Wednesday, 30 March 2011
Saturday, 12 March 2011
Wild Life 11
The long haired visitor turned to face the rude intruder, already certain he knew who was watching from the open doorway of Andrella’s bedroom. Sure enough, C.C., his next door neighbour– who lived a mile away from his forest home, a hundred leagues distant - leaned against the doorjamb with a vacant, opiate-hazed expression on his hangdog features. The lanky man sported tattered shorts and a ragged pair of thongs (antipodean parlance for rubber flip-flops) and wore a stripy beach towel slung over one shoulder.
The hippy reached across the young woman’s body to cover her nakedness with a corner of the scrunched up doona and frowned at C.C.. The other man uncrossed his arms and cleared his throat, apparently oblivious to the unspoken censure in Ram’s stony expression. Yet his words belied that assumption while his pinned eyes explored an uncovered swathe of Andrella’s alluring anatomy.; “Sorry,” the obviously unrepentant visitor said. “I couldn’t wait no more. I need to use the loo.”
Ram glared in speechless outrage for a few seconds. He tucked the doona across his sleepy lover’s breasts as she slowly turned toward the doorway. He was puzzled by the accusatory frown that flitted across her patrician features when her eyes swivelled toward him. “No,” she said to C.C. without meeting Ram’s gaze, “I’m sorry – I should have shown you where everything is.”
“That’s okay – I already know,” C.C. said through a lopsided grin. “See you in a bit.” He turned away but his eyes remained affixed to the slender woman as she slipped from beneath the doona and slid across the wide bed to reach for her ciggies. “Uh - mind if I have a smoke?” he asked. She tapped a white cylinder from the pack and tossed the remainder toward the doorway. The colourful cardboard box bounced off C.C.’s chest and fell onto the carpeted floor at his feet while she flicked the wheel of a cigarette lighter. His gaze stayed on her breasts while he bent to retrieve the pack. “Thanks for everything.”
“Don’t mention it,” she replied, meeting his stare with unabashed aplomb. “Have a good shower.” C.C. slowly retreated through the door as she slipped across the bed.
“Uh,” her uncharacteristically speechless lover grunted. “Um…” Andrella’s cool air of sex-slaked ease was transformed by sparks that ignited behind her eyes. “Why didn’t you tell me he was out there all this time?” she demanded.
“Uh… I was sure he’d be gone by now… I told him not to bother you… us…” Ram’yana was infuriated - not by the indisputable fact that his smack freak neighbour had been watching them make love without announcing his presence, but because the obtuse man had broken his promise not to approach Andrella’s door; he’d obviously introduced himself to the winsome young redhead in Ram’s absence.
“You should have told me they were out there,” she said through a blast of tobacco fumes. Her voice was curiously emotionless. “How could you let them both sleep out on the street in a car all this time?”
“I had nothing to do with it,” he replied, trying to stop the consternation he felt from making him sound defensive. “I thought they’d get a room.” He reached toward Andrella’s hip and gently caressed her taut tanned skin while she stared back impassively. “He promised they’d…”
Andrella cut him off and reached for a heavy glass ashtray. “He turned up here last night before you came back. He said he was with you and that the police were hassling him. So I made him something to eat and let him make a few phone calls. Why didn’t you tell me about him – or them?”
“I didn’t think there was any need…”
“He said he’d given you a lift down here and then you just abandoned him…” She flicked ash into the glass tray and crossed her legs beneath the quilt. “…That you dumped him on the street when you bought your new van.”
“It’s hardly new,” he sputtered, “and I didn’t abandon him. He just gave me a lift. I told him I didn’t have anywhere for him to stay down here.” He berated himself for the note of entreaty that crept into his voice and consciously deepened his tone. “He was coming here anyway, and he said he’d be all right…”
“Out on the street? Had I known I would have let him sleep on the lounge.”
“He has another friend with him… and they both, uh… have a habit…”
“I don’t care about that. They both could have stayed here. What kind of person do you think I am?” She drew a lungful of smoke and exhaled over his shoulder. “You didn’t have to lie to me.”
