Sunday, May 3, 2015

Part 130

Limmer finally got tired of me not paying any attention to his cursing and turned around and started fussing as someone else who had dared to ask him why he was cussing at "the new girl."  You'd think that Limmer - or his type - would bother or disgust me.  Truth is I think I've simply come to accept them.  I learned to deal with men like him in the city.  I mean I don't think he is a perv - he doesn't give off those kind of vibes - but the kind of guy that really and truly believes that females are a step or two lower than men on the evolutionary scale.  At least I think that is what his problem is.  I could be wrong but if I am he'll have to prove it.  But I had better things to do with my time than worry about ol' Limmer.

I took a long look at the four hot dog cart set ups riding in the transport.  Right off I noticed mine was all beat to carp in comparison to the other three.  Limmer's was in the best shape and looked practically brand new.  The other two had some patching and dings here and there but overall looked pretty decent.  Mine looked like a pawn shop reject.  The bike frame was bent, there were dents in the stainless steel box that held the supplies, there was no sun shade even though there was a frame for one, and there was enough rust that you couldn't tell what the bike's original color had been.  The attached wagon was smaller and the wheels of it looked like they might be thinking about falling off if I asked them to roll on anything but blacktop.

Construction wasn't the only difference however.  The three men had painted things on theirs.  It reminded me of the old WW2 pictures of military planes and some of the artwork was just as "risky" as those old pictures too.  Limmer caught me looking and snorted in humor.  One of the other cooks patted his cart, paying particular attention to the pornographic picture of a chesty woman that had been airbrushed onto the largest flat surface and gave me a wicked grim and asked, "What do you think about the beauty here?"

"I think you had that painted there because that's as close as you'll ever get to touching that particular piece of a woman's anatomy."  Gayle had been in the middle of a sip from her canteen and wound up having to get a good back pounding because she started choking and wheezing in surprise.  Josie left off her complaining long enough to really make a spectacle and embarrass the guy, and even some of the other men in the transport got in on the laugh.  Sgt. Shelly poked me with her boot and gave me "the look."  She couldn't do it as well as Mom or Sarge but she was well on her way to cultivating that eyebrow thing so I left off and decided to think silently instead of out loud.

Out of necessity my memory has gotten pretty good.  I went over the inventory of what was in my cart and compared it to some of the things I saw peeking out from under the tarps of the other three wagons and sure enough I realized something else; I hadn't just been given the short end when it comes to equipment, I'd been shorted in the area of supplies too.  It was either that or I got the barrel scrapings after everyone else got to pick over the best stuff.  I saw cans of dried soup mixes and the like and if I saw that I'm pretty sure they got really good canned stuff too.  The one area I think I've got the others beat though is in the spices, seasonings, and extract department.  And I'm not positive, but pretty sure, that I might have them beat in another area.

Sher warned me how slim the pickings could be.  "DeeDee, it can be just as bad as it was in the city.  What you need to do is cultivate some connections."

"Connections for what?"

"The way it works is that you can trade with locals so long as they are willing and don't feel pressured.  The men all go in for tobacco and meat and things like that but I was telling Moe last fall that they are missing an opportunity to learn from the locals."

I'd heard her go on about this before.  Sher is a little bit of a strange contradiction.  If she hadn't gotten so far along the path she'd been down I could see her setting up her own organic and all-natural this and that kind of business.  She taught me that a lot of weeds are edible and it got us through some lean times in the city.  I took what I learned from her and built on that by listening to Jace and Mr. Svenson and his family.  And now Sher is telling me I can use the same skills and make my job as cook somewhat easier by one, trading with locals and two, foraging on my own.  I've already seen she is right and for some reason I kinda feel like Mom is giving me the ok as well.  She was pretty good at talking people up and finding good deals.  I hope she passed some of that along to me ... just wish I had her people skills.  I always seem to rub people the wrong way ... or at least I rub the wrong people the wrong way.

That night we stopped on one side of a river crossing and it just so happened that a civilian trader convoy decided to set up beside us as the scabs were pretty fierce.  Everyone got fed by a "box lunch" kind of set up and I was actually grateful not to have to cook with everyone all jumbled together like we were.  I finished my sandwich and then tucked the rest of the odds and ends that I'd been given into my inside pockets and then asked Lucy if it was all right if I went to look at what the traders had for sell, if anything.

"Sure.  Just be back before it is bed down time so no one has to come find you."

I wandered over in the direction of the traders' convoy and just sort of hung around looking.  It was almost dark when one of their guards finally asked, "What da ya want Shrimp?"

I shrugged.  "I learn by watching.  I'm a patrol cook," I told him throwing a thumb in the general direction of our camp.  "And a friend of mine that is a sutler told me if I wanted to know what's what to pay attention to the locals.  Well, I'm trying to pay attention but I'm not exactly sure what I'm supposed to be paying attention to."

The man snorted.  "Cook huh?  I swear they must be getting desperate if they'd take on someone like you."  Then after he chuckled at his own wit he said, "If it's a cook you be then you'll want to see Marty."

He directed me towards a bunch of noise that when I got over there I realized it came from people scrubbing pots and pans.  I asked one of the women there, "The guard with the big handlebar mustache said I could come over here and watch Marty."

"Watcha want to watch Marty for?"

"I'm a new cook and ..."  I finished my explanation and she smiled and winked at something behind me.  I turned slowly to find a man looking at me like I was a bug under his microscope.

I swallowed and asked, "Are you Marty?"

"That's what they call me.  What's the name of this friend of yours?"

"Sher.  She and her man Moe work in shoes and such."

He made an interested face and said, "Yep, know them myself.  Not bad people.  So Sher told you to watch the locals did she?"

"Yes sir," I told him figuring it never hurt to be polite to strangers.  "I have to cook and feed my patrol.  I'm not worried about the cooking part so much as I am about the food part.  I'm expected to make everything go as far as it can but that stuff is all dry or canned ... they didn't really give me anything fresh."  I decided to leave out the part about the tin of cookies and crackers since it didn't seem worth mentioning.  "I can forage if I know what is edible and what isn't but I'm not from around here.  I overwintered in the North Woods of Wisconsin so I can identify a few things like cattails and the like but I was wondering what else was around here that people use that I don't have to cultivate."

"Well you're a lucky one, just so happens I was about to take an inventory before we crossed the ribber.  Come on along and if you'll tote and move some things for me I'll see if I cain't enlighten ya some."


  1. Thanks for the chapter Kathy, always looking for more from you. I pray god grant you the strength to deal with life.

  2. Thanks for the chapter Kathy, always looking for more from you. I pray god grant you the strength to deal with life.