Fletcher heaved the sack of bows over his shoulder, balanced the across his back, and left his apartment. He gave a nod to the doorman, Floyd, because he had to hold the sack with both hands. “Headed to the Grand Central market,” he told Floyd.
“Ah, good luck, mister Fletcher, sir.” Floyd was lean except for a round ale belly that stretched his tunic so Fletcher could see his belly button. Fletcher looked down at his feet. “Taking the lot today, sir?”
“Aye. Hoping to trade a few for new boots. The army’s in town.”
“Good luck,” Floyd said again and pulled open the glass and brass door.
Fletcher turned sideways through it and walked to the corner to hail a cab. Three passed him by, their numbers lit up. He hissed a curse and walked three blocks to the subway. Fletcher lived downtown—way downtown—in the hunting district of the island of Manahatta. Tall apartment buildings, all identical with identical two-room apartments surrounded a massive grassland. Deer often roamed south an when he wasn’t crafting bows and arrows, Fletcher hunted for his community. His hunting partner, a descendant from the Lenape tribe, would spend the day preparing their kills from the day before.
Fletcher was descended from one of the few European families allowed to live on the island. His great, great, great, great, great grandmother was permitted to stay because she’d been pregnant when her husband brought her over from England. He’d had to return. He climbed down the steps to the subway platform, apologizing to people who pressed against the handrails to get out of his way. He got plenty of stares and grimaces on the subway, except from a man who shuffled the car, hands outstretched and begging for food.
Fletcher didn’t have any on him, so he just shook his head. “I’m sure you could trade something at the market.”
“Ain’t got nothing to trade,” the man said. He flashed Fletcher a jack-o-lantern smile.
Fletcher stopped the man before he could shuffle along. “If you’ll assist me today, I’ll give you one of my bows to trade.”
The man grinned again and then wiped some drool from the corner of his mouth where he didn’t have a tooth to hold it in. He extended the same hand to shake Fletcher’s. Fletcher looked at the drool-drenched hand and swallowed back a grimace. “Can’t let go of this sack, but you have my word.”
A bell dinged and they both swayed as the train stopped. Fletcher led the way out of the train and above ground. Grand Central was filled with booths, tables, and people milling around, peddling trades. “What’s your name?” Floyd asked.
“Fred,” the begging man answered, shuffling to stay close.
“Fred…I’m Fletcher. That makes us neighbors. If you’re hungry, why don’t you come to me for venison?”
Fred shrugged. “Likes of you never look my way.”
Fletcher pulled a bow out of the sack and passed it to him. “Until now.”
This is from Sunday’s writing prompt about a parallel world. I thought about how the world might be different without money, if we still lived on a bartering system. I might turn this into a longer story.