On A Winter Beach

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 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 shelters on the promenade. They collapse on a bench and he lets out a whoop.

‘You know that story you told me.’
‘That one, the other day. Tell it again.’
‘Café first.’
‘Yeah, great. Ice cream.’
‘Maybe chips’d be better. Something warm.’
‘Ice cream too?’
‘See what the beach combing’s like later. Now it’s coffee and chips, ok?’

Catching the door, but not quick enough to stop paper napkins being scattered across the floor. Two elderly women scowl, then return to their conversation.
They order, and coins are placed on the counter. He watches the waitress rub them between her fingers, sweep sand off the glass surface.
His father says, ‘Seat by the window?
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, returns to her magazine.

They sit drinking coffee, eating chips, in no hurry to go anywhere, do anything, just sit and let eyelids droop and sink into the rhythm of the whir and sputter of the coffee machine, warmth of the café, and be gently shaken by his father saying,
‘Come on lovely lad wake up. Better eat those chips.’
‘Eat your chips.’
The jukebox stands mute in the corner, tables cleared, surfaces wiped. His father’s cup is removed, his empty plate.
‘We need to leave, son. Anyway looks like the wind’s settled a little.

They step into a calmer afternoon, a retreating tide, beach all but deserted. Seagulls circle silently. On the exposed rocks a cormorant stretches its wings.
‘That story. This is where it begins. On a beach like ours.’