Excerpt 1 - On the beach

The moon had clouded over and they didn't gauge the height of the waves until they were waist deep. The water was warm. As they were jumping backwards into the crests, a few metres apart, a piece of seaweed wrapped itself around Adam's shoulders; he caught it, raised it above his head like a banner, and let himself fall backwards into the ocean. He had a beginner's hairy chest, a wiry knot between his pectoral muscles that heralded the full Chewbacca his genes were promising. Neil's chest was narrower and baby-bald.

They splashed around and shouted into the Pacific until Neil dragged Adam out in a mock rescue. Adam resisted, but submitted before the wrestling became too fierce, allowing himself to be dumped where the wet and dry sand met. The two of them scrambled up the beach and sat against the volleyball poles, finishing their beers and watching the breathing, black-and-white ocean as they dried. The karaoke was over.

'Listen,' Adam said, 'don't take this the wrong way, but I suppose we could, you know, go together.'

'What do you … Go where?'

'Up the coast. On the Greyhound, maybe. Or we could, you know, get one of those cars you deliver for someone else. Driveaways, I think they're called, I read about them in the Lonely Planet. We could take it up to San Francisco. What do you reckon?'

Neil was sober enough to catch and question his own response. He couldn't account for the sense that he was being flattered, wonderfully flattered, and he resented Adam for this rush of gratitude. Adam wasn't older than Neil, or more experienced (so far as he could tell), or cleverer or funnier; he outscored him mainly in the unearned virtues of luck and class and those Athena-poster looks. At the same time he had his openness, and his poise, and there was a fit or alignment between them, something unfinished and possible, that it would be a shame to waste.

'Okay,' Neil said. 'Why not?'

All this – California, the sea, the adult, sovereign choices – was the kind of escapade that, as suburban teenagers, Neil and his brother had once fantasised about. He held out his cup for Adam to clink with his own, and he did, though the cups were plastic and noiseless and already empty.


Read more: