The boys stood at the checkout counter in Mr. Wilson’s corner store in their bare feet, their britches rolled up to their knees. While Jimmy counted out coins, Tommy swatted a pesky fly buzzing nearby.
“Shucks, I’m a penny short, Mr. Wilson.” Jimmy grabbed the soda bottle. “I’ll put this back.”
“It’s okay. What’s a penny? Can’t deny a couple of lads a cold soda on a hot summer day, now can I?” Mr. Wilson smiled at Jimmy, his eyes narrowing at Tommy. He popped the cap off bottle, the fizzing sound making the boys’ mouths water.
They ran across the street as fast as they could, yelping all the way, the hot asphalt burning their feet. Laughing, they plopped down in the cool shade of an oak tree.
Jimmy carefully broke his popsicle, handing one stick to Tommy.
“Golly, why’d ya get orange? Told ya grape’s my favorite,” Tommy said as his tongue wrapped around the sticky sweetness.
After finishing their treats, Tommy unbuttoned his shirt, pulling out a Hershey bar. “Golly gosh, it melted!”
Jimmy’s eyes widened. “Where’d you get that? Thought you had no money.”
Tommy laughed. “Took it while old man Wilson tweren’t looking. Don’t worry, I do it all the time. Not got caught yet.” Tommy shoved his finger in his mouth after he scooped up some chocolate.
“Hey, ya ain’t no snitch, are ya, Jimmy? I can’t have a do-good snitch for a friend. Come on, forget it, quit looking all mean at me. Let’s go frog gigging at the pond.”
Jimmy looked at his new friend like he was an alien from another planet. “What’s frog gigging?”
Tommy guffawed loudly, slapping his knees, laughing as he rolled in the grass. “Boy, oh, boy! Yur sure a city fella, huh?”
Tommy was Jimmy’s first friend since his family moved here two weeks ago. Jimmy’s dad was the new pastor in town, but Tommy didn’t have a dad, and his mother worked long hours at the local diner.
Jimmy meekly followed Tommy toward the pond, wondering if he should tell him he had chocolate smeared around his mouth. He decided not to because it didn’t matter. They’d probably strip to their underwear and swim for awhile.
They heard teenage laughter before they even got to the pond, local boys showing off for their girls. A tall, lanky boy pointed to Jimmy and Tommy. “Hey squirts, why don’t you leave and come back later?”
“Shush up, Raymond. Ya don’t own this here pond,” Tommy hollered. Turning to Jimmy, he put his fingers to his lips, motioning Jimmy to follow. After several yards he reached behind a tree and grabbed something. “Check it out,” he whispered, holding up a stick with four nails taped to the bottom. “Made it myself. I’ll make ya one, if ya want.”
“What is it?” Jimmy whispered back.
“Good golly, Jimmy. It’s a frog gigger.” Tommy shook his head in disbelief at Jimmy’s ignorance.
When the teenagers left, Tommy showed Jimmy about frog gigging, although he hardly seemed an expert. Just as well, Jimmy figured he wouldn’t want to stab a frog anyway.
The boys spent the next hour swimming. They’d climb the tree where there was a rope attached to a branch and swing out over the pond, seeing who could make the biggest splash when they hit the water.
They left when their stomachs started growling. Tommy had been eating supper with them most nights. Jimmy overheard his parents talking about looking out for Tommy because he had no dad and his maw was poor.
Their laughter floated over the din of the restaurant crowd. Some smiled, enjoying their laughter, others rolled their eyes in annoyance.
It had been forty years since that magical summer of 1955. Whenever Tom and Jim got together, they relived their summer escapades of swimming, fishing, building forts and treehouses, frog gigging, flying kites, and helping Mr. Wilson in his store.
Tommy finally got caught stealing from Mr. Wilson. What did he do? He put Tommy to work in the store, eventually letting Jimmy help also.
Tommy became like part of Jimmy’s family, staying at their house so much, people thought they were brothers. A friendship was formed that would span the decades.
Tom became a minister, eventually establishing a home for troubled boys.
Jim became the successful author of the book series, The Best Summer Ever, featuring the adventures of two boys; available in bookstores or for checkout at any library.
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