Ethan Braddock 2021

Bodysurfers SAT

The strong, repetitive sea breeze crashed against the window, rattling the pane in its cracked frame, awakening Chris from his slumber.

He slowly rolled to his left.

Chris forced his eyes to open towards the dim red glow of his digital alarm clock.

He managed to make out the time was 4:13 from the blurred mundane light.

He clambered out of bed and made his way to the kitchen to get a glass of water.

He downed 3 full glasses but with each glass, the thirst became more intense. It was after the third glass that he realised that it was a pointless endeavour and returned to bed in a feeble attempt to drift back off to sleep.

The wind continued to crash against the house and its windows just as the waves slammed against the boulders on the cliff face bellow, chipping off chunks of stones, the wind mimicking such an action with the peeling paint on the exterior of the house.

Chris lay there, unable to reach his goal of sleep due to the relentless wind.

Chris jumped a little when his alarm clock went off, reverberating around his room.

He attempted to disable the persistent, infernal ringing various times before he was successful.

He unenthusiastically crawled out of bed and scrambled over to his bathroom.

Chris crammed himself into the confined walls of his shower.

The smell of the salt from the supposedly clean water protruded his nostrils making him feel as if he was surrounded by his salty environment from every direction.

He aggressively twisted the knobs in the shower until the water ceased its barrage.

He exited the shower and placed on his bland, creamy brown polo work shirt and matching cream brown cargo shorts.

He glanced up and down the street and saw that most of his neighbours’ cars were absent from their unofficially designated parking spots. He assumed that they had all decided to take advantage of the heat and catch the surf; which was later proven as correct on his drive to work, when he saw the grassy fields just before the sand began, flooding with cars to the point of overflowing.

It was quite in the store at the moment, but Chris knew that once the heat of the day peaked, the beach-goers would flock to the store like hungry seagulls flocked to a packet of fish and chips, and ransack the place for all its cold beverages and snacks.

Chris flipped through the pages of the roster and saw that he would be working alone for his shift that day. He preferred it that way; when it was quite at least.

He was able to relax. The peace and the tranquillity of the empty store, the ac polluting the area with fresh air.

At this point, Chris heard the screech of the rusty automatic doors, and with that grinding sound, his moment of bliss had ended abruptly.

He pivoted on his foot and saw the grumpy old lady. She was notoriously known as an individual who took pleasure in making the employees lives miserable.

Chris moved up to the first register and pessimistically surveyed her journey through the store.

The old lady collected her groceries which consisted of simple vegetables and herbs along with a jug of milk and bottle of soap.

She eventually made her way over to the register.

When the transaction was at its end, she grinned and offered a check, despite signs throughout the store stating checks were not accepted.

Chris stated to her with a monotone “we only accept cash or card”. The old lady responded “well this is all I have”.

Knowing that all she wanted was the excitement of an argument to expel her temporarily from the dreariness of life, Chris knew it was pointless and decided to accept the check, leaving it at the register for another to deal with. With this, the toothy grin washed away from her face so she begrudgingly snatched up her bags and left the store.

As she left, Chris saw the herd of people migrating up from the beach to the store.

The next two hours were chaotic as the sand trekked in from the beach-goers coupled with the sweat dripping from their overheated bodies turned the store into their own separate beach.

It became a pig sty. And the stench became repulsive as the boiling sea air seeped through the rapidly opening and closing doors, trading its place with the cool breeze generated from the air conditioning.

Chris had only managed to clean mere portions of the store before three co-workers entered the store, signalling that Chris’s shift had reached its end.

He left work and went to the café across the street, seated himself in the furthest booth at the back of the small shop and ordered a large iced coffee to relieve him from the heat.

He scanned through a week or two old newspaper that had been left on the table of the booth. He came across the real-estate pages; an article had caught his eye. A cheap one-bedroom bungalow tucked away in a remote area in northern Victoria; surrounded by bushland, teeming with small rivers and animals. It was a perfect escape from the heat and the salty air that choked him every day.

He got his iced coffee and started to slowly sip it, enjoying the icy air rise up to his face each time he took a sip.

He glanced up at a clock and jumped and saw the time.

