Splashing Far From Home
by Will Wright
Shiny, Sparkly, Flinty and Jagged loved to bask in the sunlight flowing through the shallow water at the edge of Lake Petras. Though they were all pebbles, they each liked the sunlight for a different reason.
Shiny liked the sunlight because it let her reflect a beam of light at little human children who played in the water.
Sparkly reflected sunlight into smaller beams, and sent them through the water in all directions, making pretty patterns on the sunfish and rainbow trout.
Flinty stored the sunlight beneath his dark surface until he was toasty warm all the way through.
Jagged just liked the sunlight. He couldn’t really say why; he just liked it!
The four young pebbles lay in the sand each day from morning till evening. Sometimes they rolled when a boat wave came to shore.
They liked boat waves.
When the sun went down each night, Mother Stone, who watched the children through the day, rolled over and nudged the youngsters out of the sand.
“Off to bedrock,” said Mother Stone.
The sleepy little ones drifted off to bedrock, and nestled tight together. Flinty shared the warmth he’d gathered in the sunlight and they stayed snug and comfy. The sandman came, and helped them nod off to land of dreams.
It was a particularly sunny day in the shallow waters of Lake Petras, when the pebbles first met Skippy. Shiny was dazzling a little boy who was trying to catch a trout with his mother’s catch net. Sparkly was sending sparkle messages to the trout, telling the fish where the net was. Flinty and Jagged were watching the game. Everyone knew the little boy wouldn’t catch the fish--even the little boy--but it was a fine way to spend a summer afternoon.
Splash, splash, splash, SPLASH!
“That was four!” shouted a new pebble as he settled down among the others.
“Wow!” said Jagged. “That was something! Are you a magic stone?”
“No,” said Skippy, for that was, of course who the new pebble was, “but some people say I have charm.”
Everyone laughed but Jagged, then Jagged laughed too because he liked to be included.
“So what was that thing you did?” asked Flinty as he shifted to catch more of the sun’s heat.
“It’s called a skip. That’s why they call me, Skippy.”
“Our names are Shiny, Sparkly, Flinty and Jagged,” said the pebbles.
“Skipping looks like fun,” said Sparkly. “Can we all do it?”
“Maybe,” said Skippy, looking doubtfully at Jagged, “but if you’re a beginner, you need a human to help you get started.”
“Like that little boy?” asked Shiny.
“Maybe,” said Skippy again, “if the boy knows how to skip stones. But first you’ll have to get his attention.”
“I can do that,” said Shiny.
Skippy’s skipping had scared the trout away. Trout can be real scaredi-fish when there’s splashing going on. The little boy had put down his mother’s catching net and was looking for something else to do.
Skippy hid himself under a clump of weed, so his new friends would get a chance to have fun.
Now the best rocks for skipping are flat rocks, and Shiny had some layers of mica, so she was a very flat rock. When she reflected the sunlight up at the little boy, he jumped down from the dock and splashed in the water. He picked up Shiny and pulled his arm back.
Then he threw Shiny with a side-armed throw, close to the water.
“Wheeeeeeee!” said Shiny as she skipped one, two, three, then four times! She settled down in the water, way far away.
The boy looked down in the water for more flat rocks. Flinty was mostly flint, which is usually a pretty flat rock. The little boy picked up Flinty and pulled his arm back.
Then he threw Flinty with a side-armed throw, close to the water.
“Wheeeeee!” said Flinty as he skipped one, two, three times! He settled down in the water, far away, but not as far as Shiny.
The boy looked down in the water for more flat rocks. Sparkly was mostly quartz, which is not a particularly flat rock, but Sparkly was flatter than most quartz pebbles. The little boy picked up Sparkly, and pulled his arm back.
Then he threw Sparkly with a side-armed throw, close to the water.
“Wheeee!” said Sparkly as she skipped once, and then twice. She settled down in the water, not so far away, but further than she’d ever been from home before.
The boy looked down in the water for more flat rocks. Jagged was made of granite, which is not usually a flat rock, and Jagged wasn’t flat at all, but he was the only rock left except Skippy, who was hiding, and Mother Stone, who was too big to skip. The little boy picked up Jagged and pulled his arm back.
Then he threw Jagged with a side-armed throw, close to the water.
“Whee--glub!” said Jagged, because he didn’t skip at all. He just settled down in the water, not far at all from where he started.
The little boy looked around, but didn’t find any more stones to skip. He went up to the woods to look for raspberries.
“You can come out now,” said Mother Stone to Skippy. “The little boy has gone.”
