R H A P S O D Y
P R E S S
It is a good day.
Boiling surf roars up the beach, hisses into the sand, then retreats, spent; then roars again. Warm sunlight falls through towering cumulus, the clouds of late summer, broad white columns with blazing crowns and wet, leaden footings; falls splashing like liquid fire across heaving blue water rolling in endlessly from the horizon; a horizon now distant, razor-thin, limitless; now obscured by a far squall, drifting, changing, fading. Gulls scream and surf thunders and the beach quivers underfoot, a shifting anvil for the pounding of the waves.
A hundred, two hundred yards from shore, the heavy water rises and falls in a long easy sweep, the rhythm of some final power advancing relentlessly shoreward, neither slow nor fast, but the embodiment of the beginning and the end; all of time gathered into that bright space between two waves, to be apprehended in a single glance, a single thought, before the glance moves on.
A head appears. Crowned with short white hair, it breaks the surface followed by shoulders now surging, propelling the head shoreward, finding the lull between waves, reaching shallow water before coming to a stop.
The old man stands up. He is naked, skin reddish-brown from just days in the sun, rather than a lifetime, but tinged with blue from the cold of the water. A wave comes up and he stands braced while it breaks about him, shooting up spray from either side of his lean body. As though sliced in two, it passes and re-merges, rolling to its long crash on the beach.
He begins moving, forcing his way with long strides through the seething foam. Water splashes about his feet as he walks up the wet sand, streams from his fleshless face and long, muscled legs. He turns, scanning the horizon, as though searching. Or, perhaps, gazing homeward, towards distant ancestors still bright in memory and time.
He does not linger. A tattered white cloth flaps in the afternoon breeze, from a gnarled black stick stuck upright in the sand. He ties the cloth loosely about his waist. A canteen hangs from the stick, and he takes it, unscrews the cap, and swallows a single mouthful of precious water. Then he replaces the cap, slings the canteen over his shoulder, pulls the stick from the sand, and starts walking. The sloping beach is a smooth, firm plane, and the high arches of his feet leave deep impressions, to be filled in and washed away by the tide, alongside sharp holes punched by the gnarled walking stick.