Fiction Friday: The Mongers, Part 4

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.

Don’t forget to stalk me online.

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

On Goodreads

And on YouTube

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

You can now help support my writing on Patreon

And, of course, please buy my debut short story, Blood Moon

You can find my Amazon influencer page here.  https://www.amazon.com/shop/justinmkellywriter

And my blog on Steemit. If you really want to help me out, go there and drop a like or a comment. I get paid if you do and it doesn’t cost you anything.

Fiction Friday: The Mongers, Part 4. Now On Patreon

Part 4 is now on my Patreon page. It’s only a dollar for the whole month. Check it out here.

https://www.patreon.com/posts/21424192

Or wait a week, and I’ll post it here. I could really use the support.

It’s Monday!!! Rage & 1984

It’s baaack! I’m not sure why I stopped doing these posts, but I’ve decided to bring them back. Like my other posts, I can’t promise I’ll post one every week. Honestly, some weeks, I don’t have time to finish a whole book, but I’ll post one whenever I do. For those of you who are new here, It’s Monday posts deal with the books I’m currently reading.

Last week’s book should probably start with a…

Trigger Warning. Last week’s book involves a school shooting.

Last week’s book was “Rage”, by Richard Bachman, AKA Stephen King.

I wish I could have found a better copy of the cover, but I couldn’t for the same reason I wanted to re-read it.

I read this once back in high school. It was okay, but I didn’t really think about it too much. It wasn’t until I heard that it was out of print indefinitely due to subject matter that I wanted to check it out again. What can I say? I’m a rebel.

“Rage” is about a bright high school student who was on his way to an institution for attacking a teacher with a pipe wrench for bullying him . On his last day of regular school, he shoots his teacher and one other member of the faculty then takes his classroom hostage.

The funny thing is, other than the fairly violent first few chapters, most of the book is fairly tame. The shooting/hostage situation is just the backdrop for the real story. Before long, the students find themselves sharing their deepest, darkest secrets. Most of the stories relate to how messed up they all are because or their parents. Soon, the students are bonding and discovering they aren’t all as different as they had thought.

It’s “The Breakfast Club” meets “Lord Of The Flies”

I’d love to drop you a link, but as I said, it’s out of print indefinitely. I’m sure if you looked hard enough, you could find a copy in your local used bookstore though.

This week’s read is “1984” by George Orwell.

Again, I read this back in high school. The only thing is, back then, in the optimistic mid-90’s it read as a cautionary tale, but one that, in my youthful estimation, could never come true. It’s a much more frightening read these days.

An honorable mention goes to “Ash & Quill” by Rachel Caine.

I don’t know why I’ve had such a hard time getting through this one. I read the first two just fine, but I’ve been slowly slogging through this one for months now. It doesn’t really have anything to do with the book itself although some parts are very slow. It’s just that there are a lot of other books on my TBR list that I’m much more excited to read.

Ash & Quill is the continuing saga of a group of students from the Library of Alexandria (which never burned down in this timeline) who are trying to save the library from itself. This is the third in the series following “Ink & Bone” and “Paper & Fire“. Again, there is nothing wrong with the books, I’ve just been wanting to read other ones lately. I’d better finish this one soon though, as “Smoke & Iron“, number four in the series, is already waiting for me.

Please visit my website www.justinmkelly.com

What’s Up Wednesday: Back To Basics

If you want to be a successful writer, you have to build a fan base. The sooner, the better. Preferably before you even publish a word. It’s common knowledge in the writing community. Worse yet, it’s expected by publishers. With this in mind, a few years back, I set up my website, my YouTube Channel, my Facebook fan page, Twitter, etc. Even the blog you’re reading right now.

I started with good intentions and high hopes. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, I got lost. My good intentions fell by the wayside as I got wrapped up in the dream of being famous for fame’s sake. I started worrying more about my YouTube views than the books I was supposedly writing. I would focus on what I was going to talk about in my next video or in my next blog post rather than focusing on the next chapter.

What’s worse, I let the fact that my number of subscribers wasn’t growing the way I’d hoped affect my mental health. Of course, it wasn’t the only cause, but it has been a big contributing factor when I’ve slipped into my semi-frequent bouts of anxiety and depression.

Recently, I’ve come to realize that it’s too difficult to market something you haven’t written yet. I know some people have managed to do it. Jenna Moreci, for one, had people clamoring for her book before she’d even finished writing it. Then again, she has a background in marketing. I don’t.

