Wrote this at Lost + Found cafe in Vancouver

Great little place to sit and write. This is more of my current short story:

 

Breakfast was great!

Jeff is told to not lick his plate after eating, if he was ever going to qualify for acceptance to a school, he would have to learn how to behave, he’s reminded.

Dirt knots, mint chutes, rat bacon, and a handful of different boiled eggs; as much as he could eat! Being 12 comes with a big appetite, he’s told.

Noon creeps up on the three huddled figures in the shade of the tin shack, Jeff sometimes jumps when sun baked metal bangs while expanding. Tom doesn’t even look up from his book.

“Tom, what is that book about?” Jeff askes, scooting next to Tom to look over his shoulder.

“It’s about a lost guy. He wanders.” Tom turns the page of the dirty, coverless book. Jeff closes his eyes and smells the scent of words, his only way to appreciate books.

“Someday I’ll give this book to you, after you finish at school.”

Still with his eyes closed, Jeff grins from ear to ear, a few missing baby teeth provides a veneer of innocence.

“Really? I could have a book?” Jeff squeaks, his eyes opening wide and staring at Tom who is engrossed in his reading.

“Of course, memory becomes knowledge when passed on, maybe you’ll take from this book what I’ve learned from it.”

Another page turns, a fresh whiff of writing hits Jeff in the nose. “Maybe you’ll have so many books to read that you won’t want a dirty coverless book.” Tom turns his head and winks at Jeff.

“How many books are there?” Jeff asks in a quizzical tone.

“Lots!”

“When can I go?”

“Soon!” Tom says, “Mush told you about the surprise, right?”

Jeff had forgot about it, a good meal on an empty stomach can distract him.

“Oh the surprise!” Jeff is ecstatic, last time he remembers a surprise, Tom brought them a dog. It was shot by a hunter a few days later, Mush caught him and reddened him, she only spared his life because he was nothing more than sinew and people sticks. Tom puts the book face-down on the dirty patchwork floor, stands up, and ruffles through a large brown sack.

“Tom are you showing him the surprise?” Mush calls out, she sits under the grate door for light, deftly knitting a coat from beast hide.

“Yes lawl,” Tom chuckles, pulling out a large silver canister from his pack.

“What… what’s that?” Jeff askes, his head tilting to one side.

“Remember those travelers with the metal walking suits?” Tom holds up the canister, light from the doorway reveals it as a brilliant chrome with blue lettering on it.

Jeff remembers them alright. Ten feet tall and masked, their eyes the colour of blood with similar canisters mounted on them near the mouth. They say nothing and walk where ever they please.

“Well, I found a trader that will give us a disk of knowledge for every canister, 1.44 megabytes worth!” Tom flips the canister up in the air towards Jeff and dances a jig. Jeff, barely catching the can, looks dumbfounded. Mush and Tom used to collect scraps of knowledge from the radio and trade stories for food, 5k here and 10k there. The radio just stopped talking one day. A disk, he had only heard they existed, he’d never even seen one. All that knowledge on the little squished-flat box! The fee for school for a kid his age was 100 megabytes. Writing radio-talk was never enough to get him in school, not before he aged and the price went up.

“Does this mea…”

“Yes!” Tom and Mush say in near unison.

“School… school!” Jeff yells, his voice cracking.

Tom reaches in to the bag and laughs, pulling out can after can after can. Mush’s loud belly laughs erupt from the corner, Jeff just stands among the growing pile of silver cylinders Tom is throwing around the shack.

Metal roof basking in the sun, steam whisps off the little wart home.

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