When I awoke in the morning I was lost for a moment and had to think just where I was.
The sun was shining brightly on the khaki coloured walls of the tent, bathing our canvas bedroom in an almost eerie golden-green glow. I looked sideways and my eyes soon fell on the still sleeping form of Aaron, his mouth slightly open and his eyelids fluttering ever so slightly, no doubt a result of whatever adventure his mind was taking him on in dreamland.
He was naked … we both were … having slept on top of the air-mattress, totally uncovered. Glancing down at his body my eyes feasted on the taught muscles and flat, almost hairless abdomen, which I had kissed a million times before. Letting my eyes wander further down I soon noticed his erection, lying flat against his stomach and looking, oh so, inviting. As I studied the shape of it, and the two perfect orbs drawn in tightly below it, I could have sworn it gave a twitch, or a jump, as if it had a life of its own; which, I’m sure, all guys know that they have, anyhow. Whatever it was he was dreaming of, I knew that it must have been good.
As gently as I could I eased my way down the mattress, trying my best not to disturb him, until eventually I was face to face with the engorged monster. I breathed in quietly, then let it out, blowing gently across his manhood, only to see it jump once more.
It was then that a thought crossed my mind, and quite a wicked thought at that.
* * *
The skies were clear and blue when we made it outside, but even then it was still quite early and there was little sign of movement. We walked up to the house and let ourselves in, where we found Matt and Luke sitting in the kitchen, along with Luke’s parents. Each had a coffee mug in their hands, while empty plates were on the table in front of each of them and another plate with a few spare pieces of toast sat in the middle of the table.
‘Good morning guys,’ Luke said when he noticed us at the doorway. ‘How was your first night camping out?’
‘It was great. Just like old times,’ Aaron replied for the both of us.
‘Apart from the snoring coming from our neighbours, that is,’ I added. ‘I thought a bloody freight train was coming when it first started up!’
‘Ahhh, yes. Good old Ben!’ Matt said. ‘He used to rattle the windows when he lived here with us.’
‘I wouldn’t doubt that for a second,’ I laughed, while Aaron and I crossed over to the bench to prepare ourselves some coffee. ‘We fixed him though. Thankfully, Aaron had some ear plugs in his truck!’ which at least brought out some laughter.
‘And speaking of Ben, is there any sign of activity at their camp this morning?’ Matt enquired.
‘Not a peep, so far,’ I said.
‘Ahh, okay then. Let him sleep for a bit longer, then I’ll drag him out of bed to help start setting things up.’
‘What do we have to do?’ Aaron asked.
It was going to be quite a day. There was still much to do for the party tonight, and Luke and I would have to be away for some time around lunch, which would count us out from being able to pitch in and help out.
‘Well,’ Matt began, ‘There’s the marquee to set up, plus the tables and chairs. Some lights that need stringing up around the yard …’
‘And Tim and Guy need to pick up the karaoke machine they said they had booked, as well as the booze,’ Luke added. ‘Not to mention cleaning the barbeque, then picking up the second barbeque from Scott and Justin’s place. And in the middle of it all you and I have to go into town for that other little job.’
‘All right,’ I pondered. ‘And we also have to get some food ready …’
‘Did you get some more prawns?’ Matt asked eagerly.
‘Yes, Matt,’ I sighed. ‘There’s plenty there … I hope. We’ll just have to get them ready this afternoon.’
‘Samantha and I could do that,’ Luke’s mother offered. ‘Just tell us what you want done with them. And we can do some salads, or whatever else you need, as well.’
‘You’re a doll, Aunt Helen,’ I said.
‘Thank you, Tony,’ she replied. ‘And it would be so nice if a few of these other clowns around here were as appreciative as you.’
The three men in her life just rolled their eyes at her.
‘I’m sure they are all just as appreciative as Aaron and I are. They just have trouble showing it.’
‘Well, my husband I can understand. But as for the other two, I thought most of you gay guys were all supposed to be in touch with your feminine side, and be understanding and sympathetic and caring?’ she mocked.
At that Luke got up from his seat and went around to the other side of the table, kissing his mother on the cheek and giving her a hug. He was clearly going over the top with his theatrics, but at the same time I noticed Matt mouth the words ‘brown noser’ to me.
I simply grinned at him, even if being struck with pangs of something akin to jealousy, at not ever having had a closeness like that in my own family. Just then Aaron reached out and placed an arm around my waist. I looked at his face, at what I could see was a sadness etched there, and then into his eyes. I knew in an instant just what he was thinking, and as I hugged him close I kissed the side of his head.
‘I know babe,’ I whispered, which seemed to go un-noticed by everyone except my aunt, who knowingly, and lovingly, smiled back at us. With all this family reunion stuff going on, I had a feeling that this could end up being a tough weekend for Aaron. ‘Just remember what I said yesterday, mate. Our traditions and memories start right here … today!’
‘I know,’ he whispered back to me.
‘Now, all jokes aside,’ Luke said, ‘What do we do about everyone who will be arriving today? Do we know just where they are all going to stay?’
‘Do most of them know they need a tent?’ I asked.
