out every Friday

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Act two  Chapter seventeen

Multiple Worlds

-‘Maybe you’re not a real man if you don’t act that way..’-

 -‘Shut up and stay quiet Danny.’- said Maxie. Elbowing her brother in the ribs. –‘I’m just explaining for Macker, now don’t be slagging me off.’-

Maxie, Danny and Macker sat on the floor, leaning against the steamy side wall of the muggy greenhouse. Sharing a long bottle of cold beer in the half dark. And waiting. Maxie had arranged and double checked everything. But the Mexicans were running late.

On the monitor they could see a rather dark image of a big family type audience watching a film. Sitting on lines of foldaway chairs, under trees in a dimly lit public square. They were watching the same -‘Shit on Me, Shame on You.’- film we all knew off by heart. It was the last part, with CLAN groups setting up the ‘Shit-On’ ambush on a boss, a patriarch and a politician.

-‘Hey look now they’re really getting into it.’-

Maxie pointed at the audience. Half the crowd were on their feet, cheering, laughing or shaking fists. It seemed the dubbing worked anyway.

In the middle of the Greenhouse sat Maggie and Lucia on a green sofa under the big fan, facing the little camera. Maxie and Maggie had dressed blouses, and looked respectable in long wrap around velvet skirts from the free shop. In Ragwort you could wear anything, or even nothing at all, but we didn’t want to shock our online Mexican friends, with see-through summery Earth gear.

Barney, when he arrived, wore decent long shorts, in place of his customary pocket-belt and cut off tights. Maggie had her red hair up, displaying her long neck and fabulous goddess tattoo. Lucia was wearing lipstick and make-up, with spiraling ultramarine earrings.

-‘I’m dribbling sweat under that light. Can’t we open a window?’-  Maggie grumbled.

-‘And let in those vampire mosquitoes? No way baby.’-

-‘They will make a fiesta after, with food and dancing in the square.’-

-‘Good. This should be short and sweet then. The video’s finishing now, in a minute we’ll be on. But why do I get nervous? It’s just an on line chat.’-  said Maggie.

-‘Me too I have always some butterflies in public.’- said Lucia. –‘Is that Moonbeam?’-

She was pointing back and up at the slide screen that Danny had set up behind. He was projecting a stock selection of Ragwort Pool photos, it would be a randomly illustrated interview. Maggie had paused the slide-show, pulling back her headphones.

-‘Yes yes that’s Moonie and her friends in the Adventure Playground.’-

Just at that moment the door opened and Moonbeam’s real curly head appeared. She was carried by Bernie who tip toed in.

-‘Moonie woke up again and started roaring.’-  she whispered.

-‘We’re just going to start, go round the back.’- said Maggie. –‘Don’t you want to be in this Maxie?’-

-‘Um, well, I’ll come in if you need me okay, and you Bernie?’-

-‘Okay why not! But am I dressed okay?’-

She put down Moonbeam and buttoned up her Earth-style waistcoat, covering her fashionable spoon-bra which might be shocking to foreigners, with those comfortable nipple windows.

Moonie ran into Maxie’s arms where she sat against the wall, treading her clean skirt with her wet shoes.

-‘Hey, ow, shit.’- She brushed at the skirt. -‘Why are your feet wet?’-

-‘Macka Macka Macka.’- she shouted.

-‘Shhh shhh, Maggie’s going on the telly now.’- said Maxie. Rolling Moonie into her long skirt. –‘Shh, shh now tranki panki.’- As she struggled to get to her friend Macker.

-‘Okay your mikes are working right, you’re on their screen, okay.’- said Danny. –‘Looks not bad.’-

-’Look at the picture Moonie. Oh it changed.’-

Macker was sitting with Maxie on the floor to watch, and she opening a fresh beer.

His hands transformed into a friendly feline which hopped onto Moonie.

