William Boyd

A Firing Squad

I used to swim on Bar beach when I was young. The waves ended their long journey across the Atlantic and seemed to break and crash with abandon and relief when they finally hit the West coast of Africa. Bar beach was long and wide. The waves surged in, green and strong, twelve feet high. I would stand in the shallow surf, then wade out and dive into the green throat of a breaker.

So when I went back it seemed natural to go there the first morning, a Sunday. I left my hotel early, at six, and drove to the beach. Mammies were setting up fruit and food stalls at the edge of the coast road; a few stray dogs picked and sniffed at the tide wrack, but otherwise I had the beach more or less to myself. The waves rolled eternally in – swell, peak, break, explode, then the frothing, dying run up the hard sand.

Pale small crabs skittered away from my feet as I

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