A Floating Pebble

Written by Matthew Benbenek

Photography by Noah Laroia-Nguyen

He rounded the sharp gravel bend going 75. The motorcycle kicked out, no longer under his center of mass. The boy’s attempt to rebalance was late and futile.

The bike was a graduation gift, less than a month old.

It hit the dirt. The tires spun in the air, no longer gaining traction, but momentum kept it moving forwards. His left leg was trapped under the bike, skinned after the first ten feet. The boy’s head slammed into the road and ricocheted like a skipping stone, neck snapping back with each bounce.

His parents got him a helmet. He wasn’t wearing it.

Twisted metal dug into the rocks. It would have stopped the bike in fifty feet. The guard rail was in thirty. The boy stared ahead, focused on the metal beam he sped towards.

Only now the boy realized he was not moving so fast. He and the bike crawled towards the rail at a slower and slower rate. The pebbles being kicked up slowed too and the boy could not move. Not even blink.

Was his life flashing before his eyes? He saw no light in a tunnel. That must be a good sign. He was glad that he could no longer feel the gravel ripping holes in him. Still he slid closer to the rail.

This was not like one of Zeno’s riddles. There was an imminence about that metal beam. His journey was drawn out but he would reach its end. There was about fifteen feet to go. An hour later there was about half that.

He was late for dinner now; his parents would be worrying about him. The boy was not thinking clearly.

The next five feet felt much longer. The boy couldn’t put a value on it, but he was sure it was longer than he had ever spent doing one thing. He wondered if the sun would set soon. He thought that he knew every tiny detail of that beam, but every so often, as he slid towards, another speck or blemish revealed itself.

But, with a few inches to go, something else caught his eye. A small rock, no larger than a cubic centimeter, hung suspended in front of him. He did not see it kick up and it did not appear to be falling down. Only after days of intense observation could he tell that it had sunken a little in relation to its background.

One moment, the boy felt something change. The front of the motorcycle had reached its final destination. All the machine’s momentum was stopped dead. The boy still had some. Like Peter Pan, the boy became airborne. He was carried forward, his leg pulled out from under the bike and all limbs floated haphazardly like a rag doll.

For a decade, he and the pebble lived a similar fate.

The boy wondered if he would have a family of his own by now.

The beam now filled his entire frame of view. The freckles of dirt he could once place from memory were blurs. Then he felt the hot steel press against his forehead.

For the next fifty years it caved in his skull.

Ah well, he thought finally as his vision clouded into a red vignette.

And at eighteen going on eighty the boy crumpled lifeless on the rocky road.