Lithuania was a small spec of town of about a thousand people. Not a city by any means but rather a small town in a state of small towns. Most of them in the middle of nowhere and so out of reach that self-sufficiency wasn’t just a survival mechanism but a way of life.
Scott rather liked that there was only one gas station that served as a diner and a grocery store. There were mostly mom and pop shops passed down from one generation to another until it served as a bizarre if accurate genealogical tree. It was a close knit community and Scott often felt like a zoologist watching a herd of animals in their natural habitat. There but always apart.
He drove his truck, an old beat up ford that plowed through snow and ice better than most snowplows. A monster of a machine that could spin on a dime and take about any terrain the forest could thrown at it. Somedays, when walking was a little easier and waking up not some monumental task that made him wonder why he bothered, those days Scott called it Wolverine. Never out loud and never for more than two heartbeats.
Today was one of the better days. As he took the dirt road that led into town, he imagined Wolverine with his claws out and snarling like a rabid animal. Everything and anything getting the hell out of his way because you just didn’t mess with the Wolverine when he was in one of those berserk modes. Unless you were either suicidal or, in Scott’s case, wanting to regain some semblance of control over an uncontrollable situation.
He let the memory fade and focused on the road. It was bumpy and each jerk was like a sharp poker in his leg, shoulders, chest, head. There wasn’t a part of him that didn’t hate these trips, especially after a bad storm. The roads were muddy and slippery, the usually packed dirt a series of potholes and juts of rock. Like coming down a mountain side while riding a donkey with a bad limp.
There wasn’t much traffic through the rolling hills that made the 25 mile drive as precarious as roller-coaster without seats or safety harness. Even so Scott had expected some some trucks or even old beat up cars rolling along the curves and twists of the roads. There was a new storm system on the way and the lull in between was the perfect time to stack up on supplies that couldn’t be made, fished, hunted or cut down from the nearest tree.
Scott had a list that had eleven items and he was a single man in a large house. Here families were large and plentiful. With a house having no less than three generations under its roof plus cousins, close friends and anyone who didn’t have anywhere else to go and needed a place to stay.
He took one vicious turn with practice ease before going down into Lithuania. It was cradled between two mountain ranges with the Baltic ocean on the other side. The harbor empty of the usual slew of fishing boats since most of them would had taken advantage of the lull in bad weather to go out.
He’d almost offered once or twice to go out. When the brother of the Maggie’s captain had taken a bad spill and broken his leg in two places. When the Agatha’s first mate had come down with pneumonia. The itch to be out there, fighting the wind and ocean and throwing and brining up nets and cages until your bones ached all the way down to the marrow and your hands felt like raw meat. That sense of normality called to him like a siren's song and only the reality slamming into him when he walked and needed a cane for support made him keep those offers behind his teeth.
No doubt most would look at his face, his hands when not covered up by thick gloves and the ever present limp and would come to the right conclusions that he was up to that as much as a baby calf to mountaineering.
He stopped at the other grocery store in town. It was more like a bulk warehouse were toilet paper came in cases of forty and dried noodles in crates of a hundred. He passed an elderly couple that huddled together. A nod and he was inside the warehouse. The cold only slightly more bearable now that he was out of the elements.
The interior was even larger than the warehouse seemed on the outside, with shelves of everything from ibuprofen to boat motors. There were only a few stragglers and again Scott through it odd that it wasn’t packed with every townie and drifter in the area.
Scott had been there enough times that Kerry, a young kid with a freckled face and hair so blond it looked white, took one look at him, snatched his shopping list and disappeared into the isles with a flourish. He sat in a small waiting area by the seven registers, five of which were closed and the two open had clearly bored clerks manning them.
He recognized Maggie, whose husband captained the fishing boat by the same name and was heavily pregnant. She was having animated discussion with her fellow clerk on the best way to deal with a penguin.
Next to him was an elderly couple who were having a whispered argument about, of all things, ice skating. On his other side was Mitchell Myers. Former army ranger, from what he’d been told by everyone and anyone that could get him to stand still long enough. Lost his leg in some op that was so off the books any official paperwork was so redacted that the pages were more black than white.
