Sun Over Cadaqués, short story by Kate Aranda Nye at

Sun Over Cadaqués

Sun Over Cadaqués

written by: Kate Aranda Nye


It was a peaceful sunrise. A slow, majestic ascent over calm seas caressed by the soft breeze of early summer. The boy sat beside his mother amongst the scrub and olives that covered the hillside. Shoulder to shoulder, the woman gently cupped the boy’s hand in her lap, her thumb sweeping soft arches of comfort over his skin in an unconscious motion of reassurance. Before them the haze of the far horizon gave way to the sparkling surface of the cerulean waters of the Mediterranean, dancing light reflecting as the sun climbed higher in the cloudless sky.

“Beautiful,” whispered the woman, her voice wistful as it trailed away with the breeze. The boy rested his head against his mother’s shoulder, closing his eyes momentarily, entranced by the gentle rise and fall of her breathing. She squeezed his hand and lay her cheek on the crown of his head; she could smell the salt spray that had caught in his hair. “It will be a perfect day, Joan,” she said.

They remained there, as they did most days, until the bustle of the community below began to draw their attention away from the vista of sea and sky. A small boat with a bright red sail bobbed slowly out from the shelter of the bay in search of winds to carry it off towards imagined adventures. Joan watched as it crossed in front of them, the bright look on his face a reflection of the happy colour of the sail. He glanced up at his mother, her soft smile as warming to him as the sun that rose in the sky.

“Mare, shall we go back now?”

His mother sighed. She looked down at her son with loving eyes, studying his young face with the greed of the starving.

“Yes, Joan,” she replied with sadness, “it’s time to go back.”

The boy held out a hand to help his mother stand. Her movement was slow, laboured. She paused for breath as she centred herself, before linking arms with the boy and beginning their weary way back.


The sun was still high over the mountains as the boy made his way home that afternoon. A rangy young man that Joan had seen in the small town on previous occasions was standing towards the town end of the quay, sketch book in hand. Joan knew he was an artist; Cadaqués had always attracted painters so it was not an uncommon sight, but there was an air about him that drew the boy’s attention. He knew he would pass the man on his way to the small house he shared with his parents, keeping to the cooling shadow of the buildings that looked out over the water, and as he came through the arched portico on the road next to the tiny sandy beach of Port Alguer, he slowed his pace.

Dressed in a loose white shirt and trousers, the young man worked intently, a small pencil darting over the page. Joan could see the beads of sweat on the man’s high forehead where his hair was neatly greased back from his face. His features were fine, almost feline, with delicate cheek bones and a slim, pronounced nose. A fine pencil moustache was just visible on the man’s top lip, as he absentmindedly pursed his mouth in concentration while he worked. There was an explosive energy about him as he sketched. It seemed to radiate from him, thrumming from his feet on the stone of the quay to the slender fingers of his hands that danced gracefully as he stood in the bright light of the summer’s day. He must have sensed that Joan was observing him. His hands paused mid-stroke and he turned to face the boy with curiosity, his head tilted to one side, his overly large eyes wide and alive with mirth and the corner of one side of his mouth turned up in an amused smirk.

He continued to regard the boy for a long moment, his eyes twinkling as he took in the timid youngster standing in the protective shadows on the quay. For his part, Joan felt the awkward heat of embarrassment rush over his face, and he scuffed his shoe on the stones, twisting his hands deeper into the pockets of his trousers. When he looked up again, the young man had put his sketching tools down and now stood hands on hips, smiling broadly at him, effervescent.

“Hello there!” the young man called out heartily. Joan looked over nervously through a tumble of hair that had fallen in front of his eyes. The man cocked his head to one side, his lips twitching with merriment. “I don’t suppose you could tell me the time, could you?” he continued. “I seemed to have forgotten my watch!” And with that, he pulled out the inside of his trouser pockets to show that they were empty, eyes still twinkling at the boy. At that moment the bell of the church struck out the half hour. Opening his amused eyes even wider at the comical interjection, the young man burst into raucous laughter, eventually doubling over and placing his hands on his knees.

