A short story, sort of, by Stuart Baum
Illustrated by ZoŽ Baum
To be read aloud.
For My Children, Who Are My Sun And My
Not too long ago and not that far from here, there
was little girl who could talk to rocks.
Her first name was Lucy. I wish I could tell you that her
last name was Stone or Quarry or, even, McAdam, but it wasn’t.
It was Katz.
When she was very young, she thought that everyone
could talk to rocks, but by the time she was in Kindergarten
she believed that she was the only one who could.
One day in school, every one of the children was asked to
tell the class something special about themselves.
One of the children said he had a wart on this big toe, which
was true, but no one thought it was that special. Another
child said she could whistle through her nose, which everyone
in the class thought was pretty amazing, though you
had to be very, very quiet to hear her.
Lucy told the class that she could talk to rocks. Most of
the other children laughed and rolled their eyes. The teacher
said it would be very special, indeed, if it were true.
One of the children, and not even one of Lucy’s friends,
asked, “What do rocks say?”
Lucy responded, “Nothing very interesting, actually. Just
where they were before and sometimes what they saw long, long
Most of the children forgot about Lucy’s special ability
by the time it was their turn to say what made them special.
At recess, though, Grant, the mean kid in the class, held
up a rock he had found and demanded, “Hey, rocktalker!
What does this rock say?”
Lucy listened, but before she could hear what it had to say,
Grant threw the rock away. He had tired of the game. “Sheesh!
What a weirdo!” he said.
* * *
Here is how it works:
Lucy didn’t so much talk to the rocks since they
weren’t really interested in what she had to say, but
they did tell her things as she went by.
There were once Indians here.
I was many, many miles away until the ice brought
me here. That was a long, long time ago for people. But
not so long for me.
I used to be part of a mountain.
They didn’t speak in words, as you and I do. It was more
that they put pictures in Lucy’s head with their soft, grunting
sounds. Picture like a large mountain and a missing place where
the rock used to be.
Okay, it sounds odd, perhaps, but most things that are true
do sound odd, especially if you say them out loud.
Let’s say you are walking through the woods. You hear a few
birds chirping certainly. The wind rustling the leaves. Crickets
or frogs or something else underneath all that. If you are lucky,
you’ll hear the tap tap tap of a distant woodpecker.
And, every now and then, the scrii-iitch of a squirrel
or a chipmunk or, even a snake, darting through the underbrush.
hears all that but also hears the soft, deep mumbles of the
rocks in the stone walls mumba-mummmba-murrrmm and
the almost purring grunts of the pebbles on the path uck-uck-uck
and, every now and then, the groan of a boulder far away
arrrroooo, arooochhh or much closer AROOO-oochhh! Arroo-OOGH!
When the rocks and stones and boulders can tell she actually
hears them, they become even louder and even more insistent.
They want her to hear their story and understand, since so few
other people can.
The sound is almost deafening and if you were walking with
Lucy in the woods, you might see her, every now and then, cover
her ears with her hands as if she were near a construction site.
Now you know what it sounds like and perhaps you no longer
think it is such a great ability, but, most of the time anyway,
Lucy can let it all wash over her as you do with the crickets
and the birds and the frogs. And, if she listens carefully,
she hears something worth hearing.
Now that you know how it works, let’s get back to the story.
* * *
weekend her Father took her older brother and her camping in
Wisconsin. When they pitched their tent, Lucy told them that
their used to be Indians just down the hill a few steps. So
the three of them went hunting for arrowheads.
Her brother found one. Her father found two. Lucy found fourteen.
And the nicest ones as well.
* * *
A number of years later, her whole class went on a field
trip to Nature’s Classroom. It was mostly a different group
of children than her Kindergarten class, but Grant was still
They were all sitting on rocks around a campfire listening
to someone talk about the area.
During a pause, Grant yelled across the fire, “ Hey, rocktalker!
Are the rocks mad about the fire?” He laughed until the teacher
teacher explained that the native people used to bake pottery
right on this spot. The rocks agreed and told Lucy where some
pottery was still buried.
Lucy asked the teacher if they could dig for some pottery.
