Dinner with the Rockhounds

Stuart Watson

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What do rocks and fame have in common? Well, other than being a rock 'n roll star who may perform at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado - nothing, really. However, Glad thinks there is more.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

Yolk began as an electric conversation around a picnic table in Saint Henri Square.

Our scruffy pioneer and present prose editor had previously approached each of us with an idea, a vision: We would establish our own literary magazine in Montreal. And so it was, or so it would be. After that original encounter, eight individuals devoted to the word resolved that they would gather bi-weekly, on Sundays, and bring something new into this busy, manic world—something that might slow its spin down somewhat and cause its patronage to say: “You know what, it ain’t so bad, is it, Susan?”

We are undergraduate, graduate, and graduated students of writing. Some of us learn our craft formally from accomplished authors in seminar courses, and some of us learn by looking out the window of the world and onto the streets that sing below. Some of us learn from screaming squirrels, old curtains, departed grandfathers, and bowel movements. We learn from old lovers, long winters, imperfect mothers, and from the deep internet where a musical genius remains entombed.

Yolk is cold floors on Sabbath mornings, home-brewed ginger beer in the endless afternoon, and downpours of French-pressed coffee in assorted artisanal mugs. Our first official gathering was scheduled for a duration of two hours; most of us remained for six, departing only to attend to the summons of our own beckoning realities. Together, with time suspended, we talked endlessly of contributing something to disrupt Montreal’s literary ecosystem. Something unparalleled, something true.

But what? There was nothing to discuss. There was everything to discuss.

We volunteer our time, hounding some elusive beast composed of combustible words and works. We are hopeful, truly hopeful, that we can give something new, a new way, a new light, and that if we cannot, we might at least uphold the traditions of our predecessors, cast star-wide nets to capture their echoes. We are a thousand decisions. We are a sanctuary for the orphaned word, the solitary writer, the cereal-eating artist who yearns for company, for the comfort of a like mind; we sit together with them at foggy dawn, it rains a baptism, with our arms and hands intertwined, we form an umbrella—underneath, they scribble madly, the perfect picture.

Yolk in no way presumes to be superior to its contemporaries, but its contemporaries should not presume yolk to be anything other than loud—quite, quite loud. We are yippidy jazzed to address the oh-so-technicolorful magnificence of the human experience, but we are prepared also to address the ugliness, to stare at its wet, hairy snout and into its square depth and to roar in return at the things that yearn to devour our skin, beset our ethos, and dig graves in our own backyards.

There’s so much to say, there’s so much we don’t know, but together, with you, we can placate that ignorance, render it peaceful, tolerable, and perhaps even, fucking beautiful.

And Susan says, “Amen.”

Glad Gilbert kicked a rock with her tennies. She looked up and stared at the territory between the end of the desert and their house. Rocks and needles. Dub Gilbert waited. It wasn’t going to be pretty, whatever she came up with. It never was. 

     “It’s time to change the rocks,” Glad said.

     Dub held his tongue, considering his words.  

     “What’s wrong with them?” he asked. “They look fine to me.”

     “Look closer,” she said. “Can’t you see how tired they look?”

     “Tired? I didn’t know rocks could get tired. I can get tired. Not rocks.”

     “They’re old.”

     “Rocks are born old—scratch that—they’re not born. They are old because that’s what they are—old rocks. They start out big and split away, like glaciers. They calve, turn into sand, settle at the bottom of a pond, and wait for a volcano to cover them with lava. That’s when the sand has no choice but to become rock again. It’s a cycle.”

     Glad stood there, looking at him.

     “Well, aren’t you the expert,” she said. “Since when do you give a shit about rocks?”

     “Since you never stopped giving a shit. Everything I know, I learned from you. You’re the rock star.”

     “And you’re the comedian. We still need new ones. We need to freshen them up.”

     “You could spray them with water.”

     “Too much time in the sun is what I think the problem is,” she said. 

     Glad turned toward the house. She looked like an ice cream sundae. He called her Swee’Pea. He was more of the potato-with-a-hairbrush-on-its-head type. She called him Spud.

     He looked down, gave the nearest chunk of granite a nudge with his own toe, then fell in behind his wife as she walked toward the garage. None of it surprised Dub. He had lived with her long enough to know that she would find a reason to justify whatever notion took root in her brain. 


