“Worshipping today, Euey?” Doug’s grin was especially cheeky.
“Devoutly, if you’ve got the sacraments.” I wasn’t equipped today.
So it was, that the Lunchtime Mob walked out of the cool, paper-lice-infested, government office, into the heavy, palpable sweat of a December Brisbane noontime.
It wasn’t far to St John’s Cathedral. Thanks to the way the southerly (altar) end overlooked Adelaide Street, via a steep, rocky slope scattered with yucca plants, bamboo and small trees, it was relatively easy to dive around the corner and find a sanctuary of quite a different sort.
There was never any foot traffic down that end.
There’s a pic on Flickr that shows the altar end of St John’s in 1927. We’d have been in the corner behind the first pointy tower thingy on the left.
There were four of us: almost-interchangeable, junior public service droids. Our work was all paper forms, filing and archiving – there’s probably no modern equivalent.
If there’s a machine that now does our semi-mindless tasks. It’s no doubt faster, and it certainly doesn’t take lunch breaks and smoke drugs, before coming back to complete a very slow afternoon’s work.
The lunchtime smoke came from a wide range of sources. Early 70s Brisbane was a minefield of social randomness, and none of us were smooth operators, although Doug was generally good at scoring low-to-medium-grade weed.
My social connections weren’t all the best, and certainly not up to shopping for illicit fun, but I got invited because I was generally good for a loan when money got a bit short before fortnightly paydays.
Doug’s fortunes had been especially good, from what we could see in the crumpled Alfoil. This dope was mostly heads, and tied to a thin bamboo stick with a double helix of bamboo fibre, like a leg strapped into a Hercules sandal.
“Thai stuff, eh?” grunted Wallaby. He was a good roller, who mixed just the right amount of tobacco for a good burn, and always seemed to make joints just thick enough for the occasion.
Doug kicked off, inhaling, nearly exploding with a repressed cough, and eventually dribbling smoke out his nostrils as his eyes streamed freely. He’d already passed to Wallaby, who drew on the jay a little more warily and handed it on to Reggie, whose pale face reddened rapidly, as always.
Then it was my turn.
The smoke was a little more acrid than I expected, but I’d gone through a period of smoking Dutch dark shag rollies. I held back a cough and kept the smoke in as long as I could, like a druggie freediver.
When the rush crept up on me, it was a little more intense than usual. There was a touch of that cold feeling I’d experienced before herfing up a pizza with unexpected traces of crab meat.
We were normally not terribly chatty little stoners. There’d be a bit of a joke here, a lame, random thought there, and long, long silences in between, then somebody would look at their watch and mumble that we’d better get back before Clockboy started checking for late lunchers.
Not to be content with inhaling THC, the quartet ate whatever food they’d brought, and each took on board the caffeine plus thirteen teaspoons of white refined sugar in his can of Coke.
A second little number rolled out under Wallaby’s nimble fingers, and we smoked that down to roaching off a repurposed Government paperclip. The Commonwealth wasn’t going to get much value for money in the coming afternoon.
The cathedral was a real bounty to our straggling stoner coterie. Its vastness and coloured windows were perfect for the “Aaah!” phase, if added awe was needed. And the church had provided for more of our needs, with a handy, secluded stand of big bamboo, a godsend for urination.
My can of Coke had joined forces with the ten o’clock cup of Intentional Rust from the guvvy tea-trolley: the tide was in, and I had to stand and find my wobbly sea-legs for a voyage to the Grove of Empiddlement.
I don’t really think it took me a minute of realtime to stand up. Reality was a mite distorted, as could be expected.
Other things were more clearly noticable than usual. The stones of the church, the light through the bamboo and the trees, the way my lips felt tingly and wanted to make orangutan faces of their own accord.
I peed, as surely no mortal had peed before in all known history. Looking down, I was surprised to see only a trickle, where I expected a sizable, muddy torrent.
This weed was clearly fucking epic stuff.
But, no! Things had maybe reached the point of no return. I had seen what could only have been a full-fledged hallucination. This wasn’t supposed to happen, and I could only think in dark, horrid fantasies of locked psych wards, or me thinking I could fly and taking a more direct route down to Adelaide Street.
Choking back my euphoria, I stumbled around the curve of the apse and sat down with the others, silently looking at my knees.
Time passed. The real stuff and the subjective stuff used different lanes. Eventually Reggie went round the corner.
When he returned, our token redhead was more pallid than usual. I’d swear even his freckles were white. The Horror was upon him too.
With company in my unease, I could be brave.
“Donkey?” I said.
He nodded affirmation.
We recovered, and went on to lead happy lives, apart from Doug, who became a traffic statistic a couple of years later.
The Dean of St John’s apparently wowed the kiddies with his lunchtime Nativity act.
We didn’t see the show, but we did meet one of the cast.