“Lie to you? I never…”
“You should have told me. You lied by omission.” He was about to object when a realisation rendered him dumbstruck; he’d also omitted telling her of the other, younger redhead he’d taken home from the gig the previous night – the one he’d kissed farewell before returning to Andrella’s comfortable bed and comforting arms. Seheal… “Uh…”
Andrella’s eyes flickered away. She stared out the window with an utterly neutral expression. “This can’t go on,” she said. “I was meaning to tell you, but now…”
“So you don’t want to come up north tonight anymore? You said you were coming, and we…”
“I changed my mind,” she snapped, cutting him off. She was closer to losing her temper than he’d ever seen her in the brief time they’d spent together. “Besides, you didn’t really seem keen on taking me with you.” He stroked the bony ridges of her long lean back, surprised at the tension that flexed through her body after their extended lovemaking.
“But I was.”
“You were. Past tense. So was I. Now we’re not.” She shucked free of his touch and clattered the ashtray onto her dresser while the toilet’s flush resounded from the bathroom. Ram’s mind spun in a muddied groove seeking traction before realisation abruptly struck: Now there’ll be no problem taking Seheal… He watched Andrella’s breasts jiggle as he considered the sudden turn of events, and even as his voice began to automatically object to her judgement he realised he’d been released from an insoluble conundrum. “It’s just…” he began, “you didn’t really seem all that keen when you said you had to be back by Tuesday… and it’s Saturday today…”
“I could have flown back, or caught the train. But that’s neither here nor there,” she said, turning to face him squarely. “It’s over.” Her eyes glistened within the hardening set of her adamantine stare as their gazes locked. Her scent was distractingly alluring, and despite the strenuous exercise they’d both shared so recently he felt a familiar sensation stirring beneath the coverlet. So beautiful…
“You haven’t been honest with me,” she accused while her sight fell upon the betraying bulge that began to lift the quilt.
“I never lied to you about anything,” he said, trying not to squirm at the lovely young woman’s accusation and fain to hide his arousal from her gaze.
“You haven’t been honest with me. It’s the same thing.”
“But I have…” his voice trailed away as he watched a frown tug her kissable lips downward. “Andrella, I…” The muffled sound of streaming water was an unwelcome reminder of C.C.’s presence and impending return. “We’d better get dressed,” she said, slinging slender brown legs off the bed. “You have to be going soon to see your daughter, anyway.”
A glance at the bedside clock told him she was right. “All right,” he replied, “but first let me tell you…”
“I’m sorry, Ram,” she said as she swung her legs from the bed. “It was great while it lasted.” The shaman watched her don a robe while an image of Seheal’s smiling face began to swim before his eyes. How could I tell her about Seheal? He felt a twinge of dismay at the scarcely avoidable sin of omission and watched the young woman brush tangles from her long orange hair.
While he admired the slender curve of her spine, the triangular blades of her shoulders and the trim bulges of her delectable derrière he began to consider his timely good fortune; the wondrous way in which the entire world seemed to spin to match the course of his will, delivering choicest benisons into his waiting hands - and into his heart, lips and lap. For a brief moment he entertained a hoary old conundrum; Am I just dreaming all this? How can I know I’m really alive? An image of Seheal’s eyes flared in his mind in a seemingly instantaneous answer.
Over the years he’d become aware that if a happening which conformed to his will was truly meant to happen – was intended by all concerned or involved in an act or situation - it soon transpired with an absolute minimum of fuss. What he wished for most of all in this breathtakingly apt world was to live in the forest with a beautiful, wise and wondrous hippy girl, and his heart, mind and loins all assured him that Seheal was The One. A vision of her turquoise eyes blazed in his mind while his sight followed Andrella’s svelte form. She stretched and yawned, displaying her withheld charms to his distracted gaze before selecting a dress from her wardrobe. “You’d better hurry,” she said. “You’ll be late.”
Seheal’s face dissolved, instantly replaced by a vision of his infant daughter.
They’d expected to be home well before dark. According to the detailed survey map they live only a few miles downstream – as the eagle flies - but the convoluted course of the rainforest waterway is the only easy path homeward, and its serpentine length doubles and redoubles the distance to their home. As sunset approaches it becomes obvious the lovers won’t be snuggling abed or beside the fireplace in their humble cabin tonight.
“I’ll keep you warm and cosy… and tuck you in tight,” Seheal assures him with stoned and sultry glee sparkling in her eyes. Windborne clouds scud high overhead; shape-shifting pink and mauve aerial jellyfish swimming through angling rods of westering sunlight in an infinite ocean of sky.
The base of the deep rainforest gorge has already grown dim in the shade of premature twilight. Individual trees and vines are obscured by a misty shroud that swiftly condenses from the cooling water-laden atmosphere. A chill breeze exhales down the creek as cold air cascades from forested hills and shady rock faces. Cuddling bodies press closer as uncomforting icy tendrils penetrate their skimpy summery clothing.
