"My tooth was aching along with yours as I watched the movie," Joan Mondale told James Bond III, who stands just about four feet tall.

The wife of the vice president had just watched a television film adaption of "The Sky Is Gray" at the special-invitation premiere of "American Short Story II" last night at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater. The short story by Ernest Gaines is one of eight new programs in a series that opens tonight on public television.

As the young black boy in "The Sky Is Gray," James Bond III suffers with an aching tooth. It is on the trip to town to the dentist that he begins an odysesy to manhood.

The young actor had just came from the Capital Centre, where he had watched the National Basketball Association All-Star game and rooted for the East team with Julius Erving. "Dr. J and I were in a movie together called 'The Fish,'" James said in explanation of his intense partisanship.

Olivia Cole, who plays the mother of James as a proud woman amid the poverty, had little to say last night. About all she could do was croak dramatically because of a bad case of laryngitis.

Gaines, whose novel "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman" was filmed for television in 1974, recalled last night how he had tried to sell "The Sky Is Gray" to a long list of magazines in 1962.

"Finally we sold it for $35. That was $5 less than the cost of stamps to send it out," Gaines remembered.

Joseph D. Duffey, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanitites, recalled that the proposal for television adaption of short stories by American authors first was suggested in 1973 by Robert Geller. The series first appeared in 1977 and was the first American drama series bought by the BBC. The earlier films now have been shown in 45 countires.

The eight stories on "American Short Story II," which premieres tonight with Ring Lardner's "The Golden Honeymoon," were screened from more than 200 suggested titles.

Along with the Humanities Endowment, the series is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Xerox Corp., which was the host for a reception last night after the premiere.