Ten year-old Ashley Baker swept the rock off the top of a blue mailbox in Willow Heights and held it tight to her chest with a smile.
“Look, Brittney! I found another one,” she said
Ashley turned the flat rock over in her fingers. One side was decorated with a rainbow mix of peace signs, hearts and stars. On the flip side, in clear black print, it read: #peacerocks.
Blonde pony tails bouncing in the warm summer breeze, Ashley ran to join her friend. holding her discovery on display at arm’s length. “I’ve got twelve of ‘em now!”
Red haired Brittney looked a little jealous. “I’ve got one with stars too,” she said. “Back home.”
“Do you have a unicorn? One of the girls at school traded me for a unicorn.”
Now Brittney’s eyes filled with pure envy.
Ashley smiled to herself, then said, “Let’s see if there’s any at the park today. The park is always full of them!”
Ashley nodded. Wherever the peace rocks came from, whoever distributed them around the city, Tuesday was usually a good time to find them.
They started showing up in July. Sitting on a retaining wall. Waiting on the hood of a parked car. They were like Easter eggs, hidden in plain view, crude by colorfully decorated with rainbows, stars, hearts and unicorns. Free collectibles for the taking.
In a few short months, Ashley wasn’t the only girl, or boy for that matter, to start a collection of the ubiquitous little treasures.
And the fad had spread.
Ashley saw on TV where peace rocks were showing up in every major city in America. And Europe too.
She ran to catch up with Brittney, hoping to find a unicorn of her own to trade. Or maybe a butterfly this time.
• • • • •
“So this is what it’s come to? This is how we spend the taxpayer dollars?” Sgt. Jake McGurk tossed the red, green, and blue rock out the driver side window of his cruiser and, powering up the window, put the car into drive.
He and Wilson wheeled out under the shade of a dozen old growth oak trees on Willow Heights lane. Planning to hit the expressway before the five o’clock traffic, he accelerated toward a cross street as two little girls ran past on the sidewalk leading to the park.
In the passenger seat beside him, Joe Wilson shrugged. “What the heck, Jake? Lieutenant says distribute the rocks, we distribute the rocks.”
“But why, Joe? And why the big secret?”
“Probably because of what you just said. If the press gets wind we’re spending the citizen’s money on what amounts to a feel-good effort, it’s gonna hit the fan everywhere.”
“I see they’re doing it in Chicago now. Philly too.”
“Yeah,” said Joe. “My nephew’s a cop down in Dallas. They’re doing it there too, but they’re calling them Love Rocks.”
Jake shook his head, rolling into the on ramp and joining the glittering stream of cars, trucks and motorcycles headed around the north edge of the city.
“Here’s the thing,” he said, adjusting the service revolver at his hip. “I got no problem with do-gooder community relations. The brass tells me I gotta have a love fest with the citizens, I’ll hug each and every one of ‘em. But this thing with the rocks…” He let his words trail off, shaking his head.
Joe nodded. “It would be nice if we got some recognition. I mean, to hear it on the news, this is the biggest thing with the kids since Beanie Babies.”
“Big fad back in the ‘90s.”
“In the 90s I was too busy busting gangbangers to pay attention.”
“So why are you complaining?” said Joe. “Look how good you got it now?”
“I ain’t so sure,” said Jake.
• • • • •
Milford Owens sat in the darkness, staring at the red blog of light, waiting for it to turn green.
After a while, he sighed and put on his glasses.
The blog crystalized into a perfect sphere on the console in front of him.
The melodic sound of wind chimes came from his phone. He opened the message screen.
“We have go,” it said.
He shifted his eyes to the red light.
About damn time, he thought.
Taking a deep breath, he reached out to his keyboard.
#peacerocks, he typed.
• • • • •
Starting with the neighborhood of Willow Heights and expanding outward through the city, then across the nation, the approximately ten million rocks greeted one another.
Then, situated as they were in bedrooms and schools, coffee shops and kitchens, pawn shops and restaurants…they started to listen.