All this week, Kill Your Darlings is showcasing extracts from this year’s KYD Unpublished Manuscript Award shortlist. Designed to support the development of an early-career author, the Award offer $5000 prize money and mentorship with industry professionals. The following extract comes from Beth Amos’ shortlisted manuscript, ‘Blindside’.
On a sweltering summer’s day, a boy dies after a deadly one-punch attack on a Sydney beach. Grief-stricken, the victim’s single mother, Laura, places her faith in the courts to deliver justice – but instead, seventeen-year-old Jaydon avoids prison and is placed in an anger management program working with Ben, a famous horse whisperer, rehabilitating wild brumbies. Deep in the Snowy Mountains, Jaydon learns to let go of his anger, while an increasingly disillusioned Laura embraces hers.
Dark clouds sat fat on the horizon but for now the sun had bullied its way through. Jaydon rested on his surfboard out in deep water, past the break line. His feet dangled in the warm sea, his leg rope tugging on his ankle as the burgeoning waves pulled in and out. There wasn’t a breath of wind and the sun baked his lean back, evaporating any water droplets and leaving the itch of salt behind.
Jaydon ran through his moves in his mind. He’d been practising his cutbacks for weeks after bombing out of the last comp. He couldn’t let himself tank this weekend, he needed to consistently place to have any hope of getting onto a pro tour. Closer to shore, the boys in the line-up were no more than dark, shifting shapes against the reflected glare, but he could tell who was who by the hazy carriage of their movements.
He’d been surfing with these guys for ten years, ever since he was seven and his brother, Brock, chucked him in the ocean on a big, ugly foamy. Jaydon had split that old Styrofoam board in half within the first week and his brother had belted him for it, but by then he had the bug. He’d beg, borrow or steal any board he could get his hands on. When Brock ended locked up in Long Bay for three years, he left his boards with Jaydon and didn’t ask for them back when he got out.
‘If it keeps the little shit out of trouble, he can keep ’em,’ Jaydon repeated his brother’s words and grinned to himself as he swivelled onto his stomach and paddled toward the line-up. No point hanging around as shark bait, bobbing in the deep water like a piece of flotsam. As Jaydon glided in next to his mate, Mark, the surfer to his left called out.
‘Hey, get down the line.’
There wasn’t a breath of wind and the sun baked his lean back, evaporating any water droplets and leaving the itch of salt behind.
Jaydon and Mark gave the guy a once over. Hair slicked back, a triangle of dark curls spread across his broad chest. And he was pale, not baked to the colour of coffee like Jaydon and his mates.
‘Do you know him?’ Mark asked.
‘He’s a fucking townie.’ For the past few years their beach had been overrun by people coming in from the suburbs and crowding out the locals.
Jaydon grinned at the surfer, ‘Piss off back to Bankstown, Snowy.’ He turned and paddled into the pull of the wave, cresting up and over the lip. When he dropped in and claimed the wave he saw a few others in the line-up pull back, conceding. He didn’t see the townie until he was nearly on top of him. Jaydon couldn’t work out how he’d dropped in so easily behind him but there he was, nipping at his heels and trying to steal his wave. Jaydon leaned forward to draw some distance between them, but his momentum was slowing, and Jaydon needed to cut back in to keep moving. He wanted to cut back in – this was the perfect wave for some much-needed practice. Only there was the townie, so close he could almost shove him off his board – almost.
Jaydon had seen guys take a board in the head before. It wasn’t pretty. So, before he got his skull cracked open, he leant back and fell into the wave while the townie streaked past, grinning.
As the water enveloped Jaydon he felt the familiar flicker in his chest as the anger, that perpetually smoked through him, flared to life. He wanted to punch the smirk right off the townie’s face. This was his fucking beach and his fucking wave.
When he surfaced he shook his head violently, droplets of water spraying off in every direction.
‘What the hell was that?’ Mark demanded.
As the water enveloped Jaydon he felt the familiar flicker in his chest as the anger, that perpetually smoked through him, flared to life.
‘I’ve got Surfarama on this weekend. I’m not risking me or my board over that prick.’ And he needed the prize money, especially after Brock sold his motorbike to cover the entry fees and travel costs he had coming up this year.
‘Pussy,’ Mark shot back but there was no venom in it. Still the comment blew on the embers of Jaydon’s frustration. He’d just handed the townie a free pass, against his better judgement, and the guy was being a dick about it. Jaydon could hear the fuckwit whooping as the wave carried him in. He watched the townie jump off his board and wade into the beach. He turned and blew a kiss in Jaydon’s direction.
‘Well that’s not very polite, is it, eh?’ Mark was looking at Jaydon, his eyes shining.
Jaydon paused, the corner of his mouth twitched. ‘Do we need to teach him some manners?’
Mark grinned, exposing his chipped front tooth. ‘School’s in!’ he yelled, loud so most of the line-up could hear. His neck craned as he searched for the next swell.
As Jaydon and Mark rode the wave in, they were joined by a dozen other locals. They trailed after Jaydon as he walked up the beach like he was the fucking Pied Piper. He could feel the prickly weight of their anticipation pushing at his back. The townie was drying off, his head covered by a towel. He only pulled it off when Jaydon was a few strides away, the townie’s hair sticking up in a dozen different directions.
Black rage slicked through Jaydon like spilt paint. He had just enough time to see the guy’s expression flicker with recognition before blindsiding him with a freight train left hook.
Black rage slicked through Jaydon like spilt paint. He had just enough time to see the guy’s expression flicker with recognition before Jaydon blindsided him with a freight train left hook that slammed into the right of the townie’s skull.
The townie’s head whipped sharply to the side. Pain exploded in Jaydon’s hand, but it was muted by the savage surge of triumph and adrenaline that flashed through him. Better than sex, Jaydon thought.
The townie’s body slackened, and he teetered for a moment, held up by an invisible string, before the string snapped. Jaydon watched as he thumped to the ground, heavy as a felled tree.
The winner of the 2018 KYD Unpublished Manuscript Award will be announced on 6 July.