HALFWAY ALONG the ridge we found the end of the camps and claimed our kingdom.
I was glad because my arms were tired, and because my suitcases elicited weird looks from the other Gatherers.
Joseph and Tim set about putting up their tents. Sam and I sat on the grass and shared a joint in the sun. It wasn't long before others began to arrived. First in were Darius and Kathy in his beat-up, mustard-coloured station wagon.
They roared up to the tents, handbraked, slid a few feet, and then almost before the car had stopped moving, as it was still sliding, they bounded out with that yes-we're-finally-here energy we all felt.
"Bloody hell," declared Dar. "How was that queue?"
"Ah, it was madness," answered Tim from where he practiced poiing, chains and ribbons flying about his body. "But at least you weren't in a taxi van."
Darius snickered at this. I suspect it was the reason he'd mentioned the queue in the first place. The taxi van had been his idea. With his gold-and-black mane pulled into pigtails and sporting a lemon T-shirt scrawled with BMXcellent across the front, Darius now leaned across the bonnet of his car with all the restless intensity of a pool-less man with cannonballs on his mind.
Kathy, his girlfriend, gave a shake of her blonde dreadlocks and rolled her eyes. "Ignore him, I do," she said, coming over to give Sam and I a hug. "How did you guys get here then?"
"A family in a camper gave us a lift," I said.
"Jeez, that was lucky," Darius said coming over to give us a hug also. "Otherwise it would have been a bloody long walk."
We offered Darius the joint, and he puffed away and unpacked. Soon he'd unloaded a two-man tent Sam and I would be sharing for the duration of the Gathering. "Here you go boys, have fun."
Having never put up a tent I eyed it dubiously, as only a man bringing suitcases to an outdoor festival could. I threw a feeler out to Sam hoping he would take the lead. "What do ya reckon, bro?"
Sam, however, had never put up a tent either, and, unbeknownst to me, had taken a quarter trip earlier in the day with Joseph. Still, he sounded confident. "I think we’re intelligent guys, Izz. It can’t be that hard."
Reassured, we set to it with all the will and logical might we could muster. Half an hour, several conversations, one dirt drawn diagram, and two arguments later, we’d put up something . . . it just didn’t look like anything our friends had erected.
While theirs were taunt and proudly rippled, ours bowed in on one side and was the sort of shape a sneeze from a fluey canvas monster might make.
We stood back in thoughtful silence.
"Good enough?" I finally said, casting a sideways glance in Sam’s direction.
"Good enough," he replied. "Who sleeps at a festival anyhow?" Chortling at this supreme piece of logic, we set about clearing away the disconcertingly high number of leftover pegs, ropes, and poles.
Luckily, given the events to come later, Darius interrupted our furtive clean-up halfway through. "What the fuck do you guys call that?" he asked looking at our misshapen pile of canvas.This a difficult question to answer given his sustained laughter and shouted invites for others to come see.
This laughter and shouted invitation went on for a long time.
After he was good enough to show us the error of our ways - in-between further laughing fits - and suitably cowed, our intellect defeated by the complexity a two-man tent, weed and LSD can bring to any situation, we followed his instructions meekly.
Go figure, all those leftover pegs, ropes, and poles were meant for something after all.
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