Warm air and the scent of the Aegean blew across the beach. A silhouette of brown, rock hills surrounded the shore creating a bowl, a cove that made a fine place for summer holiday getaways.
The blue-green tide persisted to its highest, its relentless breakers arriving in rhythmic sets, pounding the shore, reaching before flattening and returning into itself.
Above the high-water, on soft, milky sand, hot, mid-day sun punished a woman whose body offered the only shade for her companion, a tiny girl who crushed close. An older boy stood near and while the woman’s attention remained with the girl, his gaze followed a gaggle of men who surrounded an empty rubber raft that slapped and bobbed on the surface of the water, restrained only by a rope held by one hand.
Sprinkled across the sand, other women sat, some with a child, others with two or many. Surrounded by bags, they seemed contained in their own groups, but together, while the men near the raft moved with purpose and gestures, conversing, looking sometimes toward the women, or at the hill behind the beach. The only sound was the constant crush of waves.
Money passed, and men pointed.
A man waved, and a woman stood. Another man yelled and then another, waving to the women who all stood, gathering bags and children and themselves before hurrying with awkward gaits toward the men.
As the people crushed inside, the crowded raft settled lower into the water before two last men guided the vessel into the retreating surf, then struggled onto the sides and began to row.
A lone man who’d remained on the beach scampered up the hill where he turned and watched as the tide pulled the swollen craft west, further out into the Greek sea.