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We got married at the City Hall, and then we went to the beach. She looked so pretty I just wanted to play in the sand with her, but she had this little smile on her face, and after a while she got up and went down to the surf.

      “I’m going out.”

      She went ahead, and I swam after her. She kept on going, and went a lot further out than she had before. Then she stopped, and I caught up with her. She swung up beside me, and took hold of my hand, and we looked at each other. She knew, then, that the devil was gone, that I loved her.

      “Did I ever tell you why I like my feet to the swells?”

      “It’s so they’ll lift them.”

      A big one raised us up, and she put her hand to her breasts, to show how it lifted them. “I love it. Are they big, Frank?”

      “I’ll tell you tonight.”

      “They feel big. I didn’t tell you about that. It’s not only knowing you’re going to make another life. ”

“It’s what it does to you. My breasts feel so big, and I want you to kiss them. Pretty soon my belly is going to get big, and I’ll love that, and want everybody to see it. It’s life. I can feel it in me. It’s a new life for us both, Frank.”

      We started back, and on the way in I swam down. I went down nine feet. I could tell it was nine feet, by the pressure. Most of these pools are nine feet, and it was that deep. I whipped my legs together and shot down further. It drove in on my ears so I thought they would pop. But I didn’t have to come up. The pressure on your lungs drives the oxygen in your blood, so for a few seconds you don’t think about breath. I looked at the green water. And with my ears ringing and that weight on my back and chest, it seemed to me that all the devilment, and meanness, and shiftlessness, and no-account stuff in my life had been pressed out and washed off, and I was all ready to start out with her again clean, and do like she said, have a new life.”

When I came up she was coughing. “Just one of those sick spells, like you have.”

      “Are you all right?”

      “I think so. It comes over you, and then it goes.”

      “Did you swallow any water?”

      “No.”

      We went a little way, and then she stopped. “Frank, I feel funny inside.”

      “Here, hold on to me.”

      “Oh, Frank. Maybe I strained myself, just then. Trying to keep my head up. So I wouldn’t gulp down the salt water.”

      “Take it easy.”

      “Wouldn’t that be awful? I’ve heard of women that had a miscarriage. From straining theirself.”

      “Take it easy. Lie right out in the water. Don’t try to swim. I’ll tow you in.”

      “Hadn’t you better call a guard?”

      “Christ no. That egg will want to pump your legs up and down. Just lay there now. I’ll get you in quicker than he can.”

      She lay there, and I towed her by the shoulder strap of her bathing suit. I began to give out. I could have towed her a mile, but I kept thinking I had to get her to a hospital, and I hurried. When you hurry in the water you’re sunk. I got bottom, though, after a while, and then I took her in my arms and rushed her through the surf. “Don’t move. Let me do it.”

      “I won’t.”

      I ran with her up to the place where our sweaters were, and set her down. I got the car key out of mine, then wrapped both of them around her and carried her up to the car. It was up beside the road, and I had to climb the high bank the road was on, above the beach. My legs were so tired I could hardly lift one after the other, but I didn’t drop her. I put her in the car, started up, and began burning the road.”

      We had gone in swimming a couple of miles above Santa Monica, and there was a hospital down there. I overtook a big truck. It had a sign on the back, Sound Your Horn, the Road Is Yours. I banged on the horn, and it kept right down the middle. I couldn’t pass on the left, because a whole line of cars was coming toward me. I pulled out to the right and stepped on it. She screamed. I never saw the culvert wall. There was a crash, and everything went black.

      When I came out of it I was wedged down beside the wheel, with my back to the front of the car, but I began to moan from the awfulness of what I heard. It was like rain on a tin roof, but that wasn’t it. It was her blood, pouring down on the hood, where she went through the windshield. Horns were blowing, and people were jumping out of cars and running to her. I got her up, and tried to stop the blood and in between I was talking to her, and crying, and kissing her. Those kisses never reached her. She was dead.

Text: Excerpt from The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M.Cain

Image : Found photographs with the poster ‘Climax’ from Wespak Visual Communications, San Francisco, 1968. 

Sound: Starless and Bible Black – The Stan Tracey Quartet : Under Milk Wood – Dylan Thomas read by Richard Burton : Jesus’ Blood Never Failed me Yet – Gavin Bryas : Watch Chimes – Ennio Morricone : Requiem For the Russian Tea Room – Primal Scream : Violence – Andy Scott : Clear – Pam Aronoff : Double Connection – Plaster : Diamorphoses – Iannis Xenakis : Michael Jackson – Negavitland : Children of the Night sample – Bela Lugosi : Heavy Lead – Dave Richmond : Dr.No The Lair sample : 6 O’Clock – Zu + Eugene S.Robinson : Burning – Glaxo Babies : Mauvais Sang the Radio sample – Denis Levant : Modern Love – David Bowie : Oriundi – Frida Boccara : Clock – Elements of Noise : Kiss Me Deadly sample : A Warm Place – Trent Reznor

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