end deeper into the stone’s surface, digging a hole. It took a long time but the iron piece kept at it – one rain after another. It moved with every ebb and flow of the water, slowly grinding a small tunnel into the stone, millimeter by millimeter.

It took so long, in fact, that at times even the piece of iron itself started to wonder if he’d ever break through. But persistence was his second nature and so he kept at it, year after year, decade after decade, until one day . . . it happened! He could feel his bottom end pop right through the last layer of clay turned to stone.

“I told you,” said the iron fragment. “I told you I was tougher than you. It did it. I did it! I broke free.”

“So, I suppose you’ll be leaving me now,” was all the stone said.

“You bet. I can go anywhere I want. I can do anything I want. I’m iron. I’m tough.”

“Well, so long then. But . . . I’ll miss you.”

“What? Why would you miss me? I’m not like you. I’m not a rock. I’m iron. Why, I even dug a hole right through you. Why would you miss me?”

“Well, I’ve gotten to like you, even though you’re pretty tough on the outside. But I know there’s a softer part of you on the inside that can feel, just like most things. And I know it’s possible for you to change, too. Why, just look at your ends. They’ve rusted some over the years and grown a bit. You’re changing shape, just like I do. And besides, I kind of like you snuggled in there, in that niche in my side.”

“Well, you won’t have me there for long. I’m leaving, just like I said.”

“All right then, goodbye. But you might want to wait for a little help from the next big rain.”

The piece of iron thought for a minute and realized it was good advice. After all, he had no arms or legs, so he couldn’t just pick himself up and move off somewhere. He decided to wait until the next rain filled the stream with water. Then he would float right out, for sure.

He didn’t have to wait long. Soon it did begin to rain and water came splashing down the creek bed, gurgling over the rocks, growing into a steady stream first and then a torrent. Once the water pressure was strong enough the piece of iron said, “Goodbye, stone. I’m going now.” And he began to turn and twist.

But a funny thing happened. He could move down only a little bit, and no further. His ends were exposed and his middle was free, but the stone around his middle was hardly worn at all. To make matters worse, his top part had rusted a lot over the years and gotten bigger, making it impossible to slide down through the hole.

So the piece of iron decided to try something different. He’d noticed when the stream grew calm that water would back up around his bottom part. Perhaps, if he waited till the rain was over, the extra water would float him back up through the hole he’d dug.

But that didn’t work either, since his bottom end had rusted just as much as the top. The stone was correct. He couldn’t slide down and he couldn’t float up either. He was trapped. For all his toughness, he couldn’t break free of the grip the stone had on him.

“Let me go!” he cried. “Let me go. You can’t keep me trapped like this. I won’t let you!”

“Well,” said the stone. “I think that’s giving me way too much power over you. After all, I didn’t dig the hole you’re in and I didn’t rust your top and bottom sections to keep you here. I just accepted your poking and wiggling and made the best of it. You’re free to go anytime you want, just as soon as you can work yourself loose.”

The stone thought for a minute and then added, “To tell the truth, though, I’m kind of glad you’re stuck. I’ve grown used to you. Truth be told, I like you a lot. So, if you leave, I’ll be sad . . . but I’ll get over it. On the other hand, if you stay, why then I’d be very happy indeed.”

“Happy, why?”

“Because I’d have someone to talk with and share things. There are other rocks around me and some of them are quite different from me. But you’re really special, so I think you and I might make a good couple. We might even become soul mates, enjoying life and sharing happiness in moments. Who knows? Do you think you might like that?”

“I don’t know. Perhaps,” answered the iron fragment. “For now, though, I guess I don’t have much choice, do I?”

“Oh, we always have choices. The way I see it, right now you can either decide to get to know me better by relaxing and enjoying being here – or you can fight and struggle and keep trying to work yourself free. It’s up to you.”

“Well, I’m tired of struggling - at least for now- and I have to admit there’s a part of me that likes you too. Actually, snuggling in rather than breaking free sounds kind of good to me. Maybe I’ll just stay here for a while and think it over some more.”

“Be my guest,” said the stone. “Stay as long as you like. But if and when the time comes that you can slip through, well then, you still get to decide to go, or stay if it suits you.”

And, would you believe, they’re still together . . . to this very day!

Kentucky Sculpture


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