Union Candy (part 19 of 19)
Union Candy (part 19 of 19) postapocalyptic stories
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ferp2 Old, well, old-ish.
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The seeds of farmer Joe begin to sprout.

Union Candy (part 19 of 19)

Even later that evening Charlie Farley, the fourteen-year-old who, that morning, had deliberately and callously broken both the arms of a pretty sixteen-year-old girl, reported to his boss.

Joe kept the thought that maybe one arm would have been enough, or maybe even just a few fingers, very much to himself.

Charly Farley was a cold little bastard who scared even grown-ups, but Joe recognised talent when he saw it. He passed the boy a fair-sized bag of chips.

"Divvy up with the others and make sure you keep a low profile for the next few days, just in case."

The 'just in case' was until he'd had a word with Inspector Crabbe to make sure that oil was being spread on any troubled waters.

That night, Finny slept the sleep of the innocent. Unaware of what had really happened that day, a thing that Casper would come to learn was a useful little phrase called 'plausible deniability'.

Days passed. Queen Bee remained in the Union Medical Centre while her arms continued to slowly mend.

Now, her ladies in waiting became her nurses as well, and all three of them actually began to bond into a truer form of friendship.

Maybe this was temporary, and Bethany would revert to type once her convalescence was over but, for now, they were there for each other.

Free of her jankers, Finny was able to pay Joe back for her Union Candy, and her candy sales-cum-pawnbroker business was growing.

Every day, right after four ock-lockers, Onetooth and Worms would act as lookouts while she and Casper took care of business in the ablutions.

The good thing about the ablutions was that, if there was any blood, it was easily washed away. The bad thing about the ablutions was that everyone knew this.

So being in the ablutions with Big Levi Gorse towering over you, staring at you from eyes sunk deep behind that low brow of his was more than a little disconcerting.

At nine years old you were on the topish rung of 'little kid' society, but not quite on the bottom rung of the 'big kid' world,

and Casper and Finny were still a couple of years away even from that. Consequently, Finny's little business sometimes had a few awkward moments dealing with the tweenies and upwards.

The teens in the orphanage generally weren't a problem, they just wanted the candy or the chips, and then they would then go about their day.

It was the tweenies, who seemed to think they had something to prove and that little kids shouldn't be able to tell them anything, that were the main problem.

There had been the occasional threat or even kids just walking off without paying.

Finny and Casper had talked about this. Finny had explained to him what expenses were, but Casper still wasn't happy. It wasn't right that bigger kids should be able to do stuff like that.

And now Levi had come in. Finny and Casper exchanged glances.

Levi was thirteen, but big for his age.

Consequently, he had been recruited by the wannabe bigshot of his peer group and was the one that the other kids had to deal with if things became difficult.

Finny, though, had seen the other side of Levi Gorse. She'd seen the kid who, away from 'the gang' was quite happy in his own company, didn't throw his weight around and was polite to the staff.

He had even carried Finny's bucket upstairs for her a while ago. He also liked candy.

"Hi, Levi. What can I getcha?"

Levi leaned forward to see what was in the bucket next to Finny's chair.

"How much is the candy?"

"Do ya mean the Union Candy or the good stuff?"

"Good stuff."

Finny lay samples of each of the universally most popular candy on the ironing table she and Casper sat at to do business. She pointed to each in turn.

"Three bits. Five bits or one chip. Half a bar or two chips. Or you can have three of these for a bar or four chips."

Levi looked at the mix of Union Candy bits and the single chip he had in his hand.

"Okay. Ermmm... Can I have three of them and one of them?"

Finny took the additional candies out of her bucket.

"Sure. That's a half an' four or a chip an' four."

Casper braced himself. This was the point when some older kids would just grab the candy and walk away laughing. Just let him try, Casper thought. He'll regret it; just like Queen Bee.

But Levi just handed over his Union Candy bits and gathered up his candy. Casper looked disappointed, then surprised when Levi turned to go, but Finny stopped him.

"Hey, Levi?"

Levi turned back. Finny was okay, but often, when kids said 'Hey Levi?' to him, there was a snarky comment coming. Levi wasn't dumb, or slow, but that's how some people often saw him.

For a quiet life, he'd most times let them get away with it.

Finny leaned forward, interlacing her fingers and smiling up at Levi.

"You like candy, don'tcha?"

Levi glanced at Casper, not sure if there was a joke at his expense coming next.

"Yeah. So?"

Casper watched. What was Finny up to?

"Well," she said. "If you stay and make sure none of the bigger kids try and steal our stuff, I'll give you half a bar."

Levi stopped and thought. Usually, when he was called upon to intimidate people, he barely even got any appreciation. Finny was offering to pay him... for what? Just to stand there?

"You want me to make kids buy stuff?"

Smiling brightly, Finny shook her head.

"Nuhuh. Just stand by the door an' make sure people don't try and go without paying us for what they buy."

"Just for today? An' half a bar?"

"Not just for today, every day. An' you'll get half a bar every day."

Levi's expression registered what that meant. Half a bar of Union Candy, every day. And he didn't have to beat anyone up to get it?

"Every day?"

Casper stared at Finny. Having Levi with them would definitely stop kids taking stuff. But, half a bar... a day?

Finny was nodding.

"Uhuh. Every day. Just to make sure we get paid for our candy and that people pay us back proper if they borrow chips from us."

Ah. Casper got it. Filching candy was one thing. But a couple of times now, kids who borrowed chips had been awkward about paying it back on time, or even at all.

Half a bar a day was cheap to make sure that side of Finny's business worked properly.

Levi couldn't believe his ears. For half a bar of UC a day, he could stop doing the other stuff. He didn't really like beating up on kids just because someone else wanted him to.

Half the time, he didn't even know why he was doing it. Working for Finny seemed like a good thing. Like being a policeman.

"Sure. Okay, then."

Finny and Levi shook hands, and Finny snapped a bar of Union candy in half and handed one half to Levi.

"Okay, Levi. Jus' go an' stand by the door and look mean, okay."

Levi grinned.

"Sure, I can do that."

The three of them laughed.

When word of this got back to Joe the following day, he poured himself a beer and sat back with a warm feeling of satisfaction.

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