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Swallow the Swell is a stream-of-conscious first person narrative. The travelogue memoir revolves around its two central characters, long-term couple Keddy and Poppy, as they Ďbus ití through Argentina and Bolivia, frequenting a plethora of dingy hostels along the way.
Meet Keddy Flett, a beer-bellied twenty-six year old man who needs change in his life. Desperately. And so, with more neuroses than Woody Allen to his disadvantage, Keddy and his Chinese girlfriend Poppy Lin flee Sydney, Australia, in favour of South America. However, Keddy is about to encounter his demons in the most awkward, tense and socially paralysing way possible...
Told from Keddy’s point of view, in a stream-of-conscious first person narrative, the reader hitches a ride in the distorted, sarcastic and hilarious crevasses of Keddy’s brain as he swings through Argentina, Bolivia and a cast of colourful and kooky characters – characters sometimes likeable but mostly gaggingly stab-able.
Swallow the Swell is Less than Zero smashed into A Million Little Pieces and stuffed into Catcher in the Rye. The novel revolves around its two central characters, long-term couple Keddy and Poppy, as they ‘bus it’ through Argentina and Bolivia, frequenting a plethora of dingy hostels along the way. Its narrative follows the couple’s adventures as they explore their own relationship, leading to thunderous laughs and deal-breaking verbal collisions.
Then my eyes spring wide open.
And my heart booms out of my chest.
Iím drowning in this sea of death. I feel like someone's just knocked me out Ė like theyíve used a hammer to give me a lobotomy.
My idiot brainís catapulted into rotten reality. Iím curled up on one side. The insides of my cheeks taste all spewy slash vomity slash puky.
Did I boot or something? Did I upchuck up chunks of biscuity bile last night?
And why is my throat burning so bad?
I yawn these sweat beads out of my eyeballs Ėyawn out these filmy blankets of moisture. I blink like crazy to get rid of them. And I do. The curtains do fade. But it only makes me feel worse.
I just can't shake this feeling that something terribly, terribly wrong happened last night.
Boom boom. Boom boom. Boom boom.
Did a stranger accidentally bump into me at that graffiti bar? Did I get all angry and start arguing with him? Did I push him? Did he push me?
Boom boom. Boom boom. Boom boom. Boom boom.
Did he backhand Poppy, and then I struck him with a smashed glass and slit his throat open? Did I dip my fingers in his bloody neck gash and smear it across my cheeks like tribal paint? Did I dance away from the scene of the crime, giggling like some sort of maniac bastard?
Boom boom. Boom boom. Boom boom. Boom boom.
Calm down. Just calm down.
Thatís when I feel this fucking stick jabbing into my thigh. It pisses me off like crazy.
It's Pop's elbow.
Whatís up, Pop?
What? Whatís up?
I canít find it anywhere. So annoying!
Pop gropes the bed. She massages the mattress. She empties the pillow cases. Thatís when she knees me in the stomach.
She looks at me apologetically.
Sorry, Honey Bear. Nice hair, by the way.
What are you doing?
I canít find my brown wallet anywhere. Sorry if I disturb you.
Did she really just ask me if she disturbed me? I mean, she just dug her goddam knee into my guttiwuts. It annoys the fuckery out of me. I just say nothing. Nada. I canít be bothered. I just feel worse and then the worst. Iím just down in the dumpiest of the dumps.
Pop stands up.
Hey, Honey? Honey Bear? Youíre going to hate me, but can you please do me a massive favour?
I just groan this groan and massage my temples.
Pop leans into me.
Can you please burn my bra, Honey Bee?
I really don't understand what the hell she's on about. It's not like Pop's the feminist type or anything. I mean, she's always asking me to carry her brick backpack because she's a girl. If anything, Pop put the feminist movement back around a kazillion years.
Please, Honey? All you have to do is break this bit of plastic off. Burn it with your lighter maybe? It really itches my skin heaps.
I can't be fuckered reaching for my lighter, so I just clamp my stinking sharpies around the floss. And, while I chew the stubborn thing off with my teeth, I almost vomit all up in Pop's cleavage.
Almost. But, lucky for me, the plastic breaks. I lean back and the nasty nuggets slide back down my throat.
Pop smiles all fresh.
Thanks, Honey. Love you long time, kay?
Three. On the count of three. One. Two. Three.
I sit up and blurt out this sigh. I stretch out my arm and bite the ledge behind me with my hand. I nip the broken radio. I scratch the plastic vase. I snag the peanut packet and trip it into my lap.
Pop adjusts her bra.
Nuts will make you even more thirsty, Honey.
I donít care.