As his laughter rippled away, he drew in a deep satisfying breath. “What’s your name, my inquisitive young friend?” The boy blinked several times before replying.

“Joan,” he said in an uncertain voice.

“Well, Joan, it’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance. My name is Salvador, but you may call me Salva,” he responded, his wide eyes seemingly bulging as they gleamed in his narrow face.

“Do you paint, Joan?” Salvador inquired. The boy shook his head. “I cr-e-ate, as you can see,” he continued expressively. “In fact, you are probably looking at one of the greatest artists of this century!” Joan was unsure how to contend with this exuberance, but his curiosity drew him to the young man. He took a tentative step forward.

“Can I see?” he asked, craning to get a glimpse at the untidy pile of belongings on the quayside.

“Of course! Come! Come, come. Over here!” He beckoned the boy forward as he stooped to pick up his sketchbook. “There, you see! Magnificent!” He raised his hands in triumph handing the book to Joan, who held it with quiet reverence. “It would be quite rude not to agree with me,” said Salvador, with mock gravity. Intimidated, Joan was lost for words and could only express a soft ‘oh’ as he studied the page.

At the top, rising proudly above the rest, was the clear image of the church of Santa Maria. Below, a series of cubes and forms which, though simple, clearly depicted the town as it tumbled down to meet the beach of Port Alguer.

“It’s nice,” began Joan, looking up.

“Nice!” exploded Salvador. “Nice! Oh, how you wound me! My harshest critic yet!” and he once more burst out in delighted laughter. Seeing the discomfort in the boy’s face, he clapped him on the shoulder, saying, “Not to worry. It is a work in progress. I have yet to finish, so I won’t take your words to heart! But you’ll see, when it’s done, it will shine!” He smiled down at Joan, who gingerly responded in kind.

Salvador began packing things away into a soft canvas bag as the boy looked on.

“What delights have filled your day today, Joan?” he began. “Fishing, perhaps?” He looked back at the boy. “No, not fishing, no rod or net. Exploring, then! Are you an explorer, Joan?”

“No, senyor,” he mumbled, handing back the sketch book.

“Salva! Please!” exclaimed the young man. Joan looked abashed. “So, no fishing, no exploring. You don’t paint … too much colour to be a bookworm …” He raised his eyebrows and rolled his expressive eyes. “Well, I confess young man, I am at a loss! What is it that the boys of Cadaqués get up to in the summer?” Salvador hooked the canvas bag over his shoulder and looked expectantly at the boy.

Joan chewed nervously on his lower lip before replying.

“I had to fetch water and bread this morning. Swept out the front room …”

“Woman’s work!” roared Salvador, teasingly. “A strapping boy like you? Well, well …” He laughed some more, playfully nudging the boy with his elbow.

Joan hung his head. “My mother’s sick,” he spoke softly. “I like to help.” He shrugged his shoulders as his words fell away. The mirth dropped from Salvador’s eyes.

“Joan, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to …”

“It’s okay,” the boy cut in, “you didn’t know.” A silence hung over them, like the afternoon heat, heavy and oppressive. They stood side by side, looking out over the water, its gentle lapping a balm on open wounds. A few minutes passed before the boy spoke again. “Does it take long, to make a picture, I mean?” He looked at the bag hanging on Salvador’s shoulder and the wondrous things it held. Subdued, Salvador paused a moment before he turned to reply to Joan, his face soft and concerned, the spark in his eyes replaced by a mask of pain.

“It will depend.” His voice was quiet, soothing. “Sometimes a quick sketch, a brief moment, is all it takes. Others …” He searched for words that would express what was impossible to express. He looked down at Joan. “Others,” he smiled gently, “take longer. I’m sure your mother will be fine, Joan. The trick is not to worry.”

The boy nodded. “Yes, that’s what Pare says.”

They were interrupted by a young woman approaching them, calling out Salvador’s name. A few years younger than Salvador, she had long, dark, curled hair and the same fine features to her face and large expressive eyes.

“Hola!” she greeted them. “I thought I’d come to find you!” She smiled up at Salvador, who smiled back with a warm, open look.

