When he was six his family took him to see the ocean. The road went through the woods, the great western forest where ten decades of industrious logging had succeeded in clearing no more than the cities of the coast and the narrow, crabbed road that led to them. Because the road was dark and the woods ominous and silent, he though he was being taken to his funeral. His grandmother had died the month before and he had seen her buried. For two days they drove through the forest, slowly, it seemed to him mournfully, and on the way he said goodbye to his life. He was scared, but he was philosophic. After two days the trees thinned out, so abruptly that he screamed to see the wide blue sky. After the closeness of the road he felt exposed to the sun’s horrible scrutiny. The ground rose in gentle curves, the hills furry and unsettled with long grasses, and the sky beyond seemed empty and hungry. Between one hill and the next the land disappeared and that was the ocean. His mother drove the car onto the beach and stopped the engine. These were his last moments, he told himself, and said silently goodbye to his parents — whom he’d saved superstitiously until the end.

“Well,” said his father. “Do you want to fly a kite?”

The relief he felt at this reprieve was so overwhelming that he burst into sobs that rose and fell like the grey breakers outside the window.