A bunch of blokes in suburbia
It is a solemn occasion. Solemnity is written into the bedrock of the room. It is the 21st century in a 1960's semi, but the serious ritual about to be done is from another time and place, from a twilight going back a hundred thousand years before hip hop, urban space cowboys and hot dogs. A timeless act is to occur. Something of significance is expected. It is time to be manly. Eternal. Mythical. Real. A job of men's work has been undertaken.
The wood pigeons become black crows. The wood on the fire turns into charcoal. The forest grows denser. The past is simple. Melancholy sits near each man dressed as the future. The present clings to our skin like paint on a noble savage. The clearing we have made in the middle of the flip chart is ready and waiting.
Tom takes to his knees. His stockings sheen and stilettos shine. He flicks back his blond fringe. He folds the tip of his tongue over his bottom lip. He concentrates on the serious task in hand. His lipstick glistens. His sleek black silk dress sizzles slightly. Static. Tight taut twisting tortuous. Tension. This is a solemn business.
His rock has been well chosen. It has to be. It is the first one. He has given it some thought. As is only right. He lays out the body of an unconceived daughter for all to see. Reflection. Respect. Regard. It is a sense of loss to be shared. We smell it leave the room under the door like a mouse made of dry ice. The hairs in our noses freeze for a second. We recognise the tang of regret, the scent of not having done.
Tom is Chief No Daughter.
Ron is Little Empty Heart. It is red on the outside and blank in the middle. His woman has many children. He is no longer in the centre of the heart. His regret hangs heavy. It is a valley mist. We feel it. Moist and earthy. We like its warmth and accept its presence in the forest.
His red dress is bright like crayon. The frills around the skirt and sleeves are made from florescent crêpe paper. Electric. Dazzling.
A lemur jumps across the coffee table from behind the ornamental cherry tree. In the darkness the pink blossom is crimson. Animal's blood drips down onto the rock pile. Kevin The Story Breaker waits.
He takes two books. Little Girl Lost and Innocent Days. He turns them into pulp, as he chants a girl's name softly. He hardens the pulp with the sweat from his mopped brow. He toils on two pâpier maché stones. He mixes in the blood, sweat and fears we all share. This is solemn ritual. A museum of manhood. No need for tears. It is good to feel the pain. Together.
The Story Breaker wipes his hands onto his polka-dot bikini. The bells on his morris dancing shoes are clogged with muck and earthworms. His sorrow falls into the dirt as he sits back onto his rock.
John is The Father Of One. He longs to parent two. He has more father to give. Aborted hope leaves his loins and lands in the corner of the large sheet of paper Chief Tom has laid out on the floor. The Father Of One lays down the foetus on the wheel of life. It stops spinning and comes to rest near the fountain of youth. There is always more father to share. The fruits of the forest will soon bloom. The orchard will put down roots in the clan. Nobody is surprised. We accept The Father's fate.
The Father of One's fetching leotard and leggings are worn with grace and ease. Crossing his legs, he sits upright and proud on the tree stump. The unborn is born. We know it is sad. The sadness brings strength. We use our strength to build the stone mount. Together.
The digital clock reads three hours after sundown. We are nearly ready to leave the woods and to make merry with roast suckling pig and the womenfolk, says Chief No Daughter.
It is the turn of Dave Long Time No Grandfather. He puts down the firewater and kneels to kiss the bottle. The spirit of the stone rises from the alcoholic haze. Sweet rum and chocolate tastes bitter like coal. Dark as contempt. But we see it now. It changes as it falls. It leaves the marker pen and flows. Onto the page. Grandfather disappears down a black hole. A hole Little Empty Heart has opened, even before I take turns to place my rock.
Long Time No Grandfather is in matching Prada handbag and shoes. His elegantly classic beige tunic dress is plain, but effective. It is a practical choice for the serious ritual we have vowed to perform. It will be easy to keep clean during the feasting and wrestling.
I am Paul Without Man Friend. I am last to go. I have thrown the outfit together in a matter of minutes. It is a first for me. I have never been so solemn in second adulthood before. Certainly not in a frock.