A Sliding Time (sample page)

“Get out of the water, Tad.”

Their hands clasped: his a warm, baked dryness, his son’s slick with the pond water. With a lurching yank he hauled Tad out of the water and stepped away from the pond’s edge, dragging Tad with him.

He leaned close to Tad and repeated: “Out.”

His son almost seemed to flinch as he responded, “I’m out. I’m just getting out.” Tad’s eyes would not meet his, but shifted back and forth between the huge hot hand that now clasped his right arm, the two pairs of feet that stood planted in the mud, and the water. “Sorry.”

Clifford Johnson didn’t hear his son’s voice. His eyes examined Tad’s face with a burning intensity: every inch, each feature in turn. His hips were sore, and his left fist continued to beat an angry rhythm into his side.

“I told you to be in at nine,” he said, as his eyes rubbed Tad’s wet temples. “What time do you think it is?”

“I’m sorry, I lost track!” Tad shifted, then repeated, “I’m sorry.”

Clifford’s right hand tightened around Tad’s arm but he didn’t say a word, just allowed his eyes to roam Tad’s broad forehead. Eventually his gaze skipped right off of Tad’s head and into the pond water behind. It played among the tiny waves there, for a while. Just like his son, he thought with a weird flash, his son who was ridiculously called “Tadpole” by is friends, but when he came to this pond he never swam. Never even tried. All he did was sit in the shallow water and stare, like Clifford was staring now, he supposed. Sometimes he stood on the high rock embankment, crouched as if to dive, frozen. It was like he’d been painted there, or carved out of the rock itself. But Clifford knew all his son ever did was stare into the water.

“I told you to be in at nine,” Clifford repeated for the water’s benefit. His eyes sank into the dark water, and something there looked back.

Tad still repeated “I’m sorry” over and over as Clifford dragged him back along the path. But he was speaking to the air. Clifford heard nothing as his left fist pounded a cadence into his bruises.


This story and 8 other short stories as well as 1 prose poem are now available for your Kindle device or app as an Amazon Kindle eBook titled “The Rubberband Man and Other Stories”. You can buy all of them for just 99 CENTS!

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(c) 1992 by J. David Clarke


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