Three boys sit on a log down by a pond. The storm has passed and there is the smell of rain and wet caliche in the air. Thunderheads billow to the north and east, with flashes of lightning and claps of thunder echoing across the plains and mesas of west Texas. High overhead a hawk circles as a cottontail skitters under a tumble weed near the edge of the pond, flattens its ears, and becomes very still.
Bobby looks up at the sky and says, “I gotta go pee.”
“Go for me too,” James says as Bobby gets up and walks behind a large mesquite tree, out of sight, but not far away.
“You always gotta say that?” says Ted.
“Nah. Just somethin’ ta say. Somethin’ my Dad said.”
“Miss him?” Ted says, picks up a rock and throws it at the tumble weed near the waters edge. The cottontail, hunkered down behind the weed, jumps a foot, and tears out to another clump of tumble weeds. “Shhh,” says Ted in Elmer Fudd, “I’m hunting wabbits.”
“Yeah, I miss him,” James says as he searches through the rocks at his feet, selects the best, throws the rock sidearm at the pond. The rock sails, touches the water, skips, sails a bit further then snicks across the water, making smaller and smaller skips until, with a small plunk, it sinks.
“Nice one Jim,” says Ted.
“Call me James.”
“James, how come? We all’as call you Jim,” Ted says. He sees a nice flat pebble near a foot and he sidearms it across the pond. It snicks a few times on the water, goes plunk and disappears.
“Jim is Dad’s name, an’ it reminds me of him.”
“Oh. Ok,” says Ted.
Bobby, struggling with the last button of his fly, returns from behind the mesquite tree and sits back down on the log. “I heard,” he says, finds a nice pebble, and sidearms it across the water. “He done good over there. Don’t you wanna be called after him?”
“Not now,” James says. “‘Sides, his name was James, and Jim is just short for James.” He skips another rock across the pond.
“My Pop says he was a hero,” Ted says. “Dang it!” His next rock is a bit of a dud, bouncing and plopping once as the pond water claims it.
“I know. That’s what the soldiers said. D’ruther have him than some ol’ medal.” Quiet, James sits for a bit and Ted and Bobby give him space. Thinking of his Dad, he looks for that perfect rock, finds it, and sails it at the perfect angle, just like his dad taught him, skipping it all the way to the other side of the pond. “For you Dad,” he says to himself.
Bobby hurls another rock and says, “Think maybe ya will wanna be called Jim someday?”
“I dunno. Might stay James. Grampa was called James. Ever’body called Dad Jim to keep’m separate.”
Bobby, skipping a rock almost all the way across the pond says, “See, Ted, ya gotta make it flat on the water.”
Ted sidearms another rock across the pond. “Th’ th’ thats all folks,” he says as the rock snicks a few times before becoming part of the pond.
Three friends sit on a log, down by a pond, and watch the sun sink into the west, painting the towering clouds behind and above them with red and orange. They take turns skipping rocks and giving each other advice on the fine art of rock skipping.