Scouring wind whipping sand stinging eyes, nose, mouth. Grey churning sea. Deafening. Tasting salt spray, spitting sand the boy clings to his father then letting go dives into the wind. Held tight, his ballooning coat stops him dead in his tracks. He releases it to whip and thrash behind him. Spins around and his coat wraps itself about his shivering body, the hood enveloping him. His father signals to make for the shelter on the promenade and he shouts, only to have his words snatched and scattered across the beach.
They collapse on the shelter bench and he lets out a whoop.
‘Tell me a story.’
‘Go on, you’re good at that.’
‘Am I? Lets see. But, tell you what, lets go to the café first, ok?’
‘Yeah, great. Ice cream and jelly. Blackcurrant jelly.’
‘Ok, but maybe chips’d be better. Something warm.’
‘Chips, yeah chips, but I’d like an ice cream too.’
‘See what the beach combing’s like later. Now it’s coffee and chips and then a story, ok?’
Catching the door, but not quick enough to stop paper napkins being scattered across the floor, his father ushers him into the café. Two elderly women scowl, then return to their conversation. His father grins, says quietly, ‘Nothing like a grand entrance.’
They order, and coins are placed on the counter. He watches the waitress rub them between her fingers. Sees the smile that passes between her and his father, how she gently sweeps sand off the glass surface.
His father says, ‘By the window? That’s a good place to sit.’
The jukebox is playing, ‘Be my, be my, be my little bebebebebebebebebebebe-’ A younger waitress sitting at a table reading, glowers, strides across the café, kicks the machine then returns to her magazine. His father shrugs, smiles. They sit quietly, drinking coffee, eating chips, in no hurry to go anywhere, do anything just sit quietly and let eyelids droop and sink into the rhythm of the whir and sputter of the coffee machine, the steamy warmth of the café, and be gently shaken by his father saying,
‘Come on lovely lad wake up. Better eat those chips. Then time to tell stories, that’s if you still want one.’
‘Uh uh what? Eh? Yeah, cool. What?’
‘Eat your chips.’
The jukebox stands mute in the corner. Tables have been cleared, surfaces wiped, the café is deserted. His father’s cup is removed but they’re told it’s ok to sit for a while longer.
‘This is the story I was thinking about. This is where it begins; on a beach like ours. Tell you what, I think the wind’s settling, should we take a walk? Sit in that shelter on the links. Or back on the beach, do a bit more beach combing, and I’ll tell you while we’re walking?’
‘Yeah, lets do that.’
They step into a calmer afternoon. The tide has retreated, a few figures are scattered across the beach, a dog barks. Seagulls circle silently; on the rocks a cormorant stretches its wings.
‘Where was I? Yes, the story I was thinking about. This is where it begins, on a beach like this.’