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As the Judge climbs into the kayak beneath a bright morning sky, a slow and clumsy process that takes him almost five minutes, he reflects that an old man’s body is nothing but a sack filled with aches and indignities. Eighty years ago, when he was ten, he jumped into a wooden canoe and cast off, with no bulky life jacket, no worries, and certainly with no pee dribbling into his underwear. Every trip out to the little unnamed island began with a great and uneasy excitement. Now there is only unease. And pain that seems centred deep in his guts and radiates everywhere. But he still makes the trip. Many things have lost their allure in these shadowy later years – most things, really – but not the dune on the far side of the island. Never the dune.
In the early days of his exploration, he expected the dune to be gone after every big storm, and following the 1944 hurricane that sank the USS Raleigh off Siesta Key, he was sure it would be. But when the skies cleared, the island was still there. So was the dune, although the hundred-mile-an-hour winds should have blown all the sand away, leaving only the bare rocks. Over the years he has debated back and forth about whether the magic is in him or in the dune. Perhaps it’s both, but surely most of it is in the dune.
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