Demons on the Beach

There’s a man that sits on the beach every day with a scruffy piece of paper and a tiny little pencil. He’s got holes in his boots, and no laces to speak of. He shaves his head so he can clean himself more easily, and his jacket pockets are stuffed full of all that he needs to survive. A toothbrush, a spoon, a straight razor, a handkerchief and most importantly, his pencil.

I see him digging through the bins for scrap paper. Newspapers and magazines are no good. Advertising pamphlets are useless to him too. Have you ever tried to take notes on a newsletter? There’s no space to write anything. He seems happiest when he finds a piece of grease-proof paper that’s smeared with fish-and-chip juice or hamburger grease. The important thing is that it’s blank. A blank page on which he can draw.

You can watch him swatting invisible flies away as he walks around town. It’s like watching someone with Tourette’s struggling with a tic, but he doesn’t have Tourette’s. He’s surrounded by his demons, and they bother him to no end, except when he’s sitting on the beach with his tiny pencil and scrap paper. The demons don’t bother him there.

He sits down in the late afternoon, when the bulk of the beach-goers have gone home. He sits and stares motionless at the water. His hands don’t swat any demons away whilst he’s sitting and watching. He pulls his pencil from his right pocket after what seems like an eternity, and he shaves it with his razor which he keeps in his left pocket. He finesses the point until he’s satisfied that it’s perfect, then without looking down at his scrap paper, he begins to trace the the edge of the water as it moves about on the sand.

His scribblings are the work of a madman – or a genius. He throws them out in the same trash can at the end of each session. Because he’s following the moving edge of the water, the lines dance around the page with a naturalistic logic. There’s a universal kind of beauty in them. So, of course I put them online.

I spoke to him one day, with much trepidation.
“You know, your drawings are beautiful.” I said.
His eyes pierced through me. He had eyes like a lion, not a man.
“I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve been posting them online. Half a million people follow your work.”
He had a sparkle in his lion eyes, like he already knew.
“I want to give you all the money your art has…”
He let out an animalistic roar.
He started swatting the air furiously.

The thought of society reclaiming him awakened his demons. It’s been six months. I wonder if I’ll ever see him again.



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