Lately, Glad had been going through phases of extreme notions. Maybe it was the move. Maybe it was the new location. For many years, the Gilberts had lived near Red Rocks, outside of Denver, where rock ‘n’ rollers took the stage and rocked the Rockies. Dub was a pipefitter and worked on high-rises downtown, setting up flush toilets for the Colorado oil sheikhs. Glad visited hospitals around the west, trying to sell them over-engineered bandaid application systems. Then the Gilberts retired and moved to Arizona, where they bought a new house on the desert floor, safely buffered behind a low brick wall from all the things that didn’t belong in retirement. They could see large piles of rocks on the horizon. The locals called these mountains, too.

     Dub was fine in Denver. It was Glad’s itch that made them move. Without a job, travel, and suitcases full of laundry to fill her weekends, she felt lost. She never said as much, but Dub figured she thought a move would fill whatever hole she had inside. So they sold the lawn mower, the snow blower, and the rest of the clutter that piled up high in the basement. When they arrived in Arizona and the movers set their furniture in place, Glad looked it over and decided to replace it. But, eventually, the hole opened up again.

     She was reading the Star one night. 

     “You ever get your face in the paper?” she asked. “Ever? Even as a kid?”

     “Nope.”

     “Me neither. It would be nice, just once before we kick, to be famous. For a day or two.”

     “There’s a reason we ain’t in the paper, Swee’Pea. We ain’t famous.”

     “Don’t you ever want to be big? Do something everybody looks at and says, ‘Wow, that’s big’?”

      “Does it have to be big?”

     “Impressive. Important. Really different. Something people ain’t seen before.”

     “The last time you came out of Costco was quite impressive. More shit on that flatcar than a flatcar should carry.”

     “We needed chips. You ate them. I mean, did you ever want to put something out there big time, so people could admire your significance? Get the TV crews out there?”

     “Not really. You?”

     “Would be nice.”

     The people who built the house in Arizona had also landscaped it. Rocks. Big rocks around the edges, or encircling mounds of desert dirt for desert plants: yucca, mesquite, palo verde—imported from other parts of the desert, now denuded, to add texture and greenery to the rocks.

     Not a stitch of lawn anywhere. Just rocks and thorns. Natural stuff that didn’t need watering. Water in Arizona was as scarce as youth. People had been advised to stop spitting. Imported water filled their pipes, at a high price. Every once in a while, Dub would spray down their rocks to rinse off the dust—but not much. It was costly to water up some sparkle.


Inside the garage, Glad and Dub stood facing a pile of plastic storage containers stacked high to the ceiling, full of replacement rocks.

     “Let’s use this one,” she said, pointing to a container at the bottom of the stack.

     Dub got the ladder and started moving the containers that sat atop the desired one. Eventually, it was exposed. He loaded it onto a dolly and, with Glad showing the way, rolled it toward the yard. She peeled the lid off.

     “These are some of my favorites,” she said. 

     Like Christmas ornaments, he thought. She walked into the yard and started picking up rocks, replacing each one with a rock from the storage container. She put the tired rocks in the container for storage. 

     Surveying their work, she simply shook her head.

     “Wrong,” she said. 

     “Why?” Dub wanted to get to the pool and his floatie mat.

     “Everybody’s got rocks. We need something that’ll shake things up. Stand out.”

     When she started having visions like this, Dub knew enough not to pry. He feared what he might see. 

     “Spud, honey, can you take all the rocks we just pulled and dump them in the desert? No sense storing rocks that ain’t got no point.”

     Dub loaded them up, took them a hundred yards south of the pool, and scattered them around. When he returned to the house, Glad was standing by the sink in the kitchen. 

     “You ought to come out there with me,” he said, just for fun. “I found some really nice rocks you might want to add to your collection.”

     “Not a collection. It’s our yard.”

     “Follow me.”

     He led her to where he had dumped the rocks. “Look at this one,” he said. “And this. And—” 

     “You’re right,” she said. “They are nice. Like that one.”

     “Which?”

     “The one you’re standing next to. Let’s take that.”

     He reached down and picked up the rock that she had deemed “tired” not thirty minutes earlier. She selected a few more. They took them back to their yard.


