Jaz and Crush walked the tideline, there were lights everywhere along the beach. Half the village was out. Not that that was many people at this time of year, but enough who cared for the sea and those on it, enough of those who’d had close brushes with it themselves and enough who’d lost others.
It was three hours since they’d last seen Terry. It was pitch black and the wind was still howling through their coats and whipping the sand up into their faces with a vengeance. Neither of them flinched as they stood and looked, and looked and looked.
“Over here!” a voice cried out from the rocks at the side of the beach, a torch waved. “Over here – gi’s a hand !”
A dozen people ran over – there was a dark shape in the water, several people held back as the water flushed forwards again. Jaz pushed past and waded through the thigh high water.
“Crush, help mate, come on, need you..” he sounded almost in tears behind the bravado.
Between them they pulled out a ball of seaweed the size of a man’s torso. Some of the watchers on the beach sighed, but Jaz didn’t pause – he pulled and he pulled and the seaweed gave over to a long piece of yellow plastic…which in turn pulled up the back half of a red and white board. Smashed in two, foam protruding from the fibre glass, swollen and yellowed. Fins shattered. There was more seaweed tangled in this and they couldn’t pull the broken board free. Crush waded in next to Jaz and grimly tugged. Between them they grunted and pulled and resolutely never said a word. The water lapped around their waists as the ventured further and further out. An old nylon fishing net swept past them and was hauled up by the guys behind, pulling it away from them as they got on with their grim self appointed role.
Then suddenly the board gave and they were tumbled back into the water, landing on their backs in the freezing darkness. Jaz clung to the piece of board like a limpet and pulled himself, then Crush upright, their bodies shaking with cold and effort. He reached down along the tangled seaweed and found what had been trapping the board. He hardly dare feel any further. The flotsam that held it back was part of another board. This time he didn’t even need to look. He pulled it out and slung it towards Crush.
They carried the broken boards up onto the beach and walked away. Leaving others to find whatever else was there.
Behind them the sea was calming down, cleaning up. The sun was beginning to flood light across the horizon. They sat at the top of the beach, wet, cold, tired and silent. Jaz walked over to his car, parked up on the high sand, opened the door and reached in.
He lit up a cigarette, offered one to Crush who took it despite himself. They sat and watched, sat and watched. The sea was still there, the beach was still there. Nothing else was.