Adam looked around him. He was inside the little church building. It was an extremely bare little building, with 2 wooden pews facing a lectern with a plain wooden table behind it. 5 Water Rats stood around him.
4 were male. The lone female had short hair, and dressed just like them. Adam thought he knew some names, like the girl was called Natalie, mostly called Nat. She was the only one that had been in the field. The rest had showed up at dinnertime. The most serious looking one was called Jack, another one was Pa, and he didn't know the other 2. Jack eyeballed him.
'So you want to be a Water Rat?'
'Yes.' He held himself together. Adam wasn't going to go all defensive and loose the plot. At least, he hoped so.
'Why?' This came from Nat.
'I'm not working to keep my Dad and his woman anymore. And I'm not going to slave to line another man's pockets. So I'm out on the water, and I'm going to try to get by that way. I'd like to not be alone while doing it.' Adam had directed a hidden venom into the words, something he didn't really know he had.
'Fair.' Nat went and sat on the rear pew, boots up on the front one. 'You've got some very nice kit. Where'd you get it all?'
'Left behind by my Mum when she left.'
'Some of us don't have nice things like that. That's hardly fair, is it?'
'No, but it's mine to use as I please.' There were a number of nods all round.
Pa chipped in. 'You're nearly spot on there. We each have our own stuff. We all know we could lose it all tomorrow. So we all share a lot and help each other when it's needed. Don't hoard when you can help a brother, don't leech, and be careful. Water's full of thieves and leeches. You do that?'
'Good. Everyone happy?'
'Ayes' came from all round.
'Then you're all good to join up with us.'
Adam smiled. It wasn't as bad as he thought it might be. Then Jack decided to join back in.
'How many miles have you actually done on the water?'
'From Clonkeen to here.'
'So nearly no miles at all?'
'This man needs to go it alone for a bit.'
One or two of them nearly interrupted, but everyone present knew that it made sense. Even Adam.
'Where will we send him? A good weeks trip would fairly tighten him. I vote we send him to Kilkee.'
Nat hesitated. 'Only if someone gives him some safety training first. He's not ready for the sea.' Jack gave her a dirty look. 'Even just a day would help him. I'll do it tomorrow and he can go the day after.'
'OK, but no messing around. Teach him and get him away. He'll need to be back in time to join us at the big meet.' He glared at Adam. 'Go on out and enjoy yourself. You have a rough couple of days ahead.'
Adam went out of the little church building, into the early evening. The campfire had been built higher, and someone was playing a guitar. He saw Dena by the fire as well, playing some sort of board game. Some people were working on their gear, others were just sitting and talking. Lots of them had some kind of beaker or bottle in hand, and Adam could only speculate as to what they contained. He only knew that he wasn't taking any.
He went on over to the fire, sat down beside Dena, and the night grew hazy from there.
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