So I’m sure you have an idea where this is going. Don’t worry. I’m not going to shut down my blog or my YouTube channel. I’ll still post to my various social media pages as well. I’m just going to stop letting it take up so much of the time I should be devoting to writing.

First off, Fiction Friday isn’t going anywhere. I’ve come to enjoy sharing the quick, off-the-cuff, stories I post there. I can’t promise I’ll post every week, but I’ll try. It’s still writing, which I still believe is what I’m really meant to do. (I sure as hell hope it is, because I can’t see myself doing anything else.) Eventually, I hope to have enough Fiction Friday stories to put into a collection along with a few of my unpublished shorts.

I’ll still be posting What’s Up Wednesday, but it definitely won’t be every week. I’ll be honest, at this point, my life just isn’t exciting enough to have a real update every week. In fact, most weeks consist of, “I went to work, I wrote, and I slept.” Lather, Rinse, Repeat. Someday, I hope to have a more exciting life, but for most writers, there just isn’t much to tell.

The same goes for my YouTube channel. I just don’t have enough to talk about. I’d intended for it to be a writing advice channel, but right now, while I have plenty of opinions, I don’t feel like I’m enough of an authority to give writing advice. Besides, typically the audience for a writing advice channel is other writers when I’m really trying to reach readers. (Not that writers aren’t inherently readers as well, but I’m trying to reach a larger audience.)

I know I’ve been teasing this for a long time, but I think I’m going to finally start doing a series of videos called Story Time Saturday in which I read stories I’ve posted for Fiction Friday. I’m still not sure how that sort of video will go over but it’s worth a try. I’d really love to hear your thoughts on that sort of video so please leave a comment telling me your opinion.

Finally, I’m going to start submitting more short stories to magazines and anthologies. I tried it a while back and got frustrated after just a handful of rejections. Stephen King would be ashamed of me. He had enough rejections to rip the nail he hung them on out of the wall from the sheer weight. There were a lot more magazines that accepted fiction back then too, so the competition wasn’t as fierce.

The bottom line is, I’ve decided that I need to focus on actually finishing something before I worry too much about marketing myself.

One last thing. I want to thank the true fans who have been with me from the start. Actually, something just occurred to me. I don’t even know who my fans are. Sometimes I even question whether I have any in the first place. So if you’re a fan of my work, leave me a comment and let me know. (yes, I know it’s a blatant call for an ego boost, but I could use one right now.)

Anyway, that’s it for this time. I’ll see you on Friday. Until then…

Don’t forget to stalk me online.

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

On Goodreads

And on YouTube

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

You can now help support my writing on Patreon

And, of course, please buy my debut short story, Blood Moon

You can find my Amazon influencer page here.  https://www.amazon.com/shop/justinmkellywriter

And my blog on Steemit. If you really want to help me out, go there and drop a like or a comment. I get paid if you do and it doesn’t cost you anything.

Fiction Friday: The Mongers, Part 3

Part 1 Part 2

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.”

“Such as?”

“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.

Until then…

Don’t forget to stalk me online.

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

On Goodreads

And on YouTube

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

You can now help support my writing on Patreon

And, of course, please buy my debut short story, Blood Moon

You can find my Amazon influencer page here.  https://www.amazon.com/shop/justinmkellywriter

And my blog on Steemit. If you really want to help me out, go there and drop a like or a comment. I get paid if you do and it doesn’t cost you anything.

Fiction Friday: The Mongers, Part 2

Part 1

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.”

“But…”

“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.”

Drake frowned.

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.

On To Part 3

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.

Until then…

Don’t forget to stalk me online.

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

On Goodreads

And on YouTube

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

You can now help support my writing on Patreon

And, of course, please buy my debut short story, Blood Moon

You can find my Amazon influencer page here.  https://www.amazon.com/shop/justinmkellywriter

And my blog on Steemit. If you really want to help me out, go there and drop a like or a comment. I get paid if you do and it doesn’t cost you anything.

What’s Up Wednesday: The Rumble Fades, Now Back To Work

Well, the bikers are gone. Most of them at least. The truth is, there are always some who stick around until the snow flies. Still, it’s all over but the cleanup.

I’m already regretting not spending more time up at Sturgis this year, but I just didn’t have the energy to tell the truth. I was starting to think that maybe I’m getting too old to party like that. That I was turning into an old man. While there’s truth to that, it was a relief to discover that I was fighting off both a cold and some sort of stomach bug and it really took the energy out of me. Still, now that it’s all over, I kind of wish I’d toughed it out and gone up there more anyway. Alas, the party’s over.

