Gazing up at the sky through the branches, he heard a polite cough. He was not surprised to see Farleigh standing there.
"You don't come here anymore," joked Justice indicating the derelict state.
"Hello. No. I don't think I've ever come here." Farleigh vaguely remembered Beth always suggesting he go play in the tree.
"You don't remember. This was where we always played. Just about over there in all those weeds was the enemy fort. Don't you remember?"
"No." Farleigh looked at the branch where Justice was sitting. "Wait." He picked his way through the battered trail left by Justice and hoisted himself on to the branch ahead of him. Straddling the wide limb he gazed out at the tangle of weeds. "There was the remains of an old borehole pump somewhere over there."
"That's right. They was the enemy. We used to bombard them from up here. When you were very small I used to put you up here and then climb up behind."
"I remember!! But it was a much wider branch, wasn't it? We could lie flat so that the enemy couldn't see us. I remember!" Farleigh became flushed and sat back as long forgatten memories came flooding back.
"I remember the day," said Justice, "when you first managed to climb up here by yourself. You were nearly four I think. I'm sure it was like a week before your birthday, or something."
"It was! It was! I still got a fireman suit for my birthday cos now I could climb trees." Farleigh was shrieking with delight. "I'm going to run away and become a fireman, that's what I'll do!"
Justice laughed out loud. "Come Farleigh, let's hunt down the enemy."
"Wait. Let me get some weapons."
A few minutes later he was back, making a racket dragging an overloaded wheelbarrow backwards through the weeds. The enemy fort was soon exposed and vanquished but they continued until they had cleared the whole area under the tree. Farleigh looked up into the branches.
"Didn't we have a swing somewhere?"
"Right here." Justice indicated some decayed threads on a branch just above his head.
"No! I suppose it must be. It was so high above my head then I remember not believing that you could get up there to tie it. Now I can touch it. Well if I stand on tiptoes. Almost."
"Wanna see if you can climb up there now?"
"Ha-ha. Come Justice. I've got beers in my fridge. Let's go clean up for dinner."
"Let's go. I'll take these. You can push the barrow with the small stuff."
* * * * * * *
Cleaning up together in Farleigh's small bathroom, he noticed Justice perusing his bare-arse as he showered. "What?" he asked somewhat sharply.
Justice grinned. "My, how you've grown, cousin Farleigh."
"Obviously. So have you. Obviously. 'Sfunny you know. I remember playing here with you but I can't actually picture you. I mean I can't put your face into those memories."
"We must ask Beth. I'm sure she has photos."
They sprawled in front of the TV with beers in hand. Farleigh was lighting a small spliff while Justice crushed some more to make a big one. CNN showed flickering pictures of world-wide american disasters but thankfully the sound was off.
"So what was up this morning? You was in a mean mood."
"Who, me? Oh . . . that." In all the excitement he had completely forgotten the turmoils of the morning. It seemed so trivial now.
"Yeah, that. Was it 'that' made you talk of running away n becomin a fireman?"
"Oh, Justice. I'm a fool I know. My whole life has been so pointless. Boring you know."
"But something happened. You were pretty wild this morning."
"I know, I know. Don't remind me. I'm such a fool."
"You said it."
"Okay. What happened was this. Well in a word, Edie. Oh god! Your sister."
"Mmm. She's a pretty girl."
"Yes! Oh, I thought she was so sweet. So young and innocent and so attentive. So willing to please."
"So you seduced her."
"I thought so at the time." He looked pensive for a moment. "I was talking to Anna this afternoon. Seems Edie's far from innocent. Far, far from it. And she's so young. She's nothing but a slut."
Justice could hear the disgust in Farleigh's voice.
"But what's really wrong with that? She's young, she's pretty and she's happy to share that with everyone. I see nothing dishonourable in that."
"Most people wouldn't agree with you, you know. Even just in terms of safe sex and HIV and all that. But besides that all religions are against that sort of behaviour."
"Religions are not god y'know. You did use condoms, didn't you?"
"I, um, well, I just assumed she was like a virgin, you know."
"And you think it's cool to go round screwing virgins so that you, as a grown man who should know better, don't have to use a condom. Then when you find out she's not a virgin, she's the baddy. What kinda morals is that?"
