As he took his first bite, he heard sobbing. At first he thought it was the wind. He looked around at the trees, but they were still. He could not feel any breeze. The sobbing came again. It was not the water, and it was not his parents, sitting up the slope behind him on a blanket with some friends. He got up and explored among the rocks.
A small boy with black hair and eyes was hiding behind a boulder wailing. When he saw Gabriel, he dashed away his tears and turned his back.
“What’s wrong?” Gabriel asked the boy.
“Nothing!” The little boy did not sound very convincing because his voice broke.
He threw three rocks into the water in quick succession, each one bouncing three times. Gabriel was impressed, and he tried to skip a rock, too, but it sank without one skip.
“I wish I could skip rocks.” He said to the other boy. “What’s your name?”
“My name is Manu.” The boy answered.
“Where is your family?” The boy didn’t answer Gabriel, and instead he skipped four rocks, each skipped four times.
“Wow.” Gabriel thought the three rocks had been impressive, and this was even more amazing. He tried again to skip a rock, flicking his wrist like Manu, and this time it skipped once before it sank.
“I’m an orphan.” Manu told Gabriel. “At least, I think I am. If only I can find my ring, then maybe I can prove I’m not an orphan and find a home with the Raja.”
In a nearby town, Gabriel had heard that a Raja was searching for his lost son, who had been stolen at birth. The son was supposed to have a ring with the emblem of the raja’s family, a sanskrit symbol meaning peace, which looked a bit like a scorpion wearing a crown.
“I heard the story of the ring, and I remembered having a ring like that. I have been living on berries and roots in the woods for as long as I remember, and I don’t know where I came from. Surely, if I could find that ring, I would have a home. I lost it here skipping rocks one day. I’d given up looking for it when you found me.”
“I’ll help you look. Here, take half my kabob.” Gabriel happily gave Manu half his kabob, and then spent the morning skipping rocks with Manu, the light misty and golden. They rolled up their pant legs and squashed sand between their toes. Together they moved every rock. Some two and three times. Gabriel’s arm began to get tired of trying to skip rocks. Then he saw a perfect flat rock in the shallows. Out he stepped, and bent down. He saw something shiny in the water and picked that up instead. It was a black ring with a shiny, gold raised symbol on it.
“Look, I found a ring!” He called to Manu.
“That’s it! That’s it!” Manu capered around, dancing in his excitement. Manu and Gabriel showed the ring to Gabriel’s parents, who knew just what to do. They took the boys to the neighboring town, where the Raja was sitting in a hotel lobby, looking dejected. He took one look at the ring, and his black eyes started to gleam with excitement, and he danced around. He took a cloth from his pocket and polished the ring. It turned silver with a gold, raised symbol, looking like a scorpion wearing a crown.
“The ring of peace! My son!” The Raja embraced Manu, and cried tears of joy. He held a big feast, and showered presents on Gabriel and his family. Manu never let the ring out of his sight again.
Copyright 2013 Brenda Davis Harsham