The Boy started early, packing up and getting ready was coming more routine as he had begun to master the art of stacking the various components of his carrying system.
While plodding along, the Boy had a lot of time to think, and mostly he thought about was his woman back home. He was careful not to get distracted with these thoughts and spent time conducting listening halts, mental scenario planning, and other preventative tasks.
Because he skipped breakfast, he quickly became hungry and ate something suitable from his supplies. While they were dwindling, he was comfortable with their level – but he was keeping an eye out for more opportunities like the one yesterday to supplement them.
That afternoon, he came upon a small town that had a few stores lining the rural highway. On each side of the thoroughfare, running parallel to the main road, behind the businesses, there was a small street that held a few dozen houses.
Figuring the risk was worth it, he walked right into town, taking the main freeway.
There were a few people sitting in front of the businesses, various shotgun and hunting rifles leaned against the buildings where the people sat. The first group the Boy waved to – he did not receive a wave back, just a cold stare. Store after store had closed signs, and unwelcoming attendants, so he just kept walking through the town.
About a quarter-mile outside of the main street, the Boy saw an old, single story hotel. A flapping sheet that was tied to the vacancy/no vacancy sign caught his attention. Painted on the sheet were the words “I assure you, we are OPEN!”. He turned and walked toward the lobby.
Inside the lobby a middle-aged woman with a hibiscus print shirt sat in one of the waiting chairs. When the Boy walked in, she smiled, jumped up and said “welcome to the The Tiki Hut Hotel, my name is Joan, owner-operator, would you like a room?”
“Maybe, how much?”
“I’m sure you know the powers out, or else you would not be walking… The cash price is 20 a night and 40 charge or check. But know there is no running water or power. I also have breakfast available tomorrow morning for an additional 5 bucks – double for charge or check – consisting of a small box of cereal with no milk, a few day old muffin, a juice box, and a cup of coffee. Check-out is four hours after sunrise, more or less.”
The woman did not seem desperate or malicious in her quoting of the prices and services, but honest and matter-of-fact. She struck him as a woman running her business as best she could, despite the current situation. A night in a bed would be nice, and there could be supplies that he may be able to get here – she obviously had some food. “Sure, I’ll take a night, and breakfast tomorrow.” He handed her a credit card that she took an impression of using an old carbon receipt and manual machine.
Joan walked behind the lobby reception desk, retrieved a key attached to a bright plastic flower key-chain, and handed it to the Boy. “You are in room number 6, it’s just across the parking lot. In your room you will see two buckets of water, use them how you like – but I recommend you use one to flush the toilet, and the other to clean yourself up.” Wrinkling her nose a little, and offering a small smile, “you could use it.”
A little surprised, the boy asked “I though you said the water was out, where are you getting it for the buckets?”
“I said there was none running – I am draining the water heater for it. This place has a 120 gallon reserve unit that should last until they get the power back on… Speaking of which, where are you coming from? Traffic has died down to nothing, makes sense because only some of the older guys in town’s cars run, my dang Buick is dead – how far out is affected.”
“I’m not sure, but I came from the city,” the boy said, throwing a thumb over his shoulder in the direction he had been walking from.
“The city?!” Joan exclaimed “That’s like 50-60 miles, how did you get here so fast? Wait, your telling me the city is messed up too? That is not good.” She said, her voice dropping in volume a bit on the last part. She looked off in the distance for a while, and then said “Prices are doubled as of tomorrow, and cash only.”
The Boy smiled, knowing that she just got what he already knew “sure Joan, I’m going to relax for a bit – but do you need anything done around here? I was hoping to work something out to get a few extra of those breakfast items and other things for my journey.”
“Um… no… yea… come see me after you clean up.”
The Boy found his room, stripped down, and sparingly used some water to clean himself up with some wash rags and one of the buckets. He filled all his water containers, downed a complete quart, and filled it up again. After these tasks, he relieved himself in an honest-to-goodness toilet, and used the remaining water from the first bucket to flush his waste. He spent some time looking around the room for things he may want to ask Joan for.
Feeling better, he went back to the lobby to see Joan.
When she saw him she said “What were you thinking of needing for your trip? I’m sure we can work something out, as long as you have enough cash, and a strong back.”
The Boy loved the directness of this woman. “Well, at first thought I would like to get some travel soap, a blanket, a pillow case, some toilet paper, AA batteries, a few breakfast cereals, muffins, juice boxes, a silverware set, a shower curtain liner, spray paint, some bleach” the Boy continued on with his list, Joan eyes getting wider and wider as he spoke, blinking heavily as some of the more random items were requested.
“I don’t have all of that, and what the heck do you need a shower curtain liner for?”
“I need it to act like a tarp or poncho, I don’t have a tent and would like some shelter. What did I say that you don’t have?”
“Uhh… batteries, spray paint?”
“I’ll take the batteries out of the TV remotes, and what did you use for the sign outside?”
“You are one interesting young man” she said, “Sure, I’ll give you everything you asked for – I just need you to empty my old water softener of all the salt, clean it out, and fill it up – bucket by bucket – from the pond just up the road. That, and $300 bucks, cash.”
“How big is the water softener and how far is the pond?”
“I’m not sure, maybe 50, 70 gallons? About a five-ten minute walk.”
“I’ll do it for $200 plus the work, if I don’t finish to your satisfaction, I’ll give you $400.” This was a bit of a gamble, even though he carried an emergency supply of cash, it would basically deplete him of it all. Not to mention all the extra calories he will be using.
She eyed him for a little bit and then said “follow me, let’s get you started.”
Part 4 can be found HERE.
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