Two figures walk down a street holding hands. It is a cool day, a crystal blue sky and no clouds in the sky and the air is crisp. A light touch of cold signals that winter is coming. Soon snow will blanket everything.
One figure is smaller and holds the others hand tightly. The smaller one tries to drag the larger one forward but just swings off balance like a drunken dancer. He tries to run but is dragged back by his mother as if she has plucked him from a cliff face. She tries to hold him but he starts running on the spot and struggling. She has to let go.
Like a rock from a catapult the boy runs. The boy runs as if it was the race of his life, full pelt. Arms waving and legs pumping. His mother quickens her pace and calls, “Johnny, come here now “. But he keeps running. He doesn’t hear her but knows she is calling him. He stops, turns around and waves and runs into the park.
Johnny’s mother enters the park via a gate under the trees. She follows the path around. It has to go somewhere and it leads to. A duck pond. There is a little wooden landing where one can lean out over the water. There are one or two ducks already waiting. As is Johnny. They have the oasis all to themselves. All the children in the town used to come here but not any more. There is too much fear.
Mother is prepared. She reaches deftly into her bag and pulls out some bread crusts. Mother gives the little boy some bread to feed the ducks. He tosses the first crust gingerly half-expecting it to float away.
More ducks quack loudly as they fly over. Then they clamour for each scrap of the bread like stockbrokers on the trading floor. The boy is really quite amused. He chortles at the ducks antics. He starts to throwthe bread higher into the air and further away from the ducks. He laughs even more as the ducks fly and swoop to catch the morsels.
Then he runs out of bread. Johnny looks at his mother who simply shakes her head slowly and says “ no more “. He picks up a small stone and tosses it at the ducks that scatter. But they come back again as they are still hungry.
He picks up another stone, leans back and lets it go like a slingshot. He misses the ducks. One regains his balance in flight like a tightrope walker. They fly away but only some come back.
His mother says, “Johnny, please, be nice to the ducks”. She looks down. But he still picks up stones.
Mother says, “Please stop” then hardens her voice “Just wait until your father gets here. He’ll deal with you”
The boy holds his breath until he can do it no more. Then he screams, “ I want to throw stones ! I want to throw stones”
A man passing by sees what is going on. He says to the mother, “let him go” Stones are all we have”. The mother is embarrassed and cannot reply to the man let alone look at him. Meanwhile the boy keeps throwing stones all the while making gun and explosion noises as his bullets and bombs scatter the enemy. The boy raises his arms in triumph. “ I win” , he says.
There are no ducks left now. His mother grabs at his hand but he turns his hand inside out and slips out of her grip. She says tightly, “We’d better go now”
Another man arrives. He’s a bit out of breath. He watches the boy throw stones in admiration. He smiles a broad smile and opens his arms. He declares,”He will be a hero. He is ready to fight. ”
The mother slumps her shoulders and stares at the ground. This is the very last comment she wants to hear. Then she takes a breath and slowly lifts her head. She stares her husband full in the face. Her eyes flash like lightning. “No, no” she says, “ I don’t want him to die like all the others. I want him to live.”
Maybe when there is only one child left then maybe peace will come. Never when there is only one stone left.