Originally published in Southerly 76.3; collected in The Best Ausralian Stories 2017.
His name is Paul or Peter, I forget. We sit together, squashed among a couple dozen others like the human luggage that we are, below the deck, where years of putrefying fish have left their stink. No windows. Someone’s puked. An infant cries.
I fold my arms and try to think of nothing, but he’s talking in my ear again. About a boat, not this one, not the filthy bucket that we’re crammed inside; a sailboat, one he used to own, his pride and joy, it seems—though he insists, it’s not a yacht. The word’s incongruous, as if it’s from another language, moulded by the habits of a foreign and exotic world. I try it on my tongue, repeating: yacht. A laugh begins to bubble up, or is it just a retch, the air is hot and thick.