Skimming Stones

A man calls, a boy answers, somewhere in the distance a dog barks. Seagulls wheel and dive silently around Browns Point. To the north sand dunes, on this side the village, sheltered by the sea stack. Nothing more than a huddle of houses, a couple of boats pulled up on the foreshore, a few lobster pots, nets drying in the wind.

I drop a pebble into a rock pool, wait for the surface to calm, watch a crab scuttle across the sandy bed. It disappears into the seaweed colonising the borders of this small shifting world at the edge of the ocean.
Another stone disturbs the pools calm surface. Voices drift across the beach. One young, one old, coming closer now.

‘Mam’ll be fine, you know-’
The boy plodges in the shallows, head down.
‘You ok?’
‘Sometimes we’ve just got to-’
The boy stamps his foot, sending up a shower of water, and then he’s off running across the beach turning cartwheels. Halts, flings his arms out and launches himself, mouth wide open, back over the sand. Hopping, skipping, jumping into the air he comes to a skidding halt. Turns, and pelts full tilt into his father.
‘Help help I’ve swallowed the wind. I’ll be blown away. Hold on, help, I’m going. Aaagh.’
‘No chance. That wind’s not taking you anywhere.’
They collapse onto the sand. Lie staring at the sky. The father says, ‘She’ll be fine you know.’
‘Tell me that story-’
‘You know, the one about the fox and gull.’
‘Don’t care. I like that one.’
They sit above the strand line.
‘A long time ago now mother gull laid-’
‘On top of Browns Point?’
‘Yes, on top of Browns Point-’
‘Just asking.’
‘If I had a pound for every time-’
He starts the story again, is interrupted, begins once more, and then it flows, merging with the wind and the waves.

What did he used to say? No more than a stone’s throw away. Watch the pebble hit the water, ripples radiating wider and wider, until they’re no more than an echo on an otherwise calm surface; still ripples radiate, still echo.
I stand above the strand line watching the incoming tide push debris up the beach. To the south, around the headland, pier lights will soon glow.
Picking up four flat stones, I throw two in quick succession.
‘This one’s for you. This one’s for me.’
Aiming low to catch the water a glancing blow, I count the number of times each stone skips across the surface before it disappears. The other two I let slip, wet and sandy, between my fingers.