A Lesson in Detail

From the first few pages of J.M. Coetzee’s Life & Times of Michael K.

K had never been into the flat before. He found it in chaos. In a wash of water driven through the windows by high winds lay broken furniture, gutted mattresses, fragments of glass and crockery, withered pot-plants, sodden bedding and carpeting. A paste of cake flour, breakfast cereal, sugar, cat litter and earth stuck to his shoes. In the kitchen the refrigerator lay on its face, its motor still purring, a yellow scum leaking past its hinges into the half-inch of water on the tiled floor. Rows of jars had been swept off the shelves; there was a reek of wine. On the gleaming white walls someone had written in oven cleaner: TO HEL.

What gets me is the “the half-inch” of water.