I sit there a minute and think of those poor bastards sanitizing the scene before we showed up. The mother sitting there, trying to choose one shame over another. The other kids downstairs cold with shock. The father out on the grass like a statue. Maybe another time, I say.
Well, she says. I rest my case.
We ride back to the shed in silence.
I hurtle on too long through the pounding submarine mist. End over end in my caul of bubbles until the turbulence is gone and Im hanging limp in a faint green light while all the heat ebbs from my chest and the life begins to leach out of me. And then a white flash from above. Someone at the surface, swimming down. Someone to pull me up, drag me clear, blow air into me hot as blood. He spears down and stops short and I recognize my own face peering through the gloom, hesitating an arms length away, as if uncertain of how to proceed. My own mouth opens. A chain of shining bubbles leaks forth but I do not understand.
So I wake with a grunt on the sofa in the empty flat where afternoon sun pours through the sliding door. Still in uniform. The place smells of sweat and butter chicken. I get up, crack the door and smell the briny southerly. I take a piss, put the kettle on and snatch the didj up off the seagrass matting of the floor. Out on the balcony my herbs are green and upright. I tamp down the beeswax around the pipe mouth and clear my throat. Then I blow until it burns. I blow at the brutalist condos that stand between me and the beach. I blow at the gulls eating pizza down in the carpark and the wind goes through me in cycles, hot and droning and defiant. Hot at the pale sky. Hot at the flat, bright world outside.
Excerpted from Breath by Tim Winton. Copyright © 2008 by Tim Winton. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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