The Sketch Chronicles : Chapter Two

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Chapter Two: The Donkey Cart

            The donkey cart was an odd thing. I mean, to see two boys aged around seventeen walking next to a cart full of cash crops and alcohol, that’s not exactly an everyday thing. It was our main source of income. We got by on odd jobs and selling cannabis and tobacco. I remember Kansas used to joke about how we’d probably smoke it all before we got to a trader town, but we didn’t really smoke much. Most of the time, we were too caught up reading our worn books or playing guitar. Kansas didn’t know much on the guitar, but I could play a few songs on the worn acoustic we had in our cart. I honestly don’t know how it didn’t get stolen; I’ve still got the thing. Strings were a fortune then, and tuning it was a nightmare.  I earned a bit playing the guitar though, as music was a commodity. The really lucky bastards had the battery powered tape players, but batteries were even more expensive than strings, so that was a no for us. We weren’t relatively rich, but we had it well off.

            We decided to set up camp in the forest outside of town, a small place, far enough from town that it was quiet, but not so far that we couldn’t find our way back to the path. I was on scouting duty that night, so I went off to see if anyone was around. There weren’t many leaves on the trees, so it wasn’t hard to see around me like it would have been, but we still needed to look a bit far ahead. You have to be careful lighting fires. The smoke can attract all sorts of things, from raiders to bears. Raiders are a bit predictable however, seeing as we know all their tricks. Those days were back in the Midwest. We would move from camp to camp, taking supplies for our own and killing those who tried to stop us if we had to. It’s not pleasant to talk about, but its how things were then. We were trying to keep that past behind us, but it’s something that just catches up no matter how far you go. We were fairly well known. That’s not as good as it sounds. There weren’t many people around in the first place, and when there were, they wanted us nailed to a cross. But that was all behind us, right?

            I got back from scouting after around ten minutes of looking for the bleak nothingness that was in that forest, so Kansas lit up the fire. It was starting to get dark by then, and we needed sleep. I remember how smooth this whole thing was supposed to go. We were going to go back to the mid-west, check on our families, and then come back up here and live the life we’ve been living since we left. It was supposed to go so smooth. But that’s how it is. Nothing ever goes as planned. I don’t know why we expected it to. We honestly did. That night I remember listening to the sound of the crickets, and staring up at the sky. I couldn’t stop thinking about my mom. She didn’t exactly agree with how I got our supplies but it got us by. That was until I caught a man rummaging our cupboards. Bashed his head in with an aluminum baseball bat. I guess that was kind of the last straw for her, she kicked me out pretty fast. I did however, bring my bird. His name was roger. He didn’t last long, but hell he raised morale so fast, he could keep me and Kansas entertained for long hours on end. He was a little cockatiel, a curious one at that. We would bring him pinecones and things to destroy or play with. I would call him Rog the Barbarian. Since he destroyed pretty much everything we brought him. We had a little funeral for him when he finally did pass, almost cried, I won’t lie. But it didn’t bother me in the long run. I’ve had run-ins with death before. When I was about 13, my father passed away due to age, and I learned how to deal with those kinds of things. It’s just how things go. You meet new people, they die, you feel sad, you get over it, and then you meet new people all over again.

            We woke up to what was a normal morning. Kansas started the spar by throwing a punch, which I dodged. I returned punches and kicks, like we do every morning. It keeps your reflexes sharp, and you learn a few tricks every once in a while. The spar ended with Kansas clocking me on the head, leading to me nearly blacking out. We went all out with our fights. It was good exercise, not that we didn’t get enough. We carried around our backpacks, but even just the amount we walked would make any pre-war man cry. Kansas and I tried to not stick out. Sticking out was bad. In the worst cases, you’d get killed. You didn’t want to be that guy in full camouflage, with the AR-15 and a bunch of mags. Any poor guy with a brain is going to either shoot you and take your shit, or clock you on the back of the head while you’re not looking and still take your stuff. We didn’t want to be the badass of the wastes; we just wanted to get by. And that’s what we did fairly well.

            The next part of our morning routine was plinking. I’ve already mentioned it, but it’s fairly important. You don’t want to go into a fight rusty. The guy that has 500 bullets, and plinks 300 of them, has 200 left. Say he goes up against a guy with 500 bullets who plinks none of them. Sure, the other guy has more bullets, but he shoots, and misses. The guy who plinked doesn’t miss. Now he has 700 bullets and a new gun. My point is, when shit hits the fan, you’ll be glad you fired off some rounds. I loaded up my AX338’s 7.62 magazine with some ammo, and I took a few shots. Often we would strive to be better than each other, it was half and half. I won some spars, he won some spars. Now, he was a bit better at shooting than I was, he’s been at it for much longer than I have, so he beat me every time on that end. It was our ideal morning. No trouble, no confusion, just a regular morning.

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