Wednesday 18th April 2012
An encounter on the beach
COLD sea water cools the skin. A call in the dark chills the bone.
“Well, hello again, Jenny’s cousin. What an unexpected pleasure.”
I turned to see a silhouette further along the shore. The song in his voice was immediately recognisable.
“Good evening, Mr Musician.”
I stepped out of the small waves that were tickling my feet and awaited his approach. Clouds hurried across the moon.
“So, tell me, did you come down the steps to the beach or is there a lift I don’t know about?”
Even in the dark his eyes shone with teasing merriment. I could think of no words of reply, but he soon continued:
“Nobody ever comes here at night. I love the stillness.”
Then, recalling something that Tom had told me about Brendan’s fondness for the sea, I asked him:
“Will you swim soon?”
“Not now. On a summer’s night maybe, but this would be too wet for my liking. Besides, I’m away in a moment. To a jam session with what a friend of mine calls the string vest quartet, on account of the playing being so ropey.”
I was struggling to comprehend.
“I will go now,” I told him, rubbing the sand from my feet. “I hope you will enjoy the making of jam and rope. Maybe I will see you on this beach tomorrow with Tom.”
“Shall I accompany you back up to the lane?”
“Thank you, but I wish to go alone, please. I have lived in this country for a short time. I do better thoughts when I am alone. Do you understand?”
“Oh yes. I know what it’s like, being a newcomer in another land. I am one too, you know. But fare thee well now, Virgulle.”
I carried my socks and shoes, only putting them on when reaching the top of the steps. There was a cage parked on rough ground opposite, with two figures in the front, who appeared to be peering in my direction. Drops of rain were starting to fall and I quickened my pace.
Nearing the entrance to the nursing home, I suddenly remembered that, as we parted, Brendan had addressed me by my full Rhetan name – a thought which gave me cause for considerable concern.