While making his whirligigs, Brent seeks out private places where he will not be seen. Why does he feel the need to hide? What happens when he is discovered at Beale Beach?
Brent feels the need to hide because he is still ashamed of his part in Lea's death. His grief is still fresh, and he is afraid that others will judge him poorly for his actions even though he never intended for Lea to die.
Still emotionally vulnerable, Brent checks into a motel in the small town of Beale Beach. He sees the note from the maid and agonizes over how he should interpret it. Eventually, he decides to ignore the polite, disguised request for a tip and writes out a friendly reply. The text tells us that Brent 'liked the idea of a disembodied conversation.' Remaining anonymous allowed him to salvage some sense of his self-respect in the aftermath of the tragedy.
When Brent is discovered by a group of African-American children at the beach, he is pleasantly surprised. The kids don't judge him or shy away from him. Instead, their infectious enthusiasm for Brent's project is energizing and comforting to him. The youngsters help him build the whirligig, and they learn as much from Brent as he learns from them. He teaches the kids how to build whirligigs, while the kids show him what lion's paw shells and terns look like.
When the whirligig is finished, Brent takes a picture of the kids and the whirligig together. Brent's time with the children has greatly encouraged him and shown him that, in spite of his grief, there is still joy to be had in the world.