Over dinner with their neighbors, Glad told Bob and Tynee about the problems with their yard. 

     “Where do they get the rocks for these yards?” Glad asked. “They’re just ratty.”

     “Don’t have the faintest,” Bob answered. 

     “Bet they bring them in from Mexico,” Tynee said. “I’ve been down there. Not much for rocks.”

     Tynee said Glad and Dub should join them on their next trip down to Quartzite. Glad looked puzzled, so Tynee explained that it was this place west of where they lived, in the middle of the desert. 

     “All kinds of people show up with campers and trailers, set up booths and sell rocks,” she said. “Some are pretty nice. You can get cut and polished stuff: make necklaces, earrings, stuff like that—or door stops, too.”

     Glad thought about it. She looked at Dub. 

     “Can we get a utility trailer, something to bring some rocks home if we like?” 

     He nodded. 


The next day, Dub rented a trailer. As soon as he parked the rig in the driveway, Glad came out and looked at the trailer. She looked at the yard. Then back again. 

     “If we’re going down there, we might as well take some of these old, tired rocks with us,” she said. “Maybe we could set up a booth. Sell some antique rocks. Collectibles.”

     “You’re kidding, right?”

     “Hell no! Rockhounds? They’re nuts. You package some rocks like something they’ve never seen before, and they’ll scoop it right up.”

     “How do you know that?”

     “Tynee told me. They’re rockhounds, case you didn’t guess.”

     As Dub walked around the yard with a wheelbarrow, Glad followed and pointed to rocks that “had to go,” like a woman in her living room, fed up with the furniture. One by one, he ferried loads of rocks to the trailer. Each time he dumped the wheelbarrow, he looked down and thought, these rocks all look the same. The same as one another. The same as the ones from the previous load. The same as the ones he hadn’t picked up yet.

     By the time she had finished gathering the problematic rocks, the yard looked no different to Dub. Something about it, however, convinced Glad that it was time for them to go.

     Bob and Tynee pulled their car slowly out of the “retiredment community,” with Dub and Glad dragging rocks behind them in the trailer. Glad and Tynee traded text messages to keep the convoy on track: west from Tucson, through Phoenix, toward a dot on the map where people went to trade rocks. When, hours later, they pulled up to Quartzite, it looked like the biggest flea market they had ever seen. A sea of tents. RVs everywhere. 

     The RV park was full so, naturally, the only option was to boondock it. Bob and Tynee led them out into the desert and, for reasons that weren’t readily apparent, pulled off and drove about a hundred feet from the road, stopping in between two mesquite bushes. There was a low hill ahead and nothing much else. 

     “We can camp here,” Bob said. 

     “Where are we?” Dub asked.

     “Camp,” Bob answered.

     Dub turned in place. For as far as he could see, everywhere looked exactly the same as where he stood. Sand. Mesquite. Some cholla cacti. Not a speck of shade.


The sun rose a little after six. Within minutes, the inside of the tent was so hot that it could have turned Dub into a corn dog. They made coffee, dug out the Krispy Kremes and, with Bob and Tynee leading the way, set off for a day of trading rocks for rocks. 

     Veteran rockhounds had secured all the prime real estate. Dub and Bob erected their pop-up sun shades and tables at the farthest extremity of the market. Desert stretched away on three sides. 

     “We’re not going to sell a thing,” Dub said to Glad. “You might as well go shopping.”

     Glad and Tynee headed into the maze. Bob popped open a beer and showed Dub some of what he had brought to sell. 

     “You get these from your yard?” Dub asked.

     “Hell no,” Bob answered. “Stuff in our yards? That’s gravel. This is lapidary quality stuff.” He swept his hand across a display of rocks that looked like halved hard-boiled eggs with crystals instead of yolks. Some had solid centers, like agates from a beach. “Geodes and thundereggs, that’s my thing.”

     “Nice,” Dub said. 

     Dub got a beer and settled into a chair behind his table, covered with bins of generic granite and basalt and sandstone. A few people wandered past their tables. Some stopped to chat with Bob. It was a long day.

     Glad and Tynee eventually returned. Glad told Dub he needed to follow her with his cart. She led him from vendor to vendor. “Here’s where we get the turquoise,” she would say. “And next is the quartz. You will just love the fluorite and tourmalines I found.”

