Stone story by Stella Pierides

Although Kareem is eight, he looks more like twelve. This is neither due to his hairstyle, nor to the long trousers and T-shirt he is wearing; rather the serious expression on his face, and the way he looks at you, straight in the eye. He sells stones.

He picked them himself carefully: not too big, for they will not travel far; not too small, for they will impress no one. He arranged them on his wooden tray and priced them accordingly: regular, one piastra; medium, two.

By the time the protesters wake up, he is standing in the furthest corner of the square, holding his tray for them to buy his stones. He pockets the notes and coins, and by the end of the first day of business he has enough money to buy his mother flatbread and tahina; and to pay off the loan to Aziz for the trip on the felucca he didn’t want his mother to know about.

On the second day though, the protest turns violent and few buy his stones; many grab them and run. Kareem ties his money in his handkerchief, puts it in his trouser pocket and starts for home.

Hours later, when he comes to, long after the van that knocked him unconscious sped away, he feels for his bundle. It is no longer there. His strength gone, he falls back to the ground and closes his eyes. He now looks the boy of eight he is.

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17 Comments

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17 responses to “Stone story by Stella Pierides

  1. Beautiful brutal story, Stella. The details are so vivid: the clothes, size of stones, handkerchief, and especially “the way he looks at you, straight in the eye.” Your opening and closing on the appearance of his age is so effective – and moving. What chillingly stone cold van people. This piece reminds me of Paul Bowles, whose work I adore.

  2. powerfully brutal. That feeling of being taken down a notch or two and so poignant.

  3. So powerful in the images and the telling. Perfect, Stella.

  4. Alexandra Pereira

    Powerful story. Nice details. :-)

  5. Stella Cattini

    Very moving, Stella, and powerful – it’s as if those stones gave the little man his strength and independence, which is knocked out of him in the rush of violence…

  6. Yes! I love this! I love that he is selling stones to protestors! What an idea!

  7. Ugh. This hits my heart. Hard. Peace…

  8. Michael

    Wow! Stunning! Intensity that leaves a cold sweat! I literally gasped and stopped breathing as soon as I read “by the time the protesters wake up…” Then I knew what these stones were for! Having read “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” I anticipated an ending with him unknowningly having sold stones for the stoning of his mother, which would have worked, and would have haunted me for nights, as did Hosseini’s “Splendid Suns.” But don’t get me wrong, this ending is equally strong and poignant. Brava, Stella, Brava!

  9. As usual your details are sharp: the eight years old who looks like he’s 12; why he chooses the stones that he does; how he prices them; how he spends his money… I loved that “he didn’t want his mother to know about…” This is a story of a budding entrepreneur – wise beyond his years undone by the theft of his earnings and his inability to contribute to the family. The independent businessman made small – only eight again. You took me there.

    And this is a bit off topic, but if you haven’t seen The Stoning of Soraya, a 2008 movie based on a true story written first as a novel (La Femme Lapidee by Freidoune Sahebjana) look for it. I think we streamed it via Netflix, but you can watch it free of charge too. Do a search – the movie is well worth your time. Doris

  10. Joanne Jagoda

    gripping story

  11. Thank you all so much for your generous comments! I did love writing this story. I had read in The Independent newspaper (UK) that a reporter had seen two children selling their wares on wooden trays: a girl selling teas, if I remember well; and a boy selling stones! So, the story is based on reality, or rather the elaboration of a ‘real’ image. And of course, there were the images on television, of vehicles running down people. I found the images heartbreaking, so my response was to write plots using them; I guess, however ‘brutal,’ the elaboration made them bearable for me.

    Also, this fitted well with my current project of working on a series of mainly flash stories using news images and reports as the springing point…

    Thank you for the book links! Susan: for Paul Bowles; Michael: I already bought the ‘Splendid Suns’ to read, and Doris, I will look out for the film ‘Soraya.’

  12. Yes, I thought of the amazing Bowles also. And this is slightly off-topic, but Jane Bowles (his wife) is another fantastic writer if you have not read her.

  13. Pingback: Week #40 – The money’s gone | 52|250 A Year of Flash

  14. Maria Claire Arnouk

    I loved the beginning & mostly the end , i could even see that boy infront of me…i`m so happy to read it by you Antie Stella, but i wondered why did you call him Kareem ?? and you also mentioned Aziz ???

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