Rough Justice

by Rigby Taylor

Chapter 16

Robert ticked off the items. 'Tent, sleeping bags, clothes, food, water, stove, silk samples. Blast off!'

When they called in to Bart's to pick up his clothes, Hazel was waiting with another of her enormous Black-forest gateaux; layers of sticky chocolate cake and cream topped by flakes and glacé cherries, carefully packed into a cardboard box.

'Hazel it's magnificent! No one should go camping without one.' Bart handed her the keys of his car. 'For what it's worth, Hyacinth's yours while I'm away. He may be old, but I keep him roadworthy.'

'That's very generous, Bart. I don't think I'll be game enough to drive it, but I have a nephew coming to stay during the holidays, he has a licence.'

'Whatever you decide, it's there if you want it.'

After accepting an unnecessary coffee they set off, Robert at the wheel.

'By the way, Hazel no longer thinks you're my cousin.'

'What does she think we are?'

'What we are.'


Layer upon intangible layer of worries, cares, problems, fears and doubts peeled from both young minds as suburbs receded, city roads became motorway, and distance between the old life and the new increased. Bart leaned against his window and watched gratefully as pleasure-in-life returned to the face of his driver. They chattered about anything and everything in an effort to keep excitement under control. Holidaying with a lover. Too perfect to be true. No one had the right to be so happy. Robert rested his hand lightly on Bart's thigh, Bart checked there was no car following before leaning across to kiss him on the cheek.

The samples had been safely delivered, the sun was shining and they were parked beside the river. Having made no plans they were unsure of the next move.

'Swim here - or further up the coast?'

'Somewhere private.'

'Not here then.' Bart took the wheel and within half an hour they were shouldering their packs for the walk through Noosa National Park to Alexandria Bay. They passed a dozen or so other walkers, most of whom were lost - many of the track-signs having been stolen by vandals. Twenty minutes later they emerged together with three surfies lugging their boards at the entrance to a beach. But what a beach!

The turquoise ocean was hurling breakers on to a long crescent of white sand, seagulls whirled over rock promontories at either end, and trees straggled from encircling hills right down to the dunes. A vast amphitheatre open to an even vaster sea - yet intimate and friendly. The surfies joined a group directly in front of the path. To the left, small figures could be seen playing with a ball and several lone men gazed out from the sand-hills. To the right, an encampment of sun umbrellas, gaudy towels and shade devices indicated the most popular section. Bart headed for it, ignoring Robert's grunts of surprise.

'They're all naked!'

'Yeah, great isn't it?'

They found a casuarina-shaded spot under the hill, spread their towels and surveyed the scene. No one had taken any notice of them. All shapes and sizes, all colours of skin, all ages, all sexes, were reading, chatting, applying lotion, playing games, running down to the water, sitting in it, paddling, swimming, body surfing, enjoying the idyllic spot in their own way. There were no dogs, no radios, no giggling self-conscious girls trying to attract boys, no louts showing off to their mates and girlfriends, no galah-gaggles of women picking everyone else to pieces.

'Race you!'

Clothes were jettisoned and they raced across the sand to hurl themselves into the clear, cold water. After bodysurfing, chasing each other through waves and hooting with laughter as they fell into unseen holes, they lay side by side in the shallows, jostled by the enfeebled remains of breakers. They were neither the youngest nor the oldest on the beach. Others were as good-looking or better, many worse. Firm flesh stood, sat, or lay beside sagging, wrinkled buttocks, legs and bellies. Firm breasts showed what the limp flaps on others had looked like half a century before. It didn't matter. Naked, they were clothed in innocence.

Relaxing back on his towel, face and thighs sprinkled with chocolate cake and cream, Robert gave a nod of comprehension. 'I've finally realised what the Renaissance painters were on about. I could never understand why a naked woman represented Sacred Love while the clothed one was Profane. But now I get it! When every one's naked there's no coquetry, no deception. Bodies are not a mystery to endlessly and unprofitably occupy our thoughts. Minds are freed to look for other, more enduring and valuable things.'

'Like that guy, do you mean?' Bart pointed at an exquisitely formed young man in his late twenties doing handstands a few metres in front of them. Long brown hair was pulled back in a thick plait, every other part of his slim, bronzed body had been shaved smooth and copiously oiled. He turned and gazed at them coolly before crouching behind an umbrella. A few seconds later he reappeared carrying a child, and ran athletically to the sea followed by a young wife with colossal, dimpled buttocks.

'Thank goodness,' Bart sighed with the merest hint of lust. 'A hell of a waste, but I'm not in the mood for competition.'

