The Drowning House PDF Free Download

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2013 by Elizabeth Black Garrett

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All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Nan A. Talese / Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and in Canada by Random House of Canada, Toronto.

DOUBLEDAY is a registered trademark of Random House, Inc. Nan A. Talese and the colophon are trademarks of Random House, Inc.

Map illustration by Genevra Collier
Jacket design by Emily Mahon
Jacket photograph © Ben Stockley/Gallery Stock

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Black, Elizabeth, 1950–
The drowning house : a novel / Elizabeth Black. — 1st ed.
p. cm.
1. Women photographers—Fiction. 2. Galveston (Tex.)—Fiction.
3. Family secrets—Fiction. 4. Domestic fiction. I. Title.
PS3602.L275D76 2013
813’.6—dc23 2011046222

eISBN: 978-0-385-53587-8


To Marie, with love

Galveston … died in 1900. What remains in my memory is … a place of the mind …

—Dallas Times Herald
2, 1966

Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long



Chapter 1

The Drowning House Pdf free. download full

. But I knew I was in Texas when I swerved to avoid a shape by the side of the road. It must have been around six in the morning, the first thin light just visible through the pines, when I crossed over the state line.

I stopped and backed up to confirm that the shape was a chest of drawers. Or rather the skeleton of one, since the drawers themselves were gone and the empty spaces where they should have been gaped open. I’d lived away long enough to find the sight incongruous. But it came back to me all at once, the things I’d seen abandoned at the side of the road in Texas. Not just on rural blacktops but along the busiest superhighways—gut-ripped mattresses, clothing, suitcases, and once, a velvet rocking chair.

It was what you might expect in a country at war—personal belongings strewn along the side of the road, as though their owners’ lives had exploded, sending them flying. Or on the frontier, when travelers came this way as a last resort. In the days when “Gone to Texas” meant you were desperate.

It was May 1990, and still cool enough at night to leave the car windows open. I heard a bobwhite whistle, and I whistled back, but the only response was a quick flurry of wings. Bobwhites have different calls—for assembly, for food sharing, calls of alarm and flight. Probably I had said the wrong thing.

I had been driving for several days. Early on, I’d left the route Michael had drawn for me on the map. It was a route as unlikely as the map itself, where the entire continent was an uninterrupted expanse
of green. As I drove up the ramp onto my first stretch of freeway, the map blew into the backseat, and I let it lie there.

Before I left, Michael and I had argued. He couldn’t get away, he had a case coming up for trial. “I’ll put you on a plane if you want,” he said.

“You’ll put me?”

“Clare, it’s just a phrase.”

“You know I can’t fly.”

We’d had the same exchange before. What usually happened next was that Michael would shrug and go back to his desk, with its shifting piles of papers and stacks of books on torts and civil procedure, and I would wander the apartment, picking things up and replacing them like someone seeing it all for the first time.

Instead I said, “I’ll drive.” Saying it made it seem like something I could do.

“You’re going to drive to Texas from D.C.? By yourself?” Now I had his full attention. “You haven’t driven anywhere in months.”

I had tried. I’d gone out to the garage, keys in hand. I’d seen through the window Bailey’s blue parka lying on the backseat, one arm flung out in a gesture so vividly like her that for a moment I could almost believe she was alive. Then the truth washed over me. Bright spots swam up from the concrete floor and my legs began to shake. I went back into the house.

Michael had even suggested selling the station wagon, but I’d resisted.

“Well.” Michael is tall, and when he concentrates, he looks down and frowns. I had once found it attractive, the way he would focus his energy on a problem only to forget it completely a moment later, raising his head and gazing out again at his own serene world. That was before I’d ever supposed I could be the problem. “If it will make you happy.”

I didn’t tell him that happiness had always seemed to me to descend suddenly, when you least expected it, like a sun shower. That often it wasn’t until much later you could look back and say, then, on
that ordinary morning, with a car full of six-year-olds squirming and kicking, as the station wagon flashed through the dappled light of the tree-lined streets, then I was truly happy.

“Michael, don’t,” I said.

The Drowning House PDF Free Download

“Don’t what?”

“Don’t deal with me. I’m not a client.” In the end, he tried to give me the keys to his car, the BMW. The offer was real. Still, he was visibly relieved when I declined. He did give me the map and a judicious kiss on the cheek. Our bodies didn’t touch. We had not been good together in bed for some time.

After about an hour, I exited the freeway, pulled over, and buried my face in my sleeve. There were so many trucks and trailers, and even the compact cars whizzed by so fast that the station wagon seemed to shift in their wake. I took a few deep breaths. There were other routes. I would find a secondary road and keep heading south, the way travelers did when America was truly new and green.

I slept in snatches. I showered twice—at a campground, where a raccoon watched from the edge of the wooden deck, and at a women’s shelter, where the sad-faced desk clerk asked no questions. I ate while I drove, littering the back of the station wagon with fast-food wrappers. I passed any number of motels and restaurants. But I was afraid to make a real stop, afraid that if I did, I might reconsider. Once I was in Texas, I knew the Gulf would draw me. Its pull was stronger than anything I’d left behind.

If I had been asked, I would have said that I’d lost my daughter a year ago—two months and three days after her sixth birthday.
I lost Bailey
. That was the way I thought of it, and the thought was both hopeful and damning.
suggested that she might someday be found, as if she had wandered into the next aisle at the grocery store or been forgotten by the car pool, that she might reappear, absently twirling a damp strand of hair around one finger. Still, anyone listening carefully would understand that it was an admission of guilt.
I lost her

I also lost the person I was then, the person I was becoming. The new Clare I saw reflected in Michael’s eyes—listless and unresponsive,
she spent too many hours sleeping, too many hours in the twilight of the darkroom working from old negatives.

Of course, Michael’s was not the only perspective. Jules, my agent, would have said more positive things. That I was a young photographer whose star had risen suddenly. That I had been invited to Galveston to choose material for an exhibition. And it was true. In my camera bag I had the letter confirming everything.

It had arrived late one afternoon. I was lying on the bed, still wearing the leggings and frayed T-shirt I’d slept in. Soon Michael would call from his office and ask if I were dressed. I would say yes and he would pretend to believe me. Then he would remind me of the upcoming partners’ dinner.
You should get out more
, he would say. But when I thought of the hotel dining room where the dinners took place, of the bleak expanse of white linen, the tightly wired flower arrangements, the recirculated air that smelled faintly of cleaning fluid—all of it so like one of the nicer funeral homes—I knew it was impossible.

Then an image came to me. I was still holding the phone, answering Michael’s questions—
Yes I remember, yes of course I have something that isn’t black
—when it presented itself, a face in partial shadow. I hung up and went back to bed, pulling the covers over me, but the face followed. Finally I got up again and went to look for a book.

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