The Difference Between Stone and Sand (Prologue excerpt)

by Randal Houle

Solid rock suicides into the surf, piece by piece. An empire of granite crumbles; imperceptibly slow, like a growing tree; or slower, like a glacier; or slower still, like a mountain marching across its range. 

In contrast, the sand maintains its appearance, even as wind and wave keep each grain in constant tumult. Everything in motion, whether rock or sand - ever-changing, yet appearing to remain unaltered to those with temporal blindness, or the handicap of birth and death.

At low tide, biding its time, teasing, building, the water works its violence upon the shore without prejudice or preference for stone or sand. It tickles up the shoreline and runs away, coquettish. The waves launch at the cliff's face, churning the sand and cleaving craggy rock from the hillside. The sand is a ready accomplice, exfoliating the stone and grinding the tiny cracks wider. In and out, the tide ebbs and flows until it runs over with foam. Twice a day, at high tide, the ocean goes down on the cliffside. 

And what of the cliff, and the sand, and the ocean, and the eternal dance? It churns up the salt spray. Night and day, light and dark, heat and cold combine the water and air into fog. The fog rises and drifts, ambiguous and indifferent. 

Over the cliff and above the surf, stands humanity's greatest denial against eternity. Hubris is manifest in a small cemetery that's not even older than most of the trees in the nearby forest. Its fate rests in the hands of a lone drifter and his boho friend. Deep in the woods, in a century old camp, they get high and laugh and tell stories by firelight. The fog caresses the treetops. Kisses pine needles. Passes without notice.

Further still, up a straight road that is clearly marked as a Tsunami evacuation route, a bungalow sits with its secrets behind a wall of arborvitae.