It was mostly gossip, but Scott only needed to look into his eyes to know the truth of it. Those dark shadows and steel embedded deep in his soul. Scott nodded to him, and Mitchell responded with a sharp, jerk of his chin. Like to like.
He waited for Kerry as another wide-eyed kid came plowing around with Mitchell’s cart. He stood with difficulty while the kid, an old hat at dealing with him since he was smart enough not to offer assistance. He hovered nervously and then gulped as those steely eyes turned his way.
Scott didn’t get to see Mitchell do his military thing as Kerry chose that moment to come barreling over, his cart just as full. Scott spotted a few things that hadn’t been on the list. Sleeping bags, extra blankets and pillows and an extra coat made for arctic winters. There was a several sets of wooly hats, thick leather gloves and fluffy ear mufflers.
He raised his eyebrows at Kerry but he just nodded at the list in his hand. Scott took it from him and his eyebrows nearly climb right off his forehead to camp out at the back of his head. His ten items were there, along with a slew of things he hadn’t asked for but were written in clear, crisp blue pen.
“The rest is going to have to be backordered but it should probably get here with next week’s shipment if I call in the order before noon.” Kerry was vibrating in place, hands firmly on Scott’s overflowing cart. “So you need a hand with that?” Kerry didn’t wait for Scott’s response, already making his way out the door and toward his truck with the cart.
Mitchell gave him a wan smile, amused despite himself. “Worse than a puppy that one.” His own kid was racing Kerry to the main doors and their respective trucks. Mitchell’s looking as worn and well worked as Scott’s did.
Scott wasn’t paying much attention to Mitchell, nor to Kerry piling everything up under the truck’s tarp. He was staring at a spot towards the back of the warehouse, where a wisp of blond hair had been not a second before.
A quick glance around showed nothing out of place. Mitchell already moving to the cash register, with Maggie cheerfully checking him out with an air of positivity that couldn’t be natural for a woman in her condition. Scott decided that it didn’t matter. It wasn’t his problem. He moved to the other register where a young girl that couldn’t be older than sixteen dimpled at him. The total given, Scott paid with one of the dozen untraceable credit cards he had.
The accounts were old. Set up with worst case scenarios in mind and hidden through paperwork, and later fake corporations and offshore banks. Money enough for several lifetimes and hundreds of people to live on comfortably much less one. Still he couldn’t help the tensing every time he was forced to use one. Every time the possibility of being traced and being found become reality.
The card went through, receipt in hand, breath still stuck in his throat, he made his way outside. Mitchell was supervising the loading of his truck. Barking out orders in a tone that would have been the envy of any drill sergeant. The kid, to his credit, took it all in stride. Lifted the box of canned good and moved it one way then another until it was exactly the way Mitchell wanted.
Scott gave a nod in passing at the man, getting a a sharp one in turn before Scott went to check his own loading. The truck’s bed was more than big enough for everything. There were a few extra things that Scott hadn’t spotted before. Other than what he shouldn’t but did have on his shopping list. Most telling was the feminine products that Kerry was nonchalantly placing with everything else. He didn’t even glance at him even though Scott could tell he wanted to.
Once he was done, Scott gave him a generous tip and Kerry gave a too bright smile. Sometimes he wondered if everyone in this town was on something. “Thanks Mr. S, see you in a few!” Kerry said as he rushed back inside. Sliding on the ice that had been puddles when he’d arrived. He heard a similar call and saw the kid that had been helping Mitchell, Scott thought his name might be Carl or Lars.
Mitchell just marched onto his truck, got in but said loud enough for half the parking lot to hear, “Damn kids and their weed.”
Scott just shook his head and moved alongside the driver’s seat. Climbing on was always a challenge but a manageable one. He watched as Mitchell tore out of the parking lot, throwing slush all over the place. When he went to turn on the ignition he paused. Sitting casually as though it’ll always been there was a hula girl, or what used to be one before it was decked out with horns, a small handmade sword attacked to its back and black pants instead of the typical hula skirt.
With a sigh, Scott started the truck, reversed it and made his way back to the road. Trying hard to ignore the damn thing that bobbed around like it was mocking him.