He shows her each item before packing them away: tent poles, sheeting, harness, polythene rope in neat loops. Sachets of dried pasta, potatoes, meat. Salt and pepper sealed in old film canisters. Water.
“That’s the mistake most people make,” he says. “We find them so dehydrated they need a drip. Or ill from drinking ground water.”
She nods to show she is listening. He lifts the smaller of the packed bags on to her shoulders.
“Okay?” he asks.
“Okay,” she says. The straps are tight across her hips, but he pulls them tighter.
In the half-dark the streets yawn empty. The skies are just pinking at the eastern edge. They pass cracked kerbs and patchy verges, the grass dusted with fumes. A traffic light on its side at the intersection, the victim of a late-night encounter, clicks red to green. Glass glitters on the road around it.
He hums while he drives.
The girl notices the first of them at the highway on-ramp in the building district, where in a few hours out-of-work plumbers, painters and carpenters will sit under the hot sun with their placards. Just a movement of white. Unfocused.
She points, and he looks. Two, three black-fringed butterflies dancing at dawn. They turn out on to the dam road that runs through the soft-backed hills with their aloes and fever trees.
Four, five, two dozen. She presses her face to the window. They are thickening, the closer to the mountains they come.
Read the rest of the story on the Irish Times website. Shortlisted for a 2015 Hennessy Literary Award and the Fish International Short Story Prize.