Sunday March 23rd, 2014

The exercise:

Write about: the barter system.

Good lord, the internet connection here is slow. I know it's never good, but it's been downright painful tonight. I just spent almost an hour (on and off) trying to get this far in the process (as in loading up my post template).

I'm just going to write mine and get started on trying to post this.


"That will be two dollars and fifty cents, sir."

"... excuse me?" Henri gave the man the evil eye but did not receive the expected response. By the time he remembered that he was wearing his sunglasses, the driver was speaking again.

"That's how much it costs to ride the bus, sir."

"I don't carry change," Henri replied, puffing cigarette smoke out the left side of his mouth. "Too noisy."

"Too...? Listen, sir, I cannot allow you to board this vehicle without payment."

"Fine. Whatever." Henri stuffed his hand into his breast pocket and pulled out a pack of smokes that contained, at a generous estimate, a quarter of its original contents. "Here you go."

"What... sir, you cannot pay your fare with cigarettes. Ignoring the fact that I do not smoke, it is entirely inappropriate. What do you think this is, prison?"

"No, of course not my simple fellow." Henri smiled sweetly, gave the man a firm pat on the cheek. "If this were prison, you'd be the one offering me cigarettes. Now get to driving - I have an important client waiting for me across town."


Greg said...

Heh, the faster things go, the more we find it frustrating when things are as slow as they were only five years ago. I think patience evaporates faster than tears in a blowtorch flame.
Why is Henri taking the bus? That's the bit that worries me most of all in this exchange! But otherwise, a beautifully observed piece with the kind of details that are typical of Henri :)

The barter system
The shopkeeper flinched when the two children came into his shop. Unlike the children from other classes from the nearby school, these came straight to the counter and didn't skulk near the penny-sweets, hoping to steal some. The taller, a young girl with much older eyes, smiled at him in a way that made him shiver.
"We'd like to barter," she said. Her companion, a boy who was shorter but might have been a little older, nodded vigorously, brown hair falling over his face. "We'd like to offer you fire protection in return for a small concession on some goods."
"That's extortion!" said the shopkeeper. He actually felt a good deal of relief, he knew how to handle extortion demands. He felt around under the counter for the baseball bat he kept there; solid wood, old-school.
"Oh no," said the girl. The boy slipped his blue rucksack off and opened it, and gave a sheaf of papers to the girl. She laid them out on the counter.
"You can see," she said, pointing, "that you have clear fire hazards here, here, and... here. My team of workers will be happy to install fire-proofing here, and repair the door here..."
"You're from Miss Snippet's class." It wasn't a question, it was what he'd known all along. "Fine, what's the concession on then? Cigarettes? Booze?"
"Oh no," said the little girl, looking quite horrified. "Sharp sand, power tools, and..." she checked a list, "dirty magazines." She looked at the boy next to her. "Clive?"

morganna said...

A trade here,
A trade there,
And before you know it,
You've built a trebuchet,
Guaranteed to take out
Miss Snippet's room.

Thanks for the inspiration, Greg. :)

ivybennet said...

I nervously fidgeted with the gold and silver coins in my purse, wishing I was simply back home with my own people. There, I knew the exact exchange rate: ten tarkins for a lera, fifteen leras for an oaksa, seven oaksai for an umbrin. It couldn’t get much simpler than that.
“You want this horse?” the vendor asked. “What will you give me?”
Five oaksai and eight leras, I desperately wanted to say. The bay mare in front of me had good strong legs that spoke of swiftness, though she looked tired. My price would have been a blessing, but I needed the speed of her kind to carry me the rest of the way.
Larkon was a strange land, indeed.
“What would you like?” I ventured. My forefinger and thumb continued to turn the coins in my purse. The man glanced at the leather pouch with a quizzical turn of his head. How many Ghians did he meet out in the Larkon desert, I wondered? He probably had never seen coins before, let alone knew how much would pay for the animal tethered to his tent.

Marc said...

Greg - yeah, I was tempted to explain why Henri was on the bus but eventually decided to leave it unspoken :)

I quite enjoyed seeing some of Miss Snippet's students out on their own like this. It's a new angle, and one with loads and loads of possibilities.

Morganna - hah, that's a clever twist on what's happening with the students! Though I don't expect it to end well for... anybody, really.

Ivybennet - neat little scene here. The emotions of the narrator are nicely conveyed with enough details to move things along without going overboard.

Also: you've left me curious to know how this scene concludes :)