The Stone Mason

eyecapture art, cemetery angel, photography
Image courtesy of EyeCaptureArt on Click image for source.

Peter looked up through the stone dust to see Jasper Cavanaugh come through the door to the warehouse, a whip of October wind at his back. He steadied his hand around his chisel, but lowered his striking arm.

Cavanaugh removed his hat, but left his gloves on.

“Mr. Jones!” Cavanaugh barked. Peter watched his foreman leave his desk to meet Cavanaugh where he stood.

The men conferred, Jones’s entire body a deferential study in class structure. Peter leaned over, his two hands braced on the granite grave marker in front of him–the dates of the deceased etched in his mind now, to be carved once Cavanaugh was gone. He watched the two men talking, framed by the warehouse door, the rolling backdrop of the Green Mountains watercolored scarlet and gold behind them.

Jasper Cavanaugh swept from the building towards his waiting car, his hat and driving coat fluttering as another gust kicked up. Peter watched Jones approach him.

“If anyone needed more evidence that the bastard killed her, I’d have it. He demanded we give her the angel with–and I quote,” Jones sneered, “an impressive epitaph.”

“Ayuh,” Peter replied, clenching his fist around the chisel, careful not to let the blade touch the stone beneath. The angel, commissioned by Cavanaugh for the new church–before his wife’s death, would now serve as her marker.

“He wants my best mason on the job,” Jones continued. “Pete, you know that means you.”

“Ayuh.” Peter released the chisel. It also meant Cavanaugh knew the truth.

“I’ll send the Frenchman to finish this,” Jones said, waving a hand over the stone upon which Peter leaned. “You find some flowery words for the base of that angel.”

“Ayuh.” Peter set his tools down and turned to face her. She stood ten feet with her pedestal, life-sized and haunting, casting Sadie’s tender, empty gaze over him. He’d carved her with her wings folded behind her, humanizing the form. He blinked stone dust from his eyes.

Cavanaugh would have his epitaph, but she would have their revenge.

When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.*

Sadie Cavanaugh, 1897-1932
Daughter * Wife * Beloved



Write On Edge: Red-Writing-HoodFor this week, write a fiction or creative non-fiction piece in which an epitaph features prominently.



*excerpted from “Song” by Christina Rosetti

28 thoughts on “The Stone Mason

  1. Things I love about this:
    1) The name, Jasper Cavanaugh. Could you find a more perfect name? I don’t think so.
    2) The Vermont-ness of this. The Frenchman. The Green Mountains. “Ayuh” The granite! It’s a subtle character all in itself.
    3) What you do with Pete is astounding. He barely speaks, but we know him. Blinking back the dust? Such a perfect moment.
    4) And, then, you minx, ending with Rosetti? I’m in awe.
    Standing O, right here.

  2. Excellent, Cam. I enjoyed this. Very atmospheric.

    (I wish my imagination would come back from being on holiday… *sigh*)

    (A tiny typo ‘Jone’ in the line beginning ‘He wants my best mason…’)

  3. Yeah, Nancy stole my comment thunder. Jasper Cavanaugh is one of the great names. I like the starkness of the prose. It’s really old in an attractive way. You have so much character deveopment in 500 words. I liked this a lot.

  4. Nancy wins for commenting; I agree with everything she wrote 🙂

    This is just beautifully done, Cam. You manage to use your setting to add to the mood of the piece, allowing Peter to unfold stoicly and tellingly.

  5. How can even remotely top Nancy’s comment?
    I echo everything she said.
    Rosetti? Makes me weak.
    And your writing? Truly transportive.
    I absolutely love this piece, Cam.

  6. Phil is eager to change his name to Jasper Cavanaugh by deed poll. I can barely keep him away from the phone to the council.
    This is so compelling. Now I yearn to know the In The Beginning….

    1. If he does, I must have a photo of the proud new bearer of this name along with his documentation.

      Of course, my Jasper is not a very nice man, despite his means, and my impression of Phil is that–while he might wear the car coat well?–he’s a touch less murderous.

  7. I can’t add anything more to the comments already given. This is such a short piece but so polished. A testament to your ability as a writer.

    I really loved this. I want more of the story now 🙂

  8. This is great! I hope you’ll continue with these characters in the future – they have lots of potential. The name Jasper is awesome- that’s one of the main characters in my current WIP.

  9. Cameron, I think I am in love. This is exquisite. I love trying to form connections from random things like this one.

    And, I can say I’ve met Phil Shrewsday. He cannot be Jasper Cavanaugh. 🙂

  10. This is marvelous. And I agree with so many other commenters about the name Jasper Cavanaugh–perfect! I love this line: “The men conferred, Jones’s entire body a deferential study in class structure. “

  11. I too liked the line: The men conferred, Jones’s entire body a deferential study in class structure. This was so good. You know everything about the characters.

  12. I do live in Vermont, and you really captured this even before the words “Green Mountains!”
    Our first house was in Graniteville, where we were literally surrounded by several quarries. The local factory had a visitor’s balcony where you could watch the stone masons work.
    I love the “Ayuh.” That is so perfect!

    1. I only lived in Vermont during college, but my father’s family are Vermonters going way back. It’s literally in my blood. It’s wonderful to know you felt it was authentic. I imagine Peter’s work in Hope Cemetery in Barre, not so far, I think, from Graniteville?

  13. This was wonderful! Strong sense of place, and the characters are fully formed in so lean a space it takes the breath away! I’m already narrowing my eyes on hateful Jasper Cavanaugh, and cheering quiet but stalwart Peter as he carves Rosetti (one of my favorite poets, and used in my own book draft!).

  14. Cameron as usual you blow me away with your words 😀
    Awesome description.
    Love this line –‘framed by the warehouse door, the rolling backdrop of the Green Mountains watercolored scarlet and gold behind them.’

  15. I’m kicking myself in the backside that I completely forgot to do this prompt. I really liked all the minor details folding together into a portrait of the mason. Did he have an affair with Sadie or was he just in love at a distance? That seemed sort of vague.

  16. You descriptions are so good in so few words. It makes me sigh with jealousy.

    I can see Peter gazing at his Sadie. And feel the wind batting at Jasper.

  17. This story is so short but it pack so much into 500 words (or less 😉 ) We have a full story albeit with a mystery enveloped, but complete enough to satisfy. The view from the warehouse door is my favorite! Bringing art into industry. Love it!

  18. I have nothing to add because Nancy’s comment was as beautiful and concise as this piece. You KNOW how this good this is…the gift is that you shared it with us.

    Thank always…for that. Xo

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