The boy was written in blue ink.
When she saw him June had no better explanation than this for her reaction; but there it was, from his pallid skinny arms and pale blue eyes: perhaps they'd quickly jotted him down, or perhaps it had been slow calligraphy. But however he'd come to be, he was only lines on the paper of life. She watched him from her chair on the sand. She pitied him, but was more revulsed; and yet she could not look away.
"Jacob!" his mother was calling, beckoning with a lazy fishlike flop of the hand, "Jacob, don't go too far in."
He looked at her as though attempting to figure out how to pretend that he hadn't heard her now that he had looked at her. Finally he decided not to trouble himself and continued his slow descent toward the waves, plastic shovel in hand. She apparently gave up and fell back against her beach bag cushion. But June continued to watch.
Suddenly she got an idea. She pulled out a pen and began sketching the boy on a bit of scrap paper. When it was done, she glanced up expectantly. He was still scooting along the shore.
June gathered her things and rushed to the nearest convenience shop, ignoring the nagging sense that her actions were inexplicable. When she returned, someone had stolen her chair, so she sat on the sand. She pulled out her new erasable blue pen and began sketching him again. The limp arms. The hanging head. The slowly splashing feet.
Then, as if possessed, feeling wicked and frightened, June began to erase. She began with his head, and continued all the way to the nearest toe. She looked up.
The boy was gone.
She began to shake. This is silly, she berated herself. It doesn't make a bit of sense. It's insane.
The shovel lay abandoned on the sand. June stood, and slowly, slowly her trembling subsided. She felt strong, proud. It was better this way.
"Honey," the father said, wading in from the surf, "Where's Jacob?"
She shaded her eyes and squinted at him. "I'm sure he'll turn up soon."
Behind them, unnoticed, a tiny ball of paper blew away in the wind.