‘Yeah, I think that’s covered,’ Matt replied. ‘My folks will have the other half of the guest house. I’m still not sure what’s happening with Tim and Guy’s folks, though, but we can convert the lounge if we need to.’
‘So everyone who is camping out can just get sent straight through to the back and find themselves a spot?’
‘Yeah. Just let them sort themselves out,’ Luke replied. ‘There’s plenty of room.’
‘Room for what?’ we suddenly heard a sleepy sounding Tim, ask from behind us. We all turned and found him and Guy standing in the doorway.
‘Camping space,’ I said.
‘Yeah, there’s shit loads of … oops, sorry Mrs. S.’
‘That’s quite alright Tim, I’m finally used to it now,’ she laughed.
‘How many times have I told you not to say ‘shit’ in front of my mother?’ Luke admonished him, only to receive a belt up the back of his head for his troubles from his mother and be told that he was raised better than that.
‘You want me to tell her some of the things you say around here?’ Tim offered.
‘No need, Tim … I can use my imagination,’ Aunt Helen replied.
‘Those American movies sure have a lot to answer for, don’t they?’ Guy added.
‘Lad, you have no idea,’ Uncle Tom countered.
The kettle finally switched off and Aaron soon poured out our coffees, then we stepped aside to allow Tim and Guy access.
‘So, have you guys sorted out what we need to do today?’ Guy asked. ‘I guess there’s still a heap we haven’t thought of yet.’
‘We were just talking about that,’ Luke answered, then proceeded to rattle off all the items we had only just discussed.
‘Okay then. So, does anyone need to go into the Harbour this morning? They can come in with me when I pick up the karaoke,’ Tim suggested. ‘Or even better, they could pick it up for us, and I can stay here helping? Especially seeing as Guy has to go into T’ville with the celebrity today.’
‘We can do that, if you like,’ Aunt Helen suggested. ‘Then we’ll be back in plenty of time to help get the food ready.’
‘Are you sure?’ Guy asked.
‘Yes, why not? It’ll give us a chance to take a look around again. It’s been ages since we were down this way, hasn’t it dear?’
‘Whatever you say, Helen. Whatever you say,’ Luke’s dad answered, while rolling his eyes in our direction.
‘Okay then, that’s one problem solved,’ Matt said. ‘Now, about this marquee? Will we attack that first?’
‘After breakfast,’ Guy said firmly, which I thought was a splendid idea.
* * *
Katie, and then Ben and Samantha and family all came up to the house just as we were finishing breakfast, apparently having slept like angels. It was on the tip of my tongue to ask if they heard the freight train that came through the back yard in the early hours, but in the end I thought better of it.
After breakfast we all pitched in and got started on the work that needed doing, with the marquee going up in no time at all, thanks to the instructions that came with it, along with the fact Ben had helped with an identical one back home when he helped run a barbeque at a football carnival. Even his two boys, Jake and Callum, helped out by carrying the steel tent pegs for their father, which we had to drive into the ground to secure ropes to.
Once that first job was out of the way the morning seemed to pass quite quickly, with the lights and the tables and chairs soon getting set out exactly where the guys wanted them.
Amidst all this activity Scott and Justin arrived shortly afterwards, with a portable barbeque on the back of their Ford truck, then soon following were Matt’s parents, who I hadn’t ever met before. They, of course, knew who I was, which was hardly surprising, and I found that we were soon chatting as if we were old friends.
As a writer I figured it was part of my job to notice things that go on around me, whether it be the changing seasons, or changes in people. So when I met Matt’s parents I soon found myself studying them from a writer’s viewpoint, and comparing them to others I knew.
In some respects they weren’t unlike Luke’s parents, being so open and accepting, yet there were subtle differences that I quickly picked up on, and which intrigued me. The first one that struck me was how Matt’s dad, Ian, just seemed to have this air of authority and success about him, while Uncle Tom seemed almost reserved, or even in some ways, downtrodden or dispirited. I had seen this kind of dynamic before amongst people who knew each other, with one personality seeming to be more dominant, and while in this case it wasn’t something that was overtly noticeable, more like just a feeling, or a vibe that I seemed to be picking up on, I idly wondered if that had anything to do with what happened with Luke and what he had gone through ten or eleven years ago.
I made a mental note to ask Luke about it later, not that it was an issue at all, but moreso to simply satisfy my own curiosity, in an attempt to better understand those around me.
After we had all caught up over a cool drink, while sitting in the shade of the huge old Jacaranda tree in the back yard, we finally realised that it was going on for half past eleven, which was about time, Luke suggested, that we had a shower and tidied ourselves up for the show in town. At the insistence of Aunt Helen, I headed for our tent and grabbed a fresh t-shirt and shorts to change into, along with my toiletries and towel, then returned to the guest house to use the shower there, where I found Matt’s folks carrying in their bags and dropping them on the bed in the second bedroom. I presumed that was where Katie had slept last night and wondered what arrangements they would be making for her for tonight, taking note to check with them later and see if there was anything else they needed.
I quickly showered and changed, then set off once more for our camp, where I intended to change again into some clothes suitable for a public appearance, before heading off for town with Luke and Guy.
