The Runaway

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    Book 6

    The Runaway

    Raymond (Ray) Pawley was only eleven years old when his mother took him and fled the family home with her lover, though why she’d taken Ray with her was a complete mystery to him: She’d never been one to show much if any affection towards him before, and seemed to have even less time for him since. Not only that; her new partner wasn’t overly happy about Ray’s presence and wasn’t above giving the young lad an occasional belting to go with the abusive language that he regularly directed at him. Ray constantly wished that his mother had left him with the father who had shown him so much love, and who he missed so much.
    His father had applied for sole custody of his son as soon as his wife left, however following depositions made by the ex-wife, most of which were outright and unsubstantiated lies, the court had seen fit to award custody to her instead.
    However it wasn’t until the night of his fifteenth birthday that he decided that enough was enough, and that unless he did something constructive about it there wasn’t going to be much happiness to look forward to in the foreseeable future. Some big decisions would need to be made if any effective changes were going to be made, and he knew that unless he made them now, life was not just going to be more of the same; and in fact it would probably get even worse.
    His first decision was actually quite easy, if rather bold for a person of his age, however circumstances had made him a lot older for his years than any of the kids he went to school with, and he knew that without the first step being taken no other steps could follow. He was going to leave home, go far away, and he would never be coming back.
    Not immediately of course, as there would have to be a considerable amount of planning and preparation done beforehand, as well as saving a bit more money than what he currently had in his savings account. He decided that his departure would best made during the school holidays after he’d finished his third year of junior high school and gained his Intermediate Certificate, by which time he would be sixteen years and four months old and thus be legally entitled to leave home. That gave him sixteen months in which to have everything carefully planned and have all that he was going to take with him either packed or positioned in readiness to leave.
    He’d joined the local Boy Scout Troop some eighteen months before to explain his occasional forays into the bush, and now decided to use their annual summer camp as a cover when the time came to depart as it would give him a bit over a week of travel before his mother worked out that he’d actually left home.
    Using an old school exercise book, secure in the knowledge that with the usual interest they showed in his education his mother and her boyfriend would never look at it, he began making lists of things that he needed to do, and items that he either had or needed to acquire for the great escape.
    The first list was of the things he had, and these he wrote down in their order of importance, knowing that he would probably have to adjust the order from time to time as he thought things through. Of course being an avid camper the first item on that list was his back-pack and webbing belt, always kept packed and ready to go.
    His back-pack contained two changes of outer clothing, and enough socks and underwear to last a week before needing to do any laundry, a mess kit and KFS set, a toiletries bag, a laundry bag, a groundsheet, his sleeping bag and a closed-cell foam sleeping mat which was rolled up and strapped to the top of the pack. His webbing belt carried two water canteens, one with a cup and cup heater, and two army surplus ammunition pouches, one of which held a small but comprehensive first-aid kit and the other designated as a PEPS pouch, plus a bum-bag containing a poncho and a few other assorted items.
    Next was his actual camping gear, consisting of a second-hand but very good 3-man dome tent, a solar shower bag, a Coleman kerosene lamp, and a two burner gas stove with a small rechargeable gas cylinder. Those items couldn’t be carried around by hand easily and would be loaded into the small cart his friend Jorge Johansen had built to attach to his old bike, which was in third position on his list.
    The bike had been a Christmas present from his paternal grandfather two years before and, despite being second-hand and showing it, was rock-solid and reliable. The cart that Jorge had made for him utilised the twenty-two inch front wheels scavenged from a couple of kids’ bikes during a council kerbside collection day, a sturdy frame and tow-bar made of galvanised pipe, and a two-by-four foot box cargo compartment which had a removable waterproof lid that could be locked on if required.
    The trailer held his camping gear quite easily, and if he secured his back-pack on top of the lid with bungee straps instead of putting it inside the box, it could carry quite a bit more. That ‘bit more’ would include among other things a number of hand tools and several reference books that he knew he was going to need. Although it’d be a heavy load to pull over long distances he was in very good physical condition and felt he could handle it easily. Well, the downhill stretches anyway, he thought to himself with an inward grin.
    A lot of his fitness was due to the fact that he’d gathered a fairly substantial number of clients for the lawn mowing and gardening run that helped him build up his savings, and which could be quite heavy work at times. And of course, to get to those clients with his gardening tools he had to use the bike and its trailer. He was mindful of the fact that before leaving he would have to give his clients reasonable notice that he would be giving up the run.