-‘Hello Moonie I’m a pussy, look,  just sit quiet, shush now and relax.’-

Macker yawned again, as his hands played with Moonbeam. He could smell his own sweat, and Moonie, smelling of milk. He thought he caught Maxie’s special sexy smell and sniffed her neck. Chuckled and moaned, and gave her a clumsy kiss on the cheek.

She started rubbing her head up against him, murmuring like a sensuous cat.

-‘Check okay. Three.. two.. one.. You’re on.’-

-‘Hello I’m Maggie here to answer questions..We hope you liked our film. This is Lucia Perez in person, from Women’s Rescue…’-

Lucia was on her feet translating. Then throwing up her elbows and embracing the camera. It seemed she knew one of the women who’d appeared on the screen, sitting on fold up chairs, on the low stage facing the crowd.      ref 11.Feminist anarchism. Anti patriarchy

-‘Rosana says they are inspired with your revolution. They ask about this place here..’- she said finally in English.

-‘This is a big greenhouse we built, or really we moved it here, in the yard behind the house, just now it’s a studio and night class center or…. ’-

-‘They ask if you pay rent.‘-

Lucita, as they called her, was going fast. Facing the camera. Fanning herself with her notes.

-‘No no, this is Ragwort Pool, um. We have about more than three thousand houses and flats plus er… It’s mostly occupied now so we don’t have to pay. But we have to repair it or the water comes in. Usually it is raining a lot and very windy because…’-

Lucia translated in rapid Spanish. Barney had come in with Sol, who got his video camera going, and they stood behind.

Macker was watching the monitor intently, a surprisingly clear picture. Their camera person was scanning the crowd., zooming in and out around the square.

Macker stared fascinated, felt himself zoomed right into Papatlan.

A shadow of fever, sucking him into the early tropical night.

Old men slapping checkers on a veranda.

The picture stopped, he could see a barefoot street kid.  Sweat dripping in his eyes.. A skinny dog and a fat vulture .

Adjusting the headphones, hearing Rosana reply to Lucia, taking questions..

Macker too had lived on the streets.. just hoping to sell some gum and not get punished..

He tuned in to the background noise in the square. Shouts, echoes and faraway laughter..

Big bats  Diving round a dim street lamp..hunting moths and big tropical insects.

Now he could plainly pick out the cicadas, chanting in the trees.. And far off someone yelling. –‘No no no. ’-

-‘Look Maxie, behind the stage.’- Macker whispered in her ear, pointing.

Behind the seated delegates and families, two more kids with hanging trays. The bigger one was twisting the other’s arm, yanking his hair.

Maxie peered into the monitor as well.. but the children got blocked from view. She noticed Macker was shivering.

-‘You can’t be cold. Maybe you should be in bed.’- She felt his hot forehead.

-‘Looked like an Indian boy, the small one.’- Macker whispered, still staring –‘The sound is  different than over here.’-

Meanwhile Moonbeam had escaped them and run to Maggie, who was now introducing her, via Lucia, to half the town, and to many more viewers via Net TV.

-‘They ask for the father now.’-

Barney swept back his crazy hair, sniffed hard, and leaned into the camera range. Waving and grinning.

-‘The man’s opinion of this contra machista, anti-sexist film.’-        [ref.22c talk about sex.]

-‘Me, my opinion? Oh shit.’-  He squatted down in front of the couch. –‘Well um, these women are right of course, they, or we, really, don’t have to take that shit anymore. ‘-

He was glancing up at the monitor, realizing he wasn’t getting through.

-‘Can I ask the men down the back to come up to the camera a minute so I can talk to them? Lucy and Rosana, do you think I could talk to the men of the town?’-

-‘They are too shy! Come on. We do the man talk now. Ven. Todos delante de la cámara por favor! Algunos al menos, ven, rápido por aquí.. Ven ven. Come on at least a few of you. In front of the camera please.’-

Barney had sat on the floor, cross legged, between Maggie and Bernie.

Started bouncing Moonbeam on his knees.