Now it’s time to get back to work.

I’m still working on the next installment of “The Mongers” for this week’s Fiction Friday. I know I promised to have it out last week, but as I said, I wasn’t feeling well and if I had been, I probably would have been partying like an irresponsible teenager.

I’ll be perfectly honest, I don’t know where “The Mongers” is going, if it’s going anywhere at all. I got the idea for the opening scene and I went with it, so try not to be too mad if it goes somewhere unsatisfying. I promise I’ll finish it one way or another. I just have no idea what’s going to happen myself.

Other than that, I haven’t done much this past week. I did make one last trip up to Sturgis on Saturday for dinner with family and one last trip up and down main street for souvenirs. I wish I could post the thing I bought for my new nephew, but I’m not sure if my brother and sister-in-law read my blog, so I’d better not until they get it.

After years of searching, I found a ring that I’ve been looking for. I had one like it when I was a kid, but I either lost it, or one of my scumbag friends from the time stole it. (You know who you are.) Anyway, here it is.

The old one probably wouldn’t have fit anymore anyway.

And thus completes my pirate themed hand.

I’ve been taking a bit of my own advice and started reading more. I’m a big proponent of reading and have actually made a YouTube video on the importance for writers to read, but lately, I haven’t been practicing what I preach. I fell into the old trap most people do, proclaiming, “I just don’t have the time.”

Unfortunately, as a writer, that just doesn’t fly. Reading, for a writer, is like doing research in any other field. A scientist couldn’t very well go to his higher-ups and tell them he just didn’t have the time to keep up on the latest scientific research. So it is with a writer. At least, for writers, our research material is entertaining to read.

On that note, I just finished reading “The Regulators” By King/Bachman.

I really liked it, but about halfway through the book, I realized something. While at first I thought it was just a continuation of Desperation. I realized I recognized some of the names. I had to look it up to be sure, but it turned out I was right. Some of the names were the same as in the Desperation. Some of the characters even had the same career, but had vastly different personalities. The antagonist was basically the same. I think it’s basically the same story told in two alternate realities. I’m not sure, but I wonder if King/Bachman was unsure which way he wanted to take the story, so he ended up writing them both.

Anyway, on that note, I now want to re-read “Desperation” while “The Regulators” is still fresh in my mind.


If you look carefully, you’ll see that the covers fit together into one piece of art. Pretty cool.

I also need to finish “Ash & Quill” by Rachel Caine. I started that one a few months ago, but just haven’t finished it. It’s not that it isn’t a good book. I just got busy. I know, I know.

Anyway, that’s it for this week. I’m really hoping to have the next installment of “The Mongers” ready by Friday. Fingers crossed.

Until next time…

Don’t forget to stalk me online.

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

On Goodreads

And on YouTube

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

You can now help support my writing on Patreon

And, of course, please buy my debut short story, Blood Moon

You can find my Amazon influencer page here.  https://www.amazon.com/shop/justinmkellywriter

And my blog on Steemit.

What’s Up Wednesday: The Boys Are Back In Town. Sturgis Baby!

Okay. I know I went M.I.A. last week. I really meant to post another What’s Up and the second installment of “The Mongers” for Fiction Friday, but the fact of the matter is, I was busy getting ready for my annual mini vacation. Sturgis.

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For those of you who don’t know what Sturgis is, it’s a ten day long event where hundreds of thousands of bikers descend upon a sleepy little town in South Dakota and wreak a special kind of havoc. It’s a great party and happens every year right about the time I’m feeling ready to strangle myself a hotel guest. If it weren’t for this annual blowing off of excess steam, I’d probably be in jail right now.

Of course I’m kidding, but you get the idea. lots of beer, booze, bikes, and well… a couple of other things that start with B. It’s just what I need every year to get me through the rest of the tourist season. It helps that most of the people who come for Sturgis are pretty cool people, so I don’t have to deal with too many problems.

I was especially excited to go this year to show off my new bike to all the guys who come year after year.

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While I didn’t get quite as rowdy as I’d planned, I still had a great time. I wish I could share some of the pictures I took while I was up there, but a lot of them are decidedly NSFW.

As for what I’m reading, I started reading The Regulators, by Stephen King. Uhhh, I mean Richard Bachman. I read Desperation last year and found myself wanting more. Little did I know that there was a companion book. I’m not very far into it, but it’s great so far.