Skippy wriggled out from under the weed. “They sure had fun, didn’t they?” said Skippy.
“Yes, they did,” said Mother Stone, “but they’ve never been so far away from home. How will they find their way back?”
“They don’t know their way back?” asked Skippy.
“No, they don’t,” said Mother Stone.
“I didn’t think,” said Skippy. “I’m made of slate, and slate is skipped by people all the time. We always know how to get back home.” He thought a moment. “I know where Jagged landed. I can go get him, and then I’ll go look for the others.”
“Do you think you can find them all?”
Skippy didn’t want to lie to Mother Stone, so he didn’t say yes or no. “I’ll go get Jagged,” said Skippy, and he flipped himself up into the air, and landed on his sharp side so he sank down instead of skipped.
Sure enough, a few minutes later, Jagged tumbled home.
“Wow!” said Jagged, “that was fun sailing in the air. I think I almost skipped.”
“You almost did,” Mother Stone agreed. “Did you see Sparkly out there? She landed closest to you.”
“No,” said Jagged, “and I wouldn’t have found my way home if Skippy didn’t come to show me.”
Mother Stone didn’t say anything, but she looked worried. Jagged rushed over to give her a hug.
“Sorry,” said Jagged, “I didn’t mean to bump into you that hard.”
“Do it again,” said Mother Stone.
“Do it again?” asked Jagged.
“We made a sound,” she explained, “and sound carries under water. Maybe the others will hear it and follow the sound home.”
Click, click, click-click CLICK!
Sure enough, a few minutes later, Sparkly tumbled home.
“You heard the clicking?” asked Mother Stone.
“I did!” said Sparkly, “and I’m so glad, because it was a deeper and darker part of the lake than I’ve ever been in.”
“Let’s click some more!” said Jagged. “Then Flinty and Shiny will hear us!”
“I don’t know,” said Sparkly. “I could barely hear you where I was, and they both skipped farther away than I did.”
Sparkly pointed her facets to color a brown trout swimming by, while Mother Stone thought about the problem, and Jagged tried to think about the problem.
“Sparkly,” said Mother Stone. “How far away can you send those sparkles?”
“A long way,” said Sparkly, “but I have to be careful because light bends in the water.”
“Do you think you could put sparkles on a fish near where Flinty and Shiny went?”
“I don’t know,” said Sparkly. “I could try.” Sparkly stood on Mother Stone so she was closer to the surface, where the sunlight was stronger.
“Is it working?” asked Jagged.
“I don’t know,” said Sparkly.
And then they saw Flinty tumbling home.
“Great!” said Jagged. “Do it again, so Shiny will come home.”
“I don’t know,” said Flinty. “I barely saw Sparkly’s colors on that fish and Shiny was a lot farther out than me. I don’t know if I can even see where she went.” Flinty jumped up into the air to look, and bounced against the steel support holding the dock. Bright sparks flew.
“Can you see where Shiny went?” asked Sparkly.
“Maybe,” said Flinty. “It was a long way away.”
“Why did those sparks fly like that?” asked Jagged.
“Oh,” said Flinty, “that happens anytime I hit something made of iron or steel—-at least when I’m out of the water.”
“Really?” said Jagged, and he jumped up into the air, and banged against the dock support. There was a loud gong, but there were no sparks.
“Did I make sparks?” asked Jagged.
“No,” said Sparkly and Flinty.
“Don’t be sad,” said Mother Stone. “You’re made of granite, and sparks only fly when steel and flint collide. You made a lovely loud gong, though.”
“Do you think my gong was loud enough for Shiny to hear?” asked Jagged.
“Or my sparks bright enough for her to see?” asked Flinty.
“Or my sparkles far enough for her to notice?” asked Sparkly.
“I think,” said Mother Stone, “that you should all three try at once.” So Sparkly got back on Mother Stone and sent her sparkles as far as she could. Flinty helped Jagged jump into the air to make a gong against the support, and then Jagged helped Flinty jump to make sparks.
Sparkle! Gong! Spark! Sparkle! Gong! Spark!
And finally, Shiny came tumbling home.
Throughout the rest of the bright wonderful Summer, Skippy showed each of the pebbles how to keep track of home, as they skipped across the lake. They had wonderful fun exploring all over, and always tumbled home in time to go to bedrock at night.
But they didn’t just learn about skipping and exploring. They learned how to work together, and help each other use their different abilities.
By the end of the Summer, they even helped Jagged to skip.
But that’s for another story.