Unlike the rest of the volunteer survey team, the lovers have brought no bedding along. They’d been sure they’d be back in their old wooden shack before nightfall, as planned - but when the lackadaisically meandering group decided to call a halt to their trek they were still less than halfway home.
The shaman strokes his thin goatee and surveys the steeply sloping forested mountainsides rearing upward all around. “ ’Twould be warmer up there,” he opines as he relishes a whiff of Seheal’s sweet scent. “Under the canopy and away from the creek. And more private.” Her arm snakes around his waist. “If you like,” she agrees.
Almost everyone else is engaged in preparing a communal campsite on a narrow bench of flattish ground beside the rainforest creek. Mister and Mizz Pergola assemble a tent on a flat grassy ledge a few fathoms above the camp. Their nook overlooks the fire pit, where fitful flames are eagerly fed with crumbly rainforest wood by a trio of teenage boys. “That stuff won’t burn,” Uncle John tells them. “You need to go up much higher and grab some eucalypt branches before it gets any darker.”
Joel squints upslope. “That’s a long way.”
“Yeah, but when we get up there we can chuck the wood down,” Paul reminds him. “Hurry up,” his uncle insists. “But take care, now – we don’t want to have to carry you out of here.”
“We’ll help.” Seheal tugs at Ram’s sleeve, pulling him away from the water’s edge. “And we can look for somewhere to make a humpy. Or at least a bed,” she says as her lips touch his sideburn. Paul barely restrains a laugh and pushes past the younger boy to lead the way upward. “A humpy,” he sniggers as he elbows Joel’s ribs.
“Hi,” the third youth says as he passes the lovers. Much more taciturn and withdrawn than his ebullient friends, he’s so quiet that the hippies still haven’t caught his name. They follow the scampering adolescents into darkening heights beneath the penumbral canopy, climbing a deceptively shallow slope that rapidly steepens until they’re helping each other clamber up huge, damp, tumbled boulders thinly plastered with slippery layers of half rotted mulch.
Seheal is hampered by her well stuffed string bag and the floral dress impedes her as she struggles to keep up with the sextet of smooth tanned leg muscles that precede her ascent. She hoists her hem upward and her lover watches milky white calves and sleek firm thighs stretch and contract; her silky skin pimples with cold as she clambers above him. The girl is obviously intent on showing the disparaging younger teens her indomitable mettle but the boys easily outpace the lovers and soon disappear into tenebrous caverns of twilit forest.
“Oh!” Seheal cries, tottering on a teetering rock. The shaman arrests her incipient slide down a deceptive slope with a grip that stretches all the way around her minuscule waist. He turns her about by elbow and hip and steadies her inconsequential weight on the unstable boulder just before she tumbles down onto an indistinct jumble of mossy rocks in the gloom far below.
Seheal takes advantage of the timely pause and breathtaking view to plant a kiss on his bristly jaw. “How can I ever repay you?” she asks with a sly knowing smile, standing on tiptoes to whet his lips with her tongue. The cotton roses that veil her pudenda bounce against his groin while fragrant breath pours into his mouth.
“I’m sure we’ll find a way…” Their kiss is a timeless rush of molten joy.
“Looks like the ground gets flatter up ahead,” she says as his hands grip her hips. “See?” She tilts her head toward a barely discernible track and shields her eyes as a flurry of mouldy twigs and musty plants rains down into her curly red locks. Cascading leaf debris pours from above, where scuffling sounds and short sharp cries indicate the ascending course taken by the three younger teens. “Come on…”
They traverse an incline to escape falling detritus and a moment later a clatter of fist-sized stones tumbles onto the boulder they’d just vacated, bouncing on down into unseen depths. The ‘flatter ground’ proves to be a narrow, mossy, rocky ledge and they crouch together on its crumbly lip, clasping each other while they lean over the edge to gain a view of the camp. A dim patch of blue gleams far below, where the Pergolas have erected their bright plastic tent beside a small kero lantern. A fire shimmers even further down, on the lowest tread of the stony Brobdignagian staircase that tumbles into the silvery, serpentine thread of Little Wonder Creek.
