Rock Skimming at Staircase

The youth group at Beverly’s church is camped out at Staircase in the Olympic National Park. Most of them have spent the whole time competing at skimming rocks across the water. Beverly’s boyfriend, Kirby, is clearly the champion skimmer. He routinely gets his rocks to skip four, five and six times. When he hits seven, the biggest of all, everybody gushes oohs and aahs and wows, and Beverly wraps her arms around him with an exuberant hug.

“How do you do it?” she asks.

“Here. I’ll show you.” He takes obvious pleasure in coaching her.

“First, you have to find just the right rock. Like this one.” He bends to pick up flat rock.

“Ideally it should be shaped like a frisbee. This one’s close. Not perfect, but damn close. And then you have to hold it like this,” demonstrating with two fingers and his thumb on the edge, “And then you lean a little to your right and let fly with a low, sidearm trajectory.”

The rock hits the water and skips, one, two, three, four, five across the surface, little splashes and circles of wave flashing in the sun.

“Now you try it,” he says.

Beverly searches through the rocks on the beach and picks up a kind of purplish flat rock with the slightest convex curve to it. “How about this one?”

“Perfect. That’s even better than the one I had.”

She takes a few practice swings of her arm. “Like this?”

“Yeah. Great. Now let her go.”

And her rock skips over the water like a flying saucer coming in for a landing. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.

Now it’s Kirby’s turn to hug Beverly, and he does, and he picks her up and swings her round and round. It is early on the second morning and the others are still asleep in their tents. There is nobody else by the water to ooh and aah and wow. “Let’s not tell the others,” Beverly says. “You can still be the champ.”

“No way,” Kirby says, and he starts shouting for everybody to get up and get out and hear the good news.


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