Fifty Shades of Grey (excerpt from page 227)

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The water was pretty, but Dave thought the hills surrounding it were maybe the coolest things he’d ever seen. They rose from the Earth in a hundred different sizes, green with trees and grass, dotted with the occasional house or lighthouse tower. Once the East Town dock disappeared into the morning fog, he couldn’t see flat ground in any direction.

The hills had also captured Jake’s imagination. He watched them with rapt attention, rarely breaking his gaze to look down at the water. Dave considered saying something, but the rum had chilled him out considerably. What did it matter what the kid was looking at? His having a good time was all that really mattered.

“When can I touch the?” A fat little brat belonging to one of the other families asked. He was fair-haired and sunburned and thoroughly awful. His red little cheeks puffed out as he crossed a set of meaty arms over his chest. It was a shame, Dave thought, that his parents didn’t simply throw him over the side when they thought nobody was looking. He certainly would have played dumb if the cops wanted to ask him a few questions about it afterward.

“Honey,” said an equally chunky woman Dave assumed to be the kid’s mom, “we’ll see them when we snorkel, but I don’t know that you’ll get to touch one. They’re a lot faster than us in the water. They might try to get away.”

“She’s right,” the kid’s dad said. He took a long pull from his red party cup and shook his head like someone underestimating the strength of his beverage. “This isn’t a petting zoo. It’s the ocean.”

The kid stomped a fat, sandaled foot down on the deck. In the moment, Dave would have given half his income to see the kid slip and go overboard. He grinned at the thought of his chubby arms peeking above the crystal clear water, his fat fingers clinching and opening as he waved for help.

Pretty grim there, Davey.He took a pull and looked at Jake. For once he and the voice were in agreement. There was no reason to wish death or the loss of a child on someone. Not until the little brat touched him or something.

Dave stretched back in his seat and thumbed to a random page in his book: some trashy, unauthorized biography of Sinatra he’d found stowed away in a forgotten corner of his luggage. He vaguely remembered snagging the paperback from the house on his last trip to the island. He remembered knocking several books back that month, all while having time to record and enjoy the island. Had the days been longer then? Now going to the grocery seemed to take half a day. Recreational reading was something he had to plan for.

He glanced at Jake and wondered how time was progressing for him. It was hard to tell if the kid knew how lucky he was. Dave didn’t even leave Indiana until he was 12, and that was for some unknown uncle’s funeral in Michigan. There were no glass-bottom boat tours in Novi.

The boat slowed to an idle. A lean, bronzed boat staffer stepped to the front of the boat and cleared his throat.

“All right, everyone,” he said, clapping his hands to draw attention, “if you want to snorkel, form a line in front of me.”

Jake cast a look back at Dave. Trying to sit back up reminded him of how many red cups he’d drained. Drinking rum in this weather never turned out well. It was one of those things you only remembered after you were drunk, he supposed. He shook his head at the kid.

“I’m good,” he said. “You go ahead. I’ll watch.”

Jake looked to the water, back to Dave, and shrugged. The fat tourist parents struggled to put a lifejacket on their bellowing toddler. Privileged or not, he couldn’t remember Jake ever acting like that. He gave one final smile to the kid and turned his attention back to the paperback.

“…and I think I saw a clownfish, and—”

Dave woke with a start, spilling the drink he’d left sitting on his chest in the process. He rubbed his eyes and nodded at Jake:Go ahead.

“I’m pretty sure there are dolphins in there,” Jake said. “You should come look.”

The thought of drunk swimming in a maze of ankle-shredding reef didn’t behoove Dave to leave his spot on the deck. Again he shook his head. The smell of the rum on his chest made him want to heave.

“C’mon,” Jake said, his voice rising to a near whine. “There’s a lot of cool stuff down—”

“I said no,” Dave said.

The sharpness of his tone registered in the boy’s face.

“I’m sorry for snapping. I have a pretty bad headache. You go and I’ll watch, okay?”

“Okay,” Jake said, as he turned back toward the ladder.

He watched the kid float around until the sun flashing in the water got to his eyes. His first attempt to stand backfired when the deck slid out from under his feet. He cast a quick glance around to make sure no one had seen him fall and tried again. He had to pee, badly. The tour guide’s loud, scripted voice was a nasal drone behind the boat’s idling motor.

Never again, he thought, taking lurching steps toward the ship’s head. He navigated the slippery wooden steps to the toilet with some difficulty and shut the door behind him. After finishing, he washed his hands and started back to the top. Anything else he drank today, he decided, would be rum-free.

“I want totouch one,” the fat little kid said from the water. The sound reminded Dave of his own child, floating out there somewhere. He scanned the group around the tour guide. None of the heads bobbing in the water looked like Jake’s. Dull pressure built at the base of his neck. Had he wandered off? Seen a dolphin or something and broke from the group? Surely he wouldn’t.

In the same second he saw the dayglo vest floating maybe 20 feet off from the group he started moving. He realized he wasn’t drunk anymore as he leapt off the side. When he splashed down, came up, and saw his son’s brown hair, moving with the flow of the water, he decided that was probably a good thing.

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Date: 07.12.2018, 10:36 / Views: 71561