Act Two Chapter Twenty
-‘How can it be free? It’s impossible.’-
We’d planned to go on free-bikes, but I was much too wrecked. And Lucy could hardly sit down. We called an air-cab. As we were waiting we watched a high yellow crane, swinging the green head of a windmill above the clinic.
-‘More clean energy?’- she said.
-‘Mmm, I think they’re taking those ones down. Could be too much wind coming!’-
-‘Don’t they need them?’- She was laughing and twirling her arms.
-‘Those green ones make ammonia to burn when it’s cloudy without wind, like backup.’-
The little air-cab arrived promptly and we travelled in style. Me attempting to be an alternative city guide. She laughing at everything. We arrived too early to meet the others, at the Ragwort Gobble-de-Gook, as they call the restaurant. So I offered to show Lucy around…
I was fascinated, watching her delighted surprise. She had sussed me out, in two seconds flat, better than I could myself. And she just knew the answers to lots of stuff, plus she was sexy and pushy.
I was amazed, but cagey as well. In fact I was really paranoid about falling into another suicidal relationship. With Lucia I was mouth open hooked and shit scared together, if that is possible.
The Caff is in a closed down ex convent and primary school, controlled by the Ragwort area Pool, that backs onto the biggest original park in our neighborhood. There’s also the Info Shop and printers, and upstairs where you can do all kinds of courses and Free-Uni night classes. That’s where I tried to learn electronics. That’s where Maxie and Bernie do their Spanish class.
Downstairs they’ve knocked big windows and more doors all the way round. Half of it a free takeaway supermarket and warehouse, and the other part is a brand new kind of restaurant. The Gobble-de-Gook Cafe, where we were meeting… [ref.14 Free _shops]
-’I never saw nothing so good!’- said Lucia.
-‘Well I dunno they’re always changing it. Look there’s Jerry working. You can bring your own food, and picnic on these wooden tables in the yard. The best bit is in the park at the back. I’ll show you, let’s reserve tables for everybody. The food is free, or almost all free, believe it or not. We don’t have to starve in Ragwort Pool…’-
-‘How can it be free? It’s impossible.’-
Lucia had my arm in hers, jerking me this way and that, like a kid at a funfair.
-‘Subsidized by revolutionary. um, taxes.’- I laughed. -’Really they don’t pay you directly in cash, and people wash their own plates, um, and we don’t pay rent, just gifts to the nuns and that, most of the food comes from the CoOp Pools and the energy…’- integral CoOps
I stopped, glancing up at the sky
-‘Usually I come here to eat and use the computers. Over there, looks like they’re all queued up with people voting.’-
It’s an old block sized park, with railings and trees on three sides. On the far side a growing Adventure Playground with walkways, tunnels, tree dens and high slide pipes.
The rest a field of grass. Dotted with groups of yunkers and not so young people.
In the middle stands an ornate fountain. Set in a deep pond, people were splashing and falling in.
Wetting themselves or cooling off their feet.
Lucia was bubbling over, while I was getting tired and stressed out. Trying to send a few replies and get through to my anonymous friend in the youth prison. It was still glaringly sunny and intensely hot, with a high soupy mist. So stifling the air cut at my throat. Yet the people were oddly excited, shouting and laughing…
Way in the south we could see a huge etched wall of cumulus clouds. Towering up from behind the trees like the Himalayas. Unreal through thin mist, black below and gleaming white. Like gigantic Hollywood icebergs in the sky…
She began to finger-massage my face and temples, as I lay up against her, trying to relax.
My good ear connecting the canter of her heartbeat. my own heart trotting faster in empathy. My cheek sliding down between the slopes of her breasts…
Suddenly I was falling asleep. She switched off the phone round my neck and kissed my forehead under the bandage.
-‘Your smoothie, finish your smoothie.’- she said. But speaking in my dream.
Next thing Maxie and Macker had arrived, holding hands with more friends. Plus Jerry who’d finished his shift.
I was up and awake. Speedy with a headache, telling the story of Balihoki, and everybody fussing over me like mama hens! Preparing the tables and getting the food.
I got onto Peter by phone, and he hysterical, my head was hurting and racing. Then forcing myself to breathe right, relax a bit and help with the tables.
