Table Of Contents
Writer’s Favorite Drinks - Housing Works Bookstore Cafe
Short Poem - A Word To Husbands By Odgen Nash
The Merchant Of Death - Short Story
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Writer's Favorite Drink
Housing Works Bookstore Café
Stacked floor to ceiling with books, this NYC staple couldn’t be a more apropos place to spend a day putting words on the page. The question I have is whether the owners accidentally bought a lot of books and then decided to make a shop out of it, or are they just book-lovers? I hope it is the former.
"Hey, we got a bunch of books in a room. What do you want to do with it?"
"I don't know. Want to start a book shop?"
"Eh, why not?"
They probably did the sane thing as being big fans of literature who wanted to just help the community by making a book shop there. I mean, I guess that is cool too.
There’s plenty of space to park your laptop or notebook at this place, their volunteer staff serves a wide range of food and drinks, and guidance from other published writers is just a bookshelf away. I can go there and then learn about other writer's stuff they are working on, and realize that my book that I thought was pretty awesome, isn't really as good as the piece that a stranger that I just met decided to start this morning. Unfortunately, this book shop is currently closed due to COVID, but you can still support them regardless.
Ogden Nash – A Word To Husbands
To keep your marriage brimming
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you’re wrong, admit it;
Whenever you’re right, shut up.
The Merchant Of Death - Short Story
The world has ended, and all of life was destroyed. We have become nothing but ash in a lone field with no wind to blow or pile to become, a vacant body with no home to settle, or burial to sleep in, a lost cause of no meaning or purpose for the beliefs we held. The world is nothing with the very life that inhabits it. Sure there is the world without life. The plants shall always be on the ground growing. The sun shall always be shining. The water will always be splashing on the shores. But with no soul of the human to interact with the world, what does the world even have? Nothing but empty sounds and heartless movements. The human soul, with its witty laughter, wholesome community, and organized chaos, creates a way for the world to cherish. Without it, the world might as well not be. This world has ended. Well, besides me, the narrator of this piece. The bard of the composition. The man you are stuck listening to for the next few minutes. If life had ended, then I wouldn’t be able to tell you this story. So as I said, the world has kind of ended, and life was merely changed. I am covered in ashes from dust to dust. I am here to tell you how it happened.
I’m no scholar or man of sophistication, but I believe the technical term for what happened is called “nuclear war.”
A bomb went off. And it was a big one. It destroyed all in that small country, I forget its name, somewhere near an ocean, and that bomb led to famine for the country and the rest of the world. That led to unrest until two more bombs went off. From what I remember, the major powers of the world were trying to control their tempers between each other and the madness that had occurred within their own borders, and they came to the conclusion that dropping a bomb on their enemy would solve the problem. I believe they thought, irrationally, that by eliminating their enemy, they could better focus on the problems the world was facing. They were wrong. The two bombs destroyed just about everyone left on this planet. Whatever hope that the world had for getting through the first bomb ended when the second two went off within a few hours of each other. I am not going to give you a rundown of the whole event, but long story short, I am stuck wondering this wasteland of a world with nothing more than my wits and what is on my back.
I now spend my days searching for life on this planet, for there are not many of us left to live here. Or to die as many would see it. I wander from road to road to town to town looking for whoever I can, for those of the past that called this place home too. So far, the mission has been a failure. I have found nobody in the many places and homes that I scavenged.
Early on, I recognized this problem of aloneness, in that by staying put, I can only meet a survivor who comes to me, so I decided the best course of action was to not create a home set in one place, for I may never find anyone that way. I am a nomad in the sincerest sense of the word. I couldn’t risk staying in a random home that I found and trying to find someone. I had to at least try.
One late night after another day of finding no one, I tried to fix the radio that I had set up. It is not the most advanced piece of equipment that I can use, and I am currently trying to find more advanced materials, but I have not been successful in that endeavor. All that I have found has been broken or not functional, and I have not found any other pieces that could make the new equipment work. So I am stuck with the modest radio that I broadcast to any who can hear.
What started out as a simple fix turned into a more diligent task that I had to stop what I was doing in order to proceed. I knew how to fix this radio to get it to work. I have done it many times before. Most fixes need a minor adjustment, like a new piece. Nothing that I can’t solve. When I have to fix the radio in ways that I cannot fully understand and that take a while, I don’t enjoy doing it late at night, when I am already exhausted, so I set aside a day for the project so that it can be the one thing I has my attention. If this were in the morning, I wouldn’t be so anxious to end the fix, but it was night, and I was in no mood for it. After yet another failed attempt at fixing the radio, I threw the piece I was trying to install against the wall in frustration. “You piss of shit! Goddamnit! This part is supposed to fit. I know that I fixed this before.” I pounded the floor, causing my hand to bleed. I stopped after I felt the pain, and I put a towel over the blood. I took a few deep breaths as I sat down, bleeding of my own blood and patience. “What the hell am I doing? What am I doing here? There is no one out there. There is no one but me left in this world. I am all alone. Why am I even fixing this damn thing? What am I doing here? Does anybody know?” I looked around the empty room. “Of course, no one knows! I am the only one here!” I started to cry. “What the hell am I still doing this for? Everyone is dead. I haven’t found a single survivor in all the towns I explored. The radio signal hasn’t received anything. What did I do to deserve this? All the world died in the explosions, yet here I am, alive but still dead. If there is anybody out there, anybody listening, God, or whatever the hell is out there, can you please tell me why you kept me alive? I should have died in the bombs with everyone else—a corpse on the road of the destruction, like so many I see. Yet here I am left to suffer this existence. There is no one coming. There is no more hope. I don’t know….” I passed out on the chair shortly after, unsure of it all.
