We drank in silence for a few moments. Then Sherlock rolled his shoulders and sniffed. He lifted his deerstalker, turned it around, put it back on again ' tugging at the peaks like an admiral. Something was coming. "I'll give you a story, Al, he said. He took a last, lung-stuffing drag on his fag and blew his smoke at the bar top, where it spread out in a layer like dry ice. "Did I tell you¦ I actually was a detective once.
(I was young then - living the irretrievable moment, though earthed enough to know it)
Small things remind me: The tang of smoke on cloth. A certain way of laughing, catching like the moment a match is struck. A cough, guttural as gunfire, cutting the night. Beer-rime in an empty glass. The rasp of steel on stone. Grey hairs in my comb
Sherlock had lent me a book, Worry Yourself Well , which said it was fine to think of yourself as a failure, anyway. It lowered your expectations of success ' so if you failed, you'd actually lived up to your expectations. Which meant you'd succeeded. Something like that. So I couldn't go wrong, really. I was prepared for failure. Whichever way you looked at it, I could only succeed.
Stone drunk, he crashes to the beach beneath the huts, hearing the waves rush and dribble off the shingle like an old woman sucking her teeth. He sees stars swimming, the moon like a lost coin, frosting the tops of waves, tricking out the groynes.