    At that time he would offer the run to his best friend, Simon, who had a similar run but was hoping to expand it when he could afford a ute to travel further afield and carry more equipment. Ray thought that that idea was actually a very good one and after thinking more about it decided that it was what he should also be doing. Getting a ute that is; not increasing his mowing run. Then again, if he was able to travel well away from the city, to some country town perhaps, maybe he could establish a new run. Even make a small business out of it, and in fact that would not only fit in well with the plans he had in mind but would also increase their scope. Of course he would need to save quite a bit to be able to do that: Buying a ute was doable, even now, but on top of that there were registration, insurance, petrol and running costs that would have to be paid, not to mention that he’d have to wait until he was old enough to get a driving license!
    Thinking of Simon also meant thinking of his sister, Sarah, who Ray long ago had decided was not only the most intelligent girl in school but also the most beautiful. In fact as far as he was concerned she was the most beautiful girl in the whole world, but despite being told by her brother that she liked him a lot he was careful to keep such thoughts to himself. He would liked to have told Simon about his plans, however telling him also meant telling Sarah as the siblings never kept secrets from each other, and he felt sure that once she knew what he was planning to do she would try and talk him out of it.
    He’d tell Jorge Johansen of course, because having previously confided in him on several occasions he knew he could not only keep a secret but would offer all the advice and assistance he could. Once, after receiving a savage belting from his mother’s boyfriend, he’d opened up to Jorge about his situation at home and the old man had been so angry that if Ray hadn’t persuaded him not to he would have marched to Ray’s home and taken the child-beater on.
    “You can’t do that Jorge,” Ray had said. “He’s younger, bigger and stronger than you and you’d only get hurt.”
    “See this?” asked Jorge as he hefted a large knob-handled walking-stick from the umbrella stand inside his front door and gave it a good swing. Ray noted that the handle was a decoratively carved sphere just a little less in size than a cricket ball and that Jorge had held the narrow end of the stick as he swung it.
    “It is a type of fighting stick from South Africa and it is called a knobkerrie. One good hit on a man’s knee could put him out of business for a very long time. I know this because I have had to use it to defend myself.”
    Jorge had virtually been forced to live off the land at the end of the Second World War and Ray had listened intently to the stories he told about the hardships he’d endured in Europe at that time, and of how a vegetable garden had been one of the most important parts of his survival.
    “My garden was not so good as this one,” he’d said, sweeping an arm across his back yard, “because the weather was not so nice all the time like in Australia. And many times I have to chase away the thief who was coming in the night to steal my vegetables.”
    “I bet that made you angry. I know I would be if somebody was pinching all the vegetables I was growing.”
    “Ja. But many people were very hungry and had no money to buy food. I would like for people to help me with my garden and I can give them some vegetables but nobody want to work. Just take, take, take.”
    “No different here, Jorge: There are many people who don’t want to work and they expect the government to take care of them. We call them dole bludgers.”
    “Yes, this I know. It is not what we should pay taxes for. Those dole bludgers should have to work for the money.”
    Ray enjoyed helping Jorge in his garden, which he often did on weekdays after school because on weekends he did his lawn mowing run. He never took any of the fruit or vegetables Jorge offered him, telling his friend that he was being paid well enough in knowledge, though the main reason was that he knew that if he began arriving home with “free” food his mother and her boyfriend would expect him to do so constantly, and probably tell him to ask for more. He had copied many of Jorge’s notes regarding what to plant each month and had added many more of his own in the hope that sometime in the future when he was able to have a place of his own he would be able to have his own vegetable garden, fruit trees and a poultry run. He also considered that the bike trailer that Jorge had built for him to carry his gardening tools was worth a lot more than the help he’d given, especially after he’d been offered a rather large sum of cash by a client who wanted to buy it for his son.
    One of Ray’s clients ran a smash repair shop and when one day he saw a car being sprayed in a beautiful green colour he asked the client if he could have any paint left over so he could paint his bike with it. The client told him if he could drop the bike and trailer off at the shop on Monday he would get his apprentices to spray it properly and he could pick it up the following Friday. No charge, the client had said, as it would be a good project for his apprentices to practice on.
    When Ray picked up the bike on the Friday he was amazed to find that not only had the bike and trailer’s metalwork been sprayed with the colour he’d liked so much both had also been decorated with some of the best pin-striping he’d ever seen. They’d also gone to the trouble of sanding and varnishing the sides and lid of the cargo box, and had even applied some sort of water-proofing underneath it.
    After a great profusion of thanks to everyone for the job they’d done, and on the verge of tears of happiness, Ray pedalled the rig straight to Jorge’s house to show him what the client had done for him. Following a critical examination of the artistry Jorge declared it was so good that Ray had better buy a couple of solid locks for both bike and trailer and keep them locked up even when at home, as he was sure they’d be targeted by thieves. He didn’t tell Jorge that he always kept the rig locked up anyway as he believed that unfortunately the person most likely to steal and sell it for a bit of booze money lived under the same roof as he did.
