In Search of Better Stories

Rock Tosser

His steps are jagged and halting, his face is fierce. As he jerks, pops and stumbles by the image of Frankenstein congers itself in my mind. He is a big dude, from the corner of my eye I see him looking straight at me. I don’t return the stare. He makes it 20 yards beyond my bench, then veers off the path. The steep rocky slope that leads down to the water’s edge is a challenge for our not-so-nimble friend. He is talking to himself and making significant arm gestures. Is he cursing the topography or coaching himself forward? I can’t tell. Several times during his descent he stops his forward progress and steps himself in insecure circles. Finally, he stumbles onto level ground a few feet from the shore. At long last, he has arrived at his saught after destination — but now what?

His head moves sharply back and forth and his arms swing awkwardly about. His eyes fix on a large rock at his feet. From my spot on the bench, I hear him growl and mutter something to himself. Then he bends over and with a herculean effort, he hefts the large bolder high above his head! He then lowers it to his chest and then back up again. “one, two, three, four” he shouts. When he finishes ten reps. He tosses the stone aside like a conquered foe.

Rock Tosser, half punches at the air while rotating his shoulders, he’s trying to stay loose. I can tell he’s feeling the burn of rock weightlifting, but at the same time, I can see that he loves it! After a number of sets, he launches into a series of two-handed chest throws. I watch as larges rocks find flight perhaps for the first time in a million years. Next up in his routine is the shot-put. Clearly, he has done this before, medium-sized stones are now rainbow arcing all over the shoreline of lower False Creek.

After about ten or fifteen minutes of chucking rocks, our man, satisfied with his efforts, begins the hike back up the embankment, straight for me. I can’t tell, is he looking through me or is he looking at me?

“Good workout?” I venture.

He snaps out of what seems like a hazy trance, clearly, he was looking through me.

“Sorry?” he says with a snarl.

“Did you have a good workout?” I offer a second time, starting to wonder if my attempt at human connection might have been a mistake. He pauses and looks at me intensely for an awkward second or two. Then he smiles broadly, the only adornment inside his vacant mouth is a single eye tooth protruding at an odd angle.

“oohh” he says with dramatic effect.

“I’m just getting warmed up!”

Then he marches off half gangster swagger, half jolting zombie.

Later that day on the sidewalk out front of where I work, I notice that familiar jaunt. As he lurches by I blurt out

“Hey, I know you.”

He stops and scrutinizes me. He’s trying to place me, then with an enlightened burst of recognition, he makes the connection.

“You are the bench guy from this morning!”

“Yeah” I say “You can really chuck rocks!”

“Old School” is all he says with a smile. His conspicuous tooth making another appearance.

I decide that I’m a fan of this eccentric, fierce-looking, single-toothed, rock tosser.

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