It had been three days since Rick Milton had killed a woman with a spoon. Not a bad three days as things go … these days. Rick had eaten well. He had drunk his fill of water and even a couple diet sodas.
“Gotta stay in shape for the post-apocalyptic world,” Rick reflected. “No full-calorie sodas for me.”
Things had been fairly quiet outside Rick’s neighbors’ home where he had taken up residence of late. There was nothing left in his own home to entice him to return other than a couple bags of Doritos. He considered going back across the street for the Spicy Sweet Chili chips in the purple bag, but decided that could come later. His neighbors had graciously left a couple bags of Nacho Cheese Doritos behind.
For the time-being, Rick was ensconced in his neighbor’s recliner. Eating like a king from the food his neighbor had left behind as well as what he had found in the dead woman’s duffel bag. If only the power grid was still up and the cable company was still operating, Rick would have enjoyed the time watching his neighbor’s near-new 3D TV. The technology had really progressed in the last few years, despite the economic downturn. Rick wondered why the television manufacturers had continued to advance their technology as consumer spending had tanked.
“Never mind,” Rick mused. “You’ve got bigger problems now.”
Initially, the woman’s body had been one of Rick’s bigger problems. He didn’t want the body inside the house where it would eventually bloat and begin to rot. Rick figured the same would happen if he drug the body out into the yard, but decided to get it out of the house anyway. The next morning when Rick woke up and checked the back yard, there was little left of the body. Shards of skin and muscle clung to what was mostly a bare skeleton. What appeared to be a couple neighborhood dogs tugged at what meat was left.
Rick let out a low whistle. The two dogs turned to look at him through the glass of the patio door and then went quickly back to their meal.
Surprisingly, Rick felt no remorse. After all, the woman had tried to kill him. Life was tough all over.
Stretching, Rick strolled into the kitchen and located the instant coffee that he’d found in the cupboard two days before. He poured water from a plastic bottle into a coffee cup and stirred the semi-stale grounds into the tepid liquid. It tasted like the south end of a north-bound cat and carried no steamy aroma but it was coffee and Rick had loved coffee before the crash.
Nearly every day, on his way to work, Rick had gone through the drive-thru of a Scooter’s Coffee shop – a local chain with excellent roasts. He only allowed himself one medium-sized cup because the caffeine heightened a few of his already borderline-annoying personality traits. That one cup, however, had been Rick’s morning ritual for nearly fifteen years since the first Scooter’s had opened in Bellevue, a suburb of Omaha.
Now, as he sipped his room-temperature instant roast, Rick missed his Scooter’s more than ever. He chuckled as he thought back to the first few days after the crash. His addiction to caffeine, as small as it was, left him with a throbbing headache for the first few days. As he looked at the muddy water in his coffee cup, Rick realized that he was on a slippery slope. Addictions or dependencies of any type, no matter how minor in the old days, became real issues once you couldn’t just drive through the local Scooter’s and buy a cup of coffee … or trot down to the nearby convenience store to pick up a pack of cigarettes or a bottle of booze. Prescription medications? Difficult to find at best. Diabetic test strips? Good luck.
As Rick turned these thoughts over in his mind, the seedling of an idea began to sprout. Surely, some of these items still existed. Certainly, there were people who still needed or wanted them. The first piece of the puzzle, Rick realized, was how to acquire the items without getting killed in the process. The second and third pieces of the problem left Rick bewildered for the time being. How could one find buyers for these necessities? And, just as importantly, what would the potential buyers have to trade?
As Rick finished his lackluster coffee, he nurtured his emerging idea. There were challenges, sure. But there had always been challenges in business. Today’s challenges were just a little different from the challenges of a few months ago … or a few years ago. Present-day challenges were, perhaps, more significant than those of a few months ago, but they were still nothing more than challenges.
Business in the new economy operated on the same basic principles as business in the old economy, Rick reasoned. A product, no matter how great the demand, still needed a distribution network. A buyer, no matter how little disposable “income” they had, still would find a way to pay to meet either a real or perceived need.
Of course, the perceived needs of the populace, and their willingness to utilize credit to meet those needs, had been very near to the root of the issue that had caused the crash. The irony was not lost on Rick. He chuckled to himself as he blew on his already-cool coffee out of habit.
Rick set down his coffee and began to work out his plan.