Now and then it’s advisable to break from the routine of solitary building for a few days of walling with a stone compatriot. It’s a chance to share approaches to the craft and backgrounds in the business. Sharing a workspace after being alone takes some adjustment. Another’s safety has to be considered along with one’s own. Trouble can come suddenly and from unexpected quarters. An outcome can be crushing, or as in this tale, just a lesson learned the easy way.
The two of us were starting a retaining wall rebuild. Chunks of granite, some a half-ton weight, were strewn around the site. He was standing on a slight rise above the asphalt parking area where I was bent over a block. I’d just drilled holes and was setting the feathers and wedges for splitting the piece in half. He was twenty-four feet away, dressing a stone by swinging a four-pound hammer against a boasting chisel.
He suddenly hollered. I felt a whoosh of air go past my right ear and heard a thud land next to me. There was a yellow-handled hammer on the ground where there hadn’t been one a second before. I looked up at my companion whose face was frozen in horror. When he spoke it was to begin a profuse apology. The hammer had slipped from his grip, flown up and over the stone yard and had come back down to earth inches from my skull. I picked it up and handed it back to him, bewildered by what had just transpired, because it’s mighty peculiar running into direful error and dumbfounding good luck on the same occasion.
That night I slid myself into bed, already half asleep. Spine pressed into familiar cotton contours, head molded to pillow, the day was about to let me go when I was snapped back to consciousness by an echoic memory. The impact of steel on asphalt immediately followed by a quick rap of wood was in my ear again. The recalled sound was louder, clearer, more distinct than the original. Its singularity was a bright flash in the darkness descending. Something insisted I acknowledge the import of the day’s event, would not let it pass without making sure I “got it”. Life is received not taken.