Water Rats part 2.1: The Boy on the Green Kayak

Adam Blain paddled down the Abbey River, a cloud of mixed emotions. It was the second day since he'd left home, up at Clonkeen. He was homeless, free, poor and rich all at once.

He was a 14-year-old of average height, pinched face and unfriendly demeanour. Life had dealt him a rough hand these last few years. His father had been a manager at a tech company in Shannon, making enough to get married, buy a big house, take really nice holidays and have both himself and his wife drive high-spec BMWs.

Then came global collapse, reducing the entire tech sector of the economy in Ireland to a couple of guys who worked at jailbreaking devices to allow apps to be passed around on USB drives. Adam's father couldn't handle the fact that the whole system he lived in had disappeared, creating a new one, consisting of farmers and warlords. He came home one day from the office, where he'd been going regularly, even though there was nothing to do, and no hope of anything to do, and opened the drinks cabinet in his office.

Jason Blain hadn't been moderate with alcohol before this, but this circumstance transformed him into an animal, pursuing an angry cycle of alcohol and fits of rage. Adam's mother and sister had left about a week into it, going to stay with relatives. Adam had stayed and made an effort to keep his father alive, taking up whatever job came his way to put food on the table and the creditors at bay.

He'd had plenty of opportunity to leave, as it wasn't his problem what happened to the guy, but he'd held on for 4 years, till Mrs Mcgarrity showed up.

Tracy Mcgarrity was supposed to be a lady. Adam saw nothing ladylike about her, and avoided her, which became very difficult when she decided to shack up with his father. For a while she just used Adam as a slave for her and Jason, but after a while she felt that her standard of living needed raised, and his father was sent off to work as well. Unfortunately, the man was utterly useless, and no one would hire him, at least for anything important or good paying. Adam's misery increased, being saddled with the job of finding his father work.

3 days ago, he'd lost patience. He'd heard one too many comments to do with his father, but one just touched something inside him.

'You are stupid, working so hard to keep the useless man and the woman. What's keeping you? What do you owe them? Get away and live on your own terms.'

That night, he'd gathered his things, mostly clothes and tools, a sleeping bag and his Xbox 360, probably his most valued possession, which had quite a few games saved on the hard drive, and parcelled it all up in a couple kit bags and rucksacks. Then he took it all out to the garage, quietly. He knew he was safe from inquiry from either of the supposed 'adults' in the house. In the garage lay a kayak, bought many years ago by his mother, who loved paddling in rivers and loughs. A dolly for rolling stacks of crates around was sitting beside it, and that's what he'd use to transport it down the road to the river

The next day, his father wasn't up in the morning to go to work, so he rightly assumed that he wouldn't show up at all. He really worked hard that day on the building site, in his role as a go-for, mixing cement and carrying bricks. Then, as the early September sun started to dip and the men started to pack up, he went to his boss, Mr Mullan, who was storing away his prized laser level in the storage container that the valuables kept on site were locked in.

'Hi, I'm for moving away now. Could I have that money I asked you to keep back for me?'

Mr Mullan was one of those sturdy, round faced men who gave off an atmosphere of relaxed confidence. He turned to face Adam. 'Say again?' He hadn't heard, as Adam had unleashed the words in a hurry.

'I'm for leaving for Limerick, and I'd like that money I asked you to keep back for me.' He hadn't actually had much of a plan, but Limerick was what landed on his tongue, and was as good a plan as anything. Mr Mullan had been a good boss for him, and had been keeping back a little of his pay over the last six months, so Adam actually had a rather nice little stash with his name on it.

'When are you going? It might be awkward to get it for you.'

'Tonight, if possible. I've had enough.'

'Hmmmm. Let me think. Are you sure? The cities a dangerous place, and it could be hard getting work.'

'I'm sure. I can't live here anymore. Else I'll give up and end up like my Dad. Limerick might not be my final destination though. It might just be a stop.'

'The money is in my account in the bank in Clarecastle, so I could write you a cheque that you could cash in Limerick, in case you get robbed on the way.'

'Works for me.'

'Come on back to my place and I'll sort you out then.'

Author's Note: There's now an email address on the homepage, feel free to use it (for feedback and criticism ideally)

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