     “Dare I ask what all this set you back?” Dub asked.

     “No,” she said.

     She managed their finances. If she said they could afford it, who was he to risk his personal peace and tranquility by arguing otherwise? 

     The sun was setting by the time they situated all the new geology into the trailer and scattered the stuff from their yard into the desert outside Quartzite. They hung some tin cans with pebbles in them from the tarp that overlaid the bins of new rock. Anyone planning a midnight requisition would trigger a chorus of clanking and wake them.

     At two in the morning, Dub realized nothing would wake him because he was never going to fall asleep. “I thought we came to see the rocks, not sleep on them,” he groused. 

     Glad snored through it all. Shopping did that to her. Exhilaration was exhausting.


On the drive back to Tucson, about fifteen minutes from home, Glad glanced casually to her right and locked on. A massive slab of stone was jutting up from the desert floor, maybe ten feet tall, like a butternut squash that had crash-landed in the sand.

     Back home, Glad told Dub to unload the cargo in their side yard, return the trailer, and immediately come home and talk to her—she had an idea. 

     “What’re you gonna do with all this shit?” he said. “Start a rent-a-rock business?”

     She ignored him. She had some calls to make.

     After returning the trailer, he approached her office with studied trepidation.

     “There you are,” she said, looking up from a notepad. “What took you?”

     “Oh, driving. Unhooking the trailer. Paperwork. You know.”

     “OK, here’s the deal. I got a great idea.”

     “Says who?”

     “Me. Who did you think?”

     “No, sorry, who says it’s a great idea?”

     “You’ll see,” she said, and proceeded to recount her plan to hire a crew to jack that slab of sandstone away from its mother cliff, get it on a trailer, and haul it to their front yard. “That’ll put us on the map for all these sunbaked nimrods.”

     “I didn’t know we came down here to . . . be on the map.”

     She ignored him. 

     Early the next morning, sun still below the horizon, they stood with the guy Glad had hired to move the stone. Bruno. He had his arms folded over his chest while he appraised the monolith. 

     “I’ve moved some boulders,” he said, “nothing like this. Huge.”

     “I like it,” Glad said. “It’s not just some piece of quartz. Nobody has nothin’ like this.”

     “You’re in luck,” the contractor said. “It’s tuff.”

     “We ain’t gonna eat it,” Dub said.

     “Volcanic rock. Lighter than most. Still, maybe ten, fifteen tonnes.”

     “Better get started then,” Glad said.

     She and Dub retreated to their car and parked by the highway, where they watched a crew set up scaffolding and ropes and pulleys and hydraulic jacks and whatnot. They were going to jack it up, back a lowboy trailer under it, lower it to the bed, then slowly haul it to its destination. They would back the trailer to where Glad wanted it, jack up the monument enough to remove the trailer, then lower it into position.

     That was the plan, anyway, before the guy from the Bureau of Dirt and Rocks showed up and asked Glad for her permit. 

     “Permit?” she said. “Rockhounds pick up stuff all the time without a permit.”

     “Rocks, yes. Not this. This is a baby mountain. Needs a permit,” he said. 

     She told him she would get a permit. He seemed assured and drove off. It left just the window she needed. She walked over to the obelisk with Bruno. They talked a bit. He pointed to the crack where they would jack it away from the cliff. Dub watched from the road. He felt like he was watching the dawn of the pyramids. 

     Glad turned and started walking back toward him. She extended her left arm and turned it thumb up, so Bruno could see it. That’s when Dub heard a muffled explosion and saw dust blow out of the crack. Slowly, the pinnacle tilted and fell with full force to the desert floor, Glad gone beneath it. 

     He didn’t move. Workers were running around frantically—a clue that his mind wasn’t playing some perverse trick. 

     He felt himself step toward the rock. At the rock’s edge, he stopped. People were rushing up to him, shouting, apologizing, trying to explain the inexplicable. Shock immobilized him. 

     He looked at the column, lying on its side, Glad somewhere beneath it. It would take other equipment to lift it and free Glad’s body. Dub took out his phone and called 9-1-1. 

     “My wife is . . . hurt, I think,” he said. 

