The weather transformed adagio, and long days of blue skies tumbled into winter winds brought about by a change in the seasons. Up the banks of the rock and shell ridden shore they washed in like the tides. Hot blood coursed through my veins, harrowing the frigid air that nipped at my fingertips and the crest of my ears, turning my skin red and raw.
The boy carried an earnest look. He cleared his throat and straightened the collar of a lumpy, black quarter zip jacket in an unnecessarily formal fashion. I watched in amusement as he trooped across the dampened sand, causing a small avenanch with each step. His hands were laced rigidly behind his back and he furiously chewed at his lip. Surveying the beach’s inhabitants with an intent gaze, he conjured a supernatural flexibility to bend forward nearly enough for his nose to graze the ground. Any potential candidates that confronted him were aggressively seized and drawn to eye for further scrutiny. The gulls knew well not to disrupt his sport, flocking to the sky in a chaotic blur of feathers as he drew near. I found the seriousness in which he took rock collecting quite entertaining, but I feared the grin I desperately fought to compress might be received as mockery of the meticulous craft.
Despite my best efforts, my face became bizarrely contorted as I choked down giggles. A few escaped, erupting from my nostrils and manifesting as peculiar burps. These, to my surprise, he remarkably neglected to notice, occupied by conducting a detailed analysis of a skipping stone candidate. Once I had recovered my self control, I figured my efforts better be directed towards helping his venture, and cloaked personal sentiments with an expression of extreme concentration. Scouting our surroundings, my eye caught a slender, black target. With minimal knowledge regarding the topic, I was drastically under qualified for making judgment. However, the specimen showed promise enough to pursue.
Misfortunately, it was surrounded by sopping moss and a suspicious, foul smelling secretion. I edged my hesitation, grimacing with distaste as I poked at it with the tip of my shoe. I squatted down to the greatest degree my legs and stomach would allow and pinched the slate between two fingers. Holding it far from my body and as I approached him, my nose crumpled in protest.
“Is this one good?” I asked.
He squinted, first at my expression of optimistic accomplishment and then at my retrieval. “Too small,” he frowned, snatching it from my hand and tossing it unapologetically among the rubble. I furrowed my brow and trudged away, admittedly deflated.
It took several attempts before I began to become acquainted with what was desirable. There were a legion of demands sought to follow; not too heavy, not too light, even edged, flat… The rocks who adhered were excused from a fate of immediate discarding by the collector as my proposal had been. Rather, they remained masked by warm hands that cradled from the bitter cold. The crowded assemblage of detained hard bodies, nearly bursting between his fingers with all their irregularities, had mercifully been favored and deemed worthy of use.
Their smooth faces wouldn’t be recalled, the memory shaken from his skull by a nonchalant toss of rolling black locks and a twist of the hips as they were flung across the water. But maybe the number of skips they made- if it was a respectable one, that is- would be bragged about over the dinner table. That, in time, would be forgotten too.