The teacher said it would be fine, but they shouldn’t expect
to find anything, Everyone started to dig in different places,
but Grant followed Lucy and dug near her. They both found some
clay shards and Grant found a small bowl that was mostly whole.
The next day Grant came over to Lucy. He looked to see if
anyone else was around and Lucy was worried that he might punch
But instead, in a very soft voice, he asked, “Can you
really talk to rocks?”
“Can you find me another pot?”
She shrugged, but then asked out loud to all the rocks in
the area, “Any more pots around here?”
Grant looked around to see if he could see any of the rocks
talking, but nothing seemed to happen.
“There is more under that bush,” said Lucy. When Grant dug
under the bush, he did find some more pottery shards, one of
which was painted with orange and black stripes. He put it in
his pocket and said nothing more about it.
* * *
If that were the whole story, it would be pretty amazing
I think, but probably not as exciting as you might have wanted.
Good thing there is more to Lucy’s story than finding pottery
and arrowheads. In fact, there is more to Lucy’s story than
what I am going to tell you next. But this next part is worth
* * *
If you were able to fly, for example, you would probably
want to learn more about birds. If you could breathe water and
swim to the very depths of the ocean, I expect you’d want to
know more about fish and squid and, even more likely, sharks.
So it should come as no surprise that Lucy learned a great
deal about stones and rocks when she was young. For this reason,
she became very interested in the Pyramids, which led her to
learn about an archeologist named Reginald Pravey.
Reginald Pravey was one of very many archeologists studying
the Pyramids. But he had one thing that made him special to
Lucy. In his speeches, he says, (and you have to imagine the
stuffy English accent since I am not so good at doing it) “The
care that the Egyptians took with these stones is what really
should be studied. It’s as if they revered the stones more even
than they revered the pyramids or their Pharaoh.”
You can imagine why this caught Lucy’s attention and why
she wanted to help Mr. Pravey.
She learned that Mr. Pravey was speaking at a local college
and she decided to attend his lecture. You have to remember
that this is a nine-year old girl sitting in on a lecture for
college students and professors.
The lecture was about as boring as you might expect. While
Pravey had sample stones and some stone-working tools for show
and tell, most of the lecture was just talking. He spoke about
how the Egyptians formed stones into squares, the tools they
used, where they got the stones, and from what kinds of materials
the stones were originally formed. Lucy knew he got most of
it right, but not all of it. What she did not know for certain,
the stones told her. She didn’t correct his mistakes, however,
since the errors were not important.
He also said he believed there was another pyramid made from
these exact types of stones, a ‘practice’ pyramid he explained.
He picked up one of the stones and explained that it was a perfect
1/20th replica of the stones used to build the pyramid at
Meidum (a location in Egypt where one of the first,
and not-so-successful pyramids was built) and that it was made
at about the same time.
He said the Egyptians practiced making pyramids, so they
could learn about the construction and determine how many stones
they needed, exactly how large they had to be, and if there
were any tricks. He said he doubted they finished this trial
pyramid, and likely took most of the stones with them to Meidum.
One of his goals, Pravey said, was to find this practice
site. He believed archeologists would learn more about building
pyramids at this one spot than they had from anywhere else.
the lecture, when a few teachers came forward to talk to Mr.
Pravey, Lucy asked him if she could look at the rocks and tools.
He said, “But of course,” as if he were speaking to another
adult, not a child. For Lucy, this made all the difference.
She liked him wholeheartedly and decided to help him find his
practice pyramid. As we know she could.
While Pravey continued discussing rocks and tools with the
other professors, Lucy talked to (or more like listened to)
the rocks and stone samples. One of them, a broken brick-shaped
clay-colored stone, told her what Pravey wanted to know.
She brought the stone over to Pravey and handed it to him.
It never occurred to her that she was interrupting the discussion.
He took it and immediately used it to explain a point he was
making to the other teachers.
Finally, he turned to Lucy and asked matter-of-factly, “Why
did you hand me this stone?”
replied simply, “It was made at your practice site.” Then she
spoke as if she were describing a picture. “When you are facing
the mountains, to the left, most of the way, you will see two
waves with a white bird ... I do not know what the bird is called
... trapped in between. It’s at the base of the wave on the
right. It’s in the shallow indented place for rolling out grain
... I do not know what this thing is called.”