     How stupid did that sound? 

     He told the dispatcher he needed help moving a large slab of rock. And why. She answered a few questions and hung up.

     Without a word to anyone, he walked to his car, started the engine, pulled onto the highway. The road home was wide open.

     As he approached their house, he watched a woman carry a plastic milk crate full of their new rocks from his side yard. Took them. Right from the trailer. She put them in her trunk and drove off, so he could pull into his garage.

     It was cool in there. He sat a bit, stunned, in a haze. Then he got out, grabbed a pair of gloves, and went around to the trailer in the side yard. One by one, he picked up bright and shiny and colorful rocks full of caramel swirls and depths like the ocean, and walked them into his yard and placed them here and there. Right where it seemed they belonged. He thought Glad would approve, but of course, he would never know, not unless she summoned heartbeat enough to extract herself from beneath that slab of rock and walk the world again as a modern-day miracle. 

     A deputy showed up while he was working. More questions. Dub gave him a recent photo of Glad, wearing gloves and moving rocks. 

     “We need to line up a heavy-duty crane,” the deputy said. “It’ll take some time.” They shook hands and he departed.

     Dub walked to the kitchen, poured himself a Scotch, and opened the freezer. 

     His stack of frozen dinners: Beef with brown gravy. 

     Glad’s stack of frozen dinners: Turkey with white gravy. 

     Dub grabbed a turkey and slipped it into the oven. He flicked on the TV for company, went to the news, and balanced the changer on his knee. He wanted to see if Glad was finally famous.


For thirty years, Stuart Watson lined bird cages for a living (he was a newspaper journalist, self-deprecating and sarcastic, in equal measure). He loves the writing of Joy Williams and others. Watson’s work appears in Revolution John, Mouthful Montana, Flash Boulevard, Bending Genres, and others. He lives in Oregon with his lovely wife and their awesome dog.

