Spent too much of my life now trying to play fair

During World War Two, the Allies dropped a boatload of fifty caliber single shot pistols into enemy occupied territory for the use of partisans and resistance fighters and the like.  The idea was that you as a guerrilla fighter against the damn Nazis would use that single shot pistol to creep up on and take out one of the dirty Nazis and then grab their gun for further resistancing.  No one knows how many of them were actually used, but after the war “they” decided that it probably wasn’t very many.  But they decided that dropping all those guns all over the place likely had the unintended useful psychological side effect of making the Germans think that there might be lurking guerrillas with a fifty cal pistol ready to blow them away at any moment.  These are the kinds of “fascinating” things that Martialla tells me now.   

I always knew that she had an interest in firearms but I’m now starting to wonder if she’s been a full-blown gun nut all along and she was just hiding it.  She talks at length about the kind of crude firearms she thinks people might be knocking together these days.  Thanks to this impulse of hers, I now know that a homemade shotgun is called a tumbera in Argentina.  And that you could buy a twelve-gauge pipe gun for ten bucks in the fifties because a dude who fought in the Philippines thought it was cool.  And that those old cap gun toys can be converted into real guns “relatively easily”.   

I bring this up because the Boss had a thing hanging around his neck that Martialla said is similar to one of a number of improvised firearms produced in Chechnya during the nineties.  The Boss himself looked a lot like Jeff Hostetler, I mean a LOT like Jeff Hostetler.  Not that I’m a huge football fan, but the resemblance was so uncanny that it kind of freaked me out. 

You’re probably thinking “that must have been nice for you Ela, to finally see someone who looked more like the people of your time.” 

No, I said he looked like Jeff Hostetler, so he was right at home here in the ugly future.  His squat hairy badger-like cronies were carrying him on what I technically should call a palanquin but that word makes it sound fancy, which it was not.  This thing was a couple of sticks and a pile of garbage for him to sit-stand on.  Was Elizabeth Taylor on one of those things in Cleopatra or am I thinking of the Ten Commandments?  Who was in that one, Anne Baxter?   

Ugly Future Jeff Hostetler spoke perfectly clearly, he was the least accented person we’ve met so far, unfortunately he wasn’t speaking English.  Martialla said she thought it was Russian, like she knows what she’s talking about.  Luckily one of his mush-mouth minions interpreted for him, unluckily we couldn’t understand eighty to ninety percent of what the interpreter was saying.  An inability to enunciate clearly is a significant hindrance to an interpreter if you ask me.

Let me ask you this (I say that knowing likely no one will ever read this) why is it that Martialla and I have a hard time understanding most people here but generally they seem to understand us just fine and dandy?  What’s that about?  In olden times, did people that spoke vulgar Latin still under what people speaking classical Latin said to them but not the other way round?  I should have paid more attention in linguistics class.  Also I should have taken a linguistic class.   

After several minutes of an even less funny “who’s on first” routine, our leather drum faced guide, who had wandered back on the scene at some point, explained to us that the Boss was saying that if we had guns to trade, we had to trade them with him.  UF Jeff Hostetler nodded when she said this so clearly he understands English so what the hell was even going on?  Was he speaking maybe Russian to an interpreter? 

We said that we’d be glad to trade him a rifle for some fuel and food and water and some new clothes and a shower and a shave and some whiskey, but then things got confused again.  Eventually we figured out, through leatherface, that UF Jeff Hostetler was under the assumption that we were merchants from Gunmetal City because we had pistols on our hips and were tossing crappy rifles around.  I guess no one else ever is willing to give up a firearm for anything.  When we told him that we just picked that up at the Roadrunner (meep-meep) flea market, he was very sad.   

With zero prompting, he told us that they needed weapons because a group of raiders had set up camp on the route between Bosstown and Smashweed and this was bad because they need food from Smashweed because all they have is mud and everyone was going to die unless they did something about it.  I’ve never been in charge of a feudal kingdom before, but that seems like the kind of thing you wouldn’t go around blabbing to strangers that just came into town.  I guess statecraft is still in the process of being reinvented.  Rediscovered?  Whichever.

I was about to say “that’s a bummer, good luck with that” when Martialla opened her big fat mouth and asked what they would give us if we ran the raiders off.  I looked at her incredulously.   

“What are you doing?” 

“This is the best place we’ve seen so far, and they seem to have contact with other places that might be even better.  We need to start making some friends.  What’s the harm in driving out there and just taking a look?  If we can run them off, great, we reap the rewards. If not, we drive away and forget the whole thing.” 

“Uh, are you forgetting about the Loch Ness Monster in scum-lake town?  This seems to be more or less the same deal and that didn’t go great.  I’m still sneezing out the occasional eel.  And that was just an animal, these are professional murderers.  Think about this, these raiders are apparently more than they can handle themselves, don’t you think that means it’s more than the two us are going to be a match for?” 

Martialla gestured “Look around, does it look like these people can handle anything?  That piece of junk about his neck might well be the only gun they have.

“Yeah, and we have TWO guns so clearly that’s a huge improvement.”

Martialla’s voice was wild with confidence “This time will be different.” 

“Yeah, this time could be much worse.”