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For a while, the waves collapse the front of his shallow hole, but he learns to dig when they recede so that soon he’s in up to the elbow; he’s pushed up his sleeve as far as it will go, and his arm is numb from working in the cold water. He concentrates on widening the sides, and then he measures the opening: it’s one and a half times as wide as his shoe is long.
His mother has stopped telling him to be careful, and he glances back to make sure she’s still there. She is, staring out beyond him. She feels herself slowly filling back up with the sea as she listens and waits for God. Child follows her gaze and watches the orange sun slip into the water and go out. He’s seen that a million times.
He goes back to his widening, and the sky darkens and his hole darkens and the water inside it looks black. He measures again: it’s two shoe lengths wide now.
He’s studying his hole, crouched above it with his nose six inches from the water, when he hears his mother come up behind him. She puts her hand on his head, and he raises his eyes to the horizon all streaked and purple. Isn’t it beautiful? she says.