“You know. Get down and groovy. Put on a show. You’re the real thing right? You’re not actors.”
Yeah, they really were saying it. “You want us to fuck? In front of you? Here?”
There was a muttering of agreement around the fire. “That’d be cosmic dudes. Just like the good old days.”
She could feel a discomfort rising, irritation hardening her.
“Earth Mother was actually around in the Sixties,” said Bernie Leaf, pointing to a silver-haired woman on the other side of the fire with sags deep enough to hang coats. “We said she didn’t have to come on this one, but she really wanted to.”
Earth Mother (Doreen) was staring at the outsiders intently. “We all fucked anything back then,” the silver badger said.
“You wouldn’t be the only ones,” said Dedaleus Del. He was swaying around the fire holding the moonshine bottle now, rubbing himself against Sun Child Sara in an affectation of flower-power dancing.
“I’m a married man,” said Del. “But monogamy is for morons. No-one gets ahead with the same person their whole lives, right?” He swung his arms and gut-rot meths splashed freely over the both of them.
“I’ve got a boyfriend,” said Sara. “But he’s not here and we’ve only got one life. That’s what free love means doesn’t it?”
“My husband died ten years ago,” said Earth Mother Doreen. “I’m up for anything.”
He was passed a spliff and took a long drag, glad of the chance to take stock of the twisting scenario they now found themselves in.
In some ways it was a fantasy come true, he mused, but like so many dream scenarios better off staying that way. He loved outdoor sex, but somehow performing in front of this braying audience of salivating wannabes sucked fun in all the wrong ways. Reality blew chunks sometimes.
It reminded him of those parties where everyone is desperately screaming about how-much-of-a-good-time-they-were-all-having and weren’t-they-all-just-so-wild-and-crazy. But they weren’t. Freedom didn’t have to shouted about. They were free to enjoy it however they liked. Weren’t they?
He coughed, eyes watering from the strong herb and the firesmoke. He flicked it away, aiming for the fire, but missed. Ah, well. He didn’t notice the embers catch on a packet of liquorice papers.
He looked across at her. She wasn’t saying anything, but he could feel her anger grow hotter than the burning wood.
THIS WASN’T SIXTIES PEACE AND LOVE, IT WAS A SEVENTIES KEY PARTY WITH EXTRA DESPERATION
The murmuring grew amongst the cosplaying accountants. “It’s natural, like watching foxes on Animalwatch…”
She sat and listened to the cajoling, trying to stop her body from shaking. She hated being the centre of attention anytime, let alone after such a day of nerves being cosmically tested. This wasn’t Sixties peace and love, it was a Seventies key party with extra desperation.
She felt a hand on her shoulder and it wasn’t his. Final straw. She lashed out and pushed the arm away. Standing up straight, proud, defiant, strengthened by her partner rising beside her, albeit slower from dope creep. She worked to control her anger, be clear in the message. “Fuck. The. Fuck. Off.”
The arm belonged to Bernie. “Whoah, chill dudette,” said the middle-manager. “We’re only after a good time.”
Then the chaos came. A once in a red moon dervish of pratfall incompetence they would replay in slow motion for years and still never work out how it really happened.
Bernie’s legs were unsteady from too much grass and ‘shine and he couldn’t stop them rollicking of their own accord. His feet kicked up the flaming Rizla packet and he yelped with high-pitched shock, reeled around and knocked into Del and Sara.
The blazing papers floated into the air and landed on Sara’s leg, a deranged firefly igniting the toxic meths sheening her naked skin. The flash rushed up her body, catching on the faux-bush lining her groin. Her shriek burst drums.
Presumably, Del was spaced enough to think he was drinking water and threw more gut-rot at the fiery pussy. At the same time, he slipped backwards and landed on the gas canister, sending it rolling into the fire. The explosion sent wood flying in all directions, sizzling debris scattering the party posse into panicked confusion.
“Time to leave,” he said.
“You!” The yell somehow pierced the shrieking. They turned to see Earth Mother through the flames. Moved from her seat by the erupting volcano, she was standing still amongst the rushing youngerlings and staring daggers.
The white witch opened her mouth and pointed at the errant couple a la Donald Sutherland in the freeze frame ending of ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’. An unholy howl came out of her stained mouth. “Demons!”
They fled, running back down the path to their tent. Branches lashed at them in the dark, nettles stung and twigs whipped. The forest pulled every trick to slow them, but it wasn’t going to work. She stumbled and he grabbed her before she fell, pulling her along with intent.
They reached their camp and their minds were in unison. “Let’s hit the fucking road,” they said together.
They didn’t pause for the usual checklisting system. The tent was ripped out the ground. Bags of clothes and boxes of food were all thrown into the back of the van with desperate abandon. The screams echoing across from the glowing treeline spurred them on. They didn’t bother combing the site for leftovers, new sets could always be bought if they were missed. Nothing was going to keep them.
They pulled away from the site at speed, too late to write in the visitor’s book and they didn’t feel like leaving their details. Their hearts were still pounding when they reached the resort entrance, swinging into the main road and the relief of civilisation. Without warning, he braked and pulled the van sharply to the side of the road, tyres grinding mud to a halt.
“Jesus Fuck, what is it?” She was startled – the last thing they needed was to crash now.
He turned off the ignition and slowly turned to look at her. “We’re still naked,” he said.
LOVE TOOK WORK, PERSERVERANCE, LOYALTY AND RESPECT
They began to laugh and their chuckles grew more hysterical. The day’s fear, discomfort and tumultuous emotions flooded out of them in tears of happy relief.
They kept on giggling as clothes were hastily grabbed from the back of the van. He pulled on jeans, commando style and a T-shirt. She dressed in shorts and her favourite old striped jumper. Neither bothered with shoes.
He started up the engine and ‘The Flying Burrito Brothers’ came on the stereo. “Haven’t heard this for years,” he said, beginning to hum softly. “Well, it’s happened before, well, I never dreamed, it could happen with her, all the same old scenes…”
Wrapped in her comfort blanket she snuggled up next to him as they drove home, head resting on his shoulder. Her mind drifted back over the hours and further to a place of gentle introspection.
The faux-hippies were wrong. Love wasn’t free. After the initial lustful glow, love took work, perserverance, loyalty and respect. True love wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. Those who sneered at monogamy would never appreciate the bond it provided.
Love was more than possession too. They were equals – strengths and weaknesses complemented each other. She knew couples who wore their partner as a status symbol, but valued them less than a Rolex or BMW. Lewd displays of public fingers and innuendo only showed an ingrained lack of respect, compliments tipping into humiliation. Love was the stripping away of the ego, wanting the best for your partner, caring for someone more than you care for yourself.
They weren’t repressed, far from it. They were survivors.
You got on with life, appreciated the small moments amidst the storms, enjoyed the priceless smiles. The trip would bring more of those in the months ahead. They had new stories to tell, in-jokes told in glances.
She closed her eyes and let herself be carried away with the dulcet tones of Gram Parsons over the engine thrum. She thought of planning future private ‘Naked Days’ around the homestead and a smile broadened.
If this story was a movie, here’s the compilation album, retrieved from the bargain bin in Woolworths. Listen while reading, or float away on your own adventure…