Just then young Macker’s eyes met mine. I was ready for him now. My grin spread out and I nodded, knowing well what he was wanting.
What I didn’t expect was for him burst into a sprint, and flip into a flying somersault over the tables. Almost landing on top of me. Everyone did a double take.
-‘You set it up! Can I phone?’-
-‘Jahzus Christ Macker. Me heart just jumped out me ear hole.’-
-‘Can I speak to Tessa and Damo?’-
-‘She said okay, until two o-clock when the prison warders change, look it’s um.. this number just click green, say you’re Barney’s mate and she’ll pass her phone in to them, one at a time because..’—
-‘Here put on these earphones, if you get through you’ll at least speak to one of them.’-
Macker wandered under the fat old battered oak tree. Holding the phone like it might bite him. But then I saw him laughing and waving to Maxie. I was glad.
It was nice to help him so much with so little effort.
-‘Hey Maggie and Moonbeam have arrived. Hiya Moonie baby!’- said Lucía, swinging her up into my arms. I caught her safely.
-‘Not a baby.’- said our big girl
-‘Course you’re not.’- I said, kissing her chubby cheeks and launching her back to Lucy.
-‘Let’s fly. Let’s fly.’- said Lucy whirling her round.
-‘Now for Maxie.’- I was thinking. Though really I had separated her and Macker accidentally. Or had I caught Macker’s eye just then on purpose? -’Who cares!’- I thought. I was lucky enough not to be clumsy.
-‘Hey Maxie could you come over here a second. Listen I need to talk to you.’- I wasn’t sure what to say to her..
-‘What’s wrong? What happened?’- She looked apprehensive.
–‘Um, I forgot to ask how your Spanish exam went the other, er, week?’-
She looked at me doubtfully. Examining my bloodstains and ridiculous girl’s shorts.
-‘Easy peezy. Tease ‘n squeeze me.’- she chanted suddenly, wiggling her wrists. -’They told me already I’ll get an A plus.’-
-‘Congratulations. Wow! What a talent!’-
I took the chance to hug and swing her round.
Copying Lucy and Moonbeam. Though my body complained strongly about it.
And I didn’t unembrace her, not by chance.
-‘I just wish the Free- Uni was so simple.’- she said.
-‘When are those exams then?’-
-‘Not till August, but it’s not really the exams, it’s just so much work. Just the Media group project could be a full time job.’-
-‘I know what you mean all right. You know we’re booked for the Eagles flying course next month. Macker as well.’-
-’It’s just two days. Oh, I nearly forgot. Are you coming down the country at the weekend? There’s the solstice party in Rosana’s Coppice… Sure Macker would love it.’-
We were touching foreheads now, breath mixing.. As if telling intimate secrets.
-‘Love to, yeah.. But I promised you I’d childmind Moonie remember, and Josie as well.’-
-’Let’s bring them with us.’-
-’And let’s bring Sol and Lucy, if the van is free.’-
-‘We’ll talk later. We have a reception in half an hour don’t forget.’-
-‘I’ve missed you Maxie Moon.’- I said abruptly, and smooched her cheek. -‘Lucy said she borrowed me from you. But I dunno how long I really want to be out on loan!’-
Maxie laughed in surprise. Throwing her arms round my neck and pulling herself up, which hurt me a quite a lot.
-‘Ow ow.’- I exclaimed again. I’m hopeless at pain..
-‘Oh I’m sorry.’- She squeezed me more gently.
I could feel all the others watching us curiously. Though probably they weren’t even looking. Macker still chatting animatedly to his brother or sister. And Lucia?.. Well hadn’t she set up this comedy herself..
-‘I’m afraid you’re gonna dump me. Now you found a wizard your own age.’- I dared to admit.
-‘Don’t worry. I’ll always have time for my big old cuddly, er. anteater.’- said Maxie. Rubbing against me with a chuckle.
-‘Ow ow ow.’- I groaned again.
But I didn’t let go. And neither did she. Our bodies were saying a familiar hello, and wishing things had been different.
-‘Oh sorry sorry.’- she was murmuring -’Oh Barney you’re destroyed, let me just take you home now. You should be in my bed. Let’s just go.’-
-‘Mmm let’s just go.’- I repeated, not meaning it to happen.
