The Big Issue : Edition 439
THE BIG ISSUE 16 -- 29 AUG 2013 57 "What are you doing, hon?" Dan yelled out from the beach. He waited for her to appear from the waves, but she didn't. He waited some more but her head had gone; it no longer bobbed in the swell. He ran to the water's edge. "Lana!" He walked into the freezing water, then turned around. The beach was empty. In between each swell it was fat like glass. He dived underneath and swam out to where Lana had gone under. He splashed around and around like a child doing tricks, diving down, yelling her name. But the salt stung his eyes. From the sky, in that great expanse of ocean, he looked like an ant atop a big, blue chopping board. AT THE PIER Lana's head rose from the water like a turtle. Her lips were blue and the veins on her forehead throbbed. She gripped the ladder and hauled herself into the freezing air. Her skin prickly, she put a foot onto the battered wood. The pier was empty save for a few fsherman. She crumpled a little at the knees and then fell into a kneeling position, her hands clasping at her sides. The men glanced over and then returned to their reels. When she fnally stood, her teeth were chattering. She held onto the rails to steady herself and then surveyed the sea. She had rounded the crag but didn't know how far she'd come. Five hundred metres, maybe. On the horizon she could see a dark cluster of clouds moving in. The sun had disappeared. SHE RAN ON her toes through the twisting tea-trees, looking for the road. When she found it, she thrust her thumb out. Standing there, water dripping down her legs, she looked like a ghostly child. Cars came and went. A few beeped. She waited, shivering in the wind. Finally, an old blue ute approached, the tarp bulging. Lana could see bundles of branches sticking out the back. It slowed to a stop and a middle-aged couple peered through the window. "G'day," the man said, leaning over the woman in the passenger seat. "Hi," said Lana. She waited for them to continue, not quite aware of the etiquette or how it was done. "Um, sorry," she said sniffing and rubbing her shoulders. “Some kids stole my things. I've gotta get to the city. Are you going that way?" "Poor thing, you look freezing," said the woman. "Well, go on," said the man, and nodded towards the back. The couple held hands over the gearstick. The woman had wrinkly tanned legs up on the dash. They had a Greens sticker on their back window and the car smelt like sage. The woman turned to her. "How'd you end up down here, then?" She smiled and her eyes were soft. "I came on the bus." The woman looked at her strangely. Lana looked down at her purple knees. Then she lay back and watched the caravans and their gaudy tarpaulins blur past the window. Up ahead was the Rye roundabout and the car slowed to give way. The man switched the radio on and the sound of tin and violins sifted through the car. Lana opened her eyes. She put a hand on the woman's shoulder. "Let me out," she said. "Huh?" The man indicated and slowed the car, peering over his shoulder. "Ya sure?" "Yeah. I um..." She held her head in her hands. "Sorry," she said. The couple looked at her and an awkward silence fell between them. She opened the door. "Thanks," she said. HERE, THERE WERE no tea-trees, no foliage to protect her from the sky. Now the black jamboree was above her and the rain began to fall in great slabs. But she wasn't too far from their spot. She could make it. She could run. She sprinted onto the beach and looked down in the direction she'd come. She could faintly make out dark shapes, their stuff perhaps. She ran. The blood began to return to her legs and a pain slowly spread down her shin. She realised a deep gash was there, and that blood was trickling down and leaving little beads on the sand. "Lana! For fuck's sake." Dan appeared from behind her, out of the tea-trees. "Dan." She gasped and bent over. She leapt up and hugged him, but he stood stiff like a board. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry. I was caught in a rip. It got me. It pulled me under and took me down the beach. I scraped my shin on the rocks. I'm so sorry." "God." He gazed at her and a peculiar little laugh squeezed out through his throat. Her chest expanded for air. "Jeez...ya dope," he said, his eyes wide. "Come 'ere." He grabbed her around the shoulders and hugged her into his chest and she began to weep, deep dark shudders edging down her spine. IN THE CAR, he turned the heater up. Lana put her hand over his. His hand gripped the gearstick so tight that his knuckles shone through. They sat quietly. The rain fell in lanes and squiggles down the window. Lana lifted her hand up and rubbed the fog away to reveal the highway. The hotel approached, lonely in the distance, its dark shadow sprawled across the highway. In this light, it looked thinner. In this light, there were no redeeming features. It was truly ugly. The way it stood there, leaning into the wind. Mia Wotherspoon IS A MELBOURNE BASED WRITER, ENROLLED IN RMIT'S PROFESSIONAL WRITING AND EDITING COURSE. SHE HAS BEEN PUBLISHED IN CATALYST MAGAZINE AND TALKING TRASH, AND WORKS AS A BLOG WRITER FOR CREATIVE WRITING ANTHOLOGY, VISIBLE INK.