TheRegulators.jpg

(For those of you already reading this on Steemit, please disregard this next part. This is for my readers on my website.)

In other news, I’ve discovered a cool new platform. If you haven’t guessed already, it’s called Steemit. I’ll be sharing my blog posts, YouTube videos, and Flash Fiction Friday stories over there. The coolest part is, I actually get small amounts of cryptocurrency for engagements on my posts. So if you really want to help me out, click here and drop a like or a comment. I’d really appreciate it.

That’s really it for now. I already have tomorrow’s video edited and it’s ready to be uploaded. It’s not on writing. It’s the full video of my ride up to Sturgis, so if you want to come along for the ride, look for it tomorrow morning. There will probably be some other motorcycle related videos coming later this week, so if you like that kind of thing, stay tuned. If that’s not your thing, please be patient, it’ll be back to business as usual soon enough.

Don’t forget to stalk me online.

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

On Goodreads

And on YouTube

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

You can now help support my writing on Patreon

And, of course, please buy my debut short story, Blood Moon

You can find my Amazon influencer page here.  https://www.amazon.com/shop/justinmkellywriter

And my blog on Steemit.

Fiction Friday: The Mongers, Part 1

Well crap. I may have just accidentally started yet another book.

I had intended the following story to be a Flash Fiction Friday, but as I wrote it last night, it turned into something else. I removed the Flash part, because it’s already longer than 1,000 words. Besides, it’s not exactly a complete story. I think it want’s to be a novel, or at least a short story. Since I really want to get something out today, I’m going to make it an episodic. So I present to you,

The Mongers, Part 1

The dust cloud rose from the dry desert floor like smoke from a bonfire as four vehicles raced over the barren soil. Two motorcycles flanked a battered armored car while a third took point. Crudely spray painted on the sides of the armored car was the word “Mongers”. Each of the riders wore a leather vest with a patch to match on the back.

The bikes had once been Harleys, but after years of wandering the wastes and scavenging whatever parts they could, they weren’t of any recognizable make anymore, but they ran, and that’s all that mattered. The armored car they had found in front of a bank, completely cleaned out, but with the keys still in the ignition.

Atop the point bike sat Butch, the leader of the Mongers. His face, baked by the blazing desert sun, resembled the barren remains of the once lush prairie they now rode across.

Butch craned forward, the leather of his bike’s seat squeaking beneath him. There was a town up ahead. Or, at least, what had once been a town. Most of the houses were charred wrecks of their former selves. Normally, Butch wouldn’t have given it a second glance, but there, on the outskirts of the town still stood what looked to be an old school. What’s more, even though it was hard to tell at this distance, he could swear he could see movement near the fence. He aimed his handlebars at the school. The rest of the group didn’t need to be told to follow.
As they got closer, Butch was able to assess the situation. A band of raiders was attacking the school. Inside the fence, a group of the school’s inhabitants were trying to fight them off, but they were losing.

Butch raised his left arm, and pointed one finger into the sky. He heard the hatch they’d cut into the top of the armored car clang open followed by a quick burst from the .50 cal machine gun they’d mounted to the top. The gun was aimed harmlessly into the sky, but the sound had the desired effect. For a moment, all activity at the fence stopped as they all turned to look at the approaching dust cloud. Those inside the fence turned and ran, but the raiders, sensing their chance, began scaling the chain-link fence.

Butch opened his hand, now pointing all his fingers into the sky. Then, with a chopping motion, he pointed his arm at the raiders. The machine gun opened fire. Even over the roar of the engines and gun fire, Butch could hear Nutcase cackling maniacally. Bodies began falling from the fence as the rest of the raiders ran off into the desert. Nutcase turned the gun to follow, but Butch once again raised his hand and closed his fist. The gunfire stopped immediately. A moment later, he heard the hatch clang closed.

Butch hated raiders. He would have loved to let Nutcase mow the rest of them down, but there was no sense wasting precious ammo.

They approached the school slowly, lest the already spooked inhabitants mistook them for another band of raiders. Butch signaled for the others to wait as he dismounted his bike and approached the gate. A small, mousy looking man ran out, trying to look as tough as he could which only brought an amused smirk to Butch’s face.

“Friend or foe?” The mousy man demanded.

“Well, considering we just saved your bacon, what do you think?”

“What business do you have here?” The mouse asked, ignoring Butch’s question.

