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October 5, 2010

A short piece I wrote a few years ago. Edited before posting. Opinions welcome.


Sunlight pours down from the sky, punctuated every now and then by the shadow of a passing bird. The tiny breeze, almost unnoticeable, warms his skin rather than chilling it, and carries with it the salty taste of the sea. Small waves lap at the beach, their white crests running smoothly back and forth over the sand and colliding with each other with little sloshing noises. The tiny grains of sand tumble about in the  swell, and the sunlight refracts in the water around them and makes them dance.

A bird call from the cliff top rouses his senses and he stirs. The sunlight was in his eyes now, peeping through a gap between the lenses of his glasses and making him squint. He lifted a hand to his face and removed them, feeling for a moment the warmth of the rays on his eyelids and savouring how he could see the change even when his eyes were closed. For a moment he lay like this, one arm over his head, holding the sunglasses and scratching them absent mindedly through his hair, and the other stirring tentatively, brushing against the soft sand beneath it.

He grinned. Sand would be stuck to his back and shoulders right in the places he couldn’t reach. He’d need a swim now. He imagined the cooling water on his sun-kissed skin and shivered in anticipation.

He half sat up, a little groggily, flexed his shoulders and replaced his sunglasses. Supporting himself on one arm he looked out across the sand to where his son was pottering along unsteadily, holding his mother’s hand and gurgling with infant pleasure at the sun and the breeze.

A large and unexpected sigh escaped him as he watched this. A contented sigh, as if this was all there was in the universe. His wife and son, the sand, the sea and the breeze. As he got to his feet a rush of lightheadedness came upon him and he had to steady himself for a moment. When his vision cleared he saw his wife turn to him and smile. A wisp of hair fell across her face and she tucked it back behind her ear before bending to pick up the infant and whispering something to him. The boy turned to see his father and reached out his arms excitedly, smiling and gurgling happily. The man thinks: he recognises me.

He knew that one day soon these sound would develop into words, that not long afterwards the boy would be walking on his own, and then in almost no time at all he’d be starting school, making friends, growing up. But right now he recognised his father, who smiled contentedly as he took his son into his arms. He recognises me, he thought, and that’s enough.

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