Chapter 1: Rocks
"Not everybody can be the rock at the top of the rock pile.” That’s what my grandpa Park said to my mom once when they thought I was asleep, or just not listening, I don’t know. But my ears work fine. “There have to be some rocks at the bottom, to support those at the top.”
I sat in my bedroom, knocking the army men one by one off my windowsill. Dad said I was getting too old to play with them, so I didn’t play, just knocked them over. Plunk, plunk, plunk, on the bedspread. But I did it quiet so no one would hear. plunk . . . plunk. For some reason, I felt heavy inside, listening to them talk out in the living room. Or maybe heavy on the outside, like something was pressing down on top of me, when really it was nothing but air. plunk. plunk.
If I listened real close, I could hear Grandpa Park’s ice clicking in his glass when he lifted it to drink.
It was quiet in the living room, no talking, only ice, for a long time. When I got to the last army man, I didn’t set them up again right away. I stared at them on the bed, knocked over sideways or on their bellies. On some you could see the black marker where I’d marked their feet when I first learned to write my name. A for Albie.
It was quiet so long that I thought my mom must’ve gone to bed, and it was just Grandpa Park out there with his glass, drinking down till the ice melted like he usually did when he came to visit. But then Mom said something, so I knew she hadn’t gone to bed after all. She said it real quiet, but I heard.
“Albie’s not a rock,” she said.