The Man in the Green Shell-Suit: Part One Oct27

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The Man in the Green Shell-Suit: Part One

We walked to the far end of the beach. Here, old ladies lay flat and untied their bras and big-bellied men walked about as if in search of some artefacts in the sand. Across the little bay was the forest and just below it the cemetery of dead trees standing grey and erect and silent. A dog barked nonsensical at the little waves, his mistress sitting there but allowing the din.

The sand was the colour of weathered bone and some of the rocks provided a relief of beige and brown and even white but nothing else was white. Even the clouds appeared blemished by use or stained with blown dust. And there was heat-of-sun enough to allow for a momentary illusion of holiday. I felt it on my left and whenever I turned that way all I could see was its light glittering on the water and the low, stretched watercolour peninsula that appeared to bleed into the sea at points where all was monochrome. Half-way along its length, plumes of barrelly smoke rose first straight up and then to the right, becoming cloud-like and feeding a line of darkish cotton pushing it further along to the west.

There were two others still visible on the strand where I sat. First, the woman lay on her back now, reading a book that hung suspended from her right hand. Though she had bony knees and slender calves her belly was swollen and could have been that of a man of her age partial to beer. It was disproportionate and dimpled over her ribs. She wore rolled-up blue jeans above the knee and a striped, multi-coloured bikini bra offensively bright and just about sufficient to house her large, flaccid breasts. Her hair, like her stomach, was masculine and unattractive, short, greying and unkempt.

The man lay on his back some thirty feet off. He was large and hairy with a halo of wispy-white hair that ringed a sizeable bald patch that sat lower than usual nearly between his ears. He wore ridiculous hiking boots and woollen socks utterly unsuited to the day and carried with him a flimsy oiled shirt, enough to imply his bachelorhood. He was tall enough to ensure his corpulence didn’t embarrass his legs. He wasn’t reading; he wasn’t doing anything at all it seemed to me, just laying there looking at the sky.

The forest of trees stood obedient in the distance, pregnant with shadow and cool to the skin. Between us and it were perhaps 500 metres of curved beach.

The figure in the green shell suit came from behind a low, domed rise in the sand. His green was the green of jungle leaves, the kind one would expect to be moist to the touch, the colour crocodiles see.

Behind him were the dunes and behind them, the road. The road was quiet and almost entirely without traffic. It hosted the occasional walker and his dog and jogger.

I didn’t then imagine he’d come from the road but now it seems likely that he did because I hadn’t seem him on the beach before then. People came to the beach from several routes amongst them a path that led through the forest, another by bike along a cycle route parallel with the strand just shy of the road. There were several routes on to the beach off the road, narrow gullies of darkened, cool sand cut deep between dunes.  Once on these paths, turning around to look behind caused a feeling of vulnerability especially once the road was out of sight and the beach could only faintly be heard. For several paces one walked in oblivion and reaching either the beach or the road was a relief.

R.H.