-‘But we promised to do reception. Who could we ask?’-
-‘Let’s just see how I feel, er.’- says I -‘They said this visitor is important. He’s supposed to be here in, um, only fifteen minutes, wearing black with a flower.. well.. Listen if I’m still bad I’ll just ask you. Or you just tell me, and you take me home to bed okay?.. But I don’t want Macker upset.’-
-‘No no, Macker’s cool.. He’s expecting this already.’-
-’Oh yeah?’- says I. Feeling unfairly programmed despite my own blatant manipulations. Okay I’m a hypocrite.
Maxie looked into my eyes and nodded fast. Started kissing me, but quickly. Like a lover late for the train.
-‘Promise me you’ll come then.’- she mouthed.
-’Yeah, um mmm okay…’-
-‘Come and sit down you two. Maxie you’re beside me.’- Maggie was calling, and I broke away.
She and Lucia had brought across a big load of pita-bread-pouches stuffed with humus and salads and eggs and cheese and exotic sauces. And Jerry with a tray of iced water bottles.
-‘Special waiter service one d-day only.’- he said, shyly. And we all started tucking in.
-‘I think this one has fish in it.’-
-‘Yunkers is young people.’- I said to Lucia. –‘They don’t wanna be called kids or youth so..’-
-‘Can Moonbeam eat this? You wanna bit Moonie?’-
-‘Let her try everything of course.’-
-‘Seems like half the De-School projects have decided it’s Do A Demo Day.’-
By now there were half a dozen circles of yunkers on the grass, eating, talking and stripping off in the humid hazy sun, some making banners and flags and taking notes. and more crowding the computers under the awning.
As we sat back and munched another big gang of at least thirty came marching in from the road, behind -‘Stop Evictions’- and -‘Death to Death Squads’- banners. Chanting and laughing..
-‘How do they all get off school?’- asked Lucia.
Everyone stared at her. ref 10 de-schooling
-‘Ooo ooh that’s a clanger.’- I explained. -‘We don’t call it school anymore. Maybe Project learning or a De-School. They use the libraries and Free- Uni online.’-
-‘Moonbeam’s gonna choke..’- said Maggie, but she spat it out.
-‘But, don’t they have teachers?’- Lucia persisted.
Some of them were running now. Spectacular, with flags whipping. Heading inevitably for the cool ornamental pond and fountain in the middle. Falling in and splashing water, undressing and getting soaked..
-‘Teachers preachers. No way.. Each group has a rota of helpers, on call or on line, they do have ‘Explainers’, maybe three or..’- I began.
-’Some have a dozen or more, as well as ..’-
-’Look at them jump.’- said Macker, pointing. –‘Look Moonie!’-
One fella had climbed right up on the high plinth of the fountain. Nearly naked. With huge spiraling eyes tattooed on his chest. Held his nose and bowed. Leaping wildly down into the pond, to whistles and cheers.
The second wore pants, but suddenly whipped them off and attempted a jig. His penis whirling like a mini windmill. Before being pushed off by the next in line. Meanwhile a general water fight was beginning. Some agent provocateur had thrown a hatful over a rival CLAN group.
-‘Here we see an illustration, um, of the domino theory of, er, aggression.’- said Jerry.
-‘Looks refreshing to me.’- said Maxie. –’I‘m cooking in my skin.’-
-‘Water anyone?’- Macker offered the bottle.
-‘Yes, yes.’-said Maxie, Lucia, Jerry and me together..
He stood up and began pouring icy water on our heads. Eliciting squeals and threats.
Maxie grabbed another bottle to retaliate. But he dodged like a boxer.
She was up and after him. But he danced nimbly out of reach. Then they were off, running towards the fountain, through a gang of wet girls, chasing their Explainer with lumps of ice.
-‘Look here, come Sol, and Bernie and Josie. Look over there!’-
They were holding hands, Josie in the middle talking excitedly, in her skirt and bare feet. Chubby Sol in a swimsuit, draped in camera gear and a towel.
Bernie in her strings of beautiful beads, wearing her small rucksack and flip flops, and no clothes.
It had gotten common that spring, if people felt like it.. no clothes.
