I tapped the lady on the shoulder. “What about me?” I asked, “I’m hungry too.” I said. The lady cracked a smile, laughed, then told the cashier, “Sure. Why not? And, whatever he wants, too.” The lady and I shared a good laugh about that. The two teenage girls looked at each other, puzzled, as if to say, “Who is this guy? And why is he talking to our mom?” Although I am sure the lady’s offer was genuine, I told her I was just kidding and she didn’t have to buy my coffee. The three of them went to sit at a table. I ran out to my car to grab something.
I came back into the restaurant, walked up to the lady and handed her a small rock, just slightly larger than a dime. “What is this?” She asked. “It’s a quartz rock I picked up on a beach in Lake Superior Provincial Park, in Canada.” I said. “Really? You brought this rock all the way across the country from Lake Superior?” She asked. “Yep.” I said, “It’s an international rock.”
I explained that I travel all over the country. “When I visit different bodies of water and walk the beaches, I collect rocks or seashells. Nothing too big or significant, just small rocks or shells. I keep them in my car. From time to time I run into people whom I wish to give a little present.” “And why are you giving me this rock?” She asked. “Because you offered to buy me dinner. I just wanted to return the nice gesture.” Then I told her, “It’s a special rock; as long as you keep it with you, it will bring you good luck.” She thanked me, turning the rock over and over in her fingers, studying it. I smiled and walked away.
I paid for my drink, then found a table to sit and sip my coffee, while writing. A few moments later the lady walked up to my table. She said, “It’s funny you should give me that lucky rock today. I’m going in for a surgical procedure tomorrow and I’ve really been nervous about it. Somehow this little rock from a stranger makes me feel like everything is going to be okay.” That kind of choked me up, leaving me speechless.
She continued, “We travel all over the country, too, and I buy little things I don’t need, but sometimes its good to have them to give away.” With that said, she handed me a postcard, “I picked this up in southern California and I’d like you to have it.”
The postcard was very colorful with all the planets from our solar system on it. A logo on the bottom read, “Ron Jon Surf Shop.” It was one of those 3-D hologram cards. As I held it in my hands, I turned it from side to side studying it. It looked like the planets were moving about inside the card. “This is really cool!” I said, as I gladly accepted her gift, “Thank you very much.” She in turn, thanked me again for the rock, saying, “I will take it with me to my surgery tomorrow.” I smiled warmly and said, “You’re going to be just fine, my friend. I know you will.” She returned the smile, we said our farewells and she walked away. I kept looking at the card, thinking, “Someday after I’ve traveled the whole world over, I’ll explore the universe; and now I’ll have a map to take with me.” I laughed, “Maybe I’ll collect moon rocks next.”
I continued turning the card back and forth in my hands, mesmerized by the planets as they moved about. I looked up and outside. The lady was passing by the windows. She was looking down toward her hands; turning something small in her fingers, studying it.
Tom can be reached for comment at Facebook.com/Tom.palen.98