Copyright© 2010 by Shakes Peer2B
With a muffled 'thunk' the bowstring snapped back to its resting position as the arrow flew straight and true. I wasn't the best hunter in our community, so I was gratified to watch the shaft sink deeply into deer's side, just behind the shoulder.
The big Mule Deer buck didn't realize he was dead, and took off at a run, bounding through the scrub, headed for the trees. Slinging the compound bow over my shoulder, I took off after it, drawing my sidearm as I went. It never paid, now that the Black Bear, Coyote, Mountain Lion and Grey Wolf populations were coming back, to be too far behind when your kill ran out of steam. I really did not want to get into an ownership dispute with the other predators of the Sierra foothills.
Little Gav was making better time than I going up the steep slope, but that was as it should be. Hell, if it hadn't been for the sickness, right about now, I would have been sitting behind a desk somewhere, contemplating my growing paunch and chiding myself for not getting to the gym more often. Now, here I was in hot pursuit of a deer that I had shot with a bow and arrow, and I was not carrying an extra ounce of flesh anywhere on my body.
The arrow kept most of the blood in the wound, but with the deer's strenuous exertion, some leaked out, leaving a trail of droplets for us to follow. We came upon the magnificent beast thrashing in some brush that it had tried to leap over when its strength finally gave out. Its eyes rolled wildly in their sockets, and like all wild things that live with the constant threat of death, it knew its time had come.
As my mentor, Grey Eagle, had taught me, I thanked the animal for providing its meat, hide, and bones to help my family and community survive. I cannot know if the animals understand the words or the sentiment, but it is necessary for us, as the most prolific predators on the planet, to maintain such reverence for the lives we take, lest we again start killing for sport. Grey Eagle and I have pounded this lesson into the hunters and the consumers of the community, and it's gradually taking hold. Little Gav administered the coup de grace, stroking the beast's trembling body almost affectionately before swiftly drawing his hunting knife across its throat, severing the jugular.
In only a few moments the life had gone from its eyes and Gav turned to me with a hint of mischief on his face.
"Well, it's about time, Dad! I was afraid I was going to have to hunt down another one that you botched and put it out of its misery!"
I took the jibe with as good grace as I expected of him, especially since it was true. The last time we had gone hunting together, my arrow had been off the mark and rather than leave a wounded animal to die a slow death, or be torn apart by predators, we had spent many hours tracking it down. Gav, who was a much better shot with a bow, had delivered the kill shot that time.
"Yeah, well, you keep that up, son, and I'll let you haul this guy down the mountain by yourself!" I told him with a grin as I set about rigging the hind legs so we could hang the carcass from the nearest tree for dressing. We would take the heart and liver, but leave the entrails for the creatures of the forest.
"Okay by me!" Gav laughed. "This deer ought to be worth at least ten credits, and I want to get a new baseball glove."
Yep. We have money now, and baseball. Moving to Phoenix (somebody painted 'Phoenix' over the name on the city limit signs three days after we reached Springville, and no one objected) has forced a number of changes on us, some of which I had not expected to see for decades.
The Little League ball field at the western end of town got groomed, repaired and put into service almost as soon as the sun was out and the rain of our first winter decided that it was going to allow us to have spring. In anticipation, our foraging parties, over the winter months, had found gloves, bats, balls and other equipment during their expeditions.
Gav is a pretty good pitcher, too. His fastball won't break any records, but he has a wicked slider, and can throw a variety of breaking pitches. His biggest asset, though, is that he can read the batters and throw the right pitches to catch them napping. He hits his spots, too.
Money? Well, it started simply enough. With everyone living in separate dwellings, it was no longer feasible to provide such community services as food and clothing in a central location, and with the community spread out more we needed a way to equitably distribute such things so that everyone got what they earned.
We first tried just allocating supplies at a given rate per person, but that led to squabbles and fights about how so-and-so had not done a lick of work and didn't deserve to get as much as everyone else. Rather than try to arbitrate such disputes, we decided to start issuing work chits. For each hour of work done on behalf of the community, a person would receive one credit. These chits, issued at the end of each week, then, were presented at the community stores when one went to get one's supplies for the next week.
Now, since people were 'paying' for things, they wanted to pick and choose what they got. Once their 'purchases' were collected, they were taken to a 'cashier' who would assign a value and deduct that amount from the person's credits, writing the new balance on the credit chit in lieu of change.
Over time, split lips, and not a few bruises parceled out in arguments over the valuation of items, and how much really was left on the chit, this system evolved until the central 'bank' was not only marking the chits but tracking who was issued how many credits and how many they had spent.
You guessed it. That process became too cumbersome very quickly, and offered little flexibility, so we started printing credit certificates in various denominations. This way, community members could buy from each other as well as the central stores, and as long as they presented enough credit certificates, could purchase whatever they wanted from central stores.
