There are few better ways to start the day than by spending it on the beach, I have recently discovered.
It doesn’t matter if I am sitting on a surfboard, bobbing on the ocean, legs dangling in the cool seas while waiting for a wave to catch, or just paddling along while watching the eastern sky grow progressively lighter, admiring the changes in colour as night turns to day, this is one place where I feel at peace.
To the east I often see clouds out over the water changing from grey to crimson to gold, or massive storms sometimes building up and heading toward shore, spewing lightning from their heavy, dark underbellies. And looking west, back toward land, every morning I see the hulking, mountainous headlands dotted with pin-pricks of light gradually emerge from the darkness, taking shape and having their rich and vibrant colours restored once more for the new day ahead.
Yes, it is my favourite part of the day, but not just for those reasons. I also love the solitude, the chance to sit back and watch the world go by, the chance to be at one with the world, or the chance to just sit and think, pondering life’s many questions.
If you had told me a year ago that this was how my life would now be I would have laughed in your face. That year seems like a lifetime ago now, though. Maybe not in terms of actual days and months, but I can guarantee that it was definitely in another life.
I often wonder what happened to that confused and bitter boy. He had hated the world. He had hated his life. Sure, he may have had a roof over his head, but he didn’t have a home. He didn’t feel there was a place anywhere in the world where he belonged, or anyone out there who loved him for who he really was. Yes, his family may have loved him in their own unique way, but they didn’t really know him, and he felt sure that, had they ever managed to get to know the real boy, he would have been out on his ear quicker than you could have said, ‘Cock Sucker!’
It was on one of these early grey mornings, while sitting on my surf board on an almost glass-like sea, about one hundred metres off the beach, when something happened that made me realise that for the first time in my life I was at peace with myself and with the world around me. For the very first time in my life I knew what it was like to be loved and to feel what it was like to be in a place where I actually belonged.
There I was, my feet either side of my board and just dangling in the water when I suddenly saw a bullet-like shadow and felt something move past me in the water beneath me. My first reaction was one of panic, with a few bars of the theme from JAWS instantly coming to mind, but almost as quickly the surface of the water was soon broken just away from me, firstly by one, then by two more cheeky dolphins, all shaking their heads at me and chattering away as if we were all old friends.
With a hand I scooped up some water and flicked it their way, laughing at them, which forced two of them to dive but leaving the first dolphin still there. Using his snout he flicked some water back my way, so I flicked him again, only to have him flick me again.
It was a totally amazing experience. Here I was, having a water fight with a dolphin, while his two mates cheered him on from close by, having popped back up on the other side of my board.
Glancing back at the beach I checked to see if there was anyone else about who may bear witness to what was happening, but at this early hour we, the dolphins and I, were all alone.
I lay down on my stomach on my board, watching as the three of them played around me for about five minutes. One of the inquisitive creatures even came so close that I could have reached out and touched him, edging his snout up to the end of the board right in front of my face, but then, moments later they all dived together, and that was the last I saw of them, even though I sat there for a few minutes more looking around and hoping they would return.
As I started paddling back to shore, my heart still pumping madly from the experience, I found myself wishing that Scott or Matt could have been there to share it with me, but that wasn’t to be. Instead it was just me, and I found myself wrestling with the decision of either sharing the details or keeping it to myself; as one of those special, personal moments in life that should be locked away and treasured.
A strange calm seemed to come over me as I paddled away. Never before had I felt so at peace. Never before had I felt so much at home. For the very first time I actually started to think of this place, Thompsonville, this odd little town with its funny coloured houses, nestled between a lake and an ocean, as my home. It really was my home now and . . . touch wood . . . I hoped it always would be.
With a smile on my heart I caught the last feeble little wave and gently coasted into shore, coming to a stop on the sand and getting to my feet, picking up my board as I did so.
When I glanced back out to sea I noticed a break in the clouds and saw the sun starting to peek through, with bands of brilliant rays, like fingers of light, reaching down to the ocean. It was a sight to behold and as I set off up the beach, heading for home, I truly felt that on this morning I had been blessed.