"You make it sound like I've had a whole string of virgins. It was only her, only she wasn't." He pouted.
"That's even worse. So your previous lovers were not virgins. So unless you were using condoms with them you could be carrying something nasty which you would have off-loaded on some unsuspecting supposed innocent."
"Oh sod you! It doesn't matter what I say, you're just going to attack me."
"I'm sorry Farleigh. I don't mean to attack you. Even she should know better. I know she's only fourteen but as you just discovered, she's not so innocent and should have insisted. But seriously, it is important to use condoms."
"I know. It's just . . ." He looked at Justice.
"She's the first girl I ever slept with." His face turned scarlet. Justice looked at him and shook his head. He was about to speak when there was a loud buzzing, like a doorbell, coming from the house.
"Oh, god. That's dinner. I really don't feel like dressing."
"So clean up here a bit." Farleigh looked dubiously at the clutter around them. "Oh man just make some space there on the table. I'm dressed, not like for dinner, but I can go and make excuses and bring a tray."
"You can't do that! Mother will catch a fit. She'll think I'm treating you like 'the boy'." He giggled. "Let me call Anna to do it."
"Don't be silly. It's Sunday evening. Let the poor woman rest. Half your problem is always having someone to call to do everything for you. Nothing alleviates boredom half as much as having to do everything for yourself."
Farleigh made a face. "Ah'd rawther be boared," he drawled. Justice left chuckling and feeling rather tipsy. They had flattened three quarts in record time. He stopped in at the bathroom to splash his face and peer at his bloodshot eyes and then he went in search of dinner.
When he returned he found Farleigh's living room transformed and a big bag of garbage in the passage. There was a fire going in spite of the evening being quite warm, and a bottle of scotch on the table.
"Here we go. Looks good. I reckon Anna knows her stuff. You were right though. Beth wasn't impressed. I found it hard not to scream, but I was good, hah! Anyway when I explained that you n I still had a lot of talking to do, she accepted it bit still wanted to call Anna. So, listen to this, I told her that I have just as many arms and legs as Anna 'cept mine are probably stronger and better looking. Mmmph. She still protested so in the end I told her that you were lying naked on the sofa in front of the fire and not expecting a woman to come wandering in."
"But she came wandering in anyway."
"No." Farleigh grinned. "Edie. Just after you left. I guess she wanted to know which way the wind blows."
"Hahah! I got her to clean up and make the fire. Then I told her that will be all thank you."
"Good for you. Bit nasty though, don't you think?"
"Nah. She didn't look at all miffed. A bit relieved if anything."
"So now you are virtually naked on the sofa in front of the fire."
"Yeah. Be a doll and shut the door."
"Be a doll, huh? Okay." Justice turned and walked stiff legged to the door, croaking "Mama". When he returned Farleigh was rolling on the rug clutching his sides.
"Come off it Farleigh, what would mother say? And we haven't even started on the scotch."
"Speak for yourself." Farleigh raised his glass at Justice. There was not much left in it. "Bring the ice n soda from the fridge. There, under the counter. I've got a glass for you. Do you drink scotch?"
"Only when I'm awake."
"Come. Sit. You are such good company. What's for dinner?" Farleigh lifted the cover from his plate. "Oh good. A big piece of meat. Just what I feel for."
Justice grinned and sat down next to him."Cheers." He raised his glass and took a big swallow. "To life."
Farleigh looked at him. "Life sucks. So far anyway. Let's say to the future."
"To the future then." They chinked glasses and for a few minutes ate in silence.
"It always seems like such a big hole. An abyss."
"What are you talking about, Farleigh."
"Hmmm? Oh. The future. It's like a really fat novel, only the pages are all blank."
"I think it's more like one of those really busy renaissance paintings where every minor event in the picture is a possibility to be explored, and I get the choice every time."
"I honestly do not know what to do in the future. I really can't sit around here much longer. I think I would start to decompose long before I died."
"You probably have already. You should check the sofas you been lying on. Mebbe you leavin bits behind." Before he had finished an ice block bounced off his head. He put his plate down, tossed his drink and showered Farleigh with half a dozen half-melted ice blocks.