I got out of my shelter after waking to check my surrounding for the night. I do this as a precaution in case of any wild animals around me. I want to make sure that I am alone when I sleep. As I walked around the settlement, gun in hand, I saw a light I didn’t recognize before, so I decided to check it out. I went back inside, grabbed my equipment of limited medical supplies and larger guns, and headed out to examine this strange light.
Many times before, I have had experiences like this one; on a late-night patrol, I think I see something, and there is never anything there. The light is of a lamp that is still on for some reason, or it is a reflection from the moon to an item on the ground. It is never anything, really.
By the light was a tent that I did not recall seeing in my travels. I wrote it off as poor surveying on my part and continued on. When faced with a situation like this, my first instinct is to kill any creatures by the light. That is what the apocalypse does to you; it makes you a trigger-happy paranoid asshole where behind every corner could be a wolf or, worse ready to have you for dinner. I have seen too many beasts and animals that the sight of a human would scare me. The person I see next may be a ghost, for my mind is deteriorating sooner than I can tell you these words.
When I approached within a few feet of the light, I came across a fat man rocking back and forth on a chair, staring into the distance. He must have seen me walk up, for he didn’t have any weapons on his side. “Well, look what the cat dragged in? You look like a fucker, Sargeant Pepper. Ha. Ha. What can I help you with today, my friend?”
“What is this?” I asked.
His large neck turned towards his home. “They call these things tents. You normally sleep in them. They are a pain in the ass to put up, though.”
“I mean, why is it in the middle of nowhere.”
“Yeah, so…. Do you have a problem with nowhere?”
The question caught me off guard. “Well, no.”
“Don’t judge a place until you have been there. You just got to the middle of nowhere and are telling me that my tent shouldn’t be here. Now, my friend, I know you don’t mean that. Nowhere is quite the place to be for me. I enjoy the alone time.”
“I’m sorry, I am sure that you meant to put the tent here,” I said, confused and ready to pull the trigger on this man. If he were to do anything to me, no one would know.
“Of course. I did, my friend. Would you like to come inside?” The large man got up from his chair and opened up the tent.
“What for?” I asked.
“It’s late out, and the night is going to make the air cold. If you don’t want to keep my company, at least come inside to warm up a bit, my friend.”
“Okay. I will come inside to warm up for a moment,” I answered and followed him inside as he spoke of supplies.
“Yes, my friend, I have all you need in this world. Guns, ammunition, medical supplies, food. I even know a place where you can have some fun if you catch my drift.” He winked at me as if I would be entertained by a form of entertainment I hadn’t known since before the bombs went off. How can anyone have fun with someone when there is no one around?
I didn’t trust this man, so I knew that I would eventually have to treat him like the many animals before me. I would kill him and the threat he was. I wouldn’t allow myself to be fooled.
“Sit, my friend. Go ahead. Sit.” He instructed me, seeing that I was not comfortable in this small space with a large man.
The setup was what you would expect from a post-apocalyptic tent store, in that it wasn’t much of a setup at all. Only a few rounds of bullets and some random medical supplies were on a small table in the middle of the tiny tent.
“I thought you said that you had plenty of stuff.” I sat down on a large chair in the corner.
“I do in the back. Ah, you got my good chair. I normally sit there, but for a friend, I’ll let it slide. Just don’t break it. Ha Ha.”
“The back of where?” I looked at the entrance to the tent that was the only way in and out.
“The tent. There is another whole part for the extra stuff. What you see on the table are only displays.”
I could tell that this charlatan was trying to fool my eager eyes and deceive me with his pathetic stock. He’d overcharge me for some useless item. I have seen men like him before; they must be put down and stopped.
“I’m about to make myself some food if you want. I, of course, would have to charge you, but I can give you a discount, my friend, as you seem like a gentle guy.”
I pulled my handgun out and started to fire. Six shots to the head of the merchant, and yet, when I stopped firing, he still sat where he was as if the bullets never went off. “Wow. That is quite a shot you got there. Good aim, my friend. All headshots. I am impressed.”
The large man got up and stood by his pan on the oven he had in this tent. “Let’s see what is on the menu tonight? There is random meat from down the river. Random meat from down the road. Or a mix of the two.” He turned to me. “I love when I have choices.”