'That's no competition. I know when I'm well off. Do you think I want someone so attractive I'd have to lock him up? No way! Someone old, ugly and faithful, that'll...'

He got no further. Bart had his arm up behind his back and his face in the sand. 'Old and ugly is it? We'll see about that!' They wrestled lazily until realising they had drawn a small crowd who weren't sure if it was serious, they broke apart, laughing. The onlookers melted away, but the obvious disapproval on the faces of several of the men gave the boys an unpleasant twinge. They chased each other into the sea to wash off both the sand and the feeling before sprawling once more at the edge of the water.

'Why were they so up tight?'

'They thought we were queer.' Bart frowned and began snapping a stick into pieces. 'Fucking bigots!' he said violently, 'But it's hardly surprising. The only gays they've come across are in films and books written for heterosexuals, and they're just about always depicted as miserable, vicious, pathetic victims of their perversion - better off dead. And those idiots on the sand hills don't help.'

'What idiots?'

'Ferals prowling for anonymous sex.'

'Yuk. What about disease?'


'But… most of the people on the beach look nice enough.'

'Ignore appearances - trust no one!'

'And the bloke with the long hair - his prick was half stiff.'

'He also had a wife and kid. That makes it respectable. It's a heterosexual world out there and don't you forget it!'

By the time they left the water the sun had left the beach and chill shadows reminded them it was still September.

'Where'll we sleep?'


'Not allowed, it's a National Park.'

'Where then?'

'The State forest up the road?'

'No camping there either. Who'd know if we hid ourselves in the trees?'

'Snakes, goannas, spiders, ants, bandicoots.'

'Pretty serious. I'm willing to risk it.'

On the way back to the car the perfect campsite was found on a sandy plateau, invisible from the path behind a stand of scribble-gums. They didn't even have to smooth the ground as a pair of thoughtful brush-turkeys had scraped every stick, leaf and blade of grass for metres around to create a pile of compost for their eggs. Carefully marking the entrance to the spot on the path with sticks and branches, they continued back to the car to on to get the tent and food.

Returning in the dark, every path seemed different. Bends and curves were in the wrong places and each fallen twig or branch looked like their marker. They got the giggles and raced around like mice in a maze.

'We're not going to find it.'

'Then here will have to do.'

They trudged up a rise and discovered they were exactly where they wanted to be.

'Ya fooled you. I knew all the time.'

'Me too, I was just seeing if you'd wimp out.'

Robert assembled the tent, one of those masterpieces of springy steel which, once released, form of their own accord into an igloo, complete with ground-sheet and zip-up entrance.

Bart was impressed. 'Now that's what I call an erection!'

'Not bad is it? We went camping near Cape Tribulation a few years ago and a Swiss couple had one. Dad wouldn't rest until he'd got one for himself. But of course we've never been camping since, so it's brand new.'

'Can't wait to baptise it.'

Inside, they spread out sleeping bags, made depressions in the sand for hips, cut two thick lumps of bread and two equally enormous slices of cheese, then, sharing the water bottle, quenched both hunger and thirst.

Sunrise woke them about six. They dressed warmly against the chill, cleared the site, re-packed everything, checked there was no evidence of their stay and took off back to the beach - empty of humans but not their debris. Each took a plastic bag and filled it, depositing the loot in the drum provided. Ninety percent of the rubbish came from the area in front of the path where the surfies and their girl friends had spent the day covered in long board-shorts and zinc ointment, sneering at the beach to their right. The naturists had left their beach almost spotless.

A quick dip refreshed, invigorated and stirred hunger pangs. Robert collected wood, Bart cooked, and within ten minutes there were fried eggs and bread, hot tea, slices of papaya and a banana each. 'The best breakfast I've ever eaten in the most perfect surroundings! Makes you feel sorry for all those poor gits in their units and motels.'

'A man after my own heart.'

They erected the tent under the casuarinas to reserve the spot for later, then, carrying only a small pack with their valuables took off round the rocks and over the headland to "Devil's Kitchen". He had served crystal-clear blue soup just off the boil, barely breaking its surface on the rocks fifty metres below. Only gannets fractured the peace of the morning, crying and shrieking as they whirled and circled above the somnolent swell before plummeting for fish. Silky grey-green casuarinas, wild flowers, morning dew, views down to the bay, and south along the surf beach to Coolum - everything glowed under the transparent dome of a cloudless blue sky. The stuff of poetry. Side by side they sat, warming their backs in the sun, arms around each other's waists, hearts beating in unison.

'This is perfect, Bart. If only it could last forever.'

'It'll last as long as we want it to.'

'I was wondering if we should have a trial period? …Just to make sure?' Robert sounded diffident.

