Charlie’s Room: Skipping Rocks

The lake sparkled in the afternoon sun. There was a light breeze ruffling the surface of the water and chasing away the summer heat. Charlie, Isaac and Marianne walked along the shore looking for the perfect skipping rocks.

“I was always the rock skipping champion growing up,” Marianne said as she inspected a round, flat rock. She handed it to Charlie. “This one’s good.” She picked up and discarded three more rocks before holding up another round, flat rock.

Charlie inspected the rocks. “Do they need to be round?”

“That’s good, but being flat is more important,” Marianne said. She gripped her rock as though it were a baseball. “Now look, hold it at a twenty-degree angle and throw it at the water so that it goes in at a twenty degree angle.” She whipped her arm around and tossed her rock. It skipped and skipped.

“How many times was that?” Charlie asked, squinting at the water. “I lost count.”

“At least thirteen.” Marianne grinned. “Not bad, right? Now you try.”

Charlie’s rock skipped twice before plopping in the water with a splash.

“Oh, that’s not so bad.” Marianne looked concerned.

Charlie smiled brightly. “Did you see that? It skipped.”

“It did.” Marianne smiled back. She turned to look at Isaac, who still hadn’t picked out a rock. “Let’s see how well your dad does. I don’t think he was paying attention to the lesson.”

Isaac looked up. “I was listening. Give me a moment. I still haven’t found the right rock.”

“It’s nature. You’re not going to find the perfect rock.” Marianne looked around the shore and picked up a triangular flat rock. “Try this one.”

Isaac took it and looked at it closely. “No,” he said at last, handing it back. “Not this one.” He knelt down and started sorting through a pile of medium-sized rocks. He paused near the middle of the pile and picked up an odd-shaped rock. He smiled.

Charlie looked at the rock. “That one? I guess it’s flat.”

Marianne held out a hand and Isaac handed her the rock he’d picked. She turned it over and then looked at it sideways. “It looks fine, but I don’t see why it’s any better than the one I picked.”

“It looks happier,” Isaac said.

Marianne looked at the rock again. “It looks like a rock.” She handed it back to Isaac.

“Yes, like a happy rock.” Isaac looked at the rock again and smiled. “I think it dreams of flying.”

Charlie looked at the rock again. “Can I see?” He held out his hands.

“I could say something about how we look with our eyes not our hands,” Isaac said as he handed over the rock.

Charlie rolled his eyes. “You knew what I meant. That’s almost as bad as saying ‘can you’ to people who forget to say ‘may I’.”

Marianne nodded. “That is irritating. It’s a good thing Dad didn’t say it after all, right?”

“I guess he only said he could say it, right?” Charlie laughed and looked at the rock again. “It looks like a regular rock to me, too.”

Marianne took the rock from Charlie and handed it to Isaac. “Let’s see how it skips.”

Isaac whispered to the rock and then threw it as though he were tossing a Frisbee at the water. The rock skipped giant, monstrous skips at first, taking it halfway across the lake in a few skips. The skips grew smaller, before the rock was lost to the shadows on the other side of the lake.

“Are we supposed to count distance as well as skips?” Charlie asked, looking confused.

Marianne shook her head. “I don’t know.” She turned to Isaac. “Find me a happy rock. I want to try it.”

“Of course.” Isaac smiled. “I’d like to see what a rock-skipping champion could do with the right rock.” He knelt down and started examining the rocks closely.

“What did you whisper to the rock before you threw it?” Charlie asked.

“I wished it good luck.” Isaac picked up and set down two more rocks. He picked up a third and smiled. “Try this one. It’s particularly cheerful and adventurous.”

Charlie and Marianne both leaned in to look at the rock. Charlie took it and looked at it. “It just looks like a rock to me.” He handed it to his mom.

Marianne looked at the rock. She turned it over, then tossed it up a few inches in the air and caught it. “It doesn’t feel any different either.”

She gripped the rock like a baseball and checked her angles. Then she whipped her arm around and threw it. The rock crossed the lake in four skips and landed with a clatter onto the opposite shore.

Charlie made a face. “I only counted four. But it went a lot further. I think we need a bigger lake to really count it.”

Marianne was still gazing at the far shore of the lake. “Happy rocks, who knew?” she said. She looked down and picked up the triangular rock she’d set aside earlier. She tossed it and it skipped and skipped just like the first rock she’d thrown.

Charlie watched it. “I want to try again.” He looked around and picked up a flat rock. “Twenty degrees, right?”

“That’s right.” Marianne checked his hand to see how he was holding the rock. “You’ve got it.”

“Do you want me to see if it’s a happy rock?” Isaac asked.

“No, thank you. I want to watch it skip up close. The rocks you pick skip too far too fast.” He tossed the rock. “Was that six skips? I want to try again.”

“Check the angle you’re throwing it,” Marianne said as she stepped closer.

Isaac wandered off, looking for more happy rocks that dreamed of flying. It was a good day.