* * *
On the way back home I met a couple of my favourite lads, who were also heading down to the beach for a surf. Aaron was a bit of a larrikin who had become like a kid brother to me in recent times, while Tony was a relative newcomer to our town, but was quickly growing on me as well.
In the soft, early morning light the pair of them almost appeared to glow, their tanned bodies taking on an almost ethereal appearance which, under different circumstances, I would possibly find to be almost tantalizing.
They were about the same age and in the few months since Tony had arrived the pair of them had quickly become inseparable. I suspected that they had also become lovers and reckoned should that be the case then I was glad of it, because if there was one thing I had learned in recent times it was that we all need to be loved.
‘Hey boys,’ I said to them when I met them on the path through the dunes and they stopped. ‘Great morning for it, eh?’
‘Sure is,’ Aaron replied. ‘How’s the water?’
‘Flat,’ I answered him, ‘but still pretty good.’
Aaron was carrying his own board, but Tony, being new here and without much stuff of his own, he was going without, so I held mine out for him.
‘You want a loan of this?’ I asked him.
‘Seriously?’ he replied, his eyes lighting up.
‘Yeah, sure,’ I said, stepping forward and putting the yellow board into his hands. His expression was reward enough.
‘Thank you,’ he said to me.
‘Any time. Just don’t bring it back to me with any shark bite sized chunk taken out of it!’
‘Wouldn’t dream of it,’ he replied, giving me a grin and a wink as he did so. ‘I’ll drop it in for you on the way past.’
With a laugh I slapped him on his bare back and turned to leave. ‘Enjoy yourselves, boys,’ I said to them, then continued on up the sandy path, coming out on Lighthouse Road a few minutes later, just a little way along from the caravan park.
Scott was waiting for me on the verandah when I walked up the path toward the house, holding two steaming mugs of coffee in his hands, one of which he was sipping on himself.
‘Saw you coming, so I thought you might like this,’ he said to me as I climbed the stairs and he handed me one of the mugs.
‘Thanks,’ I replied.
‘What happened to your board?’
‘Loaned it to a grommet,’ I answered, then told him about meeting up with Aaron and Tony on the path from the beach.
‘And how was the surf?’
‘Pretty flat today . . . kind of like glass, nothing much doing at all, but hey, you won’t believe what did happen to me out on the water.’
We sat on the deck chairs and I excitedly told him about the dolphins as we drank our coffees and watched the park come slowly to life.
He could see my excitement and said he was sorry he had missed it and that he was happy for me. I wished he had been there as well.
A short while later the local newsagent made his delivery of papers for the little shop we had at the ‘van park, so while Scott dealt with that I headed inside for a long hot shower, scrubbing away the salt and the sand and finding myself, somewhat surprisingly, aroused when the image of meeting Aaron and Tony on the path that morning popped into my head. I knew they were both under age and that it was wrong, and there was no way I would ever dream of going there, but it never hurt to look and at least imagine. Did it?
As I reached down and paid attention to myself and the tingling in my loins brought about by my wicked thoughts, I was soon interrupted by a voice saying; ‘I hope that’s me you’re thinking about in there?’
Startled, I looked up and through the frosted glass of the shower screen I could see the shadow of Scott standing there. I had left the bathroom door open while I showered and didn’t hear him come in.
‘Of . . . c-course,’ I replied, but not very convincingly I thought.
‘Good. Now how about I come in and we see if we can’t finish off what you’ve started?’
‘You’ll get no arguments from me,’ I replied, pushing aside the shower curtain as I did so. Scott quickly whipped off his t-shirt and stepped out of his shorts, then came into the shower, pulling the curtain back across behind him as he did so.
Pushing me back against the wall he came to me, locking his lips on mine, pressing his body against mine and letting his hands slide down my already slippery body.
Would you be surprised if I said that early morning was rapidly becoming the favourite part of my day?
* * *
The early morning cloud drifted back out to sea by the time the day had started to gather momentum. By ten o’clock, the time around which I had finished raking the leaves on the ground near the barbeque area, the clouds were little more than a faint smudge on the eastern horizon. The day was turning hot, with an early summer sun gently baking our seaside town, bringing with it the promise of even better days ahead.
