Ploomp

by Dana Laratta

The small rock slipped soundlessly into the pond water. Only a small, wispy cloud of silt and two slow, circular ripples marked its passage.

Tim blinked.

It didn't fit. The image he had in his head, seen in probably a hundred 'boyhood' movies, wasn't complete without a ploomp! sound. What you were supposed to do was sit on the pier or, in Tim's case, rock perch, and throw rocks into the pond, because the musical ploomp! sound made you feel better. But Tim was sitting on a big, overhanging rock perch, steadily throwing rocks into the pond, and still not feeling any better. Because he wasn't getting the sound.

Tim reached into the bag beside him and pulled out another Frito. He crunched it offhandedly, thinking intensely. Maybe the water wasn't deep enough. He looked quickly at the rest of the pond and felt a twinge of bitterness when he realized that he was already at its deepest part, right by the big, concrete pipe that drained off the overflow. This wasn't a real pond. Tim lived in the suburbs, the stupid suburbs, and this was one of those fake ponds that they arbitrarily plant in the middle of selected suburban park-ettes. And, as ponds went, it was pretty stupid. Because it wasn't deep enough.

Tim popped another Frito in his mouth. He bought them at the Seven-Eleven on the corner after he had left the house. He went there first because he happened to have some spare change and nowhere else to go. At the time, all he could really think was that he had to get out of the house, that he had to get away from the noise. His parents had been fighting again, it had gotten pretty bad lately, and he couldn't drown them out no matter how loud he turned up the tee-vee so he left. Through the garage. Quietly. When he saw that the weird clerk was working at the Seven-eleven and that the video games they had were all ones he had won he bought some chips and just walked, trying very hard to think about nothing in particular and not doing a very good job. He walked down sidewalks, streets, bike paths, past houses, greenbelts, churches, the quiet, vacant building that would be his high school when vacation was finally over, and finally past the fake pond with the pond that looked real enough to fulfill something he had seen somewhere, maybe Tom Sawyer, about a way to make you feel better when you were a young boy and you felt bad.

Tim stirred from staring at the pond and looked around him. Motionless houses sat quietly beyond still-too-green grass. Tim wished someone would come walking up. They always did in the movies. The kid who was the hero, probably Tom Sawyer would comfort himself with the throwing of the rocks until his friend walked up to him. Then they would go do something. But nobody was walking up to Tim. Tom Sawyer lived on the untamed Mississippi, where people weren't as common, and someone always came up to him. Tim's house was in the suburbs, where homes that didn't have kids were weird, yet he sat alone. He felt very alone. He felt like the whole horizon of houses was separate, much further away than across the street.

Looking down, Tim grabbed another small rock to drop into the fake pond. This time he held it out and let it go, to see if the angle created the sound. When it didn't, Tim frowned.

It wasn't fair. It seemed to him that if he could just hear that sound, it would cut through the noise that chased him here. His father yelling and threatening, his mother screaming and crying, the noise filled up his head every time they would do it till it seemed like he couldn't think anymore. Only feel. Sad. Angry. Scared scared right to his middle in some way that he didn't understand but was familiar with and hated. The only reason he wanted to hear the ploomp! sound, that clean, watery sound, was so that he could feel something else--maybe pleasure, maybe sadness, maybe a feeling he would come to recognize years later as regret--it didn't matter, just something else. Something his own. And he couldn't have it.

Tim grabbed another small rock and threw it hard at the pond, as if to force it into giving up that sound.

The rock cut into the water with a small fwip! sound and spewed up a slightly larger cloud of mud and silt. Tim stared at this bitterly. He grabbed a handful of rocks and threw them wildly, watching as they perforated the smooth surface of the water. He turned, his head whipping around, searching for something else to throw at it, something big. His eyes fixed on a broken chunk of concrete that had been part of the overflow pipe. It was big. And heavy. He shot a vengeful look at the fake pond and scrambled over to it.

Tim flipped it over first, to get a better grip and to gauge its weight. It was heavy but not too heavy for him, so he hooked his hands around it, ignoring the sickly feeling of his fingers digging in mud and water-slime, and lifted it in one heave. He struggled with it back over to the perch. There, he prepared himself for the biggest ploomp! sound there ever was as he began to heave it to his chest and shove it out and away.

He had just gotten it to mid-abdomen level when his hand slipped on the slimy surface.

The rock dropped, cracking the side of Tim's bent knee, and tumbling down into the pond. A huge, solid wave of muddy water reared up and slapped Tim, splashing across his rock perch. Tim stood, drenched and muddy, his knee throbbing. He looked down at his ruined clothes and noticed his Frito bag, sitting beside his foot, full of water and mud and dark-brown Frito's. Grimacing, he threw a quick, frustrated kick at the bag and watched as it dropped heavily into the water.

It made a ploomp! sound.

Tim blinked.

After a moment he noticed he was cold. The sun was going down, but Tim couldn't see the sunset. There was a house in his way.

Sighing, Tim turned slowly, shook some of the water out of his clothes, and began the long, cold walk back.