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Additional reading

august

Sicilian Blue

Glad Gilbert kicked a rock with her tennies. She looked up and stared at the territory between the end of the desert and their house. Rocks and needles. Dub Gilbert waited. It wasn’t going to be pretty, whatever she came up with. It never was. “It’s time to change the rocks,” Glad said. Dub held his tongue, considering his words. “What’s wrong with them?” he asked. “They look fine to me.” “Look closer,” she said. “Can’t you see how tired they look?” “Tired? I didn’t know rocks could get tired. I can get tired. Not rocks.” “They’re old.” “Rocks are born old—scratch that—they’re not born. They are old because that’s what they are—old rocks. They start out big and split away, like glaciers. They calve, turn into sand, settle at the bottom of a pond, and wait for a volcano to cover them with lava. That’s when the sand has no choice but to become rock again. It’s a cycle.” Glad stood there, looking at him. “Well, aren’t you the expert,” she said. “Since when do you give a shit about rocks?” “Since you never stopped giving a shit. Everything I know, I learned from you. You’re the rock star.” “And you’re the comedian. We still need new ones. We need to freshen them up.” “You could spray them with water.” “Too much time in the sun is what I think the problem is,” she said. Glad turned toward the house. She looked like an ice cream sundae. He called her Swee’Pea. He was more of the potato-with-a-hairbrush-on-its-head type. She called him Spud. He looked down, gave the nearest chunk of granite a nudge with his own toe, then fell in behind his wife as she walked toward the garage. None of it surprised Dub. He had lived with her long enough to know that she would find a reason to justify whatever notion took root in her brain. Lately, Glad had been going through phases of extreme notions. Maybe it was the move. Maybe it was the new location. For many years, the Gilberts had lived near Red Rocks, outside of Denver, where rock ‘n’ rollers took the stage and rocked the Rockies. Dub was a pipefitter and worked on high-rises downtown, setting up flush toilets for the Colorado oil sheikhs. Glad visited hospitals around the west, trying to sell them over-engineered bandaid application systems. Then the Gilberts retired and moved to Arizona, where they bought a new house on the desert floor, safely buffered behind a low brick wall from all the things that didn’t belong in retirement. They could see large piles of rocks on the horizon. The locals called these mountains, too. Dub was fine in Denver. It was Glad’s itch that made them move. Without a job, travel, and suitcases full of laundry to fill her weekends, she felt lost. She never said as much, but Dub figured she thought a move would fill whatever hole she had inside. So they sold the lawn mower, the snow blower, and the rest of the clutter that piled up high in the basement. When they arrived in Arizona and the movers set their furniture in place, Glad looked it over and decided to replace it. But, eventually, the hole opened up again. She was reading the Star one night. “You ever get your face in the paper?” she asked. “Ever? Even as a kid?” “Nope.” “Me neither. It would be nice, just once before we kick, to be famous. For a day or two.” “There’s a reason we ain’t in the paper, Swee’Pea. We ain’t famous.” “Don’t you ever want to be big? Do something everybody looks at and says, ‘Wow, that’s big’?” “Does it have to be big?” “Impressive. Important. Really different. Something people ain’t seen before.” “The last time you came out of Costco was quite impressive. More shit on that flatcar than a flatcar should carry.” “We needed chips. You ate them. I mean, did you ever want to put something out there big time, so people could admire your significance? Get the TV crews out there?” “Not really. You?” “Would be nice.” The people who built the house in Arizona had also landscaped it. Rocks. Big rocks around the edges, or encircling mounds of desert dirt for desert plants: yucca, mesquite, palo verde—imported from other parts of the desert, now denuded, to add texture and greenery to the rocks. Not a stitch of lawn anywhere. Just rocks and thorns. Natural stuff that didn’t need watering. Water in Arizona was as scarce as youth. People had been advised to stop spitting. Imported water filled their pipes, at a high price. Every once in a while, Dub would spray down their rocks to rinse off the dust—but not much. It was costly to water up some sparkle.Inside the garage, Glad and Dub stood facing a pile of plastic storage containers stacked high to the ceiling, full of replacement rocks. “Let’s use this one,” she said, pointing to a container at the bottom of the stack. Dub got the ladder and started moving the containers that sat atop the desired one. Eventually, it was exposed. He loaded it onto a dolly and, with Glad showing the way, rolled it toward the yard. She peeled the lid off. “These are some of my favorites,” she said. Like Christmas ornaments, he thought. She walked into the yard and started picking up rocks, replacing each one with a rock from the storage container. She put the tired rocks in the container for storage. Surveying their work, she simply shook her head. “Wrong,” she said. “Why?” Dub wanted to get to the pool and his floatie mat. “Everybody’s got rocks. We need something that’ll shake things up. Stand out.” When she started having visions like this, Dub knew enough not to pry. He feared what he might see. “Spud, honey, can you take all the rocks we just pulled and dump them in the desert? No