“We’re here to trade.” Butch said with a nod toward the armored car.

After a moment’s thought and a curious glance toward the closest building, the mouse pulled out a set of keys and unlocked the rusty gate. It slowly groaned open as Butch helped him open it.

Once the vehicles were safely inside, the mouse rushed to re-close the gate.

“Don’t worry.” Butch said, dismounting his bike and brushing the dirt off his leathers. “They won’t be back anytime soon. At least, not while ‘ol Betsy’s on guard.”

Nevertheless, the mouse finished closing the gate before returning to Butch and introducing himself.

“I’m Jacob Drake. Mayor of this place.”

“Really?”

“Yes really. And you are?”

“Name’s Butch. This is Bear and Gut.” Butch said, indicating the other two riders. Bear was a mountain of muscle while Gut was merely fat.

The back door of the armored car creaked open and out stepped a tall black man with a bright white afro followed by another man who looked fairly normal until you looked at his eyes.

“Those two are Rat and Nutcase.” Butch finished.

“We typically ask our guests to turn over their weapons.” The Mayor said hesitantly. Butch just stared at him. “But considering what you just did for us, I suppose we can make an exception.”

“Tell ya’ what,” Butch said, unslinging the rifle strapped to his back and tossing it to Rat, who caught it deftly, ”We’ll keep our rifles locked in the truck. We keep our sidearms though. Don’t worry, they’ll stay holstered unless there’s a need to take ‘em out.”

Butch nodded at the others and they did the same.

“Now, you said you were here to trade?” The Mayor said.

“We are. But we’re a lot more agreeable when we’ve had a meal and a good night’s rest.”

“Yes. Of course. I suppose it’s the least we can do after your saving us. Follow me.”

Jacob led them to what had once been the school cafeteria. Inside, they could hear dozens, if not hundreds, of voices.

“You’re in for a real treat tonight.” Jacob said proudly. “My wife, Margaret, just made a big batch of homemade peach cobbler and Isaac tapped a keg of his home brewed…”

“Beeer.” Nutcase said, sniffing the air.

“Um, yes. Just sit anywhere you like and I’ll send someone over to take care of you.”

As they walked through the doors, conversation stopped for a moment. Then, a single pair of hands clapped, then another. Soon everyone was cheering and applauding. They found an open table and before they knew it, plates heaping with home cooked food were placed before them. Nutcase drained his beer in a single gulp and almost immediately another was set before him.

“Man.” Gut said around a mouthful of food. “A guy could really get used to this.”

“Yeah, well don’t.” Butch said. “We aren’t staying.”

Conversation in the cafeteria had resumed, but all the while, people were stealing glances at the newcomers while others stared outright.

One of the starers caught Butch’s eye. He couldn’t help but feel like he recognized her, but he couldn’t figure out where. He stared back, expecting her to look away, but she didn’t. Instead she got up, and walked confidently toward him and sat down across from him. Right between bear and Gut.

“Hi.” She said cheerily.

“Uh, hi.”

“You were staring at me.”

“You were staring at me first.”

“Everyone’s staring at you. Even the ones who’re pretending they aren’t. But why were you staring at me?”

“Uh…” Butch wasn’t sure what to say.

“Hey, Gut. Wanna go see if we can get seconds?” Bear asked.

Gut quickly got the idea and followed Bear while Nutcase said something about more beer. Rat sat at the table busily sketching something, his food barely touched, oblivious to what was going on around him.

“Come on. There has to be a reason. Is it because you think I’m beautiful?” She asked, flipping her hair comically.

“No. I mean, yes, you’re beautiful, but it’s not that. I feel… I feel like I know you, but I don’t know why.”

“I think I know why.” She said, dropping him a wink.

On To Part 2

So that’s it for now. I’m sorry if it left you a little unsatisfied. I’m also sorry that it isn’t my best work. truth be told, it’s the first thing I’ve written in quite a while. Hopefully next week’s installment will be better and have more action.

Don’t forget to stalk me online.

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

On Goodreads

And on YouTube

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

You can now help support my writing on Patreon

And, of course, please buy my debut short story, Blood Moon

Also, Amazon apparently now considers me an influencer, which means that they basically gave me my own Amazon store where I can recommend products. I do get a cut of anything you buy when you click my link. Unless you’d rather all your money go to a faceless corporation.  🙂 You can find my influencer page here. https://www.amazon.com/shop/justinmkellywriter