“Joan, this is my sister, Ana Maria. Ana, meet my new friend.” Ana smiled warmly at the boy, before bending down and kissing him on both cheeks, formally greeting him.

“It’s nice to meet a friend of Salva’s,” she smiled before turning to her brother. “I’m afraid I have to drag you away. You promised me some of your time this afternoon and I’ve come to claim it!” She looked fondly at her older brother. He took her arm in his, the mischief returning to his eyes.

“Quite right!” he exclaimed. He looked at Joan, a tinge of regret in his now jovial face. “Come and see me again,” he requested of the young boy, “then you can see for yourself how long a picture takes!”

Joan blinked and nodded his answer. The flamboyant young man then twirled his sister around and they set off arm-in-arm towards the town, Salvador making loud, absurd observations to entertain his sister, waving a hand in farewell. Joan watched as they disappeared between the small houses at the back of the beach, still curious. A small pencil lay forgotten at the side of the quay. He picked it up and slipped it into his trouser pocket, his fingers examining his small souvenir as he made his way home.


The incessant chirrup of the cicadas accompanied him as he walked down the track. The light was fading, and he wanted to get home before the night closed in. He had been out for most of the afternoon, and he didn’t want his parents to worry, especially his mother. This last week had been hard for her. The doctor had visited twice, and Joan had always been excluded from the whispered conversations between his father and the town’s physician.

The sadness in his heart weighed on him. He did not know how to express it to his father, who was becoming more distant as his own worry increased. His mother had grown weaker and spent most of her time asleep in bed. He missed their times watching the sun rise over the town. He missed her soft hands and warm words. He tried his best to help in the house, but more and more, things were being left, neglected; insignificant and inconsequential in the face of looming tragedy.

The shutters of the house were always closed to keep out the invasive heat of the summer; but this only added to the oppressive, stuffy atmosphere of the house and the small room at the back where his mother lay. He had begun to notice a smell that caught in his nostrils and lingered in the dark rooms. It was sickly and insistent, and he had taken to placing small bunches of wild herbs around the house in an effort to dispel the unpleasant odour. He was too young to understand that this was just a step along the path that his mother was walking. He made his way home, sweet lavender in his hand.

Light and noise bled out from the bar of the hotel onto the seafront. Its doors and windows wide open, with the dual purpose of letting in the cooler evening air and attracting passing custom. Joan had stopped on the opposite side of the street, his back to the rhythmic whispering of the water on the sand, silently watching the bustle and swagger within.

He recognised many of the faces, characters that played their part in the theatre of the town. There they stood amongst the curling smoke of cigarettes, glasses in hand, carelessly treading underfoot the discarded husks of salted sunflower seeds that mingled with the fine sand that had blown in off the beach. At one table a small group engaged in a raucous round of cards, while at another a more serious game of dominoes was taking place. An older man was reaching across the bar, knocking over another’s drink as he attempted to help himself to an open bottle. Indistinguishable conversations mingled with shouts and laughter and the occasional musical interlude to produce a soup of sound in which they all seemed to be immersed, yet immune to. Even Father Domènec, solitary and upright, seemed unaffected by the cacophony as he sat alone, book in hand, sipping from a glass of red wine and enjoying a plate of tapas.

A loud bark of laughter drew Joan’s attention to the far side of the room, where he saw Salvador holding court amongst a group of young men. Animated and jubilant, Salvador gesticulated wildly with his arms, carelessly slopping beer from the glass he held as he spoke to the others around him. Joan had not seen him since that afternoon on the quay. He had passed that way everyday as he ran his errands and had been disappointed not to meet again with this peculiar young man and to see how the picture might have changed.

The pencil he had found was his secret treasure. He had taken it out and studied it to see if it differed in any way to other pencils he had used. He even tried drawing with it, curious to know if he could create anything artistic using the pencil that belonged to a skilful man. The paper he had found to use was small and grease-stained and his efforts less than pleasing, but he kept the pencil, nevertheless, hidden in a small wooden box that held other inconsequential things of great importance.