Aaron was inside the tent when I reached it, seductively sprawled out on the mattress. He grinned as I walked inside, but I simply shook my head. ‘Maybe later, babe.’
‘I just knew you were going to say that,’ he pouted.
‘Oh, God! I’ve created a monster!’
‘And you know, there are just so many ways I could respond to that.’
‘Yeah, but I think we’ll have to save that for later too,’ I replied, as I dropped to my knees, then started searching through my luggage for some suitable clean clothes.
A few minutes later I was dressed and ready to roll, and after dragging Aaron to his feet we headed back out into the sunshine, where we found Luke and Guy waiting beside Guy’s car.
‘Ready?’ Guy asked.
‘About as ready as I’ll ever be.’
‘How about you, Aaron? You coming too?’
‘I’ll meet you there in a little while. I’ll just head home first to shower and change, then come into town and catch up with you.’
Reaching into my pocket I pulled out the keys to the new truck and threw them to him.
‘Okay then,’ Luke said. ‘Let’s go crash this party!’
* * *
January 26th. Australia Day. It is one of only a handful of times each year where we Aussies come together as one to commemorate what makes this country great; with the other times being April 25th, Anzac Day, and perhaps the first Tuesday in November, Melbourne Cup Day.
Depending on who you ask, Australia Day commemorates either the settling of the land that would become known as Australia (after Terra Australis – the Great Southern land), or the invasion of Australia by the white colonists. It was the day on which the First Fleet landed at Sydney Cove in Sydney Harbour, in the Year of our Lord of 1788, under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip.
After leaving Portsmouth in England on May 13th, 1887, eleven ships, one thousand three hundred and seventy three people (of the one thousand four hundred and twenty who originally set out), along with an assortment of livestock and supplies for the establishment of a colony, all survived one of the greatest maritime journeys on record, arriving at Botany Bay between January 18th and 20th of the following year.
Much to their disappointment, however, it was soon found that that location was not the potential paradise which had been described by Captain James Cook some eighteen years earlier. After some further exploring up along the coast a more suitable site was soon located within the harbour and on January 26th the fleet weighed anchor and sailed the short distance north to what was soon named Sydney Cove, and where the first settlement was established, on the site of what is now the Royal Botanical Gardens.
In recent years Australia Day has become a day of great significance for all Australians, and at almost every town or city across the country there can be found some sort of celebration. These most often take the form of a massive party with entertainment, fun activities and food stalls, followed by local dignitaries making speeches about the importance of everyone working together to keep this nation great, before finally handing out Citizenship certificates to the many thousands of people who become naturalised Australians each year, along with various other awards for bravery, recognition for community service or other achievements.
My memories of the Thompsonville Australia Day celebrations, from when I did live here, were of just the type of events I have described. They were always held on the shores of the lake, where jumping castles and hot dog stands and occasionally a Ferris Wheel would all be set up. One of the local transport companies would loan a truck, to serve as a stage, which would be manoeuvred down to be as close to the water as possible, decorated with Australian flags and green and gold balloons and streamers. On the back of the truck the bands would play all afternoon, while the bulk of the local population sat on the banks in the January sun enjoying the show, before the local councillors would then take over with their speeches and presentations. It was usually at about this time that Aaron and I would bugger off home, or to somewhere a little more private, where we would partake in activities that held more meaning for the couple of horny teenagers we were; much to the chagrin of those who watched over us.
Today, though, this Australia Day held much more significance for me, as not only was it the first time I had been here for a number of years, but I was also about to be treated as a special guest.
On the short trip into town Guy informed me that a few phone calls had been made the previous day to arrange things, and apparently the local councillors were delighted I would be there, even to the extent of their hastily organising some presentation or award, although Guy was tight lipped about just what that might be.
‘I didn’t want a fuss made,’ I said to him as we pulled into what looked to be one of the last parking spaces left in the main street, almost hitting a couple of people who stepped off the curb as we did so, heading for where we could see the crowds were already gathering, down by the lake.
‘It’s not a fuss, really,’ he promised. ‘The company just thought that seeing as you would be here it would look better if you were actually involved in some way, not just showing up as some well known face in the crowd, so they talked the council into doing something small, that’s all.’
I looked at him and frowned.
‘Trust me,’ he said. ‘It’s just all part of the show, and when everything gets filmed, then diced and spliced and put together at the end, you’ll come up smelling like roses. And then the real reason why we’re doing all this, to get a message out there for the people you really want to help, they will be the ones who will reap the benefits of having the hot-shot writer coming home and highlighting their plight.’
I stopped and looked at him for a moment and thought about what he had said. He was right, of course, but that didn’t men I was any more convinced that it would all go off as smoothly as he was thinking.
‘Guy, you know I love you,’ I finally said. ‘But if this goes pear-shaped it’ll be your arse I’ll be coming after, you know that, don’t you?’
‘You’ll have to get through Tim first,’ he cheekily replied.
‘Oh, fuck. I really am screwed then, aren’t I?’
‘Just relax. It’ll all be fine. Just follow my queue and you’ll be sweet.’
‘That’s easy for you to say! At least you know what you’re doing!’