Plosive sounds of shattering timber and crackling flames echo through the narrow gorge, accompanying indistinct snatches of conversation that arise from the valley floor. A discrete plume of smoke lofts a handful of yards above the distant flames before abruptly turning a perfect right angle to pour downstream and follow the creek. Scents of wood smoke and scorching meat waft upward, wassailing the heavens. “This is too small to make a safe bed,” Ram observes. “We could easily roll off the edge in the dark.”
“I’ll hold onto you,” Seheal insists. “I won’t let you roll off me.” Her kiss is a gentle caress of sliding silk as they cuddled on the edge of the lethal drop. “We wouldn’t want to land on their tent,” she murmurs into his long tangled hair. “I don’t think they approve of me.”
“It’s me they don’t approve of,” her lover demurs while he caresses the younger woman’s back through her thin dress. She drapes her arms over his shoulders and gently pulls him down onto his knees before her.
“They’re just jealous,” she says through a crooked smile. He’s unwilling to naysay her flattering comment by pointing out the obvious; most of their neighbours and colleagues regard him as a cradle snatcher at best - at worst, a paedophile preying on a girl they mistakenly believe to be illegally underage. Nonetheless, he knows she’s correct; obvious signs are writ across the faces of all his peers whenever they chance to regard Seheal’s indisputable charms.
The athletic girl pulls him down atop her and her leg straddles his shoulder and bounces against the side of his head. His hand slips up inside the handy rent in her dress to stroke the ultrasoft skin of her breast while he kisses her silken inner thigh. Seheal’s sheer surfaces are always mesmerising tactile revelations; utterly addictive and totally absorbing.
Sunset tinges the whole wide world with rosy hues while her fingers glide through his long dark hair. A warning cry from above adds a human cacophony to the smattering of exotic birdcalls. “Look out below!”
They twist apart to watch a thick grey branch smash through vines and branchlets en route to the valley floor, followed by a tumbling jumble of smaller brown sticks that clatter across the boulder they’d earlier vacated.
“Hey! Be careful up there!” Mr Pergola’s bearded face emerges from the prism-shaped plastic tent in the distance, shouting through a descending flurry of twisting leaves. His scowl is barely discernible when he spies the lovers perched on the edge of the ledge far above. “Wasn’t us!” Seheal yells, bouncing up onto both bare feet on the edge of the drop. The older man’s scowl deepens into a fully fledged frown. He squints up her dress for a brace of seconds before retreating back inside the skimpy protection of the two person tent.
“See?” Seheal says, offering her man a hand up. “It’s me he doesn’t like. Maybe we’d better find some wood and climb back down before it gets too dark.”
“I don’t see any gum trees here,” he tells her as another broken log falls past them and shatters against the stony defile a goodly distance from the tent below. “We’d better hurry - it’s almost too dark to see.”
“Oh, look!” she cries, squeezing his hand. “They’re so beautiful!” Flickering pinpoints of blue-white light appear amidst the gathering darkness, floating and dancing slowly downstream to follow the course of the little winding river. The lights form an aerial current that frolics and flows through the cooling eventide atmosphere, hovering above the tightly channelled stream of Little Wonder. “Look, there’s more of them!” She squeals with delight as another stream of fairy lights pours down a nearby gap in the hillside to join the jostling torrent. “I’ve only ever seen them once before, up at Aeon’s place – I didn’t know we had them here!”
They watch spellbound as the trickle of lights swells into a dancing swarm of close constellations. “They’re at our place, too,” he breathes into her ear, “but they must come out earlier in the season way up here in the deeper forest.”
“The friends of the fairies… they say all the ones you can see are male,” Seheal whispers with a tone of reverential awe as she leans into Ram’s embrace. “Just like birds – the showy ones are usually males. Ooh! They’re here!” She reaches out toward a firefly that strays along the ledge where they balance enthralled, and against all blind odds it alights on her upraised palm. “Greetings, wee one,” she whispers as she brings the tiny insect closer to her face; a narrow little fly whose thorax flashes on and off with a regular rhythm.
“Which of you is Tinkerbell?” he asks. “You or the firefly?” Seheal’s eyes widen and twin reflections of tiny stroboscopes blink blue-white Morse messages inside the windows of her soul.
“Thanks for lighting our way.” As her breath wafts over the fascinating insect it arises from the rapt girl’s hand and flitters about her face before rejoining the slowly gathering waterfall of light that meanders down the defile. Her pixyish features beam in the gloaming as she nods in time with its wavering sine wave flight.
A starfield of fireflies mimics faraway pinpoints that begin to twinkle through a cleft in the cliff-broken canopy. “We’d better get cracking,” she decides with a sigh. “And I guess you’re right. It’s too steep to sleep up here.”