-‘Come, come and eat something.’- Maggie was welcoming. -‘Hey wow Bernie you look cool, think I’ll strip off myself.’-
-‘We’ve been swimming. Over in Phelan’s they’re all starkers. All showing off their tattooed fannies and bollocks.’-
-‘What? They tattoo their fannies and testicles?’- Lucia asked, laying on her thickest Mexican accent. We all laughed.
-‘Naaa, they’re only transfers. They shave and stick them on. See those girls over there.’- Bernie pointed.
glossary. Clan Fashions
-‘They’re really so creative.’- said Lucia. -‘Us mamas can’t look the fashion, but what the hell who cares. Freedom from clothes!’-
And with that she whipped off Beardy O’Leary’s grotty shirt.
-‘Don’t be staring at us boys we know how your boring little minds work.’- said Bernie.
-‘We’ll have no Shit-Ons committed here.’- Maggie chuckled. hands on hips and swinging loose her big freckled breasts.
-‘That’s normal and beautiful for me.’- Sol protested, though he kept his swimsuit on. Grinning and glancing sideways at the girls. -‘I wish in my country we would can do that..’-
-‘Too hot for me, it’s about f-forty degrees.’- said Jerry. Bashfully turning away to unzip his pants. -‘But I’ve never seen those shy yunkers in the nip. That’s n-new news, er, today!’-
-‘Come and eat a pita-pouch they’re great.’- said Maggie. - ‘Josie, why don’t you come and sit on the blanket by me, look, Moonie’s gonna have her nap. That’s a great girl. And tell me everything that happened okay.’-
-‘Me and Tammy got a prize for our web-quest they liked it a lot and… ’-
-‘Lookat, lookat that.’- I interrupted, pointing at Maxie and Macker. They were right up on top of the fountain.
Macker was acting embarrassed and clumsy, hiding his crotch with his hands, though he was wearing underpants, while Maxie was waving his shorts jubilantly in the air. Snatching them away, so he almost fell. Macker had them all cheering and jeering, pantomime style.
-‘Oops. Careful Macker. He’ll get wet.’-
-‘He’s gonna fall, haha, he’s gonna fall.’-
Now he was trying to climb up on top of her shoulders. A seemingly clumsy clown. Finally retrieving and impossibly putting on the shorts, while somehow balancing on her shoulders. He and Maxie were really wobbling. Then he was raising his arms and standing up.
-‘Hurray he did it. Yippee…’-
At that moment his pants fell down. He grabbed, missed, lost his balance and slowly toppled forward, arms flailing. We heard Maxie’s faraway shriek. Everybody gasped on cue. But he somersaulted into a perfect dive.
Maxie was clapping and bowing up top, before jumping in herself.
The two of them were running back to the table, dripping and laughing and flicking drips on us as we applauded.
-’Anyone got a towel?.. Ah well, drip dry.’- Maxie was radiant and gorgeous.
-‘What a magnificent act!’- said Jerry.
-‘Maxie is really strong, you held me perfectly.’- said Macker.
-‘I learned in the yoga course. Food food food I’m ravenous. You should all jump in, it’s super refreshing.’-
-‘Hi Bernie, hi Josie, hi Sol, you arrived.’- Macker greeted
-‘Hello kids. Really a bit far away shot and blocked up.. You are like professional clowns, no?’-
Sol had been resting the camera on a low branch, straining up on a chair to see the viewfinder. Now he hopped down and took a monster sandwich.
-‘I need some interview you promised me Jerry. For the magic credit cards of course, we’re going to the free store to make it after, okay?. And also I like to go later to the Gay manifestation but Bernie can’t come.. maybe somebody here can help me film, why not?’-
-‘Me please me please, si vous plait mon ami!’- said Macker
-‘That’s French silly.’-
-‘Fantastic offer. We have a new movie team!’- Sol was grasping Macker like he’d just married him.
-’Me too.’- said Maxie, putting up her hand. -’I'd like to help as well.’-
-’This is my lucky day!’- said Sol embracing her more formally. –‘Look I’ll show you what we have..’-
The water war was raging round the fountain. While the demonstrators were lining up refreshed, raising up their banners and their chants, and marching round the park giving out tiny green leaflets, clad in cloth shoulder bags, flower tattoos and ankle bracelets.