I hadn’t given Aaron or Tony another thought as I set about doing the few jobs that Scott wanted done today, but when I had finished with the leaves and put the tools back away in the garden shed I realised that Tony hadn’t returned by surfboard. I wasn’t too concerned, although I have to admit that I was slightly peeved about it, so I decided to head back down toward the beach and see if the boys may have still been there, perhaps playing hooky from school.
Scott was inside the office, so I called out to him from the back door, without going inside, just to let him know where I was going, then jumped off the verandah and headed down the path and out onto the road, going the same way that I went most mornings.
A few hundred metres down the road I came to the road that headed toward the beach. That road finished with a gravel car park and from there it wasn’t far through the dunes and the dense, scrubby vegetation that grew on them, to the beach. When I came to the car park, however, I found that it wasn’t empty. There was a police car parked near the toilet block and showers, although there was no one to be seen anywhere.
With a shrug of my shoulders I kept walking, heading off down the winding path through the scrub toward the beach, but until I came out onto the beach I saw no one.
Shielding my eyes against the sun I looked out over the blue waters and could see that the swell had started to pick up and there were a few reasonable sized waves now starting to roll in onto the beach. There were a few people out on the waves, but I could see no sign of my distinctive, bright yellow surfboard, or either of the two boys. At the far northern end of the beach I could see a few more people there, so I headed off in that direction, hopeful that Aaron and Tony might be amongst them, but once again I was to be disappointed.
Growing slightly more annoyed I turned and headed back toward where the path up to the car park came out onto the beach, then turned onto it and started to head back home. About half way along the path I came around a bend, where I found Aaron and Tony were sheepishly stepping out of the bushes, carrying their boards.
‘What the hell have you pair been up to?’ I gently teased.
‘Ssshhh . . .’ Aaron said to me, placing a finger across his lips as he did so. ‘There’s been cops around here all morning.’
‘Why? What happened?’ I asked quietly, remembering having seen the police car at the car park on the way down earlier.
‘Dunno,’ Tony replied. ‘We’ve been sneaking about trying to find out what’s been going on. The cops were looking around the bushes near the loos. Not sure if they found anything, though.
‘Are they still here?’ I asked. Both of the boys shook their heads.
‘Haven’t seen them for a little while, so don’t know if they found whoever they were lookin’ for, or what,’ Aaron replied.
‘All right then, I guess it’s safe to head home,’ I said to them.
The three of us started back up the path toward the car park and a few minutes later passed the toilet block and came out near where the police car had earlier been parked. As we did so we all noticed someone on the far side of the car park, standing there watching us for a moment, before quickly ducking into the bushes and out of sight.
‘Did you see that?’ Aaron asked me, stopping me with a hand on my arm.
‘Yeah, I did. Was it who I think it was?’
‘Wonder if he’s up to his old tricks?’
‘Wouldn’t fucking surprise me,’ Aaron spat.
Tony looked from one of us to the other, his expression one of surprise. ‘Am I missing something here?’ he asked.
‘Yeah. I’ll explain it to you later,’ Aaron said to him quietly, his eyes still focused on the spot where the person had disappeared into the scrub.
When we reached the main road we stopped and Tony handed back my surf board, thanking me for loaning it to him.
‘Anytime,’ I replied, and meaning it.
I waved them farewell and walked the last few hundred yards home, standing my board on the verandah by the back door before going inside.
When he heard me come inside Scott stuck his head out of the office door to see who it was. ‘You manage to find them okay?’ he asked me.
‘Yeah, they were off hiding in the bushes,’ I said to him with a grin, to which he simply raised his eyebrows.
‘The place was crawling with cops apparently,’ I continued. ‘Don’t know what has happened, but the boys said they were sneaking about trying to find out what.’
‘Sounds rather worrying,’ Scott replied.
‘Yeah. Funny thing was, when we came back up through the car park we spotted Thompson lurking about in the scrub.’
‘Is that so? You sure it was him?’
‘Yeah. Aaron spotted him first I think and said it was definitely him.’
