He bounced over the beach, twirling and leaping as sunlight warmed the breeze on his belly, like when he and Janie were six. His jacket slid down his arms into a Batman cape and he laughed, skidding to a stop and crashing onto his back, mouth open and eyes wide.
“In’t they lovely…”
A voice made him jump. He twisted to see two women tucked beneath the dunes, soaking up the sight of three tiny sisters stampeding sandcastles.
Caramel puddings sticky with salt, the youngest looked past her mother right into his eyes so he beamed and mouthed, “Janie?”
She beamed back.
“Carrie! Here.” Woman, leaping up with sand running in rivulets over her frock. Glaring at the man with the scar who grinned at little girls. Herding her daughters in a furious flap. Frosty silence until his smile faded and he stood, backed away, tried to go forward, backed away again, hypnotised by the pulse of forwards, backwards, forwards so that he carried on rocking even as the mother bustled her brood away.
Murmurs, “…off his head.”
He watched them go. Woman and small girl out of reach. Like the day the truck took Mum and Janie. Leaving him to dance a child’s step all alone, heal the hole in his head, try to move forward, back, forward, back, never understanding the stares nor why his fingers could not keep hold of sand.