-‘Yeah but, do you know there’s, um, a cyclone coming?’- said Jerry to a woman with dreadlocks and a camera.
-‘So we changed the time to five-o-clock, not seven.’- she replied.
-’Oh that’s quite okay then.’- I said, with my usual sarcasm.
-‘Hey sorry excuse please we’re making a film for Latin Teleweb TV. Do we need some pass or permit to film the demo?’- asked Sol.
-‘They’re here, hey Jamie come over here.’- Karma yelled. –‘You don’t need a pass. So cool sir, I saw you filming in Balihoki. Did you get interviews there?’-
-’I am giving you a copy of my film for totally free.’- said Sol.
-‘Barney here and Lucia were nearly assassinated by the police.’-
-‘Total shit, horrible fucking aggression. Oh Jamie, Babs, these people were beaten up in Balihoki.’
-‘This is CLAN TV…’- Jamie was zooming in his camera on my bandaged ear.
-‘And they hit you too uh, Lucy?’-
Lucia had slipped on her sunglasses, smiling nervously, covering herself casually with a towel.
-‘Oh bloody hell.’- she laughed. Swiveled her hips, and showed her lacerated leg and bottom.
-‘Oooh that looks really sore.’- said Maggie.
-‘You gotta see what I did to the policeman.’-
Lucy was just SO attractive, she scared me somehow so lost my breath.
-‘Could you recognize a photo of him?’- blurted Babs.
-‘I’m only joking, we did nothing to them. And they were with masks put on.’-
-‘The piggies got Barney’s bottom as well.’- said Maxie, with malicious glee.
-‘Would you like to show our viewers your injuries? It could help with any court case.’-
-‘No chance, no way. They’ll all be gawking.’- says I. -‘I don’t want half of Ragwort up me arse.’-
-‘It’ll go citywide, not just Ragwort.’- said Karma, unhelpfully.
-‘Your incredibly long dong will get beamed all round the planet.’-
Maxie smirked and bit her bottom lip,.
-’Our ratings will soar even higher.’-
-‘Come on it’s your moral duty Barney.’- Maxie insisted. -‘Anyway you’re nearly the last one wearing clothes. Come on now.’-
-‘I’ll show my bloody bottom I suppose.’- I groaned.
-‘We’ll edit your face out, no big deal.’- said Jamie. –‘And yours Lucy if you want, okay. Can you just tell us what happened to you… ‘-
-‘Yes okay I’ll do the interview., let me put first on my T shirt. But I need my face misty okay.’- She lowered her voice. -’I'm a wanted woman in some countries, and they can menace me at home for showing my body.’-
-‘I’m filming you also then.’- said Sol –‘Is my opportunity to record you in English!’
-’Ow. Ow. Shit something’s bitten my tummy, look Macker.’-
-’Ooee looks like a bee.. Shall I kiss it better?’-
-’Hang on.-’ said Maggie -’I've got my magic ointment.’-
-’Me me me. Let me.’- Moonbeam would anoint my bite.
I’d been lying face down in the grass with Macker, Moonie was still awake and had been riding ‘gee gee’ on my back. Macker was sat against the tree and I lay back on him to let Maggie and Moonie cure my bite.
-’No Moonie just a tiny bit. That’s a spider bite darling’.-
-‘Barney’s gone all friendly and cuddly again, just friends.’- I whispered. -‘After ignoring me all week.’-
-’I saw you kissing when I was talking to my sister.’- said Macker -’Oh Maxie we got to get them out of that horrible prison.’-
-’You’re right. And they done nothing. Sure we could get stacks of people to go down there, I mean. How can they just lock them up?’-
-’And then they punish them, the shit bastards.’-
-‘Look everybody.’- Barney called over.–‘I think I see our new volunteer.’-
-‘Where?’- I lifted my head from Macker.–‘Oh yes, that could be him all right..’-
We were watching a tall man in black, making his way across the park towards us. A stark white face, shaved and stooping. With a big leather shoulder-bag.
Picking his way apologetically through the half dressed, frolicking yunkers. Obviously failing to look casual.
-‘Sure stands out in that kit.’- we laughed.
-‘He’d be overdressed in his underpants. Give him his due.’- said Macker.