He’d told his mother about Salva, and she’d smiled and asked about the picture he was painting. Joan had hoped to take his mother to the quay to see Salvador at work, but that was a hope that was fading as fast as his mother seemed to be. Joan shook the distressing thoughts from his head. He took a last look at the bar and the people within and turned to follow the street again as it curved around the bay towards the quay.


The next morning was bright, but the breeze was keen and cooling. Joan made his way to the small room at the back of the house to say good morning to his mother and see if there was anything that needed doing. The room was dark and still, except for the slight movement of a light cotton gown that hung from a hook by the window. It wafted gently to the pull of the breeze that found its way around the closed shutters. The room was sparsely furnished. The metal-framed bed filled most of the space with a small low table set to one side, on which a half-empty glass of water stood. In one corner was a washstand and bowl, in another a plain wooden chair. The only decoration in the room was a simple crucifix that was pinned to the wall.

His mother lay in the bed, a rough sheet pulled up to her chest. One arm was draped across her middle, the other at her side. Her breathing was light and shallow, and Joan found it hard to detect any sound as he crossed the room to sit on the floor at her side.

“Bon dia, Mare,” he spoke softly, taking her hand in his. The woman stirred, slowly turning her head in the direction of his voice, half opening unseeing eyes, before settling back in her sleep. Joan knelt up and leaned over to place a gentle kiss on his mother’s cheek. Her sallow skin was cool, and a little damp and she let out a laboured sigh of stale air. Joan watched for a while before leaving the room.

He found his father in the front room sitting at the table with his head in his hands. He looked up as Joan came in, giving his son a wan smile, barely covering the exhaustion on his face.

“Bon dia, Pare.”

“Bon dia, Joan.” His father indicated for the boy to join him at the table. “Did you see your mother?” he asked.

“Yes. She was sleeping.” His father nodded; his gaze fixed on the table. They sat wordless for a moment; the sounds of the seabird’s distant calling drifted in.

“Why don’t you go out for a while? It’s a good day for it.” The man’s voice was hoarse and tired.

“Do you need me to fetch anything for Mare?” enquired Joan. His father lowered his head, tears forming at the edges of raw eyes. He cleared his throat as he replied, to try to hide his pain.

“No, no,” he mumbled. “I don’t think your mother will need anything today.” He looked up at his son to give him a reassuring smile. Joan hesitated, then stood to go. “I’ll come and find you if I need you. Go on,” his father urged. Joan stepped out of the gloom of the house and into the bright sun of the early morning.


The quay was alive with activity. Joan picked his way through the crowds that had gathered to buy fish from the boats, crossing over the small beach to find a sheltered place from which to sit and watch the comings and goings. The sea in the bay crested in the light winds; boats of different shapes and sizes danced and rocked. Gulls fought to make progress as they swooped overhead; all playing out under the bright beams of the summer sun.

“Joan!” He turned to find out who was calling his name, carried to him by the summer breeze. “Joan!”

Calf-deep in water, trousers rolled up over thin tanned legs, waving exuberantly with both arms, was the reed-like figure of Salvador. He beckoned to the young boy to join him, then turned to steady a small dinghy that was bobbing behind him, mast down, anchored to Salva by a thin rope. Joan took off his shoes and strode into the low surf to be greeted by the expansive smile of his intriguing friend.

“There you are!” The smile reached his large, glittering eyes, which he rolled for effect, wiggling his eyebrows. This drew a chuckle from Joan, which seemed to satisfy the young man. “It’s good to see you again!” he continued.

“Where are you going?” asked Joan.

“Ah!” replied Salvador as the small boat bumped into the back of his legs. “Just round the headland to Port Lligat, not far.” He turned to the boat to begin assembling the mast, calling over his shoulder. “Do you want to come?”

“Really?” replied Joan, barely concealing the eager excitement in his voice.

“Yes, really!” twinkled Salvador. “I have enough food for a whole shipful of pirates,” holding the canvas bag aloft that had lain in the bottom of the dinghy, “and wine …” He paused, glancing sideways at Joan, his chin in one hand, a mock look of consideration on his face which he played to full comic effect. Joan laughed. “Maybe not the wine!” Salvador rushed on.

