Kicking Limestone

Peter Curry kicked a chunk of limestone as he crossed the parking lot to the Waldo post office.

In his mind he was Mario Kempes, putting on an amazing display of skill and determination that awed the home crowd in Buenos Aires, already on its feet for most of the second half and hoarse from screaming. It was an amazing day for Argentina. Having made it all the way to the World Cup final they needed one goal to defeat the Dutch for their first-ever championship. He faked left, then right, threading his way through the Orange jerseys. He gave the stone one final strike and heard a collective roar as a flurry of blue and white flags rose around the stadium.

Peter felt bad rooting for a team that in some sense represented a totalitarian regime. But the Dutch players reminded him of the mean Dutch kids he had gone through junior high with while his family was living in Pella, Iowa.

He was pondering this when he saw the kicked stone coming back at him. Fast. It was coming in low having ricocheted off the rear wheel of a purple Cadillac El Dorado. He felt it whoosh past his bare shin before it smashed into the curb behind him and breaking into two pieces. One of these pieces came almost immediately to rest, the other rose and glanced off the shoulder of Apurna Balaram, a resident at the university medical center.

Peter Curry quickly went from world-class athlete to recent political science graduate, and a red-faced one at that. As he apologized, he stooped to pick up the offending fragment. Apurna Balaram snatched it out of his hand and told him that he was undoubtedly too old to be kicking stones about in public places. Peter continued to apologize right up to the door of the post office door, which he opened for Apurna. They both went in, she to send a letter to her aunt in Kerala and he to mail off his Peace Corps application.

Later that day she would find the chunk of limestone in her pocket and place it next to some family photos on a shelf in the house she shared with several other medical students. It would stay there throughout her residency and the fellowship that followed. She was never sure why.

Peter gave the other half of the stone a tap with his shoe on his way back to his apartment, thought better of it, and picked it up. It would find its way into his backpack, where he would carry it for exactly 14 months, leaving it behind by mistake at a clinic in West Bengal founded by Apurna Balaram's grandfather. Peter died three days later, struck by a taxi as he crossed Chittaranjan Avenue in Calcutta.

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