As we watched two Clanners fell in with his stride, on either side. The three of them stopped, and our man half lifted his arms to be searched.
-‘Uh oh.’- said Jerry. –‘Well um, I see we still have security. I’ll g-go and rescue him, shall I ?’-
-‘I’m only famished.’- I said, sleepy and hungry.
-‘There’s still two pita-pouches here.’- Bernie was clearing the table, I nodded and she passed me a big sandwich.,
-‘Oh Macker I have a spare house key for you. In my bag there in the little pocket.’- Really I preferred to stay with him that day.
-‘Thanks a lot, I’m off with Sol.’- he said.
-‘I know, but be careful darling please, I’ll phone you soon.’- I hugged him like he was going on a voyage, and he stayed a bit more. No one had ever seen me so in love.
I pulled him up with two hands, and leaned my cheek on his chest, shaking our wet hair, shivering together as the cool drops ran down us.
-’The radio’s saying we’re in for a thrasher. They may give the force twelve ‘Stay Indoors Warning’.’- Barney informed.
-‘What ! What time? When will it arrive?’- I demanded.
-‘I didn’t catch that, hang on, no. If it’s for real we’ll hear all about it.’- he explained.
-‘Hard to believe.’- Maggie was looking up, sniffing the air.
The great wall of cloud still seemed far away, but the mist was a little thicker. And now I saw it was streaming away from us. The storm was sucking it in. … [refs.5d,5e]
-‘Well I don’t feel a premonition.’- I remarked.
-’Hallelujah.’- said Maggie.
-‘Usually you have the premonition, yes?’- asked Sol, packing up his tripod. Lucy had finished her interview.
-‘Swing me Maxie. Uncle Macker. Swing me now!’- Moonie demanded.
-’Three bad ones now, But I gotta get really wound up first.‘- I said, panting
-‘She’s uncanny with the second sight all right.’- Barney nodded.
-‘Thank you very much Doctor Lucia, that was wonderful.’- Karma was saying loudly –‘When can we meet to see your videos?’-
-‘Is Friday good? Here this is my number, but we meet at the Soli-Fest as well… ’-
Just then a low background grumble we hadn’t noticed got louder and continued.
-‘It’s time to go.’- said Maggie. –‘Do we have to dress?’-
-‘Up to you.’- said Bernie. -‘I’m happy as I am till the sun goes. What about Lucy?’-
-‘She’s coming with me. To visit a new dynamic org, called Social Explosion.’- said Maggie.
-‘Ha ha. You mean you’re going to the bar with your girlfriends.’- I interpreted.
-’To lubricate your Creative Destructiveness.’- said Barney, grinning.
-‘Okay okay, maybe you figured us out.’- Maggie admitted.
I was squeezing and wringing out my dripping jeans.
-‘Come on they’re waiting for us. You shouldn’t put on wet clothes. You’ll get chilblains.’- said Barney stupidly.
-‘Yes but.. Could I just wear panties to the Reception?’-
-’Great dilemmas of our t-times..’- said Jerry and they all laughed.
-‘Bye bye dearest, bye Maggie. Bye Moonbeam. Bye Josie, Bye Bernie. Bye Sol Bye Lucy. .Kisses and. Huggies..’- I proclaimed, backing away with Barney.
-‘Bye kiddos and be careful.’- said Maggie
Now Moonie was conking out, thumb in her mouth in the pram.
-‘Everyone come home or phone if they give the Stay Indoors Warning. Okay, let me kiss you Josie.’-
-‘Goodbye Aunty Maxie. Bye bye Uncle Barney’- said Josie.
I threw myself on Macker, who caught and swung me.
Jerry and the man in black were waiting on the corner.
Me and Macker broke our lingering kiss.
Our bodies unwillingly untouched.
-‘Excuse me Max and Barney’- said Jerry –‘This is our g-guest James Smith.
next episode here CH 21 REMAKING jAMES
- serial of The Free. Ch 19. Occupied Shoes (thefreeonline.wordpress.com)
- serial of The Free. Chs 17 and 18. Multiple Worlds and Punky and Perky. (thefreeonline.wordpress.com)
- Serial of The Free. Ch 16. Spot a Shit-On.. (thefreeonline.wordpress.com)