I AWOKE to a pattering.
Groggy with pot over I yawned and stretched, touched dim, damp canvas. Telltale droplets beaded its surface. I blinked, worked the cotton in my mouth.
Tent . . .
Camping . . .
The Gathering . . .
Then a flash of leaping connection - New Year's Eve. It all starts today! I sat up, unpeeled from my sleeping bag. It was cold. I pulled on an extra T-Shirt and jersey. Sam muttered in the corner and slept on. No matter, he would know soon enough. I crawled over him to exit.
Outside was dislocating, depressingly bleak for the middle of summer.
A flock of inky Merino crowded the sky. They pressed low over the oily trees in a foggy haze. A cold, steady rain fell, dead straight, hitting the ground in a rat-a-tat-tat of squishy splats. There was no wind, a small blessing, for vapour trails curled with my every exhalation.
It was all very strange.
I'd been primed on Gathering stories of magnificent sunshine, of bevies of brown beauties stomping through thick clouds of dust, of heat and light and skin and a beachtime vibe. But today . . . well today felt like a day you should be curled up inside with a good book.
Muttering a prayer I ducked in under the tarpaulin we'd strung between cars. Joseph, dressed warm in a Swanndri, was already up and about.
"KEYoraa. I'm making coffee. You want one?"
"Yeah bro, cheers."
Rubbing the sleep from my eyes I went to stand beside him. Jacob turned from the cook top, handed me one of two cups. We shuffled to the edge of the blue pastic, the edge of the wet and the gloom, and lit cigarettes.
"Maybe it will all blow over?" I offered.
"Maybe but Allan said he's tramped around these parts. When the weather’s like this, he reckons it'll hang around a while. A couple of days he said."
I looked at Joe.
"Could be worse,” Joseph said cheerfully. “You could have brought a hammock like Charley.”
We laughed and wondered where Charley had gone.
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