Antonio, the Elder

Antonio, the Elder ponders the rock wall. He sets himself under a tree that cuts through the line the short wall creates high on the hill looking over the pasture, separating the grass from the neighboring road. Beyond the road a forest sprawls into the hillside.. “These cobbled stones,” he says aloud, “what a marvelous collection.” A sturdy wall, he thinks sliding his hand against a round stone atop so many others, such capable human hands. But what if it weren’t arranged by us at all? he muses.

He imagines the brief reign of a towering tree living on the hilltop, an army of fallen branches taken as its slaves at war with the rock dwellers in a since-covered quarry far below. Of course the fallen branches disliked the rock dwellers. Of course a fragile thing would start a fight with one that's made of stone.

The rock dwellers, he smiles at the thought of them, such round and clunky little beings with their crooked cracked faces and blunt grunts for words. They smash things to bits, roll the bits to where they need them - of course they haven’t fingers or thumbs, just fists. They push a thing, use force to propel movement. They hammer their little fists against -

“Is this the Elder?” interrupts a passerby. Antonio looks up, squinting his eyes at a figure in the shadow of the bright midday sun.

“I am just a man,” says Antonio, brushing off the visitation.

“But you are also this man, whom I seek," says this strange, thin man.

“I know not what you seek,” says the Elder. “I am simply a man who currently guides this charcoal stick unto this piece of paper against this wooden board.”

“Are you not the man known as Antonio?” asks the interrupter.

“I have been called many things,” answers the Elder. “What is your inquiry?”

“I am something of an artist myself, sir,” says the man, now blocking the Elder’s sun.

“Please, I haven’t time for sirs, young man,” spurts the Elder.

“I wonder if you have any advice,” asks the interrupter.

“Of course, an old man sits before you who is really not that old in the grand scheme of time. I am swollen with advice,” says Antonio, “filled to the brim." The Elder looks away from his visitor, cranes his neck out along the pasture, for the first time noticing some cows out in the distance that may not have been there when he first sat. He begins again, his face turned from this stranger, "I will tell you this, young man. When you see a man thinking alone along a rock wall such as this one, do not interrupt that man’s line of thought. The magic comes when we reach our destination.”

“Oh dear,” says the man, “my apologies -”

“Enough!” shouts the Elder with a clap of his hands that echoes back from the pasture. “Be, man. Be what you are meant to be. Listen to your own self, and move on from here, for I am pondering the existence of this wall.”

“Of course, Elder,” grovels the interrupter. “But surely," the old man's shoulder's tense as his tormentor continues, "this wall exists. You sit atop it.”

“Great gods,” yelps the Elder, who then noticeably relaxes over the thought as it turns, “I am not questioning the wall’s place here," he smooths the stone with his palm, "I am merely thinking of the paths from whence it came to be.” Antonio looks away, adjusts his tunic under him, the cloth twisted from turning towards the interrupter. Where was he? Thinking about this rock wall. Thinking about a war between rocks and trees.

“Will you draw the wall?” asks the interrupter, startling the Elder.

“My stars,” says the old man, “are you still here? I will draw what I come up with when I have the time to think it. It is no concern of yours what shapes will be formed on this piece of paper.” He takes a long look at the interrupter, his tunic a little too loosely fit around the shoulders. The boy could use a soup or chicken leg or some such thing. This is a thin and muscular creature, standing before him. He briefly envisions him in the leather armor of a spartan, with the long athletic sandals tied close to his knees. Perhaps he would draw this version of the young man from memory later. “From which way, did you say, have you come to be here?”

“I came just from that path there,” responds the man quickly.

“I beg you,” says the Elder, patting the air with his long fingers. “Think before you speak, man. I am not interested in the road from which you traveled, I am only inquiring after the path that brought you here to me.”

“I see,” says the interrupter. “Before I traveled this road I came to be in this town by carriage. I came here, to tell it briefly, sir, to find you.”

“Well,” shouts the Elder with his arms outstretched, “I am here on this wall formed by capable hands many years before either you or I came to be things that are known at all. You, sir, have indeed found me.”

“The nature,” says the interrupter, “of my voyage -”

“This is a predictable farce, sir!” whispers the Elder close to this stranger’s ear, now indulging himself as much as his passerby. “You’ve not come here to find me, you are only looking for your self!”

“Sir, I believe,” says the stranger, “you see, my mother spoke to me of this place, told me if I sought you, here you would be.”

“What do you believe to be,” says the Elder rolling his eyes in a dramatic fashion, “my son, or some such thing?”

“Indeed,” says the stranger.

“And you are looking for what, exactly?” asks the Elder.

“I came to introduce myself,” says the stranger, “to you.”

“You are an earnest thing,” says the Elder. “What do you have to say? Am I now meant to live a life changed with this knowledge?”

“I only seek to answer your query,” says the stranger. “I suppose I stand here, both physically and universally because of you.”

Antonio the Elder, opens his mouth, raises a finger in the air to speak. He takes a long break from movement, retracts the finger and closes his mouth. He collects his paper and board, slips it within a folded leather portfolio and rises from the short cobblestone wall, patting the rock once more affectionately. “Another time for you, my dears” he whispers to the rocks. The old man again adjusts his cloth wardrobe around his body for it to fall in the appropriate way, tightens his sandals for his long walk home.

Antonio, the Elder is already several meters away from this supposed son when he stops and says, "You can spend an eternity looking at that wall of rock, young man. I imagine you’d best come with me... if you care to survive. It’s only a matter of time before those rocks and that tree are in a quarrel again. There’s no telling what will come of that.”