-‘I don’t know much about where you live. I’m like an alien looking down a telescope from another planet. Can you see me as well?’-

-‘Si si, claro que si.. yes of course.’-

-‘I seen you fellas down the back and I seen you separated from the girls and just waiting for the party to start, am I right?’-

-‘I see you have leaders and obeyers. Even down to that six year old behind you, forced to sell chewing gum at night in the street.’-

There was a buzz. Someone turned to shoo away the street kids as the translation got through.

-‘So I suppose you would lose your woman all right’- Barney was nearly shouting but grinning widely -‘And I suppose all the girls would laugh at you, if you decided to stop these tricks.. These tricks that we use, not even thinking, to make them do what we want… Because the women also learn to play this game..

So they think maybe, if it’s like here, maybe you’re not a real man if you don’t act that way.’-

 

He’d grabbed their attention, nodding and waving his arms. Pausing for Lucita to translate amongst murmurs and laughter..

-‘That’s what happened to me and my girl friend left me and never came back!’-

Barney bowed and wagged his head, melodramatically.  ref 21b Fighting Patriarchy

-‘Awwwww…‘- went Maxie and Margaret, with Lucy and Bernie joining in. The Mexicans were all ears now. Just about to crack up laughing.

-‘But finally a lot of men really tried to change it, because it was a campaign we had here. We were all gonna do it see. So we all tried to stop this dirty trick for catching and controlling and…’- He stopped, it was too long.

-‘Just change your minds, all at the same time, that’s all you need to do.

Barney put his arm round Maggie, who accepted laughing and blushing.

Moonbeam was climbing on his shoulders, and thinking of leaping off his head.

-‘Maybe they’ll call you a sissy or a gay. Could be they’ll beat you up, how can I know? But , but we have to change this all together if not the same unfair games, grow like a cancer all over again.’-

Lucia was struggling with that translation. Maxie had leaned in to pick up Moonbeam, but Maggie caught her arm and she had to sit in with them. Pulling her skirt down firmly and nodding hello at the camera.

-‘This is Maxie Moon who lives here as well…’-

-‘Of course when the women understand you’re really trying to be just a, a humble warrior, then they’ll admire you all the more for it.’-

-‘That’s your delusion mate.’-  Maxie muttered through a fixed grin.

-‘So how do we get from A to B?’- asked Maggie helpfully.

-‘Now we got good ideas you saw on the film. So maybe we can do this for the first time in history. Maggie is setting that up right now so we can talk by the computer… That’s all I can say, thank you that’s all.’-

Lucia finished translating, arms wide and leaned to kiss Barney on both cheeks, patting down his awful hair a bit.

-‘Es un bombón.’- she said. -‘Barney is a sweetie.’-

Moonbeam was watching and decided to kiss him too, then Maggie and Bernie and finally Maxie as well.

-‘Seems like it really works.’- He was laughing and wiping his cheek.

-‘But now we have three or four new questions.’- said Lucia waving her arms.

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Act two   Chapter eighteen

Punky & Perky

-‘There’s a fierce lot of pairing off down here tonight.’-

Macker still sat against the wall, arms on his knees, half hearing the video exchange. Maxie and Moonie had joined the interview.

He was dropping in and out of a feverish sleep, his thoughts, dreams and daydreams blending together.

While the others talked with those meeting in Papatlan, he’d been staring at the big grainy screen, listened into the background sound, slipping right through into the sub tropical night. Peering about like a hunting cat, into the dark corners of the tree covered square.

Then in a blink he was into a separate dream.

His family, Tessa and Damien were with him and he remembered without surprise that he and they were all just little kids…

They were out on a job. Picking strawberries with their mother.

-‘Don’t be gobbling them all up now Damo!’-

-‘Put them in the basket.’-

He woke to cheering and clapping. His siblings vanished, replaced by a familiar rushing wave of guilty anguish for losing them, this time cut short, as he really woke, and remembered that now Maxie was looking after him.

Remembered that Barney now had a good plan, to get Damo and Tessa back again. Plus he knew where they were and would talk to them tomorrow!