They have little luck finding combustible wood; even the drier, more desiccated rainforest timbers that litter the slope are unsuitable for burning. They barely manage to climb back down the cliffside before night enshrouds the gorge. Its shadowy features are only fitfully delineated by the extraordinary insectile display. Fingers of firelight illumine their cautious barefoot tread as they approach the base of the slope.
“This looks like Brushbox,” John informs the boys when they reach the mass of broken wood that’s preceded their descent to the camp. “It should be okay. But that white pulpy wood won’t burn even if you pour kero over it all night.”
“Brushbox will burn if it’s dry,” Jim advises as he leans down over John’s shoulder to inspect the dark reddish wood, almost precisely the hue of animal flesh. A smelly kerosene lantern throws yellowy light across his craggy profile as he passes a paper bag to the boys. “Looks like we have enough to last a few hours. Here, have some peanuts to keep you going. Dinner will be ready in a while.”
“It’s wood, isn’t it?” the anonymous lad asks in a wheedling voice. “So why won’t it burn?”
“Give it a try and see for yourself,” Jim replies. “If you take a look around in the morning you’ll see there’s no sign of any fire ever having burned around here – no burnt stumps or charred old logs, like you saw further back up the mountain. You can’t get this kind of forest to burn at all, but you’re welcome to give it a try. But don’t use too much; it’ll only smoulder and slow down the fire.”
Seheal leads her beau to the shallow stone-lined pit whose flaming warmth beckons their cooling bones. They squat beside Fig’s lanky frame and stare into the flames. “You two gonna be alright?” he asks without looking up from a bubbling billy filled with rice and beans. “It gets pretty chilly out here at night.”
“We have some spare clothes – and we’ll keep each other warm,” Seheal assures the academically celebrated environmentalist. Fig bestows an indulgent smile on the teenaged girl and bends to stir the pot.
“No doubt. You didn’t bring any bedding, did you? I’ll see if there’s anything spare. And you’d both better have some of this when it’s ready.”
“Are you sure there’s enough?” she asks.
“Plenty,” the botanist says with a nod toward a much larger pot that stands ready beside him. “But that’s a meat stew. You’re both vegos, aren’t you?”
Seheal squints at the pot. “We have some fruit and scrumpy,” she says. “We’ll be fine.”
“You can share some of this,” Fig repeats. “Nothing particularly flavoursome, but there’s no meat in it. It’ll be ready soon. You found yourselves a campsite yet?”
“Thanks – no, not yet,” replies Ram.
“Well you’d better get something together before it gets any darker. Good luck. There’s sweet fuck all in the way of grass down here to make soft bedding. This’ll be ready in about ten minutes.”
“Thanks,” says Seheal. “See you soon.” They climb to their feet and turn their backs to the fire, soaking in the heat while their eyes grow accustomed to the darkness. “Let’s take a look downstream – there’s bound to be somewhere flatter than this where the ground’s really soft and mulchy. We’ll be okay.”
They follow another procession of glittering fireflies, skirting the edge of the burbling stream that’s progressively constrained between narrowing walls of towering stone. Stars and fireflies provide scant illumination and they’re soon bending down to inspect likely spots by touch alone. “Hmm,” Ram murmurs after a few minutes of fruitless search in the wan fringes of distant lamplight and flickering flames. He flicks a disposable lighter on to examine a likely bower and they watch a handful of small slimy leeches stand on their ends in search of the sudden influx of blood temperature warmth.
The few easily accessible campsites are already occupied by swags or sleeping bags. Every remaining flat spot in easy reach proves unsuitable, covered with uncomfortable rocks or smothered in slimy damp excrescences. “Maybe we could borrow the lantern.”
“There’s a spot!” Seheal’s pearlescent teeth and gleaming eyes flash in a smattering of orangey light as she pulls him from darkened cavities beneath faraway canopies. “Where?” he asks, searching the barely discernible rocky banks for a comforting place. “That flat stone over there.” She points toward the river and he sees the rock she’s referring to – a flat-topped boulder that stands in the centre of a broad shallow pool, apparently accessible via a dry route across a huge tumbled log and a smattering of stepping stones.
“Let’s take a look,” she says. “If nothing else we can sit on it and roll a smoke away from the boys. I feel like a joint.” She squeezes his knuckles inside her small hand and strokes his fingers suggestively. “Or two.”
A True Story
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