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‘R-r-r-roll up, ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for the heavyweight contender bout of the day! Who’s it going to be, lads? Who’s going to throw their hat in the ring for the championship fight tonight?’

‘What’s the prize?’ shouted Greg.

‘The title of Number One Ngankerie,’ Ranald shouted, ‘and a carrot up the arse!’

Conversations stopped around the group. It might have been something to do with the carrot. I was certainly riveted.

What’s a Ngankerie?’ I hissed out of the side of my mouth.

‘A kind of shaman. Pitjantjatjara word.’

‘Who’s going to step into the ring, gentlemen? Who’s it going to be? Who wants the rare and unique pleasure of a carrot up their anus in order to achieve the highest office of Number One Ngankerie? Roll up, roll up men. this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to declare publicly your willingness to give up the cherry to attain the highest order of shamanism. No takers? Gentlemen, please...’

From out of the crowd an arm, a voice.

‘I’ll take the carrot!’

To my amazement Joseph stepped into the ring. If ever a man appeared to have his arse surgically stapled together it was handsome Joseph.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, give him a big hand!’ The crowd was joining in vocally by this time. Joseph’s surprise candidacy had already brought out a half hearted cheer, and now, given permissions they hooted their delight.

‘We have a man prepared to submit to the carrot in the search of higher spiritual gain. This is a man to be admired, my friends, a man to be feared,’ then, raising his voice a notch he cried: ‘Prepare yourself supplicant! Prepare to take the carrot!’, adding mischievously, ‘it’s gonna hurt you more than it hurts me…’

To my great surprise, Joseph stripped all his clothes off, turned and assumed the position. Now, if I had a body like that I’d rip my gear off at the slightest pretext too but the whole operation was done with such serious intent that any such thoughts vanished. To my second surprise, he was deadly serious.

Ranald looked down and sniffed.

‘Rather too much information, Joseph.’

There lurked in Ranald an evil demon, a savage confrontational pixie with piercing black eyes. Behind the blather and the bullshit, the jokes and the bonhomie, lay another spirit, a flibbertigibbet that powered his day. He was herding us into the Ghost House, about to slam the door behind us and turn the key.

‘Now,’ he said, upping the ante, ‘who wants to administer the carrot?’

Rather too hastily, I thought, someone volunteered.

‘I will insert the carrot!’ he cried and joined Joseph in the circle. I discovered later his name was Charlie and he was Tasmanian. Enough said.

There was another round of applause but not from Dogster. He watched with a horrified fascination. This little improvisation was a bit too real for him. They were either going to go through with it – or not. He truly didn’t know.

‘Will you lu-u-uubricate the carrot, Charlie?’

Charlie’s face twisted into a theatrical snarl.

‘Nah, let him take it rough.’

The cook produced a very healthy specimen from the kitchen and handed it to him. There was much lewd laughter from the lads.

‘Anyone else wanting to contest the positions?’ Darisha chimed in.

A man caller Peter sprang to his feet and entered the circle in the spirit of the moment, arms raised, hat held high in the air. He looked like a demented pixie, his tight wiry frame bursting with energy.

‘Are you a giver or a receiver?’

There was a momentary pause.

‘I’d like to be both.’

‘Awoooo, he’s raised the stakes!’’ shouted Greg.

‘I’d like to stick a carrot up my arse – and eat it!’

There was a momentary hush followed by a roar of laughter from the leaders. I looked around. Expressions varied on the faces of the men, from blank confusion through uncertain smile to stark terror. The heterosexual male and his arse; what a tight, puckered little orifice that is turning out to be.

Ranald swung on the group hiding behind him.

‘What’s this?’ I heard him say sarcastically.

‘Trauma ward, by the look of it,’ murmured Greg.

‘Just look at this – one, two, three, five invisible men!’ Ranald shouted. ‘You’re about to see the most amazing thing, the un-lubricated carrot up Joseph’s bum and there’s five of you sitting there pretending it’s not happening!’

Scotty was trying to hide behind a piece of rope. Ricky was trying to hide behind Scotty. Behind them three men from Tasmania hid from anything involving a carrot. Being Tasmanian they knew what was coming.

‘At moments like this, look very closely at what’s happening with yourself. What are you trying to do at this point? Does the word ‘hide’ spring to mind? This is a rare opportunity to embark upon your journey. You can tremble at the knees, you can shake, you can cry and your buddies here will support your. You have permission to do all these things out here…’


It took ten minutes, many lurid diversions, twenty filthy bum-jokes and every trick in the TheatreSports book but by the end of it we had a posse of half naked men standing having pledged their troth to, in turns, a carrot, a thumb, a bunch of celery, an extended pinkie and a kangaroo tail salvaged from a corpse on day one. Each willing victim was accompanied by a carer prepared to insert the object, watched, I can only assume, by the rest of us. Dog looked on with increasing horror, imagining perforated bowels, fresh New Age blood and horrible disease in the search for transcendental grace. This all seemed a little extreme.

There was no doubt to me that they intended to take this exercise right through to its grisly conclusion. Mother of God. Never again.

Ranald brought down the pace and got serious.

‘You see guys, there are several stages to this and you may choose the level you’re ready to go to. Perhaps, like some of you Tasmanians, it’s nowhere at all. But most of you have chosen the level you go to all your life – and look how fucked up you are.’

He pulled a face. It was a given that every man out here was in some form of crisis.

‘This requires choosing the level you’re can go to – this is what shamanism in all about.’

Dog is still puzzling through the tenuous connection between shamanism, carrots and the anus. I know it’s there but it’s all too hard. I just don’t want to think about it any more.

A bed of swags was laid end to end to cover the floor of the stockroom and, in the heat of the afternoon, all of us crammed into a room about three meters wide and five long. It soon became apparent that this was a bunch of men who hadn’t showered for a few days.

A talking stick was unwrapped ceremonially, held aloft and passed around with serious intent. If you’re not holding it then shut up. Simple rules. This little gimmick was to give us a chance to share our ‘shamanic progress’ without interruption. It was one of the many party games we played. Darisha sat calmly in the centre, his back to one wall, flanked by Ranald and Greg.

We were looking distinctly mangy. Four days growth of beard; a steady diet of dust and flies, any attempt to get clean thwarted by a land that eased into every gritty pore, left ochre on every surface, streaked us with grime. The men were happily grubby, enjoying the sensation of getting really dirty, relishing the freedom to fart. Dog chose a position by the open doorway as an ideal vantage point. Fresh air and escape – both close at hand.

This morning’s madness was producing its crop of fruit. Like overripe mangoes on a humid day we waited for our moment to drop and splatter.



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