I figured that my handgun must have made a mistake, and the stranger about to cook some food was mocking my poor accuracy, so I made the logical decision and fired my sub-machine gun at him until there were no more bullets.
He felt nothing and continued to cook his meal of random meats as if the gun never went off. “You better not fire too much; you will run out of bullets, my friend. We don’t want that to happen. Although that would mean you’d have to buy more from me. Haha. Did I tell you about the time that I almost burned this place down? Yes. I was trying to flip the meat I was cooking up in the air and catch it. Hey, I thought it looked cool. But then the fire from the oven got too big, and a fire started. Ha. I love cooking. It’s an experiment with food.” He used his wooden spatula to mix around the meat he had in the pan. “I’d offer you different drinks, but all we have is beer, which is really not that big of a problem when you think of it. In dark times like these, where all the world is miserable and sad, one needs a little bit of alcohol to sustain their sanity.” He looked over at me. “Not too much, though. We want to keep that head of ours, now, don’t we?”
I sat there listening to this man, and I didn’t know what was happening, and I felt that I had no choice left but to go all out on this stranger who was invulnerable to bullets. I took out my rocket launcher, took a few steps to the front of the tent, and fired my only rocket. I knew I got the son of a bitch. His life was over. He would be nothing but bones and blood at this point. I even hurt myself in the explosion as I got kicked back a few feet. I got up from the ground, ready to see the body of my victim.
I was wrong. He stood making his food once more, only slightly glancing over at me as I struggled to walk over to him. “Boy, you better watch out how close you get to that, my friend. We don’t want you hurting yourself. The food is still looking good, though.”
He put a plate of food and a can of beer before me as I struggled to sit back down in the large chair. “Here, my friend. This one is on the house. I figure you are going to have to buy back those bullets you used, so I won’t charge you for this meal.”
“Thanks.” I grabbed the meal. “What is it?”
“Cooked meat. I won’t tell you what animal cause I don’t want to ruin your appetite. So about those supplies? What can I get for you?”
I answered, dejected by the still living merchant. “Ammo and medical supplies.”
“Coming right up.” The stranger put his plate of meat on the bed he was sitting on, and left his can of beer on the ground beside the bed, and left the tent. In a few moments, he came back with a box of stuff that he threw on the ground. “Here you go, my friend, plenty of ammo for your guns, medical supplies to cover those bumps and bruises you have, and I threw in a shotgun free of charge. I noticed you don’t have one, and you may need one somewhere in your adventures.” I gave him the money for the purchase. “You can stay to sit and eat your meal if you want.”
“Thanks.” I ate what I could of the unidentified meat and drank as much of the beer as possible. “So, are you going to tell me why you didn’t die from the times I tried to kill you?”
He continued on with his meal. “Nah. That would ruin the fun, don’t you think? Know this, my friend; I am here to help you survive out there. I am not trying to hurt you or anything like that.”
“You’re not even going to give me a hint.”
“Nah. I’ll let you think about it. Why did that guy in the tent not die when I tried to kill him? I shot him with bullets and a rocket, and he is still standing. Is he a ghost? Am I hallucinating?” He winked at me as if he knew something I didn’t. He then got up and took my plate and can. “I’ll then let you wonder where I went to get those supplies for you. Haha.”
I didn’t realize that conundrum until he mentioned it. Where did he go to get those supplies? There was nothing outside when I walked in. What the hell is going on here?
Before I could ask, the merchant sat down once more and stared at me as if he expected me to leave. “Well, my friend, that seems to complete the transaction.”
I avoided any questioning and put my new shotgun on my back, with no more answers than when I arrived. I put the ammo and supplies in the various pockets, and I stood up and headed for the exit, which was also the entrance.
Before I could leave, the merchant said to me, “Good luck out there, my friend. Just remember that if you kill everyone in the world, there won’t be anyone left to live with.”
I went back to my home that night and slept it all off, seeing it as nothing more than a dream. In the morning I woke up and to my luck, I fixed the radio signal, yet I didn’t receive anything. Curious as to why the stranger that I met last night didn’t have one, I headed to the place where I was the night before, to the tent where I tried to murder a merchant but failed. To my surprise, nothing was there. No tent, no lamp. It was all gone.
What happened last night? I asked myself as I went back home, trying to understand what I went through. How can he have moved all that stuff so quickly? He had no horse to travel with him. He had no caravan. Am I expected to believe that a man much larger than myself who could barely walk when I spoke to him moved more equipment than I could carry in only a few hours of seeing him?
I convinced myself it was all a dream and that I had nothing to worry about. I went to turn on the radio to see if I could contact anyone when I saw a weapon that I had never owned before. “A shotgun?” I asked aloud. “That is going to be harder to explain.”
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About The Blogger
Greg Luti is an editor and blogger on pensandwords.com. His favorite writers are Robert Frost and Charles Bukowski. He enjoys reading up on history, watching comedies, and playing video games, when he is not writing down a few notes for his next piece. He started this blog out of his love for literature and hopes that the reader shares that same passion.
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