sense storing rocks that ain’t got no point.” Dub loaded them up, took them a hundred yards south of the pool, and scattered them around. When he returned to the house, Glad was standing by the sink in the kitchen. “You ought to come out there with me,” he said, just for fun. “I found some really nice rocks you might want to add to your collection.” “Not a collection. It’s our yard.” “Follow me.” He led her to where he had dumped the rocks. “Look at this one,” he said. “And this. And—” “You’re right,” she said. “They are nice. Like that one.” “Which?” “The one you’re standing next to. Let’s take that.” He reached down and picked up the rock that she had deemed “tired” not thirty minutes earlier. She selected a few more. They took them back to their yard.Over dinner with their neighbors, Glad told Bob and Tynee about the problems with their yard. “Where do they get the rocks for these yards?” Glad asked. “They’re just ratty.” “Don’t have the faintest,” Bob answered. “Bet they bring them in from Mexico,” Tynee said. “I’ve been down there. Not much for rocks.” Tynee said Glad and Dub should join them on their next trip down to Quartzite. Glad looked puzzled, so Tynee explained that it was this place west of where they lived, in the middle of the desert. “All kinds of people show up with campers and trailers, set up booths and sell rocks,” she said. “Some are pretty nice. You can get cut and polished stuff: make necklaces, earrings, stuff like that—or door stops, too.” Glad thought about it. She looked at Dub. “Can we get a utility trailer, something to bring some rocks home if we like?” He nodded. The next day, Dub rented a trailer. As soon as he parked the rig in the driveway, Glad came out and looked at the trailer. She looked at the yard. Then back again. “If we’re going down there, we might as well take some of these old, tired rocks with us,” she said. “Maybe we could set up a booth. Sell some antique rocks. Collectibles.” “You’re kidding, right?” “Hell no! Rockhounds? They’re nuts. You package some rocks like something they’ve never seen before, and they’ll scoop it right up.” “How do you know that?” “Tynee told me. They’re rockhounds, case you didn’t guess.” As Dub walked around the yard with a wheelbarrow, Glad followed and pointed to rocks that “had to go,” like a woman in her living room, fed up with the furniture. One by one, he ferried loads of rocks to the trailer. Each time he dumped the wheelbarrow, he looked down and thought, these rocks all look the same. The same as one another. The same as the ones from the previous load. The same as the ones he hadn’t picked up yet. By the time she had finished gathering the problematic rocks, the yard looked no different to Dub. Something about it, however, convinced Glad that it was time for them to go. Bob and Tynee pulled their car slowly out of the “retiredment community,” with Dub and Glad dragging rocks behind them in the trailer. Glad and Tynee traded text messages to keep the convoy on track: west from Tucson, through Phoenix, toward a dot on the map where people went to trade rocks. When, hours later, they pulled up to Quartzite, it looked like the biggest flea market they had ever seen. A sea of tents. RVs everywhere. The RV park was full so, naturally, the only option was to boondock it. Bob and Tynee led them out into the desert and, for reasons that weren’t readily apparent, pulled off and drove about a hundred feet from the road, stopping in between two mesquite bushes. There was a low hill ahead and nothing much else. “We can camp here,” Bob said. “Where are we?” Dub asked. “Camp,” Bob answered. Dub turned in place. For as far as he could see, everywhere looked exactly the same as where he stood. Sand. Mesquite. Some cholla cacti. Not a speck of shade.The sun rose a little after six. Within minutes, the inside of the tent was so hot that it could have turned Dub into a corn dog. They made coffee, dug out the Krispy Kremes and, with Bob and Tynee leading the way, set off for a day of trading rocks for rocks. Veteran rockhounds had secured all the prime real estate. Dub and Bob erected their pop-up sun shades and tables at the farthest extremity of the market. Desert stretched away on three sides. “We’re not going to sell a thing,” Dub said to Glad. “You might as well go shopping.” Glad and Tynee headed into the maze. Bob popped open a beer and showed Dub some of what he had brought to sell. “You get these from your yard?” Dub asked. “Hell no,” Bob answered. “Stuff in our yards? That’s gravel. This is lapidary quality stuff.” He swept his hand across a display of rocks that looked like halved hard-boiled eggs with crystals instead of yolks. Some had solid centers, like agates from a beach. “Geodes and thundereggs, that’s my thing.” “Nice,” Dub said. Dub got a beer and settled into a chair behind his table, covered with bins of generic granite and basalt and sandstone. A few people wandered past their tables. Some stopped to chat with Bob. It was a long day. Glad and Tynee eventually returned. Glad told Dub he needed to follow her with his cart. She led him from vendor to vendor. “Here’s where we get the turquoise,” she would say. “And next is the quartz. You will just love the fluorite and tourmalines I found.” “Dare I ask what all this set you back?” Dub asked. “No,” she said. She managed their finances. If she said they could afford it, who was he to risk his personal peace and tranquility by arguing otherwise? The sun was setting by the time they situated all the new geology into the trailer and scattered the stuff from their yard into the desert outside Quartzite. They