“Will you paint?” Joan tried to see what else lay in the bottom of the boat.

“But of course!” Salvador threw both arms into the air in an exaggerated arch. “A great master like myself? What else is there to do?” He drew his face in close to Joan’s, opening wide his overly large eyes. “And today,” he said in a gentler tone, “you shall be my apprentice!” The boy beamed back at him. “Jump in! Weigh anchor! The high seas await!”

Joan clambered in and settled himself at the front of the dinghy. Salvador pushed them out a little further from shore before he jumped aboard and set about raising a bright red sail to catch the breeze and carry them out of the bay.


They had spent a little time on the water enjoying the fine weather and cool breeze before navigating between the mainland and a small rocky island and settling in the sheltered cove of Port Lligat. Joan had been many times before. It was not too difficult to walk there from Cadaqués, but the boat trip with Salvador had shown it to him from a whole different perspective. It was a sparse place, a few fisherman’s cottages and a jetty, but it was beautiful and today even more so: the bright jewel of water encased in the firm embrace of the sandy shore.

They settled themselves under the shade of a stubborn tree, bent crooked by years of wind, clinging on at the back of the beach. Joan watched contentedly as Salvador unpacked the canvas bag and arranged the belongings that he felt to be of immediate requirement. The boy wriggled his toes into the hot sand, his hands tucked under his legs. Salvador sat down beside him, handing over a small sketch book and charcoal to the amazed young boy.

“So,” he smiled, “what will you draw for me?”

“Me?” stammered Joan. “I can’t draw!”

“Of course you can draw! Everyone can draw!” retorted the young man, wildly waving one hand as he spoke. “Besides, you are under the tutelage of the great Salvador Dalí!” He raised his voice dramatically. “Soon, everyone will be speaking of me and my mastery! I will have no equal!” Joan sat quietly, unsure how to respond. Salvador closed his eyes, taking in a deep breath of fresh sea air. He remained still, statuesque, for a long while. He neither spoke nor moved and Joan became a little concerned.

“Salva?” he coaxed timidly. The young man opened one eye, looking down on Joan as if he’d forgotten he was there. Then he smiled and the humour returned to his face.

“No matter,” he said. He looked from the boy out into the cove. “Tell me, what do you see?” Joan followed Salvador’s gaze out across the water.

“Umm,” he began, “well, there’s the beach and the sea.” He paused. “The island over there,” he continued, looking to his friend for reassurance.

“And which is closer, and which is further away, Joan?” Salva queried.

“Well, the beach is closer, and the island is out in the water,” the nervous boy replied.

“Good,” said the young man. “Now, give me your hand and point your finger.” The boy did as he was told. Gently taking the offered hand, Salvador drew a rectangle in the air in front of the boy’s face. “That,” he said, “is your piece of paper.” He repeated the action. “Everything within that shape can be drawn, here,” he stated, tapping the book with his finger. “Do you see?”

Joan nodded tentatively. “I think so.”

“Good.” Salvador indicated to the sketch pad and charcoal. “Look in your rectangle. Can you see the line of the water meeting the sand?”

“Yes,” said Joan.

“So, now, draw a line on your paper that corresponds with the line you see in your rectangle.” Joan hesitated then drew the shape in the air again before looking down at the paper in front of him.

The charcoal felt awkward in his hand as he slowly drew it across the lower half of the page, leaving a faint, undulating line in its wake. When he’d finished, he looked over at Salvador, heart in mouth, desperate to succeed at this simplistic task. The young man leaned in and examined the faint mark on the page, running one finger over his slim moustache.

“Excellent!” he proclaimed, twinkling at the relieved boy, “We have begun!”


