First Lines from five of my favourite books.
“On a low tide Monday afternoon just short of my thirty-third birthday the winter sun finally comes out to burn the sky clear.” Land’s Edge ~ Tim Winton
“What you hear is not my voice.” Song for Night ~ Chris Abani
“Have you ever blurted something out in conversation, and a nanosecond later wished that you’d kept your trap shut?” Riding the Black Cockatoo ~ John Danalis
“All was still in the valley of the dragons.” Dragon Rider ~ Cornelia Funke
“For the first five years of her life, Alma Whittaker was indeed a mere passenger in the world – as we all are passengers in such early youth – and so her story was not yet noble, nor was it particularly interesting, beyond the fact that this homely toddler passed her days without illness or incident, surrounded by a degree of wealth nearly unknown in the America of that time, even within elegant Philadelphia.” Elizabeth Gilbert ~ The Signature of All Things
Five opening sentences of my own:
The rain came early that year.
If I told you a secret, would you promise not to tell?
I spent my birthday hunched in a ball on the floor beside the bed.
He was born on the stroke of midnight.
I turned right at the fishmongers stall, and headed toward the ocean.
First line from Cate Kennedy’s short story, Flotsam.
Out here there is a headwind, but they helped me drag a chair onto the verandah. Across the road, the fire hydrant has gone bung again. It’s gushing like a side turned Orca. The Franklin kids are right there amongst it. Dont miss a beat those kids. All squealing and screaming and egging each other on. Jed, the eldest boy is leaning hard into the spurting water, almost vanishing in the wash. It’s probably the best scrub he’s had in years.
Down town, they’re setting up for tonight’s big street party. Martha keeps asking me if I want to go. Nagging me, more like it.
“It’ll do you good,” she keeps telling me.
Not much gonna do me good at my age. A man can hardly walk let alone party. I look back at the kids and remember what is was like back then. One day flowed into the next and you never had a worry in the world.
Lucy, the middle girl is screaming at Jed to get out of the water. She’s the cautious one of them all. She’s been coming over here every Saturday for the past year, helpin’ out around the place. She’s a good girl that one. She might as well throw her caution to the wind cause Jed can’t hear a damned thing. He’s lost in the wet wildness of it all. Taken by the moment. Little Jack, the younger brother, stands a safe distance away. He’s swinging his arms back and forth, all pent up with energy just dyin’ to have a go but Jed is stealin’ this show. Jack won’t get a look in.
The wind is pickin’ up and I wonder how them kids aren’t freezin’ their backsides off.
“Are you sure you won’t come for a while?” Martha joins me on the verandah, the wind whipping her wispy silver curls about her head. She clamps a ciggie between her lips and draws back hard. The tip glows as red as the gushing hydrant. I shake my head.
“Nope. I’d rather watch the neighbour’s kids drown ‘emselves,” I chuckle. They really don’t know how good they’ve got it.
From down the street, a massive red truck motors toward us. No sirens, no lights, no great sense of urgency. Just wasted water to save. Jack spots it. He’s got a second to go for it, to jump in and get his feet wet but he turns and bolts up the street, leaving them to it. By the time the truck pulls up, the kids are gone and the water just keeps gushin’. It’s just a matter of time before it’s capped and life goes on like always.
I turned right at the fishmongers stall and headed toward the ocean. It wasn’t what I said I’d do. I wasn’t even sure if it was what I really wanted to do but when I came to that T intersection, I couldn’t turn left and head back to the city.
The traffic thinned as I headed away from Palmerston Village. I dug my mobile from my bag as I drove and then pulled off the road near the lookout. I reached over to the glovebox and took out the card I had stashed there days ago. I tapped the number into my phone. A girl’s voice answered.
“Hi, Rosa. It’s Claire,” I heard the urgency in my voice.
“Hi, is everything all right?”
“Um…yes – though I’ve had a last minute change of plans. Is that house still available?”
“Yes, as far as I know, let me check…” she put me on hold. I hadn’t really thought about what I was going to do if it wasn’t. I just knew I wasn’t ready to go back home yet.
While I waited, I glanced in the rear view mirror and saw an old yellow Kombi van loaded up with boards rattling up the road behind me. My luggage almost obscured the view. It passed and meandered along the winding ocean road, disappearing around the bend that lead to the next village. I adjusted the seatbelt, loosening it from my chest.
“Hello?” Rosa said.
“Yes, I’m here,”
“The house is available. How long are you interested in staying?”
“Is it still for sale?” The words tumbled from my mouth.
“Oh. I assume so. The owner decided to rent because he couldn’t find a buyer. I’m happy to call him.”
“That’s okay. I’m curious that’s all. I can come now and sort out the paperwork to stay. Is there a minimum period I need to stay?” With the question of buying set free, the word “rent” felt empty and meaningless.
Something tugged at my insides, a longing to lay down roots. I had the money. I just needed the courage to leave my old life behind. Could I really do it? Could I walk away from everything I knew so intimately and start again not knowing a soul? I wasn’t sure but I had to give it a go.
“It’s still available as a holiday let or long term lease. Or, you know, to buy of course. I’m sure the owner would be happy with either. Come on over and we can talk. I’ll have everything ready. It’s a beautiful property, Claire. I’m sure whatever you decide, you’ll enjoy the time you spend there. See you soon?”
“I’m on my way,” I said.
My heartbeat quickened. Adrenaline leaked through me as I contemplated the future. Just breathe I told myself. There was plenty of time for decisions. Just stay present. I did my best to rustle all my best yoga tricks to keep me from spinning out. I started the car and pulled back onto the road. I slammed the breaks, luggage toppling in the back seat, as a cyclist appeared out of nowhere.
“Shit!” My heart was hammering. In the blink of an eye, I nearly killed someone. Life was so unpredictable.
The cyclist rode off, waving a thumbs up sign over his head. Ridicule or relief? I couldn’t tell but I felt foolish. I was too caught up in getting there to be present now. I tried to rearrange the spilled luggage in the back seat but gave up. It didn’t matter. I’d be pulling it all out again soon.
I gently pulled back onto the road and headed toward the estate agent. The view ahead was spectacular. Raw rugged cliffs with a drop to a churning glistening navy blue ocean. As I drove, my head filled with what if images of the cyclist dead on the shoulder of the road, me weeping helplessly over them, and my life changed forever because of it. I pushed the fiction from my mind and pulled myself back to the moment. I glanced back in the rearview mirror. The back window was clear. My strewn baggage no longer blocking the view. I drove. I breathed. I told myself everything was going to be okay.