“Master William Walker Houston”
(Excerpted from The Truth in a Moment by John Fite Rebrovick.)
“Billy, leave that poor little frog be.”
Billy’s high top tennis shoes made sucking sounds in the mud as he followed his victim around the edge of the water, poking at it with a stick.
“I think there’s something wrong with this frog, Pappy.”
“Yeah, there’s something wrong with it all right. It’s bein’ tortured by a demonic boy bent on terrorizing one of God’s innocent creatures. Now you stop. Put that stick down and come get your fishing pole. I think I got a nibble.”
Billy stopped moving. Crouching, he supported his upper body with his hands on his knees. One hand still clutched the stick, its tip resting in the thick mud.
“Come on now.”
The boy raised up and threw the stick in the water. It splashed close to his grandfather’s bobber.
“Aw, Pappy, the fish ain’t biting today.”
“Well hell no, not with objects falling from the sky scarin’ ‘em off.”
Billy shlopped up from the pond’s edge and sat down on the dry grass a few feet from his grandfather, who raised an eyebrow as he regarded Billy’s mud-covered shoes. Pappy made a mental note to remind the boy to clean them before he went back to the house.
“You hungry yet, Billy?”
“Yes sir. I’m fambished.”
Pappy laughed with a deep, tobacco-enhanced rumble, followed by a forced cough to clear his throat. He set his pole down and stood up from his folding chair, arching his spine to stretch the stiff back muscles.
“Well Billy, I’m fambished, too. Let’s see what Meemaw packed us for lunch.”
Early that morning, Pappy had fried eggs and warmed leftover pork chops for breakfast. Meemaw had made their lunch the night before. She still lay in bed when her two fishermen headed out the door. The screen door slamming shut behind them served as her signal that the coast was clear. She could enjoy in peace a cup of the hot coffee Pappy had left simmering on the stovetop for her and clean up their mess from breakfast. Pappy had carried the dark green Aladdin cooler to the pond while Billy toted the plastic tackle box, dragging the fishing poles behind him.
“Oh boy, Billy. Lookee here. We got devilled aigs, we got venison jerky, and we got ham sandwiches.”
“Any chips, Pappy?”
“No, don’t see any tater chips. Wait, here they are, under the aigs.”
“Oh, boy! Give me two of those eggs and a bag of chips, please.”
“All right, but you gotta eat your sandwich, too.”
“I will, Pappy.”
Pappy sat back down in his chair and Billy walked over to the shed and dragged another chair near Pappy for himself. Pappy spread the food out on the top of the cooler between them. They sat overlooking the shimmering green pond.
“Pappy, tell me how I got my name again.”
“Again? We never talked about that before, did we?”
“Yes sir. We did. A long time ago. Just like this, when we went fishing.”
Pappy tried to reckon how long was a long time to his grandson, but he could not remember any occasion when they might have talked about it before.
“Well son, there’s a lot of that story you’re just too little to understand.”
“No I’m not! I’ll be eight years old next month.”
Billy stuffed an entire egg-half in his mouth and stared in defiance. Pappy knew this look. When the boy locked his eyes on you, it meant there was no denying him. Pappy decided he could get the story started at least. The rest could come later when Billy was older.
“Well all right, Billy. I like telling that story anyhow.”
Pappy leaned back in his chair, first lifting one of the devilled eggs to his mouth. If he waited too long, Billy would eat them all himself.
“Man, that’s good. Your Meemaw does make a mean devilled aig. And nothing follows a taste like that better than a swig of Coke, do it? Here, have one.”
“Ok. Here we go, Billy. Your parents were just sure you was going to be a girl—I don’t know why, I guess because they’d already had your two sisters before you. So when you came out wearing the family jewels, they didn’t even have a name thought out for a boy.
“So your mama wanted to name you Theodore of all things, and your daddy wanted to name you Samuel after himself, a junior you know, and they fussed over it for three days because your mama wouldn’t hear of having a junior. Can you believe that?”
“What was my name going to be if I was a girl?”
“Hell, I don’t know. Probably Eugenia or something, knowing your mama.”
Billy giggled uncontrollably, repeating the name out loud in a falsetto mockery of his mother’s voice.
“Aw, Pappy, that can’t be true. Surely they wouldn’t call me that!”
“Well, I can’t say. But you sure didn’t come out another girl, thank the Lord. I’d been waiting a long time to have me a fishing buddy.
“Anyways, after three days of listening to them squabble over names and meanwhile you laying there a nameless baby, I stepped in and told them to name you Billy.”
“Not Billy, Pappy. William Walker Houston.”
“That’s right, Billy. Master William Walker Houston, the one and only.”
Pappy and Billy worked through the rest of their sandwiches in silence. Billy carefully ate all the white bread and left the crust, balling pieces of it up and casting them out on the surface of the water, watching the rings spread out and lap into each other.
“Did they argue, Pappy?”
“Mama and Daddy. Did they argue with you about the name or did they just go along with it?”
“They didn’t argue at all. They both just looked at me like I’d told them something they knew all along. Bingo! They filled out the birth certificate, and now it’s officially recorded for posterity in the state offices over to Nashville. So that’s how I got me a Billy to go fishing with instead of a Theodore.”
“Thank goodness, Pappy! It’s a good thing you were there!”
Pappy laughed, coughed again, and cast a dejected look at his motionless bobber.
“Billy, I don’t think we’re gonna catch any supper today. I thought I might have heard Meemaw calling. You ready to pack up our gear and leave the fishes and the frogs in peace?”
“I reckon so.”
Billy hopped up from his chair, stepping around the cooler to give his grandfather a hug around the neck. Pappy’s eyes glistened as he kissed the little boy on the forehead and roughed up Billy’s brown hair with his free hand.
About The Truth in a Moment:
On July 4, 2008, in response to the sorry choice in the upcoming Presidential election, a revolutionary idea is revealed to the world by one Hatch Houston, descendant of the legendary Sam Houston and the infamous William Walker. The country is rocked to its foundation and Hatch Houston is on the run. His is the story of a quintessentially American hero. Of a passionate individualist who loses the love of his life and yet finds her anew. Of an idea that changes a nation and gives new hope to all Americans, and the kind of men and women who make it happen.