Everyone, of course, was silent as they listened to Lucy.
A few professors chuckled and walked away. Another continued
talking as soon as Lucy stopped, but Pravey got a far away look
on his face and then, slowly, said, “I think I know where you
mean.” He did not ask how she knew.
* * *
It took Pravey almost six years (archeology does not happen
fast) but he found it. The practice pyramid was almost exactly
as he expected and, also as he expected, archeologists did
learn a great deal about pyramid building from his and
He named the site “Lucy’s Trial Site,” but archeologists
refer to it as “Pravey’s Practice Pyramid.” I think you can
* * *
You might think that Lucy joined Pravey and became a famous
archeologist herself. She did not. And while it took me a long
time to get to this point in her story, I will now tell you
what happened to Lucy.
* * *
Everyone’s life has a turning point. A moment, sometimes
big, sometimes small, that changes what your life will become.
There are three types of turning points:
The first is when you make a sudden decision and then work
to make that decision into your entire life. For example, you
suddenly decide: ‘I want to be a fireman!’ Or ‘I want to be
a ballerina!’ Then you work years and years until it becomes
The second type is when one small decision leads to another
small decision and soon enough these small decisions grow to
become your life. For example, you start riding horses, which
leads you to working in a stable, which leads you, many years
later, to owning a horse farm.
The turning point in Lucy’s life was the third kind: when
something happens and your life, as a result, is suddenly changed.
For an example of this, just listen to the rest of her story.
* * *
is now seven years older than when we last saw her at nine,
making her sixteen. Reginald Pravey has discovered his pyramid
and is excavating away. Every now and then he takes the time
to send Lucy a postcard, which makes both of them happy.
Lucy is on a vacation with her parents in the mountains of
Colorado. It is summer. She is hiking through the woods with
her Dad when she hears it. At first it is a low rumbling, as
if there were many people whispering the same word all at once,
but, as you know, these are the rocks. They are saying, “Krakatoa.”
Krakatoa is a volcano in Indonesia, which erupted just over
a hundred years ago taking the better part of an island with
it. Everything on the island – and most of the island itself
– is now below the ocean. Imagine if there had been a large
city on that island when the eruption occurred.
the rocks all around Lucy weren’t talking about Krakatoa itself.
They were talking about another volcano that was going to explode
like Krakatoa. The volcano was located in Cayambe,
Ecuador, which is in South America just between Colombia and
Peru. The volcano was angry and was going to erupt. Or, as the
rocks say, ‘go Krakatoa.’
Lucy knew what she had to do.
She stopped on the path, grabbed her father by the shirt
and declared, “We need to move to Ecuador.” Recall that she
was only sixteen.
* * *
That was thirty years ago, when I was much, much
younger and many years before you were born. Lucy, of course,
moved to Ecuador, to Cayambe, and lives on the volcano.
Each morning, she walks the three-mile path to the little
hillside town and enjoys her breakfast of bizcochos,
which are small biscuits with string cheese.
Along the way, she talks to the rocks, more like listens,
and they are happy to finally have someone who can understand
them. Every afternoon, she walks to the top of the mountain
and reassures the volcano that it will be all right. That there
is no reason to erupt. That many thousands of people are counting
It is a beautiful place to live, Cayambe, with its flower
farms and nearly constant sunshine. And, on the edge of town,
you can find the place that Lucy loves best: Puntiachil, with
its two small pyramids. One for the sun. And one for the moon.
This is where she sits and writes her letters and postcards
to her parents, to her brothers and to Reginald Pravey. And,
every now and then, she sends a postcard to her old school friend
* * *
at this very moment in fact, she is sitting at the pyramids
writing a postcard to Reginald Pravey.
Dear Mr. Pravey,
The weather is lovely. The volcano
is fine. I look forward to your arrival.
I am sure you will enjoy visiting
our little pyramids. They will enjoy your visit as well.
Lucy Katz, rocktalker
©2004 Stuart B Baum, Illustrations
by ZoŽ Baum