Ela Patrick stars in “Too Many Elas!”

Aside from the killing and the beating and the gassing and stealing all our stuff King Chevrolet Hollywoodland the Third wasn’t such a bad host.  We were given our very own shack in which be confined on pain of death and every day we given a bucket of greenish water and all the mushed shark-toothed goat-weasel anus we wanted to eat.  Which for me happens to be very very little.  Bandita and Hatman were assigned to guard us, I think as a form of shit duty for whatever the king was pissed at them about?  Speaking out of turn I guess? 

Since we had nothing else to do we shot the shit and got to know them a little bit.  I don’t know if it works out timewise but according to the lore as they tell it Grandpa Hollywoodland was from our time.  Bandita and Hatman actually said he was from Denver so there might be some truth to what they said since they know a real name.  After the fall of man Grandpa would go back to Denver to fight the puma-rats and razor-turtles to scavenge up whatever he could find and trade it with the small settlements that were starting to form in the area.

Over time grandpappy expanded his salvage operation to employ not just the fruit of his very fertile loins, but also dozens of other scrappers and wasteland pickers. The deal was that the actual trading was the sole providence of the Hollywoodland family but everyone in the operation got  the privilege of giving the Hollywoodlands the stuff they found in return for . . . uh, having someone to tell them what to do I guess. 

Over more time Chevrolet the Second either convinced the other traders and scrappers to work for

him, harried them out of the territory with threats of violence, or violenced them until they were dead, at which point they stopped being competition.  By virtue of controlling the stuff trade they became the de facto rulers of those original settlements that survived.  The woman in the chainmail is his daughter Saturn, the head trader, and the idiot with the bazooka is her brother Jaguar the salvage master.

When I said that the place looks like an old company town in Harlon county coal country I was hitting the nail right on the noggin.  Aside from the Hollywoodlands themselves everyone else is trapped in a cycle of debt.  They get paid less for the scrap they bring in, or the food they grow, or whatever they do for a living, than they’re charged for rent and stuff.  Since trade is prohibited for anyone outside the Hollywoodland family there’s nothing the people on the bottom can do other than be trapped in the cycle.  Which, aside from being evil, is one of most advanced pieces of reclaimed civilization I’ve seen so far.    

I almost asked Hatman and Bandita why they didn’t just shoot the Hollwoodlands and set everyone free from this mess but I didn’t because I know why.  As the second tier bullies that get to slap everyone else around so why would they want to upset the system?  You may not get to be at the tippy-top of the misery pyramid but being the warrior elite right under the fat padded asses of those on top is good enough for most people. 

We got friendly enough with them that one day they brought us some kind of moonshine that wasn’t very awful tasting.  When Bandita took off her bandit-mask to drink I saw that she has some kind of Hellraiser monster-mouth.  She didn’t seem self-conscious about it, nor should she be since everyone here is hideous, so I suppose she wears that to keep bugs out of her mouth since she doesn’t have lips.  I also learned that Hatman is a decent guitar player.  I don’t know where he salvaged a guitar from, seems like those wouldn’t last long, but he to pluck his way through mostly recognizable renditions of a few classics for me to sing along.

I hope we don’t have to kill them, we’ve gotten to know them enough that would bum me out.

It’s hard to keep track of time but I think it was somewhere around ten days later that we were brought back to the king’s throne room.  SHE was there with a contingent of boat people.  The first thing I did was whisper to my friends with disdain “She doesn’t look that much like me” but that was just for show.  That’s what they expected me to say so I said it.  Truth is, when I clapped eyeballs on her the instant thought I had in my head was “That’s what I’m going to look like in twenty years”.  Which is depressing. 

Don’t get me wrong, she’s an apocalypse ten for sure, but she has the skin of a longshoreman and her nailbeds are a disgrace.  To say nothing of hair.  I don’t even want to know what was living in that unintentional dreadlock mess.  Okay, I do want to know, but only for the sake of morbid curiosity. 

When our eyes met I expected to see my “WTF?” expression being reflected back at me but she was chill about being confronted with a younger sexier version of herself.  Wasn’t there a movie about that?  Something about a time traveling mistress who steals her own husband?

I liked fake old Ela right away, not just because she looks like me and I love me, but because she rolled with the daughter story I had floated without making a scene.  People are so stupid sometimes.  You have a good lie going along that they should be able to pick up and they run with by going “What?  Huh?  That’s not right” instead of playing alone like an adult. 

Despite my cromulent lie, the situation was treated like a hostage negotiation which is not exactly what I was shooting for.  In order to set us free my saggy dirty old doppleganger had to give King Chevy H sixty canister of fuel, a box of shotgun shells, one hundred and thirty bars of soap, twelve bottles of actual whiskey, a pot of what I am pretty sure is cocaine, and a bunch of crappy shoes.  I have no idea to what degree I should be flattered or insulted by that ransom price. 

“So what, someone harvested one of my eggs while I was frozen, fertilized it, implanted it in some lady that had a kid that survived the apocalypse somehow and gave birth to your mom and you’re my biological great-granddaughter?”  I asked once we were face to face.

Her eyes narrowed in a way I didn’t like, I hope I don’t do that “Uh, no.  Are you from another farm?  I don’t remember you.”

“Uh, I grew up on a farm outside of Saint Louis if that’s what you mean.” I said trying to keep my eyes un-narrowed. “I mean until my parents died in a car wreck and I went to live with my grandma.”

She got a blank look on her face and looked down for a moment “Saint Louis?  Saint Louis . . . we were on the radio there . . . we found body parts on a hill . . . our police detective husband was the serial killer all along . . .”

I grimaced “You saw Hello Homicide?  Look, that movie got really screwed up in editing.”

She seemed utterly confused “Movie?”

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