Becomes One Hundred Stories #35: Throws Across the River

This is a piece of short fiction in the style and universe of three of my novels: Becomes the Happy Man, Becomes God’s Silent Prophet, and Becomes the Meaning Blossom.

Throws Across the River

The man the boy called grandpa sat beside the river. He sat beside the river, and he thought about what had happened that day. He thought about what had happened that day, and he wondered if he would come to regret it. He didn’t regret anything yet.

The man the boy called grandpa looked at the river. The river flowed slowly. The river was smooth but for small disturbances on the surface where the bugs settled. Now and then a fish would break the surface to take a mouthful of bugs.

The man the boy called grandpa looked at his hands. He looked at his hands and he saw a long hair extending from his sleeve.

Hers. The boy’s mother.

The man the boy called grandpa pulled the hair from his sleeve. He pulled and pulled until the full length of hair dangled from his fingertips.

He did not yet think about what the woman the boy called grandma would do if she knew what he had done with the boy’s mother earlier that day. He did not yet think about it because he was too busy thinking about the boy’s mother and what he had done with her earlier that day.

The man the boy called grandpa held the long strand of hair at both ends. He pinched each end of the hair and pulled the hair tight. The hair was as long as the distance from the tips of his fingers to well past his elbow.

The river flowed by slowly. The river flowed by slowly, and the man the boy called grandpa still did not think about what the woman the boy called grandma would do if she knew.

The sun had already set, but it still lit up the sky with its colorful light.

The man the boy called grandpa looked at the twilight and he thought that the colors of the sky reflected his feelings for the boy’s mother. He felt again everything he had felt earlier when the boy had been away at his lessons and the woman the boy called grandma had been in the village doing her shopping and who knows what else she did with any young men who might have struck her fancy. He felt how long it had been since he had struck her fancy, and he felt again what it had felt like when he saw that he struck the boy’s mother’s fancy. At least for that afternoon. At least for that hour.

The man the boy called grandpa relived each moment, and he almost felt happy. He wound the hair around his fingers and he put the coiled strand in his pocket. He knew he was an old fool.

The boy stood beside the river a little ways upriver. He had not seen the man he called grandpa. He had not seen him, but the man the boy called grandpa saw the boy. He saw the boy and thought much about the boy. He wondered much and feared much for the boy’s future. But the boy’s future was none of his business.

The boy skimmed a rock across the river. Then another.

The man the boy called grandpa asked the boy if he could throw a rock all the way across the river.

The boy was startled. He had not seen the man he called grandpa.

The boy said grandma had sent him to tell grandpa the evening meal would be ready soon.

The man the boy called grandpa asked the boy again if he could throw a rock all the way across the river.

The boy looked across the river and said he did not think so.

The man the boy called grandpa told the boy to try it.

The boy tried it. The boy tried it, but he tried it with a rock that was more suitable for skimming, and it only went half-way across the river.

The man the boy called grandpa told the boy to try again with a rock that was a little bigger and round like a ball.

The boy found a rock that was a little bigger than the first one and was round like a ball. The boy found the rock and he threw the rock. The rock went about three-quarters of the way across.

The boy looked at the man he called grandpa. He shrugged his shoulders and said no he couldn’t throw a rock all the way across the river.

The man the boy called grandpa said he would when he was older. He waited for the boy to ask him if he could throw a rock across the river, but the boy didn’t ask him. The boy didn’t ask him, so he found a suitable rock and threw it out over the river. He did not notice if the rock went all the way across the river because the burning in his arm near his shoulder took his attention.

The boy looked at the man he called grandpa, and he asked if he was okay.

The man the boy called grandpa said he would be okay. He said he should have warmed up first.

The boy did not say anything else. He looked at the man he called grandpa, and then he looked out at the river. Then he said again that grandma had sent him to tell him that the evening meal was almost ready.

The man the boy called grandpa asked the boy when grandma had returned from the village.

The boy said she and the young man from the big city had returned a couple hours before.

The man the boy called grandpa said he thought so.

The boy stood and stared at the man he called grandpa.

The man the boy called grandpa said the boy was hungry wasn’t he.

The boy nodded his head.

The man the boy called grandpa told the boy to run back to the place where they lived. He said to tell grandma that he would be there soon but they could start without him.

The boy turned around and started toward the place where they lived.

The man the boy called grandpa stopped the boy. He asked the boy if the rock had made it across the river.

The boy said he didn’t know.

The man the boy called grandpa asked how he didn’t know.

The boy shrugged his shoulders and said he guessed he was watching him instead of the rock.

The man the boy called grandpa didn’t say anything. He just looked back across the river and tried to imagine if he could still throw a rock that far. He did not notice when the boy had left him and had returned to the place where they lived.

Twilight had settled into darkness, and the man the boy called grandpa could no longer distinguish the river from the rocks from the trees. But he could hear and smell the river. He could hear and smell the river as strongly as he could in broad daylight.

The man the boy called grandpa sat on the rocks along the river, and he could feel the river flow. And he could feel the boy’s mother. He could hear and smell her. He could feel her.

The man the boy called grandpa was not hungry. He would not be hungry for a long time.

The man the boy called grandpa closed his eyes and lay back on the rocks. He wondered how long he could sleep along the river at night. He wondered if he could stand the cold.

As he fell asleep, he wondered why he had not thought about or worried about what the woman the boy called grandma would do if she knew what he had done with the boy’s mother earlier that day.

To read more stories in the series, see the Becomes One Hundred Stories page.

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