Macker got a rush of happiness. No need now to punish himself!

Joining in the clapping, then yawning and gradually relaxing, as his breathing lengthened.

And very soon his eyes were closed, he drifted off again.

Maxie narrating

-‘We’ll be off to bed then, goodnight darling.’- said Maggie in my ear. -‘Your gorgeous friend Macker has nodded off.’-

She was giving me a long hug from behind, as I was trying to brush under the cabinets.

I twigged that she was really sad I had a man friend. She was actually jealous of him!

-‘He’s sweet but you’re sexy.- I grinned, leaning on my brush and wriggling in her arms.

She kissed my neck and laughed, as her hands slid in through the folds of my Sunday skirt.

Making me shiver with pleasure.

-‘Mmmm. Look at him. He should be in bed hours ago.’- I said. -‘Sure I’ll take him upstairs in a minute. I have a spare mattress for him.’-

Twisting in Maggie’s arms I found her lips kissing me.

-‘He’s a yummy fella, how lucky you are. I know I wouldn’t stick him in the spare bed.’- said Bernie, to my surprise.

-‘But we should all be snoring, hours ago.’- said Maggie, reluctantly letting me go.

I went on sweeping , while Sol arranged the tables and chairs, and Danny coiled a cable on his arm.

Lucia was whispering to Barney on the sofa, sitting much too close.

-‘We’ll just finish this off in two minutes.’-

I swept around Lucia who swung up her legs onto Barney’s lap, peering into his eyes from too near to focus.

Now it was me felt a surge of absurd jealousy and had to repress it.

I winked at Barney, who nodded and grinned.

Looking, to me, both squashed and unconvinced.

-‘Is that the wind?’- Something was flapping about madly above .

-‘Yeah’- said my big brother Danny –‘And they’re predicting a mini hurricane for tomorrow night. Yet it’s so bloody hot..’-

True enough, they said the climate change was coming faster than expected, restricting ships to port.

It was even hotter than usual in the conservatory.

Maggie finished stripping off her sweaty formal clothes; she couldn’t wait, and was ready to set off, undressed.

Maggie would always undress when she could, and enjoyed showing off her gorgeous plump body.

She grabbed Moonbeam who began struggling to escape from her arms.

-‘Shall I take her up.. if you like?’- Barney offered.

 -‘I’m okay she’ll be fine in a sec. Say night night, big kiss for Moonie.’-

-‘No no no no no no…’- she shrieked desperately. As they disappeared.

-‘Sweet dreams all.’-

-‘Poor old Maggie. Moonbeam’s wide awake again.’- said Bernie.

-‘And your daughter Josie? She don’t wake up?’- asked Sol.

-‘Sleeps like a badger in January. And anyway she has her own little partitioned room beside me, see, now we have the two houses joined together.’-

-‘I’m thinking maybe I sleep down here. Not with Barney.’- said Sol.

He nodded and we followed his gaze to where Lucia was leaving with her arm round Barney, still talking urgently.

-‘Maybe I am making a crowd of three.’-

-‘There’s Free-Uni night classes later on down here.’- said Bernie.

-‘Please can I sleep with you then?’-  Sol just asked her directly.

Bernie gulped with surprise and her eyes went wide. This guy was just not shy!

-‘Um, well, yeah I’ve got plenty of room.’- she came out with.

-‘Fabuloso’- said Sol –‘Let’s go. I am moving my bags.’-

Me and my brother Danny exchanged an open mouthed glance. I shushed him, slipping my hand over his mouth, before he could make a smart-alec comment.

Bernie, who had always been a strictly single mother, was now going up, with this Mexican playboy type, to share her one bed room.

-‘Must be the heat.’- Danny whispered. Stripping off his waistcoat. -‘There’s a fierce lot of pairing off going on down here tonight. Well I’m away then, night night Maxie, and have fun yourself!’-

 

-‘That’s more than clean enough.’- I said, when I finished, and stashed my brush. –‘Come on Macker wake up let’s get you to bed.’-

Of course I hadn’t even decided to make Macker my partner or lover or anything like that. I was looking after him that’s all.

