“She’s a beauty, isn’t she?”
The words rolled off the salesman’s tongue as smoothly as the motor home had once rolled off the production line. It was well-worn patter, with almost as many miles on it as most of the salesman’s stock.
“She’s seen better days,” replied David, kicking one of the front tires. David had no idea why he did it, it was just something he’d seen people do when buying a vehicle. Still, the rubber was reassuringly firm, and that had to mean something. Probably.
“Ah, her best days are yet to come!” the salesman continued. “Machine like this? She’s not really broken in until the first hundred thousand miles are on the clock. Trust me, that’s when she really starts to purr.”
David ran his hand along the armored bull bars that covered the grille and the first third of either side of the motor home’s cab. He felt dents, and something wet.
“Those bars are top rated,” the salesman said, pre-empting David’s question. “Heck, you should have seen what we scrapped off them when she came in …”
The salesman stopped. He was wise enough to know when he’d let out a little too much line, and his fish was in danger of slipping the hook. He changed tactics, quickly, before David could ask any awkward questions.
“Where you going, anyway?”
“Providence,” said David. It felt strange to say it out to another person, after all the weeks of planning, the months of hoarding, bartering, trading, and the years before that of wishing, wishing that he could be out of this place.
“Providence …” the salesman repeated, and let out a long whistle. “Wow. That’s a long way.”
“My parents live there,” said David. “Besides, I’ve heard that if you can make it past the first checkpoint, you can get a free ride, anywhere in the country. Anywhere you want to go.”
“Yeah? Heck, maybe I ought to give it a try myself.”
David bristled. “You’ve got to have family, that’s what I heard. You can go anywhere, as long as you’ve got family there to stay with.”
“Ah, right,” replied the salesman. “Well, that’s it for me then. All my family lived right here. Guess that’s true of most folks. We were a small town …”
“That’s what made it so easy for them,” said David. He pulled open the door of the cab and climbed up. Inside, the motor home stank of cigars and beer. There was blood splattered over the driver’s seat. “That’s what made it so easy for them to do what they did. Nobody missed us. Nobody cared. Just another town that dried up and blew away.”
David climbed across to the passenger seat. In front of him, a mounted machine gun hung awkwardly. “You got ammo for this?” he asked.
“Sure, sure,” said the salesman. David didn’t noticed the crack in the salesman’s voice, or that he had turned away from a moment. He didn’t notice the tears as they hit the dry, dusty ground. “I’ll throw in a few clips for you, how does that sound?”
David hopped down from the cab.
“Deal,” he said, trying to contain a sudden surge of excitement. This was it. He was going home.
“Great,” said the salesman, his composure returning, the thrill of the sale overtaking him. “Come up to the office, I’ll get the keys.”
David followed the salesman towards the portacabin that served as his office.
“Can you do something for me?” the salesman asked, as he unlocked the office door.
“When you’re out there, on the road? Kill as many of those mutant bastards as you can for me.”
“Sure,” said David, with a nervous smile. “Every one I see between here and Providence.”