AUTHOR'S NOTE: This flash fiction piece about foragers David and Galahad relates an incident alluded to in the novel, but contains no spoilers. This is also a Three Word Wednesday post. Please to go the Three Word Wednesday for more fun!
With a crunch of tires over broken glass, the shuttle pulled up in front of the warehouse. Galahad stood and checked the gun at his hip, then looked at David, who was lounging on one of the vinyl seats in an attitude of annoyance. “Well?”
David hauled himself to his feet. "We’re here, I know. This better be good."
"There's no reason for the girls to have lied to us."
"Yeah. Perfect little prep-school saints, I bet.” David grabbed his Glock and stuck it in his waistband.
"If it's a trick, we can handle it."
As Galahad followed David toward the loading dock, the other members of their forage team fell in behind them. The girls from St. Catherine's were waiting, lined up in a row. The only giveaways that they were living in an altered, post-pandemic world and weren’t on a school field trip were the weapons at their hips and the condition of their uniforms - their plaid skirts were ragged and their white shirts were wrinkled and smudged with grime.
Two of the older girls, their hair neatly slicked into ponytails and their shirts a little cleaner than the others', separated themselves from the group.
"We were beginning to worry," one said.
"We had to stop and siphon gas,” David said. “It’s not like we can pull into a Chevron station, you know.”
The other girl pursed her lips. "We thought maybe you got jumped by another gang."
"Not a chance. But I'll jump you if you're game."
The girl drew back, but before she could protest, Galahad motioned David to silence. "Don't mind his little jokes. We're cool. Show us what you think is the best way in."
The girls cast suspicious glances at David, then indicated the boys should follow them. To the side of the loading dock was a steel door pocked with bullet holes. "We tried shooting it, but I guess that only works in the movies."
"You just have to know how to do it," David said, but at Galahad's scowl he put away his brash demeanor and called for someone to bring him a crowbar.
After half an hour of effort, the boys got the door open. Inside, the warehouse was dark and musky, full of shelves and pallets piled high with boxes. The girls took one end and the boys started working the other, searching for food and useful items that might help them survive.
"This isn't as good as they promised," David muttered, after prying open a box and finding it contained nothing edible. "What are we supposed to do with sewing machine oil?"
Galahad gave a philosophical shrug. "We could use it to lubricate hinges at the hotel so the doors won't squeak."
"We need food and water, not quiet doors."
While David continued to work the area near west end of the building, Galahad slowly made his way back to the side the girls had claimed. He wondered if these sheltered girls from the city’s wealthiest families really had what it took to be good foragers. Maybe so, since they had collected a sizeable pile of boxes.
Somewhere on the other side of a stack of wooden pallets, he heard sudden cries of excitement, then dismay. Curious, Galahad wandered over and found several girls gathered around a dusty burlap bag while one shone her flashlight inside.
“Too bad,” one girl said. “I sure would’ve liked a baked potato.”
“French fries,” said another.
They looked up at Galahad’s approach. “Want some rotten potatoes?”
Galahad peered inside the bag and sucked in his breath. The potatoes were shriveled, with green tendrils sticking out like the legs of giant insects. Did these girls really not know what they had found? “Looks pretty bad,” he said, trying to sound like he meant it. “What are you going to do with them?”
“Leave them here, of course. You don’t think they’re any good, do you?”
“No.” Galahad shook his head. “They might make good compost, though. Mind if we take them?”
He could barely contain his excitement as he added the sack of potatoes to their stash. Those girls might’ve learned a thing or two at their expensive prep school, but what they hadn’t learned was that sprouting potatoes grew more potatoes. These might seem worthless today, but they were seed for tomorrow.
“What’d you find?” David said, emerging out of the shadows.
Galahad smiled. “The future.”