Two days later Galahad startled Cassie in the garage of a house near the freeway. She had found a stash of camp food and clutched a mylar pouch to her chest. “Finders, keepers. I think there’s a tabby around here, though.”

Galahad came closer. “What is that?”

“Please. It’s been twenty-four hours since our last meal. If I give you some cigarettes, will you go away?”

“I don’t smoke.” He took one of the packets and examined it. “I had no idea they made these. Is this where you usually find them? In garages?”

Cassie hesitated. Did she want to take a chance he might steal supplies she would’ve otherwise found for herself? The friendliness in his eyes weakened her resolve. “Yes. And in campers, basements, and other places where people keep their wilderness gear.”

He handed back the packet. “My family didn’t do any camping. I would’ve never guessed to look for food in a garage.”

“What were you looking for, then? Pets?”

“Tools. We need another hex set. The last one went missing.”

This was something Cassie didn’t mind helping with since she already had plenty of tools. “Try forty-three eleven across the street. I saw hex wrenches there in all sizes.”

“You know what one is?”

“Did you think just because I’m a girl I only know about lipstick? I’m a certified wilderness survival expert and was signed up for a night class in auto mechanics at the community college before…you know.”

Galahad gazed at her with renewed interest. “So was that just what you were into, like some girls used to do ballet?”

“My dad was into backpacking and my mom grew up LDS. She didn’t believe that Book of Mormon thing, but she thought they had the right idea about storing things for hard times.”

“Well, you must’ve learned a lot. Your hair and clothes look clean. You don’t even stink.”

“Basic hygiene isn’t hard. And every house is full of clothes, so it’s no big deal to get clean ones when we want them.”

“Yeah, but my group forages all over the city, and most kids don’t even try to live like humans any more. It’s like they’ve all reverted to the Neolithic.”

“Why do you think I’m not with a group? My parents made me promise not to forget how I was raised. They said I should use everything they taught me and hold on as long as I could, in case someone finds a cure.” She looked away. “As if. Seems pretty stupid to think anyone is left to find a cure.”

Galahad swiped a hand through his hair. “Listen, would you like to join our group? Regents could use someone like you.” When she hesitated, he added, “There’s safety in numbers, and we’re an okay bunch. You’ll at least get to eat.”

“Eat what? Cats?”

“Not always. And there’s enough of us to forage that the others can stay behind and work on safety, heating, and things like that. Division of labor. It’s what makes people civilized. Without it, we’re just animals.”

Cassie considered. A lot of the gangs were wild and violent, but that didn’t mean they all were. It was becoming clear that she and Leila didn’t stand a chance as independent foragers. “Can my friend come, too?”

“The kitty-lover? Sure.”

She found Leila, and once Galahad assured her that the Regents’ menu didn’t always feature household pets, she felt a little better about the proposition. “It’ll be nice to have a group to share the work,” she admitted.

“So how do we get to your place?” Cassie said. “And can we stop and pick up some of our things?”

“Our forage leader is at the end of the block. Let’s ask.”




Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Cassie's backstory is familiar. Was it in her character sketch? Or did I dream it all?

Anonymous said...

Oddly, I haven't done Cassie's character sketch yet. But I vetted potential query letters with you and outlined the story and characters a bit, so that could be what you're remembering.

I really do need to get off my butt and do Cassie's sketch, since it's silly to have done nearly everyone except my MC. The people she meets over the course of the story are so weird, though (like the twins) that it's hard to go back and write about someone who's normal and balanced.

Anonymous said...

I'm really enjoying reading it again and the size is perfect for reading on the iphone while we're travelling!

As we're camping/motelling I keep thinking about the story eg I would last two minutes in the wildness. If you moved and camped in a motel how would you get in the room without the swippy key thing. I guess you'd have to leave your room unlocked!

Plus I would never get anywhere without GPS!

Anonymous said...

Hotel room doors would unlock without electricity. Or at least, that's what's supposed to happen, otherwise there is the potential for people to become trapped inside.

Therefore, the kids living at the Regency Hotel can manually lock their doors if they're inside, using the little bar things that have replaced old-fashioned chains. But once they've left their room, they have no way to lock it from the outside unless they added hardware of some kind. Sid would be able to give the relative merits of the different ways of doing this, but would probably think the matter beneath him.

Yiehtk said...

I'd be pretty scared to stick out on my own, but i'd be hesitant to join a tribe if they were "barbaric". I also wouldn't join a tribe/group so readily without prior info.

Alice Audrey said...

Unless you tell me otherwise, I'm going to assume you aren't really looking for new comments, and simply enjoy the read. This is very good. Wish I had more time right now.