Creeping at the back door, I can hear them planning in the yard. Glowing silhouettes from tent and torch, they’re brothers and sons. Soon they’ll be kids on the run. They draw their maps, pointing tap tap at entrance points and escape roots. Recite cover stories, practice warning calls, all clears aaahhhhwwi. ‘What if they catch you?’ I ask him one morning over steaming porridge. His eyes dart to mum, who is fixing her dressing gown.
‘Keep it down. We know what we’re doing.’
That night I watch from my window, hear the aaahhhhwwi, and see them scurry across the road to the abandoned house. I follow the flitting silhouettes of boys with wild manes; trace the outline of their velvet jackets, feathered caps and rucksacks of stolen gain.
In the morning when I wake up he hands me a porcelain-faced doll. At the table, as we eat steaming porridge, he wears an ivory compass around his neck. I look down at the doll, in her little blue dress.
‘They must have had children.’ I can only guess.