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feral

‘What’s your name?’

‘Feral.’

‘Where’s that come from?’

‘That’s just what they call me.’

Simon is sitting in the sun with his back to the sub-station wall, surrounded by his soiled cloth bags. His skin is creased with grime and the tattoos that creep out of the layers of his many t-shirts travel all the way up to his brown, placid eyes. Every finger I can see is inked up, as are his hands and forearms.

A round-faced man, Simon, solidly built about the shoulders and with no desire to engage .. he said as much when I asked him what his real name was. Simon. Then he shut down.

I see him a couple of times a week walking through town. He almost looks gaudy in his multi-coloured op-shop poncho and a black straw hat with small, colourful ribbon strips fluttering from its wide brim.

Mostly, when I see him on the street or at rest in the sun I just raise a hand in his direction .. mostly he just waves a hand back. Raises it just up a little way before letting it down. His world seems free of distractions.

The beach’s north point features a fifty-foot high cliff of black granite boulders, above them a track leading down to a small wooded valley behind the dunes.

A man can spend hours on this beach sifting through the debris thrown up by wild weather and flood tides, picking up and assaying the merit of the polished quartz pebbles that litter the high-water mark, looking for any trace of auriferous yellow. It’s a solitary business fossicking. Head down and walking slowly, then stooping, lifting and examining the find before discarding or pocketing it. This beach was once known to be littered with fine particles of gold where the water runs from the rocky headlands and into the sea.

‘Pete!’

I looked up.

And on the track high above the beach, unmistakable in his fluttering hat and coloured robes was Simon.

Waving.

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