By the time the rest of them had showered and showed up at the courtyard, Nutcase had already begun setting up shop. He’d already set up the tables and had begun laying out merchandise. The old RV awning they’d attached to the side of the truck had been unfurled. Guns and other assorted weapons lay neatly arranged on a table between the main shop area and the truck where customers would have to ask to see them. On the table in front stood several ammo cans of loose ammunition in various calibers. Also on the table were various trinkets and baubles they’d rescued from the wastes. Various clothing items hung from the awning’s supports.
Each item had a meaningless dollar amount attached to it. Dollars hadn’t been a thing since the apocalypse, but Butch had found that the easiest system was to appraise whatever their customers brought to trade with a dollar amount and then give them the worthless scraps of paper which had once been money which they could then exchange for goods and services. Not only did it streamline the process, it gave their customers a sense of normalcy in this abnormal world which put them at ease and made them more pliable. They loved the farce of buying things with actual money even if the money had no real value except at their shop.
Without having to be told, Gut and Bear grabbed their rifles from the back of the truck and took up their posts at either side of the table. Not that they figured they’d have a problem with this lot, but it paid to keep up appearances.
Butch was the main dealmaker with Nutcase filling in when Butch was busy or replenishing stock as it was needed. Rat’s table stood off to the side with his toolkit and a banner offering “Repairs and Modifications”.
By the time they were open for business, the residents of the school were standing in the early morning shadows eyeing them curiously, but afraid to be the first ones to approach.
Butch nodded to Nut, who dashed into the truck. Moments later, the hatch clanged open and Nutcase clambered out of it and stood atop the truck. He took a deep breath and launched into his pitch.
“Step right up, folks. Don’t be shy. You won’t find better deals anywhere in the wastes. If we can’t make a deal, I’ll throw myself off the top of this truck.”
As if to prove he was serious, Nutcase then ran the length of the truck’s roof and jumped high in the air, executing a perfect front flip before landing on the edge of the roof and tottering precariously for a moment before reversing it with a backflip and landing on the center of the roof.
Butch smiled to himself as the enraptured crowd first gasped, then clapped and cheered. He didn’t need to watch Nut’s antics. He’d seen them all before. In a moment, Nut would do another flip down through the hatch and onto his bed which was positioned below the hatch. Even as he thought it, he heard another gasp from the crowd accompanied by a thump from inside the truck followed by more cheers and applause as Nut emerged from the back of the truck unscathed.
“Good job, Nut. You really roped ‘em in today.” Butch said.
“Thanks, Boss. I still think it would be more effective if I had a monkey or a tiger or something.”
Butch sighed. They’d been through this countless times before.
“A tiger would be out of the question, but if we ever run into a monkey, I’ll get him for you.” Butch said.
“Deal.” Nut said excitedly.
The crowd approached the makeshift shop. First they wanted to talk to Nutcase and shake his hand, but even as they did, Butch could see that most of them were carrying bundles which undoubtedly contained whatever they felt they could part with in exchange for more useful items.
As soon as they had finished talking to Nut, they began to line up in front of Butch to reveal their treasures. Most of it was useless junk, but Butch did his best to give them a fair price. As Butch did his appraising, Nut climbed back onto the top of the truck and began shouting for their most wanted items. Of course ammunition and ammunition components were at the top of the list as always.
“Live ammo, brass casings, primers, and unirradiated lead, weapons parts. Even broken parts may be useful. If you have any of these things, just bring ‘em to my buddy Rat at the repairs table and he’ll treat you right.”
Once more than a few people had cash in hand, Nut once again jumped from the top of the truck and began making deals. Butch joined him as soon as he was done with appraisals. As usual, the weapons and ammo were the biggest draw. Butch couldn’t blame them considering he’d already seen how much trouble they seemed to have from raiders. Almost as popular as the weapons was the food. Still, there was a good amount of interest in things like clothing and even jewelry.
Butch saw a feminine hand reach out to stroke a silver necklace studded with emeralds. He looked up from his wares into Melanie’s bright green eyes.
“Good morning, Star Dancer.” Butch said with a grin.
She returned it with one of her own. Hers with a touch of mischief in it.
“Figured it out, did you. What took you so long?”
“Well, I hardly expected to run into an actual celebrity out here in the wastes.”
“I was hardly a celebrity.”
“Besides, you look a bit… different.”
“Well. It’s not easy finding good makeup in a post-apocalyptic world. Speaking of which, I’m surprised a man such as yourself watched beauty videos. Something you’re not telling the rest of your gang?”
Butch felt his cheeks reddening.
“My niece used to watch you. I had no choice but to watch with her.”
What he would never tell her, what he would, in fact, take to his grave, was that while it was true he had watch one of her videos with his niece the first time, he had looked her up and watched the rest of her videos on his own afterward.
“So, do you like the necklace?” Butch asked, changing the subject.
“I do, but I need something a bit more practical.”
“Protection. I need a gun.”
“I have just the thing.” Butch said, wheeling around to the weapons table.
Moments later, Butch slapped a small piece of metal into her palm. He could immediately see the disappointment in her eyes as the looked at the pearl handled derringer. Butch had to admit, it looked tiny even in her small hand.
“Really? I was hoping for something a bit bigger. I guess it’ll have to do though. Especially since this is all I have to trade.” She said, unveiling the small jewelry box. “It was my grandmother’s.”
Butch eyed the jewelry box. There was nothing special about it. In fact, he had left identical boxes behind out in the wastes, most of which had been in better condition. Still, he had always been a sucker for a pretty face. He took back the derringer and swapped it for a snub nosed .38 special.
“I’m afraid this is the best I can do.” He said, handing her the revolver. “Straight up trade.”
She hefted it in her hand and her smile brightened.
“Are you sure? This has got to be more valuable than my old jewelry box.”
Butch looked over his shoulder to make sure none of his companions were paying attention.
“It’s good to be the boss.” He said with a wink as he reached into the can which held the .38 ammo and gave her a handful of cartridges.
Her eyes widened.
“So when are you guys leaving?”
“I’m not sure. It usually takes Rat a few days to finish his orders.”
“Good.” She said. “How about letting me cook you dinner tonight as a way of saying thanks.”
“I’d like that.”
“Then it’s a date.” She said with a smile a she turned on her heel and walked away with that wiggly walk of hers.
Butch wondered once again if it was for his benefit, or if that was just the way she walked. He shook his head, remembering what he was supposed to be doing.
“Next!” he shouted.
. . .
Okay. That’s it for this week. I’m still not sure exactly where this story’s going, but I’m starting to get an idea. I hope you enjoyed it. I’ll see you next week with another what’s up Wednesday.
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