    It was now well into autumn and as the lawns he mowed were slowing their growth he was able to finish most jobs quite quickly, and by doing some of them in the afternoons after school finished rather than on the weekends he was able to accumulate a bit of free time for himself. On one of his free afternoons he had been able to join Simon and Sarah at the Lomas’ house for a swim in that family’s pool, and on another day had been able to go with them to have a look at some vegetable gardens that were arranged in a series of mandalas. He’d had no idea of what a mandala actually was until he saw one; however while he found the concept to be interesting he had to admit to his friends that he preferred the layout of veggie beds that he often helped Jorge with.
    What he did find really interesting was how Mr and Mrs O’Rourke, who had invited them to come and see the mandalas, had visited some people living on a type of communal farm somewhere up north and had been really impressed with what those people had achieved. During the barbeque he had sat and listened to them describe how two couples had used recycled materials to built small cottages to live in, and had gone on to become more self-sufficient than he and Dianne could ever be. And that was really saying something, thought Ray, who with the others had been invited to check out the O’Rourke’s garden and pantry. Even old Jorge had been quite impressed, though that was probably due to finding people other than himself who were into gardening and putting up their produce.
    “How far north from here is their farm, Mr O’Rourke” Ray asked Mathew.
    “About four hours drive, Ray. It’s close to a little village called Brocklesbury… And you can call me Matt.”
    “Thanks Mr O’Rourke… Ahh… Matt. I guess their farm has fertile soil and the weather is fairly good if they can grow everything they need?”
    “Actually they told us that when they first arrived the soil was very poor and it took a lot of work to make it into what we saw, and for the first two months they were there it was in drought, though they did have a constantly running spring that provided them with fresh clean water. The first couple camped in a tent for a few months while they were building their cottage but the second couple were lucky enough to borrow a caravan to live in when they built theirs.”
    “Do they eat much meat? I mean, like, do they keep any cows or sheep?”
    “No. They said they ate quite a lot of fish, which they catch themselves, though they also breed rabbits, and chickens and ducks for the table.”
    When Matt mentioned fishing Ray remembered that when he’d turned ten his father had given him a birthday present of a collapsible fishing rod that, according to the ads for it on the telly at least, could be carried in the glove-box of the family car. Despite its diminutive size it actually worked well, as he’d found when his dad taught him how to use it. He hadn’t had any chance to go fishing after his parents broke up, but he still had the rod and its carry-bag in the back of the small wardrobe in his bedroom and decided that it would probably be a good item to take with him when he left home.
    It had been a very informative day he decided when they finally left for home after the barbeque, and apart from giving him lots of ideas it had resulted in him buying three Japanese quail which were now housed with the three that Sarah had purchased at the same time. His purchase of the quail had been made not so much because Sarah hadn’t had enough cash with her to buy the number of birds the seller had recommended for breeding, but mostly because he was more than just a little attracted to her.
    Now thinking more along the lines of the self-sufficient lifestyle that Matt had been talking about he figured that further down the track raising quail might be a good way to provide himself with eggs and meat, and perhaps even earn a few bob by selling live birds. He decided to check the agricultural section of the school’s library to find out if there were any books on the subject but if there weren’t any he would buy one, read it and take notes, then give it to Sarah as a present.
    Going bush probably wouldn’t be considered by most who were unemployed and homeless but for someone like Ray the thought of panhandling and roughing it on the streets, or living off the dole wouldn’t have crossed his mind. Working in Jorge’s garden, and sometimes that of his friends Simon and Sarah, plus having visited the O’Rourke’s to see their mandalas and listen to how friends of theirs had become self-sufficient helped strengthen his resolve to make a go of it himself.
    The only problem he could see with that plan at present was that he didn’t have any idea of where he could set up his own Garden of Eden, and while he had more than a year to find one he thought it’d be best to begin looking for and hopefully finding a good place well before departure day.
    His head was so full of plans that when he finally went to sleep that night he had vivid dreams of leading a full and satisfying life on the land, though strangely enough there was a slight disruption in one dream: Sarah turned up at the little bush hut he’d built for himself and told him that he had to come back home and help with the quail as there were now too many for her to take care of by herself.

    To be continued…


    Hmm, looks like Brockleberry will soon have a new resident. Maybe he can hook up with the younger residents.

    Keep up the great stories Shin.


    And I know I misspelled Brockleberry.


    Hi Tom.

    I think Ray might have his heart set on Sarah, however her brother Simon….
    Remember the beautiful Julia Tan whose parents own the bakery and cafe?
    (Though I may be getting too far ahead of myself: We’ll have to wait and see.)

    😉 Shin.


    Wrong kind of hook up, I meant meet and get a little assistance.

    blue fox

    Glad to see the devil hasn’t dragged you off to his lair brother Shin. this looks like the start to another good story. Thank You. Blue


    Wonderful edition to your series I’d six degrees of seperation!


    Hi fans and casual readers,
    This story is on hold until my other stories are at the point where this one will slot in. (Apart from ‘Sam’s Retirement Plan‘ the stories I’ve written so far are meant to be intertwined.)


    Can’t wait for more on your stories, Shin!

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