They ate around two o’clock, then Joan lay back in the shade as Salvador began to sketch the cottages to their right. The boy watched as the young man worked intently, absorbed in his art, in his world. Joan was fascinated by the seeming ease of the creativity that Salvador possessed. He delighted in the growing image that was emerging on the page, formed by just a few strokes of the hand with a short, dark pencil. The boy picked up the sketch that he had made before lunch, with Salvador’s guidance and encouragement. It was, he knew, not that good, but you could make out its composition and he was immensely proud of it. Joan hoped, with all his heart, that his mother would like it when he showed it to her later. He realised that he had not thought about her since that morning, and he was overwhelmed with a biting sense of guilt. He envisioned her, quiet in the back room, silent in her bed, and a knot of dread formed in his stomach that rose to sit uncomfortably in the back of his throat.

“I think my mother is dying.” His voice sounded small; tears began to spill over his sun-kissed cheeks.

Salvador paused in his work. He let the sketch book drop in his lap as he turned to Joan. The boy did not look up at him, but hung his head, weeping salt water into the warm sand.

“I was sixteen when my mother died,” Salvador began in sombre tones, watching as the boy wrapped his arms around his legs, hugging his knees to his chest.

“Was it hard?” murmured Joan, wiping an arm under his nose.

“Yes, so hard.” Salva shifted his position, crossing his legs in front of him, lacing his fingers together in his lap.

“I don’t want her to go!” The words spilled uncontrolledly out of the young boy as he looked up in desperation at Salvador. The young man recognised the bitter taste of bile in his mouth as Joan curled in on himself, sobbing. He placed a gentle hand on the boy’s back and let him cry out his pain, patiently waiting for the wave of grief to pass.

“It was my mother that encouraged me to paint.” Salvador’s voice carried into the breeze over the sparkling water of the bay. “I was very young when I started, much younger than you.” He glanced down at Joan. “My father, well, he didn’t think much of it, but my mother, she stood up for me. If it wasn’t for her …” He was silent for a moment. “I miss her every day, some more than others. But I’m so grateful for what she did for me, how she supported me. So now, when I paint, she’s there with me. It’s what we shared, and as long as I paint, I will always have her with me; I can still share that with her.”

Joan looked up through tear-laden lashes, recognising the same grief in Salvador’s large, distinctive eyes. He searched around for something to wipe his face with. The young man took a neat handkerchief square from his back pocket and gave it to the boy, who sat silently, rubbing the soft cotton over his face and chin and then proceeded to twist it nervously between his hands.

“We like to watch the sun come up in summer.” The boy spoke looking down at the now smudged cotton cloth. “There’s a hill, behind the house where we go. I like to sit next to her…” he faltered, unable to go on.

“I’m so sorry, Joan,” offered Salva. The young boy responded with a nod and a weak smile.

“You can see so much from the top of the hill,” he stumbled on. “The boats in the harbour below, the clouds that come in from the horizon. Mare thinks it’s beautiful …” His voice fell away again. They both sat and watched as the water rippled over the sand, each lost in their own thoughts, united in a shared grief.

“I wish we could sit on the hill forever,” whispered the boy, as tears began to flow once more.


Their journey back to Cadaqués later that afternoon was sombre, mournful. Joan sat at the front of the dinghy looking out to the distant shoreline. Salva at the back, with his hand on the tiller, watched the young boy with guarded concern.

“There!” exclaimed Joan, pointing to the hills behind the far end of the town that rose up from the last of the houses. “That’s where we sit.” He looked back at Salvador, who smiled and nodded then looked up to where Joan had indicated. The breeze caught in the boy’s hair, and he leaned forward to trail a hand in the cool waters of the glistening sea. After a while he asked, “Did you finish your picture, Salva? The one you were painting on the quay?” Salvador looked kindly at Joan, sea spray throwing up behind him as the boat dipped and swayed.

“Yes, I did,” he replied.

Joan studied the surface of the water as the small boat was pushed forward by the gentle wind. “And does it shine?” he wondered, not looking back.

Salvador considered for a moment.

“Yes,” he answered. “Yes, I believe it does.”

The small boat with its bright red sail bobbed its way towards the bay and the protection of the harbour of the town.

