A boy walked along the beach in search of a pebble. Ten years old, he was as small as five, sneakers barely leaving an imprint in the hard dark sand, cold wind whisking up wet strands of what was left of his blond hair.
The boy loved the sea. Clean and huge, it seemed to him the soul of emptiness and adventure. A bad thing was far away; he felt it seeking him. He pried a pebble from the sand, small and smooth and dark, indistinguishable from the many others, and it seemed as he looked up again that he himself was a pebble to that great wide water. Anything could happen in a place like that. It was there that he was most small.
When his father came to find him, he returned with his pebble clenched tight in the fist deep in his pants pocket. As they drove away, his mother told him that he shouldnt be so sad, that they would come back next year. He was not sad. She lied a little lie, but he liked small things.
They came to a special apartment near the doctors’ place, where he was given special food. When they went to see the doctors he always took his pebble and concentrated on being small.
"You must be very brave so you will grow to be a big man," one of the doctors told him. The boy knew doctors. He didn’t like them. He wanted to be small.
Small things are very precious. You must look close to see small things. Small boys get hugs. You cannot be a small boy and be far away. Small boys can slip away and no one will notice. Doughnuts are bigger for small boys.
The doctors were always doing things. He was scared of them, but he didn’t say so. They said he was brave, but he wasn’t being brave–he was being small. When they put the needle in his back, he held tight to his pebble and whispered: Small, small, small, small. You are smaller if you are quiet. You are smaller if you don’t scream.
There was a big boy at school who would tease him about his hair, because he was so small. But the small boy could slip away and lie in the tall grass and hide underneath the steps where no one else could go and the big boy could not find him.
When he was feeling very sick and doctors did not see him anymore, people with smiles came and asked him, "What do you want? You can have anything you want." He didn’t feel very good; he was having trouble being small. Big things make it easier.
He wanted the sea.
His mother and father wanted to be with him when he went to the beach, but it is easier to be small if you are alone. He wore dark jeans and a dark coat; you are smaller if you are dark.
He stood on the beach in the rain. He felt very sick. The bad thing was out there, very close, looking for him. He held his pebble tightly. I am small. I am a pebble in this sea.
And though the bad thing looked and looked and looked, it could not find him.
His parents came later, and could not find him either. They seemed sad, and he wanted to wave to them, to say goodbye, to tell them that it was all rightthe bad thing couldn’t get him because he was so small and you are smaller if no one sees you.
He plays there still, and though the bad thing searches angrily for him like some strange big boy, it cannot find him. He is as small as a pebble among the thousands in the sea grass, out on the wide empty edge of the sea.