Friday, October 21, 2011

Excerpt: Croc

The following excerpt is from a new story 'Croc', currently unpublished.

She remembered the night she ran away, the moment it became clear that she could do this, that she was serious, and they couldn’t stop her. Nobody could stop her. It was as if a sort of film broke and all of a sudden she could see the world clearly. Running her hand along a wet metal rail, sweeping the water under her palm, she felt naked to the touch of things, like she could really feel for the first time. It was cold, she walked along the Nepean Highway and the lights of the cars shone off the wet, the tyres hissed and made tracks through the neon and she walked and walked, and slept under a bridge, woke up to her beating heart and stared up at the dull stars and thought, Who am I? She felt swollen with her lostness and her anger and her bravery. She would survive — like this, like a wild animal if she had to.

But now here she was, on her knees in the bathtub, scrubbing Ajax into the gleaming enamel for the fourth time today because she had to do something with the restlessness. The house stank of bleach and everything was scoured back and spotless and she was so lonely she almost wished Croc would come home just for someone to talk to. He’d said to her, no TV. How would he know if she did watch, but she was scared he had some way, a hidden camera somewhere or something. She’d found cameras before. Scrub, scrub. Or he’d come home and catch her before she had a chance to flick the remote.

Her hands were a mess. She bit a loose point of skin beside her nail, stripped it back with her teeth and winced at the pain. A bobby-pin of blood welled. She’d have liked to sit on the couch again and watch Home and Away with her sister and argue about who was hotter, Aden or Ric. Christ, she’d even have liked to see her Mum and Dad right now. She tore another corner of skin down, nibbled at the root. Fuck it, don’t cry. Don’t fucking cry. Scrub, scrub. But it came, she couldn’t stop it. Shoulders shaking in the bathtub, she watched her tears run down the sparkling enamel.

She stood in the living room, no energy now, just a shell. Gazing at the street through the cheap lacy curtains which let her look out, but hid her from view. Number fifteen across the way: What goes on in there? she wondered. What secrets does it hide? Do you see me, number fifteen? Do you see that shadow through the curtains?

If only she could sleep. Day, night meant nothing. She’d lost the sense of them, slept sometimes randomly during the day, spent the night wide awake. A permanent jet lag when she wasn’t speeding. Outside it was windy, the prunus trees on the nature strip agitated. The whole world was scoured down, abraded back to its bones. And her mind was the same, empty like that street, but endlessly moved by a wind that tossed and spun and blew nowhere.


She mustn’t lose her mind. She went to visit Ange the other day to get her meth, and wondered if Ange was losing it. She looked bad, with nasty sores on her face and hands, white and skinny as hell. Sorry love, she said, her hand hovering near the bloody crater on her cheek, I been pickin’ again.  Ange had an ex who used to hit her, did stuff to her much worse than Croc had ever done to Kelly. Croc had bruised her forehead pretty badly one day when he threw an ashtray at her, he’d burnt and hit her, but he never broke a bone or put her in the hospital or anything like what Brian had done to Ange. She got away from him, but she reckoned he’d found her again, that he was hiding around the house at night. The worst thing was he’d gotten into the roof. She’d heard him up there moving around at night. So Ange had gone up herself and scattered broken glass everywhere. She’d got the bastard, too. See? she said, holding up a sliver of glass stained rusty with blood. Her mouth twitched into a smile, fell back to a quivering line.

Fucker. We might not be able to get away from ’em, but we can mess with them too, right?

Rhona, Kelly’s youth worker, once said you got like that on meth: hearing things in the walls, worms under your skin, shit like that, but then Rhona hadn’t seen the blood on the glass.

They did some ice and then went outside into the sunny front garden. On the nature strip next door there was a whole lot of junk waiting for the hard garbage, including an old photocopier, and suddenly they both had the idea they’d like to take it apart and see how it worked, so that’s what they did for the next hour or so, pulling apart that photocopier and every little bit inside it until they’d reduced it to a pile of scrap. And still they had that meth-driven urge to do, so they pulled apart a TV and a computer as well. It was funny. They had a good time, sitting on the nature strip in the sun and laughing as they picked metal and plastic apart with their fingers.