The Restaurant at the End of the World?
“What is that, Sherri?” Walter kept the shot gun pointed at me as I closed the door and latched it. He followed me with his weapon as I walked to the nearest table and set down the bundle wrapped in my arms.
“You’re gonna love it,” I said. I took a moment to unwrap the scarf from around my face and take the gloves off of my hands. It felt good to get out of the freezing cold. Once Walter saw that my eyes weren’t bright red, he lowered his gun. The burlap sack around the bundle fell away as I undid the drawstring top. “Ta-da.” I smiled and ran my hand along the side of the large clear bottle with a little contraption sitting on top.
Walter stepped closer. “What is it?”
“It’s an old-fashioned butter churner.”
He made a face. “I thought those were wood barrels with a stick poking out of them.”
“Okay, fine, not that old-fashioned.” I pointed. “We put cream in the jar, then use this handle to turn the paddle inside, which will then make the cream into butter!”
“What do we need butter for?” Walter asked.
I sighed and slid into the booth. The pleather seats groaned, and the table teetered just a little. “Have you already forgotten what we talked about yesterday?”
Walter put his gun back on the stand he’d made for it and looked at me. I wanted to ask him why he was still sporting a man bun and a five o’clock shadow, but didn’t want to get him riled up just yet. He glared at me. “You mean about the restaurant?”
“Yes, about the restaurant.” I shook my head and waved my hand to the corner of the large room. “We’ve got the wood burning oven, and they’ve got cows at the old folks home. We can have someone bring us the wood and vua-la, we’ve got a business.”
He sighed. “You’re serious about this.”
“What about the thousands of eaters out there?”
“We’ve been dealing with them for a year. The town is fortified.” I poured as much excitement into my words as I could. “ Think about it, people bring us their grain and their cream, we make bread and butter. They take the risks and we mostly stay here, where it’s safe.”
“Which is exactly why they’re not going to go for it.” The apocalypse had made Walter grouchy.
I smiled. “Consider this. People come in from a long day. They don’t want to have to cook. So they drop off a little of their grain or cream here. We’ve already made bread and butter from what they gave us the day before. We take a little cut off the top—a beforehand agreed upon percentage—and they get to walk home with fresh bread and butter for their families. We provide a service that they want. One that they’ve been missing.” I threw my hands wide. “Take-out!”
Walter limped over and leaned against a half wall. He folded his arms over his chest. “Have you asked anyone about this?”
“Not yet, but if we can trade for a little bit of grain and some cream, then we can prove to everyone that we will be reliable and fair.” I rose to my feet and went to him. I reached for his hand. “We always said we wanted to get back to our roots.”
He snorted. “I hadn’t planned on doing it without YouTube.”
“I’ve been gathering recipes for a few months. I’ve got a hand grinder for the grain in the back, and we can always use a pestle if we want it more fine.” I glanced down at his mangled foot. “We’re more valuable in here than out there.”
A shadow went across his face. His eyes turned hard. I held my ground. “This is how society emerged in the first place. People working smarter, not harder.”
He continued to glare.
“We can barely keep ourselves fed. At this point we have nothing to offer, but if we take this chance, then we could thrive. All while helping others.”
Walter looked at the ceiling.
“Hey.” I reached out to touch his cheek. “I know it’s not ideal, but we can do this.”
His eyes returned to mine, and he blinked away a tear.
“What have we got to lose at this point?”
For a moment I thought he would say no. The pain on his face matched my own, but then he closed his eyes and nodded. “Fine. We’ve got a few things we can trade.”
I stood on tip toe and kissed him lightly. “We can get through this,” I said.
He met my gaze. “You’d better let me do the cooking. We both know you can’t even boil water.”
I pointed. “That’s why I got the churner.”