Those who spoke kindly of Allen Phillips considered him to be eccentric. Those less considerate called him a freak.  After getting to know him I regarded him a deserted man, but it wasn’t so soon that he trusted me with the depths of his sorrow. I first saw Allen Phillips as I staggered through the night on the beach in West Long Branch.  I’d imbibed too many whiskeys in the Emerald Isle, a dive of a bar. I thought a walk on the beach would clear my head, or at the least my stomach. The green warning beacon at the jetties edge cast his  silhouette in an ominous green.  He stood at the edge of the jetties, the tide rising on the breakers beneath him. Something about watching his shadow enthralled me. He stood motionless at the edge of the ocean for what seemed the longest time. Just then the somber figure reached into both pockets. It wasn’t clear what he withdrew from the left but it was clearly flammable as the right hand withdrew a lighter and set his holdings alight. Allen Phillips stood poised on the breakers, gazing at the bundle burning in his hands until at last he cast it into the surging surf.


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