The sunset on the Puget Sound is a thing of rare beauty — rare, not simply because of the grandeur and majesty of swelling nature, but rare because seldom seen. The clouds muscle together over Bainbridge Island and Edmonds and Snohomish in innumerable patterns, moires twisting and dissolving in breezes that fail to disturb the fine mist that falls constantly on the evergreens.

The man stood on the rocky beach south of the Mukilteo ferry dock. He had hiked along the train tracks, dodging the occasional metal Juggernaut by clinging to the rocky barrier that lifted the tracks above the peevish surface of the Sound. His battered shoes were stained a uniform non-colour. Just at present they were soaked through, so that with every step sand and cigarette butts clung to them. They went slish-pop as the man walked. He was looking over the Sound at Whidbey Island, looking especially at where the sun had broken through the clouds against all probability and erected vast Doric columns of light over the water. He wore several days’ worth of patchy beard. He smelled abominable, although not to himself. To his mind he smelled of the three greatest things in the world: smoke, dope, and rope.

The first was from the large bonfire he had stood before, when he had stumbled across a fugitive drum circle the previous night. The dope came from that same gathering; it was seldom in the man’s experience that drummers were either flat or ungenerous. The hempen smell came from nothing so much as what the man was; the continual falling precipitation drew it from his clothes.

He was forty-two years old, and simple, and quite pleased with the state of his world.