'I see,' replied Bart, defensive in spite of himself. 'And how long do you think this trial period should be?'

'I thought.... I thought about ninety-nine years?'

'I must have been a trout in a previous life. You string me along and I rise to the bait every time.' Bart turned to a grinning Robert. 'That seems reasonable, as long as I can get an extension if I'm still not sure.'

They followed a couple of hikers back to the beach where the first enthusiasts were setting up camp.

'What'll we do today? Explore the wonders of Noosa?'

'What's there?'

'Expensive shops, expensive restaurants, expensive sidewalk cafes, crowds of holiday-makers pretending they're in the south of France, a traffic jam or two and a nearby beach full of families.'

'Sounds great. Reminds me of when my grandparents came for a holiday from France about six years ago. They were looking forward to wide open spaces, empty beaches, sunshine, fresh air and lack of stress. After doing the big circuit - up to Cairns and back through Longreach - they reckoned the traffic on the coast was nearly as heavy as in France, and the beaches were just as crowded. Where there was surf it was too wild and dangerous, and further north the tide was either in, with stingers, sharks and crocs, or out so far you couldn't see it. They hated all the advertising, billboards and other American-style visual pollution, and thought they had wasted their time and money.'

'And what did they think of the outback?'

'They didn't mind that it was flat, windy, hot, boring, treeless, endless, uninteresting and empty, what they couldn't handle were the flies. They were still twitching days after they returned. Grandma swore she'd never get the feeling off her lips. They came again for a visit two years ago. Flew to Brisbane, spent a couple of weeks with us, then flew to Tahiti for a "real" tropical holiday.'


'Yeah. Anyway, what to do today. My choice?'

'Yours today, mine tomorrow. Tuesday we take to the hills.'

Robert looked apprehensive. 'I hope your landlords like me. How old are they?'

'Late fifties – early sixties?'

'An old married couple. – Yuk!'

'Been together over forty years.'

'Big deal. Why do we have to visit them? I only want to be with you. I hate being with people who don't understand what it's like. I've got to get used to being gay.'

'They understand.'

'Says you!'

'They've got a beaut house - and you might learn something.'

'Doubt it. They'll think I'm stupid.'

'They'll love you. Everyone does.'

'Except Lance.'

'He'd love to be you though, which amounts to the same thing. Come on, make up your mind. Where're we going?'

'You obviously want to mix it with the beautiful people, so we'll spend the day climbing that hill over there, admiring nature, and swimming. It'd be bad for you to get everything you want. Then the same hotel again tonight.'

From the summit of the hill they had views of the sea, glimpses of blue bays dotted with surfies, and, through a gap in the hills, a vista of apartments on Main Beach.

'Let's go down.'

'To those yuppies?

'We're over half way.'

'I don't feel like it.'

More annoyed than he would admit at having to visit the elderly landlords, Robert needed to assert his independence. 'It's OK, I'll go on my own.'

'But - we're doing what you decided this morning!'

'Well now I've changed my mind. See you back at the beach.' Robert waved lightly and took off at a fast jog. After about a hundred metres he stopped, realised Bart hadn't followed, and felt the first surge of apprehension. Bart had better still be there! He pounded back up the track, pushing aside anyone in his way. Muttered imprecations from those splattered with sand or lashed by swinging branches didn't filter through his increasing alarm. What if he isn't there? He wasn't. Robert raced headlong down the path back to the beach. 'Bart! Bart!' he shouted at the top of his voice. 'Wait!' A group of hikers looked at him with interest but he kept on yelling.

A fork in the track. Which way? A hand grabbed him by the shoulder. He turned, gaped idiotically and blushed furiously.

'You raced past me back there. I'd stopped for the view. I couldn't catch up and you were yelling so loud you couldn't hear me. What's the rush?'

Robert grinned sheepishly. 'Dunno, Teach. Frightened I was going to get lost? Worried we might never meet up again?'

'You're a free man.'

'I know, but… time spent away from you seems a total waste. And… I felt as though I couldn't breathe. I kept imagining something terrible would happen and I'd never see you again.' He grinned shyly. 'I guess I really am in love. I've read it's like a gruesome sickness.'

The last day was the best. With the beach almost to themselves and the weather continuing perfect, they swam, ate, walked, climbed, and explored rock pools. After lunch they lay in the shade, spilling lives into greedy ears. Not surprisingly, they found they shared similar opinions about every important thing - books, exercise, movies, school, dancing, music, and arrived at the obvious conclusion - their love was inevitable. The planets could not have continued on their paths through the heavens if Robert and Bart hadn't met, wrestled, loved, and vowed eternal allegiance.

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