“Should we stay or should we go?”
The question drew a mark above their heads as they lay on their backs on the grass, hearts pounding, staring up at the blue sky and white clouds through the tops of the leafy trees, allowing nature to slow their panic, still their churning stomachs.
She hated being angry. Her defensive outburst at the woman (who was only trying to protect the little ‘uns like any good swinging jobsworth) left her rattled. She felt sick – with herself, with the woman, with him, with everything.
He held her hand, then propped himself up on one elbow so he could look at her green eyes. He knew there were problems greater then this latest slapstick mistake. He was more intuitive than he let on, but chose not to acknowledge the situation, playing the ostrich move of hoping problems would fade away. Was it cowardice, naivety or wishful thinking? “Is there something wrong with us?” he said.
A part of her wanted to say ‘just you’, but she didn’t. She knew he felt lost, confused, same as her. She sighed. “No, we just fuck things up,” she said. “Sometimes.”
She felt the warmth of his hand in the cool breeze and looked him up and down. It made her jump. “Jesus, still? Is there something wrong with you? Have you blue pilled?”
“No,” he said and smiled. “It’s just you.”
SHE WAS JUST GLAD HE WASN’T HOLDING A PITCHFORK AND BURNING TORCH
“You went the wrong way didn’t you?”
The First Naked Man™ appeared again, this time wearing a cowboy hat and Ray-Ban Aviators. He was smoking a spliff and drawled with the nonchalance of a French Left-Banker. They didn’t know how long he’d been standing there.
“There are different groups here, not everyone hangs out the same way,” the man said. “Suppose should have warned you, but y’know…” He shrugged and smiled broadly.
“I guess we’re new at the game,” she said. After their briefless encounter, the naked stoner’s laid back casualness brought a calming vibe. Or maybe she was just glad he wasn’t holding a pitchfork and burning torch.
The stoner proffered the joint. She shook her head, but he gratefully accepted it. It surprised her; a shiver of irritation clenched her jaw. Was he really trying to act cool? Why couldn’t she?
“Thanks man,” he said. He hadn’t had a drag in years, but if this was going to be one of those days, what the hell?
“Yeaaah, we’ve got a thing going on tonight,” said the dude. He pointed to the left through the trees. “Just follow your nose and you’ll find us. We’re getting a fire going, there’ll be music, dancing…”
The dude nodded as though another conversation was going through his head, arched his back and breathed in. “Good times. Y’know?”
IT SMELT OF PATCHOULI OIL AND WET DOG
They walked through the trees to the left of their tent, following the curve of the lake as the orange glow of dusk slowly darkened. Shadows of branches flickered as tendrils over their glowing pale skin.
The red glimmers of last sun were replaced by those of the blazing campfire as they approached. The sounds of strumming guitar, laughter and bongos floated with the breeze. It was all going on. It smelt of patchouli oil and wet dog.
The reaction was warmer this time. First Naked Man™ greeted them and introduced his crew. There were about twenty in the group, sleeping in expensive yurts encircling the central bonfire of the mini-festival.
In new situations, she often used music, played by an imaginary backing band, to frame them in her mind. It helped centre and relax her, a security method developed over the years. If the Family Friendly was ‘A Summer Place’ by Percy Faith, then this was The Doors. Man.
“I’m Dedaleus,” said Naked Man, stretching arms wide. “This is our happening.”
And it freaks me out, he thought, finishing the line in his head. It was a quote from ‘Beyond The Valley of the Dolls’, repeated in ‘Austin Powers’ as kitsch tribute. It made him feel safer, knowing something at last.
The little burst of confidence helped him take stock of the setting with clearer eyes. He noticed there was a gas canister close to the fire. That’s a disaster waiting to happen, he thought. He considered mentioning it, but didn’t want to be one of those guys. He also didn’t want to risk getting grease on his cock solving the problem.
“He’s Del, really,” whispered a wide eyed twenty-something with a pert nose and flowers in her hair. “I’m Sun Child.”
Her real name was Sara, but they’d adopted alternative monikers for a couple of days. They were all from an accountancy firm (Davis, Davies & Davison) and the naturist getaway was the latest of their bi-annual team-building excursions.
“We were wracking our brains to come up with something new,” said Dedaleus/Derek. “Kinda done the usual suspects. Hike up Snowden, parachute jump, murder mystery weekend, Ferrari vs Lambos on the track…”
“I won that one,” piped up Leaf (a.k.a. Bernie). “So I got to choose. And I thought, hey, y’know, let’s get naked.”
They’d really thrown themselves into the experience, paying top dollar for luxury yurts, chef-prepared vegetarian lentil dishes, top-quality grass and Appalachian-style moonshine. They’d even rented three vintage VW hippie-mobiles to chauffeur them there and back.
“I didn’t shave for a month,” said Sun Child Sara. “But I couldn’t really get hairy enough. So I got these.” She pointed to the black furry hamsters under her arms and between her legs. “They’re stick on.”
The insanely hirsute Sara Sun Child’s exotic charm was slightly diluted by the revelation. He wasn’t sure if he was disappointed or not. He checked himself subtly and was glad he wasn’t showing reaction either way.
“You got these too?” said Sara, waving at her.
“Uh, no, I haven’t,” she said. A flush of embarrasment came over and she was glad to be proffered a clear bottle of the moonshine. She took a swig. The liquor burned, but the heat in her chest overtook the one in her cheeks. She passed the bottle on.
“Oh, you mean you’re one of the ‘real’ ones?” said Sara.
The perky secretary kept on talking, but the words seemed to blur. Was the alcohol strong enough to deafen? She struggled to focus, as the gaggle of voices were all aiming towards them. Was she deliberately blanking the meaning, just letting the words buzz in the air, to be ignored or swatted away? Then she realised she couldn’t let it go.
“You want us to what?”