Water Rats part 2.2: The Boy on the Green Kayak

Adam followed his boss back to his house after packing up at the building site, a ball of nerves. He might have went a step too far there today, choosing to leave home like that. It almost certainly wasn't too late. Mullan seemed happy enough with his decision, however, but the easy going nature of that man meant that he took everything in his stride. Adam hadn't seen him flustered, ever. He simply reacted smoothly and calmly to whatever came his way.

The September evening was lovely, with a cool breeze and plenty of light still. It was about a half a mile from the site to Mullan's house, which was a big place with a courtyard behind. They went round the back, where the yard of building supplies was, and washed their hands with the hosepipe there, then went on into the house.

Adam followed on into the kitchen, where dinner was being prepared, on a new solid fueled range. Mrs Mullan was the very essence of an Irish housewife, bustling around with pots of things to put on the 2 big hot plates.

'Bridget, where's the chequebook? And could this young lad stay for dinner?'

'Sure he can, I've plenty here, and is it not in the drawer?'

The big man raked through a drawer of papers, eventually coming up with a battered chequebook, then consulting a hardback notebook to see how much was owed, he wrote a cheque for Adam. He tore it out and passed it to him.

'Is that enough?'

Adam checked it against what he thought it should be, and was pleasantly surprised to find that the cheque was for a fair bit more than he was owed. Regardless, he kept a gruff expression and said, 'It'll do.'

Then the rest of the Mullans arrived in from their various jobs, and dinner began. Adam had been over for dinner before, and it always felt like what home used to be.

Robert and Bridget had 4 sons, who were all older than Adam, and 3 of them still lived at home. Ger, the eldest, was in Dublin, selling fuel. Liam, the next eldest, was working for a farmer, as he was after the daughter. Brendan and Sam ran their own building crew, and Brendan's girlfriend had come over for dinner as well.

Dinner was chicken casserole, with champ and peas. It was the best eating that Adam had had in a number of weeks, the norm being whatever cheap stew he managed to scrape together himself, always too watery and certainly lacking nutrition.

Conversation eventually turned to Adam's future. It was revealed that he didn't have much plan other than to proceed down to Limerick. Names of potential employers were thrown around, and Mr Mullan wrote him a reference letter while they were waiting for tea.

'You could sign on as an apprentice for some man, but I have a feeling you've caught the wandering bug.'

'How do you mean?'

'I've just got a feeling you'll not settle properly anywhere for a while. I've seen it a few times, ones who've never gone far just upping and leaving, odd jobbing across the whole country and beyond. Usually lasts till they get a good hard winter of it.'

'Huh. Never noticed that.'

Tea was served, shortbread was passed round, and then it was getting to be time Adam left. There were some goodbyes from the various Mullans, and then Mr Mullan accompanied him outside.

'I have something for you out here.' Adam followed him into a low, dark shed, which was a cluttered workshop. A drawer in the main workbench was opened, and a rag-wrapped parcel was produced. He passed it to Adam, who unwrapped it. It was a bayonet, overall about a foot long, with a tubular grip taking up a third of that, and a big crosspiece with a hole for a rifle barrel. It had a steel scabbard which he removed to show a well kept blade, not oversharpened or nicked, but blackened with age and crusted a little with dark coloured dirt. There was a little knob sticking out from the pommel.

'You'll hopefully not need it for much, but it's a useful tool and a sound weapon. Get someone to make you a holder for the scabbard and you're well sorted.'

'Thank you very much. Where did you get this?'

'Oh, some man gave it to me one time in exchange for some work, you know? Now begone, and take care.'

Adam went on his way, to what had been his home till now, and towards the kayak and an uncertain future.

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