I look at Pop. Pop looks good. She looks sexy. She always looks sexy as hell. I mean, Poppy looks like sheís eternally airbushed. Itís like the whites of her eyes are always crisp Ė like her blood-red lips are about to burst. I mean, she's got this flowy raven hair that silks over her shoulders and these almond-shaped eyes that melt into honey in the light. I like how her skin's dipped in soft creamy snow and how her sincere smile only creates these tiny ripples at the corners of her mouth. She sure is a looker, that Poppy. But what I love about old Poppy Lin the most is how she looks at me.
I groan out a seedy complement.
Nice bra, Babe.
I said nice bra.
I said I like your brassiere. Looks good. I need to get myself a mansierre.
What's a brassiere? Is that, like, a model who wears bras?
No, Babe. A brassiere is a bra. That's its actual term.
Pop looks shocked slash stunned slash embarrassed when I tell her that. Thatís when her embarrassed face opens its embarrassed mouth and asks me to zip its top up. Sheís so cute. It cracks me up. Iíd laugh if I had the energy, but my stomachís throbbing like hell.
Pop belly-flops onto the bed.
Do you think Iím stupid because I donít know what that is?
Of course not, Pop.
So you donít want a Australian girlfriend instead of me?
You love me forever, right?
Am I your only Princess?
Yay! I like that. Do you think Iím fat, but? Have I gotten uglier since we came to South America?
Of course not, Pop. But remember, you're only allowed to ask me that question once a day.
Why am I a Drunky? Are you getting up me or something?
Pop gets up.
ĎCourse not, Honey Pie.
She opens the closet and her face lights up. It looks like she's found that wallet. Iíll bet that it was in her handbag all along, as per always. Thatís when Pop wedges it into her back pocket Ė when I watch her just half-jam it into the back her stupid jeans. It just annoys the crap out of me. I mean, this city isn't exactly the best place to be wedging your wallet in your goddam back pocket.
I chuck a few more peanuts into my mouth while Pop just walks off.
Can you get me some white chocolate maybe, Pop?
She just answers with a door slam to my temples.
Thatís when I hit the sack again. I lie back down and close my eyes. I try to get back to sleep but I can't. I just canít. It's like I can't be by myself or something Ė like I can't be stuck in my own head. I mean, I thought I started fresh in this city. I really did. I thought Iíd be a new Keddy. But no Ė no Iím not. Iíve ruined it. It's all tainted with shit now.
I sit up.
I thump my feet onto the floor and I drag my lead body over to the kitchen. I check to see if any waterís left in the kettle. I shake it. I hear a few droplets swish around. I turn it on its side and I open my mouth.
I want to go back home. Just for a few more days Ė just to say goodbye again.
Farewell, Clicked In.
See you, Sydney.
I stagger into the bathroom. I feel all weird. Too weird. I mean, it's like Iím not even here or something Ė like these aren't my toes glued the tiles. Itís like my brainís delayed Ė like Iím still trapped in all of these other moments that won't go the hell away. I donít get it. I mean, why is this happening to me?
That's why you have to relive everything you've done since you got here, Keddy. You have to. You have to examine your actions. You have to put your memories and your sentences under the microscope.
I have to go back to the beginning and comb through everything because, if I don't, I reckon Iíll go schitz or something. Itís like, if I donít process it all, the ground will just shatter from underneath me and drag me to hell.
That's when I catch this devious stare in my direction Ė my reflection. Thatís when I see me Ė see you.
It's me versus you, and you're all kinds of out of sorts. You need to wake the fuck up, Keddy.
I need to calm the fuck down. It's like my heartbeat's driving me mad as hell. It makes me sweat like crazy.
It just makes me crazy. It makes my fingers go all twitchified.
Just let it breathe, Keddy. Glide on the train of peace.
Shut the hell up.
I sit on the toilet and let it all hang loose. Thatís when all of that baggage leaves me Ė when I feel better right away.
Thatís when I squish my palms up against my eyelids.
At first I see nothing, just empty blackness. But, after a while, these warped currents of electricity shoot through the darkness. They link into one another. They tangle together. They fuse into these blasts of pixels. And then, all of a sudden, these images start to simmer to the surface. It's like my eyelids have these projector screens built into them or something Ė like they're flashing a million photos at once. Each image renders itself into focus before fizzling back into the night. I see a bowl of popcorn. I see this black wasp with hairy eyeballs. I zone in on this eyeless buck-toothed rabbit Ė on a cracked skull. I see a plump chicken with a catís tail. I face a tombstone. That's when Pop's face protrudes out of the darkness Ė when I see my little China girl.
We're on the plane ride over here and Iím taking a photo of her to distract myself.