‘Well, if it was him, he’s been pretty quiet lately.’
‘Sounds like we’ll have to keep our ears open and see if we can find out anything.’
‘Yeah, I agree,’ I replied, while wondering to myself if Aaron would go and talk to the police if Thompson was indeed up to his old tricks.
As Scott went back into the office I retrieved a cold drink from the refrigerator, then I headed out on to the verandah where I sat in the small area of shade on offer and sipped at the contents of the can and watched the world go by.
After what had been a brilliant start to my day, I now found myself in a far different mood, unable to get the image of Thompson skulking about in the bushes out of my head.
I could deal with the fact that people sometimes went to those places for sex, hell, I’d even picked up in those places myself in the life I had led before finding a new home here with Scott, but after what had happened to Aaron that time I realised that what some folks went there for was sometimes for purposes other than just sex. Sometimes they had motives that were less than honourable and it was people like these, continually preying on the young and the vulnerable, whom I found difficult to stomach.
I hoped that if Andy Thompson was once again up to no good then he would really get what was coming to him this time.
When lunch time came around I headed downtown to meet up with Matt at the local pub for a counter lunch, which seemed to be about the extent of our socialising these days, now that he had himself a new job. Our friendship had gone from strength to strength since we had worked together with Cye and the others on the old fishing boat, even surviving our enforced unemployment, and there was nobody happier than me when I found out that he had scored himself the job.
I was there waiting for him at our usual table when he arrived and even I had to admit that he looked pretty damned hot in his new uniform these days, of dark trousers and red polo shirt with the company’s logo on it. Luke was certainly a lucky guy to have him, I thought, just as Matt was lucky to have Luke in his life. When you saw these guys together you couldn’t help but see the love there was between them and it only reinforced my newfound belief of how important it was to have love in your life.
Over our Fisherman’s Baskets and beers I told him about my morning on the surf board and the dolphins, then our later experiences on the walk back home. His demeanor went from one of sharing the excitement of my beautiful morning to one of disgust when hearing about Thompson.
‘If it was him that was there causing trouble, then I hope they lock the bastard up,’ he remarked.
‘I couldn’t agree more,’ I replied. ‘I would just like to try and find out if it actually was him they were looking for. If he’s done something again then maybe we could get Aaron to say something to the cops as well, though I doubt if he would be keen on that.’
‘No, I can’t really see Aaron being up for that, but I’ll keep my ear to the ground anyhow . . . you never know what might get said somewhere around the traps.’
We finished our beers and Matt looked at his watch. ‘Okay mate, it’s time I got back to work,’ he said to me.
‘All right then,’ I replied. ‘Are we still on for the pub Trivia comp on Friday night?’
‘Absolutely,’ he answered as we stood up from our table and started for the doors, receiving a friendly wave from Harry, the barman-cum-waiter-cum-cook.
Just as we reached the heavy oak doors with stained glass inserts in them, mirroring just about every other old-style pub I had ever been in, they were suddenly opened in front of us by two people coming inside. I couldn’t ever recall having seen the pair of them together and my immediate reaction as I stepped back to let them pass was that I thought them to be rather strange bed-fellows. There once would have been a time when I would have almost cowered in a corner upon being confronted by these guys, but these days I felt nothing but contempt for both of them.
One of them I had already seen once this morning, while the other, with his distinctive red hair, was someone whom we had all had run-ins with on other occasions.
Glancing up at Matt I could almost see his lip curl back in disgust.
I stepped back to let them pass, but Matt stood his ground. Thompson stopped in front of him and looked him up and down, then with a smirk on his face he stepped around Matt and kept on walking, only once glancing back at us.
I also saw Harry standing behind the bar, a glass in one hand and a tea towel in the other, stop and watch what had happened.
Not a word was said, but you could have cut the air with a knife. We turned and walked outside into the sunshine, stopping on the foot path.
‘That was fucking weird?’ Matt said after a few moments.
‘Wasn’t it just? What do you think the pair of them would be hanging out together for?’
‘Nothing good I’d bet.’
To be continued . . .