Ray went to break it off with a condom in his pocket.
When he arrived his girlfriend wasn’t home. He met her housemate finally; a long-limbed girl who opened jars when he wasn’t there. She said hello and offered him tea. Like his girl, she was Australian; a musician trying to make it. They sat on mismatched chairs in the kitchen. It was the first time he’d been in there with the lights on. When the housemate stepped out of the room, I have to check something, he started washing the dishes. It was his job at home, but still it felt strange having his hands in someone else’s sink. He thought he heard her pull in, hoped for a moment that she’d find him like this and reward him.
Instead the housemate came back with a bottle of cheap whiskey. She poured two glasses without asking. She cracked a few ice cubes.
‘You shouldn’t do that. It waters it down.’
She shook the glasses and the ice clinked. ‘Maybe you just drink too slow.’
He pulled another glass down, opened the freezer. ‘Freeze the glass. It chills the whiskey and doesn’t compromise the flavour.’
She held one glass out to him. He took it and swigged it down in one gulp. He knew he sounded like an arsehole but she didn’t seem to mind. She looked at him as she drank and her eyes slowly shut.
Ray said, ‘Any nibble?’
The boy shook his head.
‘Ah well.’ Then he said, ‘Nice up here, huh? You having fun?’
The boy nodded.
‘You’re welcome up any time. Grace loves having you.’
The boy’s gaze skipped across the brown water like a flat stone. Then he said, ‘Yeah,’ but Ray could tell it was coming from a place far away.
There was a ripple, and Ray thought, Come on you fucker, but the water flattened itself out and when Ray’s pit stain ran out of sleeve, he paddled the both of them to the shore. They shouldered the canoe and carried it through the scrub back up to the house.
After dinner, the boy pulled down a thin red book off the shelf and Grace insisted he take it. Much later, days after the boy’s mother picked him up, Ray found the book stuffed underneath the couch pillows.