Thursday, 16 April 2009 - 8:16 pm


Yesterday, we said goodbye to the Rats and their mall. There was relief and regret on both sides, not least because none of our younger groupmates tried to stay behind.

Alice has had a sullen cloud clinging to her since she talked with Dillon. I didn’t hear what was said, but he was earnest and she was unhappy. They didn’t part well and he seemed surprised when she grabbed her bag and gathered up with the rest of us. Whatever was said, she didn’t decide to stay with the Rats.

Nugget was missing for a while, which worried us because we couldn’t afford to search for her. As if memories of the prison weren’t bad enough, this place was a maze that was never designed to contain people; we’d never find her if she didn’t want us to. She turned up when we had almost finished packing with a determined look on her face and Jones on a leash. The cat looked displeased and sat down at every opportunity, forcing her to pull him across the floor by his harness. That little girl wasn’t going to give up, though. I have no idea how she got the harness on him, and I suspect that her chances of repeating the feat aren’t good.


Finally, we were ready to go. The Rats came to see us off. I couldn’t help but notice that a couple of them were coughing and there seemed to be fewer of them around than usual. Alice searched their faces and went away unsatisfied.

We made slow progress, packs hitched on our shoulders and boots creaking at the ground. Sax soldiered on bravely, though his cough is as bad as ever and he had to keep stopping to catch his breath. Worry still curls up in my chest when I think about him.

Luckily, we found a solution to our transport problem a couple of klicks away from the mall. It was so simple that we laughed when we saw it. The glass front was frosted with rain residue, dried like sick, fake snow, but we could still read the signs. It was a dealership, wedged in between a gas station and a Chinese takeaway, but not for cars – it specialised in scooters. Most surprisingly, it hadn’t been broken into yet.

We soon rectified that. We flooded inside and across its floor, each of us moving towards something shiny that caught our eye. The scooters were perfect – able to get around obstacles easily, they would be a lot faster than a car or 4×4. Most of them would take a passenger, so the young ones could ride pillion. There was no protection from the rain – we would have to be careful about that – but we could take them inside wherever we holed up for the night.

The obvious question came up: can we get them started? So Ben and I rolled up our sleeves and got to work trying to find out. Someone found (and broke into) the cabinet that held the keys to the gleaming beasts crammed together on the dealership floor. The ignitions were dead, of course, but some of the models could be kick-started like motorbikes.

Like any dealership, the floor models only had a little gas in the tanks. The cans out the back were pretty much dry, so I left a few of the others sifting through the stock for scooters that we could get going and went next door to the gas station. We weren’t going to be able to get the pumps going without breaking them open and operating the actual pump part by hand, so we looked for an easier option – a tube and the access to the underground tanks. Siphoning would be quicker.

It took four of us to get into the tanks, and over an hour to get the precious liquid out of the ground and into cans so we could fill up the scooters. The sky was growing dark by the time we returned to the dealership. The others were still poring over the vehicles, giggling and squealing and making revving noises, both with the scooters and by themselves. Except Masterson, who looked unimpressed, and Thorpe, who asked me why we couldn’t have found a motorcycle place and got some real machines.


By the time we had been through all of the scooters and sifted out the ones we could use, it was raining. None of us noticed it starting, and we didn’t really mind. With work to keep us busy, we didn’t stop until it got too dark to see. No-one wanted to top up gas tanks by candlelight, so we settled down for the night, but not before I snagged myself a jacket from the display of leathers.

I think this is the first time I have taken something that I didn’t exactly need; I’ve always wanted a real leather jacket but could never afford a good one. Money is worthless now and there’s no-one else here to claim it, so why shouldn’t I? A part of me wonders if this is the start of a slippery slope.

Last night, it didn’t matter. We were all on a high and looking forward to the morning. We planned on an early start and mostly succeeded in achieving it. Grins rode above each set of handlebars as we zipped off, weaving around the crippled cars and abandoned trucks. Six scooters in total, with the kids and Sax riding pillion. Dillon has been egging me on from behind my shoulder all day, and I’d be lying if I said that I managed to resist him.

The funniest part was Nugget. When we were mounting up, she approached Thorpe and solemnly tugged on his sleeve. He was already sitting on his scooter and found himself presented with Jones. He looked bewildered as he took the cat, and then surprised when he realised that the little girl was clambering up behind him. Before he could ask how he was supposed to drive with a cat in his arms, Nugget tapped on his elbow and held out her hands for the animal. Jones was settled between the two of them with a stern frown and then she took hold of Thorpe’s beltloops, ready for her ride.

By that time, I was laughing so hard I could hardly see. Thorpe had as much chance of denying Nugget’s intention as Jones had when she put the harness on him.

I hope there are more posts like this one. I can’t stop smiling, just thinking about it. I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun.