The Mongers, Part 2
“You do, huh?” Butch said
“I think so.” She said. A mischievous look in her eyes.
“Want to let me in on it?”
“I could, but I think letting you figure it out on your own will be so much more fun. For me at least. I’ll let you think on it. I’ve got some things to do. I’ll see y’all next time.” She said, getting up.
“Wait. Can you at least tell me your name?”
“It’s Melanie. But that’s not going to help you a bit.” She said, winking before sashaying away.
Butch wondered if she always walked that way, or if that extra bit of wiggle in her hips was for his benefit. Butch frowned. “I’ll see y’all next time,” he thought. It seemed like an odd way to say goodbye. After all, there was only one of him. Unless she’d been talking to Rat as well, but he’d never even looked up from his notebook. Still, there was something familiar about not only the phrase, but the way she said it. A memory tried to bubble to the surface, but when Butch tried to grasp for it, it fled.
“Don’t forget to eat, Rat.” Butch said, still lost in thought. “You’re too skinny as it is.”
“Right.” Rat said, grabbing his fork and taking a scoop of food. Not even looking up from his notebook to see what it was he was eating.
Butch dug into his own food, almost as preoccupied as Rat. Who was that mystery woman? How could he possibly know her? He’d lived thousands of miles away when the apocalypse had come. Had she been from the same area and somehow drifted here? Butch figured it was possible, but highly unlikely. Still, he supposed that as many settlements as they visited, he was bound to run into someone he knew eventually.
As Butch sat here, lost in his thoughts, he felt his side of the table lift up a couple of inches. He wasn’t surprised to see bear and Gut sitting across from him, each with a mug of beer in each hand.
“Sooo? Who was that?” Gut asked mockingly.
“Where’s Nut?” Butch asked without answering Gut.
“He’s out in the truck, makin’ love to his ol’ lady.” Bear said, laughing.
It had begun as a joke, but it was getting less and less funny. From the moment he’d seen it, Nutcase had been in love with that gun. He’d been the one to name it Bertha. With guidance from Rat, he’d also been the one who mounted it on the roof and then made the access hatch. Butch had tried at first to persuade him that it wasn’t necessary, but even he had to admit that she’d come in handy a time or two. Butch was sure that, after today’s workout, he was meticulously stripping her down so he could clean and oil everything.
“I wonder what he’d do if one of us ever had to wrap our finger around her trigger.” Butch wondered out loud.
“I don’t think I want to find out.” Gut said, emptying both mugs of beer. He started to get up for more when Butch stopped him.
“I think that’s enough. Save a little for the rest of these people.” Butch said.
“Aw, come on. There’s plenty.” Gut protested.
“That may be, but tomorrow’s a sale day. We don’t want to go in with these people feeling like we owe them something.”
“What are you talking about? We saved their asses.”
“Yes, but that kind of gratitude can be short-lived. Now no more about it.” Butch said, ending the conversation.
Gut sat there like a sulky five-year-old until he glanced over and saw that Bear was still working on his first beer, while the other one sat on the table getting warm. He slowly reached out toward it.
“Don’t even think about it.” Bear growled.
Gut crossed his arms over his chest and pouted.
“Good evening, Gentlemen?” A voice said over Butch’s shoulder.
On cue, Bear and Gut began looking around comically for the “Gentlemen” the voice was referring to.
The voice belonged to Jacob Drake. The mayor.
“I trust you’ve all had enough to eat.” Drake said.
“Oh yes.” Gut said, patting his prodigious belly. “Couldn’t eat another bite.”
“Oh, that’s too bad. I was hoping I could tempt you with a piece of my wife’s peach cobbler. It was the best in the world even before the world changed. It’s still hot and fresh out of the oven.” Drake said, smiling.
“On the other hand. I could probably make a little room.” Gut said, and belched loudly. Butch gave him a dirty look, but a few people within earshot chuckled.
“Wonderful.” Drake said. “Can I get you another beer while I’m at it?”
Gut looked hopefully at Butch, who rolled his eyes and nodded.
“I’ll have another round brought for each of you.” Drake said.
“None for Rat.” Butch said. “He prefers his brain cells intact. I can’t say I blame him, runnin’ around with this lot.”
“Okay then, five cobblers and four beers.” Drake looked around. “I assume your friend will be back soon.”
“He’s taking care of something in the truck. If he’s not back soon, we’ll take it to him. If that’s okay.”
Drake nodded and bustled off. Soon, two ladies appeared. One with a tray of cobbler, and another with a tray of beer. Clearly they had been waitresses once upon a time, as the trays didn’t so much as wobble as they passed out food and drink.
“You look extra thirsty, handsome.” The waitress serving the beer said to gut as she set an extra mug in front of him. Gut looked back at her with a sparkle in his eyes, clearly in love.
Butch just sighed and shook his head in exasperation.
After they’d finished their dessert, just as Gut was beginning to eye the mug earmarked for Nutcase, the mayor returned.
“Well then. If you’re ready, I’ll show you fellows to your room.”
Without a word, they got up and followed Drake. Gut was reaching for Nutcase’s beer and pie when Bear slapped his hand.
“What? I was just going to take them to Nut.”
“Sure ya’ were.” Bear said. “Don’t worry. I’ve got it.”
Butch followed Drake into the yard where their truck stood sentinel.
“We’ve put fresh linens on five of our best guest beds.” Drake told him.
“Thanks, but we only need four.”
“Nut sleeps in the truck.”
“Oh. Are you sure that’s wise?” Drake asked, eyeing Bertha, who was once again mounted on the roof. “Forgive me for saying this, but he seems a bit… unstable.”
“He passed unstable miles ago. He’s batshit, but he’s great security. Don’t worry Jake. As the song says, he ain’t never shot a man that didn’t deserve it.”
Their room turned out to be an only partially converted classroom. The blackboard still hung on one of the walls. Bunk beds filled the room in neat rows. Butch was reminded of the barracks he’d called home when he was in basic training a lifetime ago.
“I call top bunk.” Gut said. The rest of them laughed.
“Now then. If you fellows should need anything, my room is the old principal’s office. Oh, and the locker rooms are just down the hall if you’d like to shower.” Drake said, making a hurried exit.
Butch hurriedly picked his bunk and dived in. Over the years, he’d learned that the best way to get a good night’s sleep was to beat Gut and Bear to the punch. Once they started sawing logs, there was no getting to sleep. Luckily, he’d taught himself to fall asleep fast. As he lay there, eyes closed, Melanie’s words echoed in his head. “I’ll see y’all next time.” Over and over it repeated. Finally, just as he was on the verge of nodding off, his eyes snapped open. He knew who she was.
So there you have part 2. Sorry for the long wait. I really had meant to post this last week, but I was spending time with my own group of bikers the last couple of weeks. The good news is, I’ve already got a good start on part 3, so I should be able to post that next week. I’ll see you next Wednesday.
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