"Yaah! That was cold! That was so so cold." He rubbed his robe all over his head and neck and then wrapped himself up tight. "I'm not falling apart yet, okay."
"Okay. Truce. I'm too hungry to do battle. Refill? Thanks."
"But I still haven't figured out what to do. You seem to have so many options open to you."
"I thought you were going to become a fireman."
"Oh shut up. I'm serious."
"You gotta do what you wanna do. The only way to find happiness, peace, contentment, whatever, is to do your heart's desire. To deny your heart's desire is to deny god."
"The only way to find fulfilment is to do your own will. Find something constructive to do. Something that you love to do. Love is the constructive energy. Fear is the destructive one. As long as you fear the future you obstruct its possibilities. If you find something you love doing, it doesn't matter how insignificant that something is, with the creative force of love behind it, you can move mountains."
"Oh, you're wearing me out at the thought. I just want something simple to do. Something entertaining."
"Listen to me Farleigh. You need to get out and do stuff in order to find out what you really want. You can't just sit here and expect it to come to you. The important thing to remember is every time you're faced with a choice, take the option that appeals to your true nature. I reckon that every living thing on earth is god, somehow, so the more you get in touch with your true nature, the more you are in touch with god's will. As long as you keep operating with love you can become as powerful as god, put it that way. But it's easier said than done."
"Do you always get so philosophical when you're drinking?"
"I'm even worse when I'm sober."
"Actually the thing I most believe in is the Constitution of South Africa, especially the Bill of Rights. In fact The Freedom Charter, on which it is based, says it all in a nutshell. But what the Constitution has done, is expand the philosophy of The Freedom Charter to encompass every aspect of life. If everybody lived with awareness of the Bill of Rights we would find it the greatest guide to living.
"I mean the Bible just doesn't cut it man. It's full of prejudice and judgement and bias and fighting." He slukked his drink and shook his head.
"Actually I'm talking bullshit. I don't have a clue what's in the Bible. I don't think I've read more than ten pages of it."
At this point Farleigh disintegrated, with tears streaming down his face and clutching his sides. Justice looked at him. "Was that really so hilarious?"
"All I ever hear is people going on about how they read the Bible twice a day and three times on Sundays and then Rev Whatsisname's always saying that I should read it every morning and evening cos it's the greatest guide to living." He cracked up again.
"Oh, forget about them. Listen to me. Eish, Farleigh! Make another spliff, it's obviously working."
Farleigh calmed down and started crushing. "Shit! Where you find such fine ganja?"
"I believe it's grown right here in your backyard."
"Serious? So how did you get it?"
"Uh, I promised not to reveal my source. But I'm sure I can get more."
"Okay, well do the refill. You can see I'm busy."
"Yeah, yeah. But I wanted to tell you something. Oh, yeah, bout Rev Whatsisname. Just call them all Pastor Way, it'll make you feel much better. Never listen to them. They are all still propping up roman domination of the world. Here."
"That's what I wanted to tell you bout. The romans."
"The romans? But the roman empire collapsed over a thousand years ago."
"Ah. In theory. Actually it was a political move. Out of the ashes of the collapsed roman empire rose the holy roman empire. A far more subtle way of taking over the world. Worst part is, it's winning."
"Against who? The moslems, the chinese? Who? Everyone?"
"Everyone else actually. You have to look back at where did the romans come from."
"Well from Rome obviously."
"Ouch! What was that for?"
"Listen carefully, and be afraid."
"I'm already shaking, look."
"Okay, okay. I'll pour you a drink. Ouch! Damn! Gimme that, you smoking it all."
"But it's so nice."
"Yeah it is good. Now sit down and listen. According to legend Rome was built by Romulus and Remus though only Romulus ruled cos he murdered his twin brother. How's that? Anyway they were the sons of Mars. Now this is the interesting part. Mars was one of the roman gods but of course there weren't any romans until Romulus founded his city. It was the city for his subjects, for him to rule over as the son of god. Do you see the connection?"
"The roman gods were the sons of Adam."
"And the greek gods?"
"Well they were all the same people only the greeks had their own names for them."
"Oh, I knew that."
