Butler sat on his usual bench at the appointed time, for his daily converse with the sea. Hands resting on his paunch, he gave the waves a benevolent smile. He found their eternal rhythm a source of deep satisfaction; the glinting highlights on their surfaces as they broke upon the beach both dazzled and delighted him. He shut his eyes for a moment to listen to their susurration and splashing as they broke and the drag and rattle of the pebbles beneath as they withdrew.
Earlier, as he’d strolled along the promenade towards his bench, Butler had been so taken with the brilliance of the day and opulent swell of the waves, that he had absently patted a small boy on the head as he passed by. It had been an affable gesture but the child had run screaming to his mother, busy with a baby in a push-chair, and she had shouted something abusive after him. His reverie momentarily interrupted, Butler had paused to assure the red-faced women that his motives had been solely avuncular and that he deplored violence on anybody, especially children. He then had to explain, courteously but firmly, that while he did not know what a pudding-faced kiddy fiddler was, he thought voicing the sentiment might be slanderous.
At this point the small boy returned and kicked him repeatedly in the shins and the serenity of his day was severely jeopardised. Unwillingly to keep the sea waiting, Butler had dealt with the problem with commendable speed and efficiency for a man of his bulk. He doffed his hat to the woman, but she was too busy peering over the sea wall and hyper-ventilating.
A howling of sirens mingled with the rhythm of the waves. But for the moment Butler chose to keep his eyes shut.