“I’d give anything for two eggs, sunny-side-up over hashed browns, four thick slices of bacon dripping with grease,” Merv says, slicking his hand over the stack of cement blocks they’re using for a table. They’ve left the tunnels, for the time being, they’ve come above ground. Sunlight edges in over the five-foot walls of the parking garage. As long as the sun doesn’t hit them directly, it’ll be okay. At the first sign of blisters they’ll have to go back down. Merv turns to grab a jug of water. He’d been able to sneak it out of the tunnel with no one suspecting it was full of fresh water.
“Remember how we used to camp out, cook eggs over an open fire in a cast iron skillet?” Merv says.
“Or Lolita—at the cafe’, how she’d carry the platters of food along the length of her arm, coffee pot in her other hand.” Charlie stares at his worn shoes, one brown, one black. No shoelaces. He hasn’t seen shoelaces since the world went to hell. “Coffee. I remember coffee.”
“I remember coffee, too.” Merv gets up, walks to the wall and wedges the jug of water between the broken girders.
Charlie rattles the cardboard can filled with old protein powder. “This is all we got left, son.”
Just as Merv turns around, a man with a metal length of pipe steps into view. He is gripping a smashed paper bag in his free hand. “Did I just hear you say you’d give anything for some bacon?”
Merv’s lip quivers. “Hey Manny, I was only joking. I’m happy with the powder. Honest I am.”
Manny thows the paper bag toward Charlie and it hits him in the back. Charlie reaches around to retrieve the bag.
Manny’s voice is rough. “You’re not supposed to be above ground. It could be a big problem for you if Hank finds out.”
“You wouldn’t rat us out to Hank, would you?” Charlie’s voice is hollow, afraid.
“What’ll you give me to keep me quiet?”
Charlie’s fingers shake as he peers in the bag. His chin sinks to his chest.
Merv studies Charlie and by the look on his face he guesses what’s in the bag. “It’s not filled with…”
Charlie nods his head.
“You wouldn’t! Manny, it’s all we got left that’s worth anything.”
“All I’m asking for is one gold tooth from each of you, but if it takes too long for you to decide, I’ve been known to double my request.”
Charlie stands, holding the crinkled bag in his hand.
“You want I should do it or do you want to do it?” Manny says.
“You sure you got eggs, hashed browns and bacon?”
Charlie reaches for the pipe.
At the first sign of blisters they’ll have to go back underground.
Copper Rose perforates the edges of the page while writing unusual stories from the heart of Wisconsin. Her work has appeared in various anthologies and online journals. She also understands there really is something about pie. You can connect with her at https://julieceger.wordpress.com/copper-rose-author/ and Author Copper Rose.