The next step was inevitable. There have been groups in the San Joaquin Valley besides us struggling since the Sickness for their own survival. Some, like the farmers we were already dealing with while at the Citadel, are upstanding folks trying to hold on to whatever bits of civilization they can. Others, like the scavengers, are somewhat less than upstanding, and will take whatever they can beg, borrow, or steal. There is another class of folks that exists in these times, as well. These are nomadic wanderers who primarily live off of trade. Of necessity, they are tough, and many were are sticklers for honesty, but all wander the countryside, finding things left behind after the sickness that they think are of value to someone else and bringing them to settlements to trade for whatever the settlements can provide that they need or think they can trade profitably elsewhere.
All three of these groups have found the convenience of Phoenician credits to be a boon to their trade. Soon, bargaining was being done with our credits instead of goods.
Now, having co-opted the printing presses from several places nearby, we are busily printing Phoenician money on paper that we make ourselves. By pre-sickness standards, I suppose our money would be easy to counterfeit, but with the available technology and the lack of infrastructure to support it elsewhere, we're miles ahead of anyone who might want to try. The consequences for the few who have tried should be a bit of a deterrent, as well.
I must admit that I never expected to be issuing money in our eleventh year. I expected that to be at least another decade down the road. I thought we would have to accumulate precious metals or some other such basis before we could begin to even think about a monetary system. It never occurred to me that money based on our most valuable commodity - ourselves - would work so well. It remains to be seen whether this system will remain viable and stable as time goes on, but so far it seems to be working just fine. If as we can keep the basis the same - one credit for one hour of Phoenician labor - we might even be able to keep a handle on inflation.
Hell, we're now paying our suppliers in credits and they give them back to us to pay for our protection or bio-fuels.
We still do not sell weapons or any of the things we make in our forge and machine shops, and what we make for ourselves we keep within the community. There is enough demand for the bio-fuels and protection services outside the community that we lack for nothing that we need, and by selling bio-fuel, we help reduce the incentives for others to resurrect the petroleum industry. By keeping our manufactured goods to ourselves, we provide greater incentive for others to join us. Certainly, our standard of living is, so far, head and shoulders above that of other communities.
Anyway, Gav and I finally got the deer dressed and trussed up on a pole for carrying. Gav is tall for twelve, but I still wound up carrying the end with the head, just so the rack wouldn't drag too often. Fortunately, home was just a few miles downhill.
The folks at central stores issued us nine credits each, since it took us nine hours to find, kill, dress and haul the carcass back home. Gav was so happy with his earnings that he went straight away to the recreation section and spent two and a half credits on that new baseball glove.
At my urging, he took some of the remaining credits over to the bank, where the bank president herself handled his deposit.
"Good evening, young man," she said, "you made it just in time. We're just about to close. What can I do for you today?"
"I'd like to deposit five credits in my savings account, Mom," he answered. "Dad and I got a huge buck today! You would have been proud of him. He got it with his first shot!"
"That's great! I hope that package contains some of the meat," she said, eyeing the paper-wrapped bundle that I carried. "I'd love to have some venison for a change."
"From the loin," I told her. By now, I was pretty familiar with her tastes, and knew she would welcome a change from beef and pork.
"Look what I bought, Mom!" Gav said, showing her his new glove, still in its cellophane wrapping. After all these years, the cellophane was yellowed and somewhat the worse for wear, but we had found that most non-food items so sealed remained reasonably serviceable. A little oil and that glove would be as supple and pliable as when it first came out of the factory.
Amanda and Gav discussed his new purchase while I went over to visit with Sophie. Our three-year-old was happily playing in the corner with a set of blocks and a couple of other children whose parents worked at the bank
"Daddy!" she cried and ran to embrace me. I didn't think I would ever tire of that smile, not just for the joy that Sophie brought to our lives, but for the healing that she represented in Amanda.
After the Russian's assault on the Citadel, when he had captured Amanda and used her so roughly, it had taken a long time for her to recover enough, emotionally, to even enjoy sex. Even then, she was not ready for another child. Oh, we made a few desultory tries, out of a sense of duty, and Amanda was liked and respected enough that nobody took her to task for not having more kids, but that second child was a long time coming.
In the end, it was the relative tranquility of our new home here in Phoenix and her sense of duty, more than anything I was able to say or do, that convinced my wife to make a serious try for another child. Shortly after we arrived that first fall, and had moved into our house, she had turned to me one night, and whispered "I'm ready, Gavin. I want to have another baby."
It was as simple and as complex as that. She and I both knew how far she had come to be able to say that, and to mean it, and my heart was near to bursting with joy that she had finally crossed that threshold. Our lovemaking that night and on succeeding nights held none of the violent fervor that had conceived Little Gav, but in its own way, it was as intense. It was almost as though two separate streams of events were taking place, as emotional doors long barred by Amanda's traumatic experience with the Russian finally, slowly, but completely opened. While our bodies made sweet, languorous love, our hearts renewed their passion and gradually reacquainted themselves with each other, rediscovering things long hidden, and reawakening things long left dormant. When the act was done, however, the bond remained, stronger than ever.
Yep, that's another difference here. We actually live in a house, as do most of the folks who came with us. A lot of the singles are staying together in the old bed and breakfast and a couple of other houses, but the families now have their own houses, and that, all by itself has led to a bit of a population boom. It's a lot easier to get a little privacy when you live in a separate dwelling from those around you.