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Thursday, July 07, 2005
  Part Two

Following Jenks around I'd eventually get to see many different places as he grew up and moved away from his family; first travelling wherever his boredom prompted him, then later following opportunity wherever he perceived it to lead. His first trips though were more mundane, made on the whim of his mother and father on sunny days when their family home seemed shrunk by the heat, and the cool expanse of the coast was too cheap an invitation to refuse.

Although the journey to Weymouth in reality only took about 40 minutes, to a small child like Jenks it seemed like hours. The walk from the station was a staggered procession involving breaks to purchase sun-cream from the chemist when Jenks' mother decided his skin was too fair and the factor of the lotion they already had was too low, followed by a long browse at a wooden walled hut hung with nets and spades, which concluded with the purchase of a bucket with a crab imprinted on the base. Then, stretched out beyond a stout stone wall was the sand, and on the sand, like a crowd of swaying birds stark on the rock of some wave-broken atlantic island, were hundreds and hundreds of people.

It's easy for a child to get lost at a beach. A simple three-hundred-and-sixty degree turn and Jenks no longer knew where he was, in which direction he'd come from, or where he ought to run to find safety. Droplet speckled boys ran along the billowing water, kicking spray high into the air as they sprinted by. Jenks spun around again, as if to see whether a repeat motion could set the world back in order from whatever disarray his movement had imposed upon it. Still, strangers all around him.

Now it was Jenks stumbling in the surf, taken with what seemed like a clever idea to run the length of the beach, his head turned to the side, scanning the sea of bodies for familiar faces, or the bright stripes of his mother's one-piece. I could see he was running the wrong way, but I was too distant; I'd stayed away from the water (my footprints would have shown) standing with my toes sunk into the pale gritty sand. I raced along lightly, skipping over roasting bodies searching for a way to catch his attention, to direct it back to the family he'd stared straight at and not noticed.

The sun was bright, and I could think of nothing else than to shout, to be heard for once. As I scrambled for the words, so long unused, Jenks slammed head first into a tall man wearing blue shorts, who picked him up from the damp sand and held him up to his face. I could hear perfectly. Jenks was lost. The man hoisted him onto his shoulder and together they began to scan the oblivious faces with shared intensity. I watched helpless as Jenks' arm shot up, spring-loaded with released tension, and the man strode easily in the direction he pointed. I remained where I was, still watching with my feet sinking deeper beneath the unhelpful sand. 
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