He proceeded to with his daily voyage to the local nursing home.

The home was located ten minutes outside of the main town, conveniently placed right next to the local cemetery.

Chris made his way up the stairs and located room sixty-three.

He knocked on the door and waited for a response that never came.

Silence.

 ‘Mum?’ Chris said into the mostly empty room. Still no reply came.

‘It’s me’. He walked further into the room and saw the frail silhouette upon the rocking chair facing the window.

He made his way up to the silhouette and placed his hand on its warm gentle shoulder. All but a sigh came from the old woman as his hand gently rested on her shoulder.

It had started off as her misplacing her keys or forgetting to flush the toilet. But over a series of months, it developed to her forgetting her name, faces of people, being unable to structure sentences or link meanings to words. But it had grown at an accelerated rate. Just two weeks ago, she had forgotten his name, it hit Chris hard. Within those two weeks, she began to not recognise his voice, then his face. Each time he visited, he would have to describe and explain himself more and more. But now she was almost completely unaware of her surroundings, she probably didn’t even know that he was standing there right now.

Chris’s mother slowly placed her hand on his hand.

His eyes began to water. He felt like there was a lump of sand stuck in his throat. He struggled to breathe. A single tear rolled down his cheek and dripped into his mouth.

He cringed as the salty taste filled his mouth. But he did not move.

‘If it’s my dinner, just leave it on the bench there dear’

Chris closed his eyes tight and gripped her shoulder with equal force.

‘I love you mum’

He then turned to the door and returned to his car.

Trying to hold in the tears as he put the car in gear and made his way home.

***

After a long, monotonous day, Chris dragged himself up his driveway towards his front door.

When he reached the front door. He saw out the corner of his eye a news paper with a few letters piled upon it.

He plucked them up off the floor in a handful and began to flick through them as he stumbled to his room. A bill, another bill, a newsletter, a letter asking for donations for the surf lifesaving club. He threw them all down on his bedside table and opened the newspaper to read it before bed.

He opened the pages of the paper and right on the page, staring hopefully back at him, was the real-estate advertisement for the property he had seen earlier that day. In a hope to sell the property, they had lowered the price again. It was next to nothing.

Chris stared at the page for a few minutes more. Weighing everything up. Flicking through thoughts and hopes.

***
It was finally time for Chris to move. He had packed everything owned the night before the night before.

He was sitting in the car park of the nursing home. He knew it was pointless, but he had to say goodbye to his mum.

He pulled out of the car park and began his long journey.

He came out on a clear road driving directly away from the ocean. He saw the deep blue mass slowly drift away in his rear-view mirror and smiled.

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath in and out; as if he was cleansing himself of the salty air.

He heard the horn and then felt a sudden jolt to the side and then blacked out. Feeling only cold.

 

 

 ENGLISH – Bodysurfers SAC Explanation

 

My creative response is an abstract interpretation of Robert Drewes writing style. The story is based around the Torquay area in southern Victoria following the journey of Chris; a depressed, lonely individual cramped up by his environment and thoughts. This piece replicates Drewes various short stories within the Bodysurfers book with similarities in the setting being around a beachy area, involving a dreariness and unfulfillment in life having a glum tone throughout the story despite having a supposedly enjoyable and vibrant environment. In terms of following Drewes writing technique, I employed the use of juxtaposition throughout the story, such as Chris’s unenthusiastic approach to life as well as the loneliness he feels compared to the jovial people and setting around Chris. Additionally, I utilised tragic irony; just when Chris made the choice to move forward with his life, and move away from the beach along everything that makes him unhappy and unsatisfied, however during his journey, he is involved in a deadly car accident resulting in his death; conveniently making it so that it was Chris’s search for a new life that ended his life. Along with the juxtaposition as well as the irony, I mimicked Robert Drewes vivid descriptions of his environment and characters such as ‘the wind continued to crash against the house and its windows just as the waves slammed against the boulders on the cliff face bellow, chipping off chunks of stones, the wind mimicking such an action with the peeling paint on the exterior of the house’ or ‘the stench became repulsive as the boiling sea air seeped through the rapidly opening and closing doors, trading its place with the cool breeze generated from the air conditioning’.