The Mongers, Part 4
The rest of the day went well. Butch was actually surprised at some of the things people would bring him to trade. Things that had been extremely valuable in the old world, but were frivolous luxuries now. Nobody even argued when he was sadly forced to offer a low price for a grandfather’s watch, or a great grandmother’s cameo.
Finally, as the last customer was walking away, seemingly pleased with his transaction, Butch gave the signal to start packing up. At this point, they were like a well oiled machine. Each man knew exactly what to do. The whole operation was completed within a matter of minutes.
By the time they were done, the two waitresses who had served them their pie and beer were standing nearby, watching them. The moment they were done, they approached Gut and Bear. Soon, the four of them were talking and laughing together. Soon after that, they broke up into two couples and wandered away. Butch smiled to himself as he watched them go, then remembered he had a date himself.
“You guys good here?” He asked Rat and Nutcase.
“We’ve got this.” Nutcase said. Rat gave him a thumbs up, unable to talk due to the screwdriver he was holding in his teeth as he tinkered with whatever new contraption he was working on.
“Good. I’ll check back in later. I’ve got… uh.”
“Have fun, Boss.” Nut told him with a knowing smile, saving him from actually having to say where he was going. He turned and walked away quickly before his men could see his reddening cheeks.
Butch didn’t actually know where he was supposed to meet Melanie. He began wandering around the school, hoping he’d bump into her. As he explored, he discovered where the peaches for the cobbler had come from. The school’s old football field had been turned into an orchard. In it were hundreds of trees heavy with various fruits. He marveled at the lush forest here in the middle of the barren desert, wondering how they kept everything watered. The areas between the trees were filled with what Butch at first took to be undergrowth, until he realized that these plants too were bursting with produce.
He continued his self-guided tour, finally coming to the old auto shop. There were no vehicles in it, of course, but it still seemed to have all the tools. Butch was wondering if they’d be allowed to pull their vehicles in so Rat could perform some much needed maintenance when there was a tap on his shoulder. It was so unexpected, he actually jumped. When he wheeled around, he was surprised to see Melanie’s smiling face.
“Hey, Sugar. Happy to see me?”
Butch realized that his hands were clenched into fists and quickly released them.
“Sorry. You surprised me.” He said, a bit sheepishly.
“It’s okay. Are ya’ ready for dinner?”
He felt his stomach rumble at the thought of food.
“Lead the way.” He said.
Her room was small, but she’d done what she could to make it look as little like a classroom as she could. Brightly colored fabrics adorned the walls. A few ripped posters, relics of the old world, hung here and there. Butch noticed that there were two beds in the room.
“My roommate’s.” She said, catching him looking at it. “Don’t worry. I convinced her to stay with a friend tonight.”
Butch smiled, unsure of what to say. He’d gotten used to women being forward with him. In this new world filled with widely dispersed small villages, strangers were always popular with the ladies. Still, Melanie seemed braver than most.
His stomach rumbled again.
“Oh my. You are hungry. Have a seat, I’ll go get dinner.” She said, and flitted out of the room.
Butch sat in the folding chair facing the door. The battered folding table was a bit wobbly, but sturdy enough, he supposed.
With nothing better to do, he let his eyes roam the room. It took some effort to resist the urge to snoop. It wasn’t anything malicious, he was just curious. Still, he knew the best way to wreck what was about to happen was to have her come back and find him looking through her things.
Before long, she was back, carrying two covered plates which she placed on the table. When she removed the covers, he was greeted by a sort of stir fry with lots of vegetables and some sort of meat. He didn’t ask what kind. Sometimes, it was something normal, but others, it was better not to know.
He was about to dig in, when she stopped him. She turned and bent down into a wooden chest, deliberately giving him a view he didn’t mind at all. When she stood back up, she was holding a bottle of wine and a corkscrew.
“I don’t have any glasses. I hope you don’t mind.” She said, uncorking the wine.
“It won’t be the first time I’ve had to drink right out of the bottle.”
“Let’s just hope it’s not vinegar.” She said, handing him the bottle.
He looked at the bottle, as if he had any clue. The label was singed and he couldn’t read the winery’s name, but he could make out the year. 1977. Of course, he had no way of knowing if it was a good year or not. He took a tentative sniff before upending the bottle and taking a swig. It tasted good. Decadent almost. He wondered if he’d have been able to afford it in the old world.
He passed the bottle back to her.
“Well, dig in.” She said, taking a sip of the wine herself.
He didn’t have to be asked twice. He took his first bite.
“This is really good. You cooked this yourself?”
It was her turn to look sheepish.
“Oh, heavens no. You wouldn’t want to eat anything I cooked. I just stole it from the dining hall.”
“That’s okay. It’s still good.” He said, diving in.
Before long, his plate was empty. She was still picking at her food. Butch assumed she was trying to keep up appearances, but he knew better than to encourage her to eat. He reached for the wine bottle, but set it back down when he realized it was empty. Without a word, she retrieved another. This one had no label, but was still just as tasty. He leaned back in his chair, wishing for a cigarette. She smiled at him.
“So tell me. Have you always been a bad-ass biker?”
Butch couldn’t help but laugh heartily at that one.
“Not even close.”
“Okay then, what did you do before?”
“Well, let me ask you this. Do you know what the word monger means?”
“Well, sort of. I mean I’ve heard of warmongers. I assumed it was something related to that.”
“It means peddler. A salesman. We were all in sales of some sort. Gut and Bear worked at a motorcycle dealership. Bear actually sold me my first bike. Nutcase, he was one of those crazy guys you see on T.V. who smashes stuff while he yells about his insane deals. Rat was his assistant. The one who fixed things when people brought them back broken, which they often did.”
”What about you?”
“I owned a bookstore. I loved that place until the day it burned down.” Butch grimaced as he tried to push away the memory. “It started as a joke. When we all started riding together in our suburban motorcycle club, mongers sounded tough if you didn’t know what it meant. After everything happened, we decided to go with it and stick to what we knew best. Selling things.”
Melanie laughed at this. Getting up to retrieve another bottle of wine. It was only then that he realized he’d finished the second one. He vaguely wondered how many bottles she had stashed in her chest.
The conversation flowed as freely as the wine until Melanie stood up. He half expected her to tell him she was turning in and that he should go, but instead, she wordlessly took him by the hand and led him to her bed.
The next morning, Butch woke as the sun was just peeking above the horizon. His head ached from the wine, but not too bad. Melanie was still asleep. He considered waking her, but decided to let her sleep. Instead, he slipped out of bed, got dressed, and made his way to the courtyard.
Gut, bear, and Rat stood together in a knot, mumbling to each other.
“Mornin’, boys. Isn’t it a fine day?”
The three of them turned to look at him, their faces pale, even Rat’s. It was only then that butch looked up at the empty courtyard. Something was missing, but it took Butch a moment to realize what it was.
The truck was gone.
So that’s it for this week, but remember, if you just can’t wait to find out what happens next, part 5 is already up on my Patreon page. It’s only a dollar for early access to this story for the whole month. More perks, like exclusive short stories, are available if you’re willing to pay a little more.
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