But I hadn’t strongly rejected the comments people made, and I realized the others hoped I was ‘with’ him and were giving me a push.

Like Bernie saying ‘How lucky you are’ and Maggie’s jealous lingering embrace.

It’s true I didn’t feel so panicky with this boy. And I did get off on babying him. And…

-‘Come on Macker wake up now.’-

But Macker was off the planet, he didn’t budge an eyelid.

So I lifted his tired head and gently kissed him awake.

Feeling a wave of pleasure gushing through me.

-‘Maxie.’- he burbled in his dream, and started to kiss my mouth.

I burst into a nervous giggle and pulled away.

-‘Come on sleepyhead, let’s get you to bed.’-

 Shading his blinky eyes with my palms, I gave him one more kiss. Letting my tongue just glide behind his lips.

I noticed my bare nipples brushing on my horrible starched blouse, as I rubbed up against him.

My breathing had stopped, a hot tingle rushed between my legs.

-‘Umm more!’- he gurgled. Just what I was going to say.

-‘Where is everyone?’- he asked.

-‘We are the last.’- I gasped.

-‘Am I… Can I… Stay with you?’- he asked the right question.

-‘Course you can. But just friends okay, I don’t make love with men.’-

I was cupping his face in my hands…

Kneeling between his legs, where he sat against the wall.

I wrapped him into my loose velvet skirt. Feeling happily protective, scared and thrilled.

I thought of maybe being undressed with him upstairs, but sure I’d have a panic attack and ruin it.

-‘I’m gonna show you off, um, to my friend Deera tomorrow, alright?’- I said.

Stroking his cheeks with my thumbs and looking in his soft brown eyes.

Okay I was totally soft and soppy..

-‘You what?’- He was looking lost, licking his lips.

I realized he had even less love experience than me. At least I’d practiced on old Barney.

-‘Let me just check your bandages… hands up… That’s it, let’s see you now… That bruise still looks bad. I’ll rub some of Maggie’s cream on that, upstairs. Up you get now.’-

 

Macker obeyed smiling. I pulled his arms, and he rolled groggily to his feet and leaned against me and the wall.

-‘I hardly count as a man, I’m just sixteen.’- he murmured.             ref 22. sexuality

 Maybe he was right. Maybe he needn’t count in my mixed up brain. I mean, I’d taken him in like a lost child.

Why must my gorgeous boy friend equate with the evil Killian Bate, the rapist special police, or my abusing father?

-‘Just let me check you over.’-

I was examining his body in intimate, unnecessary detail.

-‘Those bandages are fine. And you smell,, umm, attractive.’-

-‘You too. I remembered your smell. From when we first met, on the steps.

-‘Uh oh… forgot to shower again.’-

-‘No no it’s a good smell like, strongly, um, sexy. It makes me really er, you know…’-

-‘Randy. Wow. You need special therapy sonny, that’s a serious condition. Let’s get you up to my clinic.’-

-‘And I smelt you in your bed. Oh Maxie, did we..um?’-  Our eyes met and flashed.

-‘Did we what? Oh. No, I told you. I don’t do men. I get panic attacks, you see, and I’m almost gay.’-

 

I was squatting down, checking every inch of him. Slipping down my loose green tracksuit that he wore.

He yelped and winced but really liked to be petted.

-‘Oh good boy, your legs are much better, this will soon be cured.’-

Massaging round the cut on his bruised thigh. That gash from a glass topped wall.

I let my fingers wander, more and a little further, undulating, under the elastic…

Till his thingy bobbed up in his slip, and I jumped back with a gasp.

What fun to have my own big injured boy.

-‘Oh oh oh this fella’s back in fine form anyway. What’s his name?’- I laughed

-‘N Name?’- Macker stood gripping my shoulders, sucking in the hot air through his teeth.

