Not Waving But Drowning

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
My first short. The style is inspired by Raymond Carver, although I think I have made it my own.
I began with the title, which is taken from a poem by Stevie Smith, and spun the story from there, limiting myself to 1000 words.
I like to be ambiguous, perhaps to a fault. I like for a story to make the reader think about what is happening and to decide for themselves what it is about.
The accompanying image is from the video for Laura Marling's 'Rambling Man'

Submitted: July 05, 2011

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Submitted: July 05, 2011

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Not Waving But Drowning

by Ryan Hewitt

 

If Travis had know that he was going to be walking the whole way back, he would have worn an extra layer like Jenny had said he should. Jenny wouldn’t have, instead, been told to mind her own business. Don’t suppose he would have enjoyed the view along the six-mile coastal drive so much either.

Malcolm drove them along those winding roads with such assurance; you would think they mapped the veins on those huge forearms that gripped the steering wheel. They reached the cove and parked up. Malcolm pointed up at the rocks that walled them in, and told Travis to go and find a seat. He should wait there and keep a look out for a waving arm. Travis turned and walked over to the rocks, while Malcolm stood there on the sand, unfastening shirt buttons.

Travis climbed to a point that stood about five meters above sea level, wiped his fingers across the wet rock and sat down. The wind whipped across those rocks something awful. He took the stopwatch from his jacket pocket and set it ready to start, and then stuffed those cold hands deep in to his pockets and looked out at the beach. Malcolm was there, stood at the shoreline, staring out to sea, stripped down to nothing but his boxer shorts.

Travis shook his head, thinking about what a crazy bastard Malcolm was. He watched Malcolm walk in to that sea like it was a big, blue tub of warm bath water. He couldn’t see Malcolm’s face, but bet himself that it was screwed up tighter than his own after that first, damning sip of whiskey, aged seven. Keeping his hands in his pockets, he started the stopwatch.

As he sat there, he thought about the night when he had met Malcolm, and about how Malcolm had sent those two guys flying across the bar with what he swore blind was a single punch. Malcolm was tough, that’s for sure, and from that night on, Travis had considered him to be a good friend.

He watched as Malcolm disappeared beneath the water, lost from sight for about ten seconds before popping up a little further out to sea. He sat there, just waiting for that arm to wave.

He thought about Jenny, that crazy, fantastic pain in the ass. He thought about when he had introduced her to Malcolm, what must have been seven years ago. Malcolm had like her right away, just as he had, and told him that he’d better get himself down to a jeweller quick before somebody else did. But Jenny had never liked the thought of getting married and, he supposed, still didn’t. She had seen an interview with Goldie Hawn, where she had talked on about how romantic it was to not marry. Some crackpot idea, if he remembered right, about how if you’re not married then the reason you wake up next to someone must be because you truly wanted to.

“Damn you, Goldie Hawn” Travis muttered.

Travis had been sat there maybe twenty minutes by the time he finished that thought and, if he had to guess, Malcolm looked to be a little over half a mile out. He kept losing sight of that jet-black hair amongst the white water. The longer he watched, the harder it got to find it again and again. Travis didn’t worry. He’d never needed to worry about Malcolm before, and he wouldn’t do now. He did wonder, though, if he’d even be able to see Malcolm’s waving arm from here. It got to the point where he began to question whether he was even finding Malcolm all the times that he did, or whether the sea and his mind were conspiring against his friend. The stopwatch ran on.

Travis had been there nearly two hours before deciding to go home. By that time, he felt colder than he could remember being his whole life. He climbed down to the shore where the tide had come in. The water lapped at Malcolm’s shoes, left there on the sand, trying to pull them in to the sea. Travis gathered up the clothes and locked them inside the truck. He left the keys on the front tyre.

He began the six-mile walk home.

He thought about why Malcolm had invited him along to the cove. He wondered whether he had been asked along as a precaution, or as a witness to something. He remembered, again, the night they first met and how, after the brawl, he had asked Malcolm if he had a clear conscience.

“Can see my own reflection in it” Malcolm replied.

Travis had asked what that meant, but Malcolm was sure that neither of them would be around long enough for him to explain.

As he walked on, Travis wondered if he should have called the coast guard, but rolled that idea around for so long that he had made it the whole way home before deciding that, by that point, it was too late either way.

He saw Jenny sat in the driver’s seat of the Ford, parked up on the driveway. The car was loaded with stuffed, black bin liners. The roof rack was strapped on top. Jenny was working at those long fingernails with an emery board. Travis was stood just a few feet away before Jenny noticed him. Their eyes froze on one another. Jenny put the emery board down on the dash and started the engine. It roared. Their eyes stayed locked on one another the whole time. Jenny pulled out of the drive and went off down the road.

As he watched the car get smaller, he thought about Goldie Hawn, and about how cold Malcolm must be, and about how he really should have worn that extra layer.


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