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Space to Think, a new book celebrating ten years of the Dublin Review of Books More Information 

Swimming Home

Deborah Levy

Collecting Stones

'It has a hole in the middle.'

Kitty held up a pebble the size of her hand and gave it to Nina to look through. They were sitting on one of the pub­lic beaches in Nice below the Promenade des Anglais. Kitty said on the private beaches they had to pay a fortune for sun-loungers and umbrellas. Everyone looked like patients on hospital beds and gave her the creeps. The sun was burning pink blotches in her waxy pale face.

Nina obediently looked through the hole. She saw a young woman smiling, a purple jewel drilled into her front tooth. When she turned the pebble round the woman was unpacking a carrier bag of food. There was another woman there too, sitting on a low striped canvas chair, and she was holding a large white dog by the lead with her right hand. The dog looked like a snow wolf. A husky with blue eyes. Nina stared into its blue eyes from the hole in the pebble. She couldn't be sure of this but she thought the snow wolf was undoing the shoelaces of the woman with the jewel in her tooth. Nina saw all of this in fragments through the hole in the pebble. When she looked again she saw the woman in the black T-shirt only had one arm. She turned the peb­ble lengthways and peered through it, squeezing her eye half shut. An electric wheelchair decorated with shells was parked near the canvas chair. Now the women were kissing. Like lovers. Watching them lean into each other, Nina heard her own breath get louder. She had been thinking all holiday...