"Have another drink Farleigh. Adam and Eve were Jupiter and Juno aka Zeus and Hera."
"Okay." Farleigh passed him the newspaper and banky of weed. "Here, it's your turn."
Justice started crushing. "So now what do you make of the story of Adam and Eve, with the wicked snake which tempted Eve into sampling the forbidden fruit."
"You don't really think that's all true, do you?"
"Sure it's true, but it's symbolic. Remember Adam and Eve were as gods. Led the charmed life, had no wants etc, etc. In other words the garden of eden. It wasn't so much a place as a standard of living. While the rest of the human race had pretty much evolved along with life on earth, eking out their existence in the wilderness, Adam and Eva had elysium.
"So although they had the fabulous life and at least incredible longevity and possibly immortality, in which case they're still alive somewhere, the one thing they were not allowed to do was reproduce. Firstly the earth could never support an expanding population of immortals and secondly it was a delicately balanced cosmos with each species, including the humans, living the culture they were created with. If Adam and Eve had babies they would grow up and fuck with the natural humans thereby fuckin up the natural culture of the humans which would destroy the cosmos' delicate balance."
"So where does the snake and the apple tree come into it?"
"Ouch. Stop that. Gimme that bottle. God, it's empty."
"So I just discovered. Listen ? this CD you're playing."
"Erykah Badu. What about it?"
"Skip back a few tracks. Not that one. It starts 'I have some food in my belly'."
"Oh this one."
"Ok now listen. Shh. Sit down." A few seconds later she sang
"And if you don' want to get down with me
"Then you don' want to pick from my apple tree."
"It was Adam's snake that seduced Eve's apple into giving up the womb."
"You mean the original sin was 'they fucked'?"
"Well I reckon they were free to play with each other n themselves as much as they liked but he was not allowed to impregnate her. But it was not the act that was the problem, it was the effect.
"The interesting thing is, and this is one of the few bits I've read in the Bible, they only had sons."
"For real? I mean that it's in the Bible."
"Eish bru! Ya, it's in the Bible ? some versions of it anyway. I have a theory about this. I reckon Eve was just an ordinary girl until Adam donated his rib, but that rib was not from his skeleton. It was a piece of genetic material. Thereafter he only had two Y chromosomes instead of XY and that is why they only had sons."
"So that's why people generally want sons. To be like Adam."
"And yet it's all wrong."
"I mean that was what Adam did wrong. That was the Original sin. None of the rest would have happened if he had stuck to wanking."
That set Farleigh off in peals. This time Justice had to fetch ice from the freezer to stop him.
"Shh! It's after two in da morning. D'you wanna wake someone?"
"Okay, okay. I'm fine. No I'm not. Wait. I've got another bottle somewhere." He struggled to his feet and wobbled into the bedroom. After rummaging around he came back triumphantly.
"Jesus! What's that?"
"I dunno. I thought it appropriate. It's something consecrated from an Italian monastery."
"On top of the scotch?"
"Well that was on top of the beers and we've made it this far. The spliff's not finished is it?"
"Not much left." Justice looked at the bag sadly.
"You gotta go back to dat tree tomorrow. Gimme your glass."
"Here. Wait, I wanna get this fire going again, it's getting cold in here." While he got busy with the fire, Farleigh snuck up on him and dropped an ice block down his back. Justice sat up very straight, very fast, and reaching behind with both arms he grabbed Farleigh in a backwards bear-hug.
Unfortunately when he stood up he lost his balance and they both went crashing into the sofa with poor Farleigh underneath. Justice quickly rolled off of him.
"Askies. Are you okay?" He started feeling him all over for broken bones.
"Mmmm," said Farleigh deliciously and started rubbing Justice's chest. Justice slipped both arms under Farleigh, lifting him and grabbing the open wine bottle with one hand.
Realising Farleigh was about to shriek he quickly stuck his tongue in Farleigh's open mouth while his free hand found its way into Farleigh's boxers. He only just made it to the bed before losing his grip on the wriggling Farleigh.
"Wassamatta? You don' want?"
"Fuck you!" Farleigh took a deep breath. "Come here." He grabbed Justice around the neck and pulled him down onto the bed.