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I am embarking on something of a long-held dream this year, to complete a Creative Writing course. While I’m sure there will be plenty of enrichment and other pleasures to be found therein, I’m mainly doing it for the structured motivation–having to achieve certain wordcounts by certain deadlines. Anyway, I thought I would post the first few pages of the project I’m taking into this course, for your perusal. I’m hoping it will grow into a novel and is loosely inspired by the unsolved murder of Italian backpacker Victoria Cafasso on an East Coast beach in broad daylight in October 1995. I don’t intend ‘solving’ the murder, by the way–I might explain this a bit more in future posts. Anyway, hope you enjoy this. Cheers.

 

 

The Sand

(copyright) 2012 Cameron Hindrum

 

 ONE

 

Ben stopped the car before even finding the house where he would live. He parked at the edge of the small carpark and flicked the radio, killing the cricket commentary mid-sentence. Before finding the house, before driving slowly past the other houses of the small town, before attempting to find his bearings again in this place that was both familiar and foreign, he wanted to see the beach, to place his feet firmly on the sand, breathing in the salt and the spice of the native heath, sharp in his nostrils.

He grabbed a drink bottle from the floor in front of the passenger seat and flicked his thongs off, leaving them by the pedals in front of him. He stood and leaned against the open driver’s door, stretching, the three-hour drive creased into his bones, his knees, his arse. Slowly, the soreness evaporated, dissolving in the early summer air.  It had been hot in the car—the air-conditioning needed servicing soon—and it was hot standing next to the car in this carpark, but the heat was different. The car had been stifling, sweat-making, close. The air within this echo of the beach, the rhythm of the distant waves rolling lazily onto shore, was liberating: rich with choices.

Ben shoved the car door closed with his hip and didn’t bother to lock it. His camera gear was packed neatly into a couple of boxes in the boot, so it was secure anyway; he had thrown some bedding and about a week’s worth of clothes into the back seat but otherwise the car was empty. He ignored the sharp grit of the gravel under his soft feet and crossed the carpark in six strides, stepping onto the fenced pathway that connected it to the beach via a low hill of sand. Keep to the formed path, said a sign on his left. Valuable shorebird habitats are found in this area. Help us look after them! There was a picture of a nest, with some bland-looking eggs, and a pair of carefully drawn human feet with a red diagonal line through them. Ben had no interest, at this moment, in shorebird habitats. He needed to see the beach, feel the sand on his skin, wrap himself in its air.

At the top of the hill, about half way along the fenced path, it opened in front of him, endless until it bled into inky-coloured mountains in either direction.  It sloped gradually down to the surf’s caress, that insistent sound, gentlest of all rhythms. There was no one in his immediate field of vision, except for some indistinct smudges a long way off in the distance, struggling to keep their shape in the noon haze.  Ben inhaled deeply. His hands combed through his matted blond hair, resting briefly at the base of his neck so that his elbows pointed out sideways.  Slowly, his hands fell away from his body and opened out in front of him, in a gesture of welcome, almost a crucifix position. His eyes closed against the quiet world.  He walked on the spot briefly, driving his feet hard into the sand, feeling it cram up between his toes, the powdery warmth unlocking tension, until he was buried up to the ankles. He leaned against the splintery beam of the fence and stood, outside time, inhaling and exhaling in silence, washing himself in the sound of the surf.

After a while he kicked his feet out of their divots and walked down towards the waterline.  His tracks remained vague in the looseness of the sand above the high-tide line and if he had looked back he might have been pleased that he was leaving such indefinite shapes behind him. He stopped on the thin line of foam that announced the uppermost reach of the sea across the lower flat expanse of the beach. He sipped some water from the drink bottle and grimaced; its water was warm and plastic-scented. He unscrewed the lid and poured the rest of the water onto the next flood of surf, watching as it was sucked back into the ocean, water bleeding into water. The action of the tide swept small curls of sand around his feet, his toes; in the shallows nearby he could see small shells dancing along the rippled tidal bed, rolling and stopping, rolling the other way as the surf withdrew to feed itself again. He watched until they disappeared as another curl of white water collapsed on top of them.

Ben turned and slowly walked back towards the path. Sand crusted onto the wet skin of his feet in powdery clumps. He had to remind himself what day it was and was grateful that he had forgotten, no matter how briefly.  He stopped again at the top of the path and looked back along the beach, at its silence, its vast proportions. He could feel the crusts of sand, the smallest imaginable weight, on his feet.  In a few more steps he would see his old car, and the car would take him to the house he had rented for the next two months. Regardless of what happened there, in that time, he was home again.

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