For the story so far
For the last installment
My name is Keegan and I am one of the quiet few who are listed as young carers. I work nights, having picked up a cleaning gig similar to my father’s. I am at school sufficient days that no one bats an eyelid if I have a day off to take my “terminal mother to a medical appointment”. I fly under the radar like so many other child carers just the occasional sympathetic glance from a teacher. The only thing I do, the only pleasure I allow myself is interschool sport. I am seriously athletic and when Dad was alive he never let me play. I’d give him reports on the games each week in the hope that he would finally change his mind. It never worked. The only advantage of being alone is that there is no one to stop you doing what you want.
I got to tell you though, working full time and then having to complete school work, yikes, it’s hard. I wake up a few minutes before school starts and run a few minutes late for the first lesson. It’s only 10 minutes. My fictitious mother wrote a very nice note excusing me from that. Then, after school finishes any feeling of normal I have with my friends end. The moment I open my door to the place I am renting, I am researching my parents, doing a little bit of school work, doing groceries. I’d like to get them delivered instead of having to ride to different shops every couple of days, but I can’t risk anyone discovering I have no mother. I hope my real mum wouldn’t mind me re-inventing her. I guess it’s rather sad that I have to, but worrying about the small details in my life takes too much out of me. I stopped the day I decided to work out who my parents had been and why some fuck had ripped out Dad’s heart.
When the chores of daily life are done, I rode to work, food, rent, electricity, computing equipment, these things cost money.
I ride to a shopping center about 15 kilometres away, where I clean the place with a crew of other misfits, people who are willing to work and get paid cash. There is a couple of students, either university or high school, no one asks and no one tells, a couple of illegal immigrants but hey, they have to work too. At least they are not sponging around like some of my footy team’s parents. And that’s our crew. No one talks much about anything, just polite requests for cleaning products and then each night boss woman comes in and pays us.
I know she is contracted for cleaning the place, but I hope no one looks at her books because I can’t work out how she manages to get away with paying cash in this day and age. By 3am most nights we are always out of there and I start the long climb back home. I wish the ride was in reverse but it isn’t so I suck it up and do it, almost completely uphill. At home, I check all the timer switches, my alarm is set and then have a quick, quiet shower before collapsing into bed.
I have Sunday night off each week and the boss woman is hinting that I have to start taking Saturday night off occasionally as well. I think she is training up someone else, but I don’t know. I know I work pretty much the most hours of anyone of boss woman’s workers but she gave them to me. I also know that I manage to get plenty of the heavy lifting work done quite easily. I don’t know why, maybe because I am riding so much and then playing football. I’d hate to think it had anything to do with what I term my scary moments.
My scary moments are the moments when everything rushes into hyper drive. My senses, hearing, seeing, touching, tasting, smelling, all of these things work so effectively that I freak out. I’ve taken the odd day off school because of it, but I can’t afford to take too much time off work. Cleaning when you can smell all the chemicals is disgusting.
I was pretty rigid about my spending, just buying essentials, rice, pasta, eggs, veggies and meat. I needed as much money as possible in case I had to run again. I always thought about what I had heard Dad say to me after Dad died, his warning and how I really wanted to be able to stay where I was for the remainder of the year.
The boss telling me I would have to stop working on Saturdays, it did not figure in with my financial plan.
The bell went to signal the end of class. I picked my bag up from where I had dropped it in the Resource Centre and headed outside into the bright sun. It was an unusually hot and muggy day so I was glad my smelling was at normal levels. Schools with super smell were pretty repugnant on a hot day.
“Keegan,” I spun to see my coach.
“Is your mum going to be alright for the game?”
“Sure Mr. Kelsey, a friend is going to sit with her. Just as long as I am back by a quarter to 7.”
“Baring traffic accidents we’ll be back in plenty of time. The boys all know you need to get back. I had a word with them, hope you don’t mind.”
“Thanks, Mr. Kelsey,” mind I fucking minded. I had avoided close friendships for a reason. On the field we played well, we joked around and we mucked around during lunch at school but my teammates knew that I did not do after school and I certainly did not waste my time drinking. Mind you there were five boys on the team who were trying to get signed with clubs so they did not do drinking either, but they did party. I did not. I plastered a grin on my face and was about to head off to my next class.
“I’ve made an appointment with the guidance counselor for you. You’re dealing with a lot. You need to speak to someone. Mr. Freidson says that he hasn’t spoken to your mother in person ever. We’re concerned about you. You have what it takes to play professionally.”
“I’m heading for university Sir,” I responded.
“Mr. Freidson says he’ll keep you off the bus if you don’t go and chat to the guido. He’s a really great bloke. You don’t have to speak to him about your mother, he can help you sort out your options for the university.”
I paused at that. “University,” my voice raised in question.
“Yes, he’s not just about pastoral care, but about helping with Careers advising. Between football, your academic subjects and your mother, you have more on your plate than most.”
“I’m handling it,” I replied sharply.
“Go see the guido, now.” Mr. Kelsey gave me a slap on the back. “We know you’re handling it but it doesn’t stop us caring.” The man walked off and I let out a breath, my shoulders remained up high, tight, tense. I had physics now. I did not want to miss it, but nor did I want to miss the football game. Football was my release, my fun, my enjoyment.
I headed to the office.
That evening Boss woman told me I could take the night off.
“We lost contract on another job. I not have 6 nights work for you. I give you four.”
I did not argue, I was too deflated. Four nights work would still pay the bills and feed me but it wouldn’t get me my application fee to an overseas university. Something Leo, the Guido, said came through my brain. He thought I could apply for scholarships based on financial difficulty. I was also entitled to respite care.
Respite care – hell how could no one realize that Mum had been dead for years.
I was so tired of all of this, tired of lying, tired of 5 hours of sleep per night, tired of busting my arse at school to catch up on the six months of schooling that I missed. I was tired of looking over my shoulder, tired of fearing them, whoever in hell they were, and I was tired of riding up the fucking hills on the way home from work. At least I’d only have to do that four days a week now.
I smiled with the realization that I could actually have more time to focus on my research and I would have some time that perhaps I could go out with the football team one night. I could claim that I had accessed respite care. That would get Kelsey and Friedson off my case.