Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Getting ready (fiction)

Straeder had his work cut out for him.

The five men moved across the Grand River and spread out.

Some people are born salesmen. That was Miguel. He loved chatting up with people. He loved people and they loved him back. He was everybody’s happy-go-lucky youngest brother. Miguel was not going to be a problem.

Quinn wasn’t going to be a problem either. He limped along, pushing his cart. If anybody asked, he told them he had been in an accident cutting wood. Enough of that happened with everybody heating with wood that everybody knew somebody that had happened to.

Folks admired Quinn’s grit and he rarely got away without making a sale.

Wilder struggled with connecting with people. His goods were too upscale and he didn’t pick up the hints that people dropped. There is a time to tickle, a to push and a time to make a joke. Wilder was a historian, a statistician and a business executive. He was not a natural salesperson.

Chernovsky was even more handicapped.

He made no secret that he thought learning how to sell was bullshit and wasted time. He was chomping at the bit to get to Livingston County.

The few trades he made were stupid. He traded a pair of pruning shears for fifty pounds of lead wheelweights. Granted, he left forty pound to pick up on the way back but also put ten pounds in his pack to carry. Nobody does that.

The second day, Straeder put Wilder and Chernovsky a mile apart and left Quinn and Miguel to their own devices. Straeder spent the morning with Wilder and the afternoon with Chernovsky. Chernovsky gritted his teeth as they worked their way across Ingham County moving six miles closer to Livingston County every day.

Wilder started to loosen up after Straeder observed that you don’t measure a manure pile with a micrometer, you use a yard stick. Wilder had to stop thinking in terms of pennies and start thinking in terms of doubling his investment with each investment. Staeder pointed out that Wilder would never pay his way with 10% mark-ups because he simply didn’t have the volume.

Chernovsky...well, Chernovsky kept being Chernovsky.


Stacy Sheridan planted the seed. She was idly filling the air with chatter as she cleaned merchandise that could be salvaged. The chatter was a habit that used to annoy Kate.

“You are just a magnet for bad luck.” Stacy said. “Reminds me of that Far Side cartoon, the one titled ‘Bummer of a birthmark, Hal’.”

Cleaning is mindless enough that Kate could think of other things. She realized that stores would be targets as long as resources were scarce. It got her to thinking from the perspective of the raiders. What would it take to make the store less attractive?

Rick had already suggested that it not be next to the command-and-control hub for Capiche. The community had gotten lucky. The outcome would have been much worse for the defenders if Tim’s radio station had been taken out by either the raiders or the explosion.

Kate’s active mind chewed on what a store might look like.

That evening she consulted with Larry Tomanica and Dmitri. She asked them, “Assuming we get raided again, how would you make the store more defensible?”

They gave her some ideas.

Then she asked “Suppose the bad guys actually fight their way in and take possession of the store, how would you make it difficult for them to hang onto it?”

That is when Kate and Rick got some lessons about the benefit of set-piece defenses, concentric rings of defense and trading real estate for time and disparity of attrition.

The one thing Tim and Larry and Dmitri and Wade all agreed upon was that the store would be much harder for aggressors to defend if it were in a hollow. Or, at a minimum, higher ground wrapped around 180 degrees of the exterior.

Kate also noodled on the idea of reducing the actual merchandise in the store beyond what she already did. She talked it over with Stacey Sheridan. Stacey surprised her by agreeing that it was a great idea. Stacey didn’t like salvage work either.

Stacey’s suggestion was to stock the average daily sales in the staples: Corn meal, flour, meat, butter. She was also on-board with stocking items that were cheap and did not take up much room; items like salt and soap.

Another thing that made sense to stock were perishable items like produce. Raiders would not get much value from picking up twenty pounds of loose-leaf lettuce.

All other items could be ordered by customers one day and delivered from suppliers the next. If the customer only shopped once-a-week, Kate and Stacey could hang onto it until the shopper picked it up.

“It is kind of like Amazon.” Stacey said. “You order from Amazon one day and you don’t expect it the same day.


Omar Jones pointed at the windshield of the Isuzu ten-ton truck. “We need better armor on that.”

The Isuzu was a cab-over configuration and the windshield was nearly vertical.

The loss of all the armored vehicles to the rubes was still a mystery. Omar’s pet theory is that the viewing slots were vulnerable to small arms fire. He was about to rectify that vulnerability.

“How hard would it be to completely eliminate the viewing slots and move the back-up cameras so they are looking forward?” Omar asked.

Omar already knew the answer. He never asked a question unless he knew the answer.

The chief mechanic thought about it for a minute. “It would be better if we had two cameras.” he opined. “The back-up camera is wide-angle and doesn’t look very far forward. The driver needs a wide-angle and a distance camera.”

“Do it.” Omar commanded.


1 comment:

  1. "(Omar) never asked a question unless he knew the answer." is why he is still wondering about the loss of the armored vehicles. Fits right in with Torvaldsen.


Readers who are willing to comment make this a better blog. Civil dialog is a valuable thing.