hung some tin cans with pebbles in them from the tarp that overlaid the bins of new rock. Anyone planning a midnight requisition would trigger a chorus of clanking and wake them. At two in the morning, Dub realized nothing would wake him because he was never going to fall asleep. “I thought we came to see the rocks, not sleep on them,” he groused. Glad snored through it all. Shopping did that to her. Exhilaration was exhausting.On the drive back to Tucson, about fifteen minutes from home, Glad glanced casually to her right and locked on. A massive slab of stone was jutting up from the desert floor, maybe ten feet tall, like a butternut squash that had crash-landed in the sand. Back home, Glad told Dub to unload the cargo in their side yard, return the trailer, and immediately come home and talk to her—she had an idea. “What’re you gonna do with all this shit?” he said. “Start a rent-a-rock business?” She ignored him. She had some calls to make. After returning the trailer, he approached her office with studied trepidation. “There you are,” she said, looking up from a notepad. “What took you?” “Oh, driving. Unhooking the trailer. Paperwork. You know.” “OK, here’s the deal. I got a great idea.” “Says who?” “Me. Who did you think?” “No, sorry, who says it’s a great idea?” “You’ll see,” she said, and proceeded to recount her plan to hire a crew to jack that slab of sandstone away from its mother cliff, get it on a trailer, and haul it to their front yard. “That’ll put us on the map for all these sunbaked nimrods.” “I didn’t know we came down here to . . . be on the map.” She ignored him. Early the next morning, sun still below the horizon, they stood with the guy Glad had hired to move the stone. Bruno. He had his arms folded over his chest while he appraised the monolith. “I’ve moved some boulders,” he said, “nothing like this. Huge.” “I like it,” Glad said. “It’s not just some piece of quartz. Nobody has nothin’ like this.” “You’re in luck,” the contractor said. “It’s tuff.” “We ain’t gonna eat it,” Dub said. “Volcanic rock. Lighter than most. Still, maybe ten, fifteen tonnes.” “Better get started then,” Glad said. She and Dub retreated to their car and parked by the highway, where they watched a crew set up scaffolding and ropes and pulleys and hydraulic jacks and whatnot. They were going to jack it up, back a lowboy trailer under it, lower it to the bed, then slowly haul it to its destination. They would back the trailer to where Glad wanted it, jack up the monument enough to remove the trailer, then lower it into position. That was the plan, anyway, before the guy from the Bureau of Dirt and Rocks showed up and asked Glad for her permit. “Permit?” she said. “Rockhounds pick up stuff all the time without a permit.” “Rocks, yes. Not this. This is a baby mountain. Needs a permit,” he said. She told him she would get a permit. He seemed assured and drove off. It left just the window she needed. She walked over to the obelisk with Bruno. They talked a bit. He pointed to the crack where they would jack it away from the cliff. Dub watched from the road. He felt like he was watching the dawn of the pyramids. Glad turned and started walking back toward him. She extended her left arm and turned it thumb up, so Bruno could see it. That’s when Dub heard a muffled explosion and saw dust blow out of the crack. Slowly, the pinnacle tilted and fell with full force to the desert floor, Glad gone beneath it. He didn’t move. Workers were running around frantically—a clue that his mind wasn’t playing some perverse trick. He felt himself step toward the rock. At the rock’s edge, he stopped. People were rushing up to him, shouting, apologizing, trying to explain the inexplicable. Shock immobilized him. He looked at the column, lying on its side, Glad somewhere beneath it. It would take other equipment to lift it and free Glad’s body. Dub took out his phone and called 9-1-1. “My wife is . . . hurt, I think,” he said. How stupid did that sound? He told the dispatcher he needed help moving a large slab of rock. And why. She answered a few questions and hung up. Without a word to anyone, he walked to his car, started the engine, pulled onto the highway. The road home was wide open. As he approached their house, he watched a woman carry a plastic milk crate full of their new rocks from his side yard. Took them. Right from the trailer. She put them in her trunk and drove off, so he could pull into his garage. It was cool in there. He sat a bit, stunned, in a haze. Then he got out, grabbed a pair of gloves, and went around to the trailer in the side yard. One by one, he picked up bright and shiny and colorful rocks full of caramel swirls and depths like the ocean, and walked them into his yard and placed them here and there. Right where it seemed they belonged. He thought Glad would approve, but of course, he would never know, not unless she summoned heartbeat enough to extract herself from beneath that slab of rock and walk the world again as a modern-day miracle. A deputy showed up while he was working. More questions. Dub gave him a recent photo of Glad, wearing gloves and moving rocks. “We need to line up a heavy-duty crane,” the deputy said. “It’ll take some time.” They shook hands and he departed. Dub walked to the kitchen, poured himself a Scotch, and opened the freezer. His stack of frozen dinners: Beef with brown gravy. Glad’s stack of frozen dinners: Turkey with white gravy. Dub grabbed a turkey and slipped it into the oven. He flicked on the TV for company, went to the news, and balanced the changer on his knee. He wanted to see if Glad was finally famous.