They hadn’t expected anyone to meet them as they drew up next to the quay. Salvador wasn’t entirely surprised to see Ana Maria waiting for him as she sometimes came down to find him; but this time she was not alone. A man stood with her. He looked tired and unwashed. His whole demeanour was one of dejection and burden, and Salvador began to feel ill at ease.

Tying up the dinghy, Salvador helped the boy climb up onto the quay. And there they stood, the four of them, each looking from one to the next.

“Pare?” Joan stared at his father with frightened eyes. His father was unable to speak. He lifted his tear-stained face and opened his arms to his son. Salvador’s heart broke for his young friend. The paper that Joan had been holding was dropped, forgotten. It caught in the breeze and was lifted up onto the water that washed gently onto the beach of Port Alguer. The carefully drawn charcoal lines blurred and bled as the paper became waterlogged, broke apart and disappeared.


It had been nearly two weeks since Joan had spoken to Salvador. The artist had waited outside the church with Ana Maria when they had held the funeral Mass, but had only caught glimpses of the dejected child, lost and bewildered inside the grandeur of the sacred building. Now, the light of summer seemed to have lost its lustre. The clouds no longer chased across the sky on the soft summer breeze and the cool blue sea stretched out from the land devoid of the dancing energy it had once seemed to possess.

Joan sat on the lonely hill-top gazing out across the town, heartbroken and adrift. His red rimmed eyes were pools of sorrow, and he nervously chewed the corner of his mouth as his thoughts tumbled through the rough waters of his mind. A slender form was making its way towards him from behind the last of the houses at the town’s end. He watched Salvador’s progress – steady, purposeful, his steps ringing dull and heavy on the loose stone of the path.

The boy sat listlessly on the rocky ground, head held low, absently plucking at a tuft of coarse grass by his side. He did not look up as Salva approached; the young man eased himself down next to Joan without saying a word. Neither spoke for a long while, their unquestioned silence a bridge between friends. Eventually, Salvador leaned forward, resting his arms on his knees to be more at a level with the boy as he finally began to speak.

“I’m leaving tomorrow.” Joan said nothing. “I have to go back to Figueres and then Madrid. Art school.” His voice was soft and soothing, devoid of his characteristic exuberance. The boy scuffed his shoes in the loose stones in front of him. Salva paused and watched the boy a moment before going on.

“I have something for you.” He reached down to one side, “I hope you like it.” Joan looked up at his friend for the first time, a question in his sad eyes. Salvador handed him a rectangular package, wrapped in brown paper. Joan looked down at it, hesitating, before he began to pull the paper away.

Inside was a simple wooden frame surrounding a picture that had been lovingly, meticulously painted in the bright watercolours of a glorious summer’s morning over Cadaqués. But more than that, it was the view from the top of the hill behind his house! The far horizon, hazing in the morning heat, the boats as they set out through the dancing light on the water. The clear blue sky, laced with fair-weather clouds and swooping gulls. The low, wind-swept olives and rough scrub, coarse lavender and sage; and to the left, the figure of a woman, seated. Her light-coloured hair catching in the breeze. Her bright summer dress hanging softly from her shoulders – and the space beside her, waiting, inviting.

“So you can sit with her, whenever you want to,” said Salvador gently, hesitating before he lay his long fingers on the boy’s shoulder, squeezing gently.

Tears streamed down Joan’s face. “Thank you,” he whispered.

Salvador looked down at the boy and smiled, a little twinkle sparking in the corners of his eyes as he rose to leave. Joan watched him a moment before he turned his head from the retreating figure of his unusual friend. Then, sitting with his mother in the morning sun, looked out over the coast of Cadaqués.



This story was inspired by a short holiday to Cadaqués, a beautiful town on the coast of Cataluña, where Dalí holidayed as a boy and young man. Some of his early work was painted there, including “Port Alguer” (1924), which is referenced in the story and “Figure at the Window” (1925), a picture of his sister Ana María.
Dalí would buy a house in 1930 in Port LLigat (also referenced in the story), and it was here (except for a period during the civil war) that Dalí lived and worked.
Both his house in Port Lligat and the Dalí Theatre Museum in Figueres are spectacular, as is Cadaqués.

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