-‘Where have you been recently? Everyone gives names to their personal parts nowadays.’-

-‘Th-They do?’- He was cocking his head and peering down, like a curious bird..

-‘I’m calling him Freddy coz he’s jumpy like a frog, look!’- I said, holding in my nervous

mirth.

-‘Ahh…ooh.’- he giggled himself, confused. -‘Er, what do you call your, um, personal parts then?’-

-‘Ha! We thought you’d never ask! Hang on.’- I said.

I kneeled a little closer and slid off that itchy blouse so it dropped behind me.

I would extend a formal introduction to this exciting magician.

-‘I’d like you to meet… These are, um… Punky and Perky. The twins!’-

I nodded them up and down in friendly greeting.

-‘Hullo beautiful and hullo beautiful. Delighted to meet you both… Which is who by the way?’- he said, playing the game nicely.

 -‘She’s Perky, look! P and P need kissing AMAP.’-

 

He breathed in deeply, started instead to sniff me, lifted and swung my body.

Suddenly afraid, I shoved him off, and looked up to check the clock.

The night students might appear, but I saw it was hours too soon.

-‘AMAP?’- he asked. -‘What’s that?’- His shaky hands were touching them.

-‘As Much As P-Possible.’-

 

He pulled me roughly, and I broke into a shudder.

Coming up in goose bumps as he sniffed and pretended to bite me.

Then he took Punky, or was it Pinky and tried to swallow her whole, with little nips and wouldn’t let her go.’

I wheezed and stifled giggles and tugged away.

Okay I fancied him something wicked but I was scared that he got wild, I mean…

-‘Mmm very pleased to meet you too.’- he spluttered.

-‘Your tits could be, um, Tadpole and, and Titch, okay?’-

I shoved him back against the wall to examine them, too hard and bumping his head.

-‘Ow. But small is beautiful, okay?.’- he protested.

 

I stretched and stroked him down, and accidentally touched Freddy, giving myself a fright.

-‘Yikes. He’s escaping.’-  I yipped.

It felt like a rubber frog that might go squeak!

-‘Behave yourself now Freddy!’ Get back down, boy.‘- said Macker sternly.

-‘Yes, well. Then down here we have Whirlpool my navel. Say hello and a big kiss for her too.. Applause please, come on.’-

-‘Howaya goin whirly baby.’- he said.

Trying his best to kiss my tummy button and breathe at the same time.

While I shrugged and squirmed, and hugged his head in my arms.

My tummy was only ticklish, but Macker didn’t catch on.

I would take him upstairs, I decided, while letting my fantasy go further…

-‘That’s Whirly finished.’- says I, tugging his ears.-‘ Gloria and Thumbelina down here are getting madly jealous!’-

-‘Sorry, who?..’-

-‘I now present!…’-

I stood back, with that dramatic flourish I used to practice in the mirror.

Opening the last red button as I twirled.

That velvet skirt cascaded off my legs.

 Macker went full moon, but he clapped anyway.

Coz I was lacking any underwear.

-‘I’m happy to present… Say hi to my new friend.’-

I stepped out of the red flowery skirt.

Humming loudly for lack of the right sensual music.

Throwing my idea of a pose, while he knelt there, just out of reach, clapping and sniffing rudely, and biting his fingers.

I noticed I was trembling all over.

Smacking my lips and feeling hyper alive.

I’d forgotten to be scared, he wasn’t scary. Macker clearly had less of a clue than me.

-‘This is my little friend Thumbelina..’- I said, but now I was having second thoughts.

-‘She’s very excited to meet you, er.. say hello Bell.. uh, let’s go upstairs then..’-

-‘Hello Thumbelina darling!’- he said, waving his arms. -‘It’s been my great pleasure today to meet you all and…’-

-‘Oh just one little kiss then.’- My voice hissed strangely. -‘but not so wild as Punky had okay!’-..

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NEXT EPISODE HERE::: serial of The Free. Ch 19. Occupied Shoes