We traded pebbles and shells. For one pink scallop I gave you five stones polished smooth by waves. They glistened in your open palm.
All day we played on the beach, our parents somewhere far off. Away, beyond the glint of sun and silhouettes, where they could not be seen.
I had thought I could fool you. You were younger after all. That scallop, the perfect shape of it, its edges, pink and corrugated as if it had been engraved by the sea. I coveted it. Wished it was me that had found it. So I offered up those little stones as if they were diamonds, precious things of greater worth than the shell you had unearthed.
You let your fingers glide once more over the scallop’s edge.
You would not give up your prize so readily.
“No, I want to keep my shell. It’s mine. I found it.”
And I admit I was happy, in a way. Happy that you had the will to stand up to me and say no. The first time you ever did.
But I still wanted that shell.
So I concocted a story with which to pry it from your fingers.
I told you that in years gone by, which is a long, long time ago, the Romans had used stones like these instead of money.
And you had wrinkled your nose in confusion and looked down at the glistening pebbles in my hand, and wondered about that.
But only for an instant.
Because the shine of the stones, the way they caught the light, convinced you that what I said was true. That here indeed was something unusual. Something as strange and special as copper pennies.
Then “What are the Romans?”
“Important people. People who used to live here a long time ago. They’re gone now. But they were rich and important. We learned about them in class.”
“If I take these stones to the sweet shop can I get liquorice?”
And so you handed it over.
I dropped the worthless pebbles into your hand and grasped at the scallop.
But my triumph would be short-lived.
Something about that idea had taken hold. You clasped those pebbles as if they really were a treasure to be coveted and protected.
Out of the shimmering light our parents emerged from their walk and you rushed them.
“Look! Look what I’ve got. Roman pennies. Special pebbles that you can use to buy liquorice. Although I don’t know if I want to do that now because they must be so precious and so old and so important. Too important to waste on liquorice don’t you think? Look! Take a look!!”
And you had proffered up the pebbles. They gleamed again in the sunshine.
And from a distance, if you squinted your eyes into the sun, you could believe they really were precious things. Little diamonds fallen from the crown of some long dead Empress.
This story is based on the following Twitter prompt. The tweet provides the first lines of this story
Response to the theme “Pebbles and Stones”
We traded pebbles and shells. For 1 pink scallop I gave you 5 stones polished smooth by waves. They glistened in your open palm. #ThePush
— Jennifer Harvey (@JenAnneHarvey) October 9, 2013