Willm knew he was close to the trailer park because of the smell of rubbish. Since it was comparatively cramped, all the normal things saved and composted, the collected refuse, was piled, scattered and hoarded in great quantities and in close proximity. The inhabitants of the town, many whose grandparents had also lived here, loved the odor because it reminded them of their abundance of resources.
Willm reached the edge of town and was greeted by a half dozen scrawny barking dogs. One might nip at him but it was only bluster. He saw a thin column of black, acrid smoke in the distance, probably someone melting something down. You weren't supposed to do that, the Shrubs didn't like it—at least that's what the provisional government claimed. To his left was a cluster of small log buildings, right at the edge of a sparse forest that they were probably cut from a generation ago. This is where the trailer people did their town meetings, their tax collection, their dispensing of rudimentary justice. In front of him was a level plot of land with a patchwork of muted colors from a couple hundred trailers that had been repaired and re-repaired over the decades. A few people moved around, coming or going. Nobody paid attention to him other than the dogs who had gone from territorial to excitedly jumping and tail wagging.
He was here to see Bug. He knew where Bug lived because when they were little their parents were friends. At least Willm assumed Bug still lived here. Since they both started doing business in ReeLs, they didn't hang out anymore, they met at different places to do business but that was it. This is what it must feel like to be an adult, he thought.
Willm walked down and around the thin streets that once had meandering electric carts but now was traveled by foot and bicycles. He remembered where Bug's trailer was, his memory was pretty good with things like that. He found it quickly. The trailer hadn't changed much—the miscellaneous, old lighting was still strung around the edges of the roof. Bug's father put up Christmas lights one year and never took then down, over the years adding to it, savoring the municipal notoriety it gave him. On the free side and at the small frontage of the trailer there was a common mix of detritus and gardening. Half of it looked like marijuana, the other half maybe badly tended vegetables. He didn't remember Bug's folks being big smokers. The steps and the sides of the trailer were bright green with mildew, several of the windows were cracked and fixed with tape that was now dirty and peeling.
As he went up the steps he listened but didn't hear any activity inside. There was a large spiderweb and a single fat spider in the corner of the awning. He knocked on the door and waited. Then he heard someone inside moving. The door opened half way and he saw Elln, Bug's mother. She was older of course. Her eyes were red and she looked puffy like she was smoking and drinking a lot. They stared at each other for a moment.
"Does Bug still live here?" he asked.
"Do I know you?" Elln squinted at him.
Did she normally wear glasses? He couldn't recall. Bug wore big, thick glasses, always had, and this combined with his bony, ant-like skull was how he acquired the nickname. Willm assumed poor vision must've been genetic.
"My name is Willm, you knew my parents..."
"Oh!" she said, eyes widening with recognition. "I was so sorry to hear about your parents!" She flung the door open wider. "Come in!" She grabbed his arm lightly, pulling him into the trailer.
"You want a beer? Local, real good," she asked.
He knew the beer they made in town, it was strong. Sometimes it was good, sometimes it had a whiff of burning tires.
She reached for a tall, already opened bottle close to the edge of a cluttered kitchen counter. Willm sat at a round table near the window. He carefully pushed at a pile of dishes, paper, and accumulation of little bits and pieces to make room for the beer glass. The place was a mess.
"How's..." Willm suddenly struggled to recall Bug's father's name, "...Jm."
She poured obviously flat beer into two glasses, one dirty, one clean.
"Jm moved out years ago," she didn't miss a beat. "And Bug moved out recently. So it's just me now." She smiled at him wearily. "But tell me about you. You've grown up!"
She sat at the table opposite him, also pushing stuff out of the way. "Hey, you want some weed? Goes with the beer."
"No, thanks, the beer is good," he said. The beer wasn't good.
"So what are you doing with yourself these days?" A wisp of graying hair fell down and she pushed it back behind her ear.
"I do a little business, here and there," he said.
"I see. You work with Bug sometimes?"
She called him Bug too, he thought, calling him by his real name, Alln, would've been strange at this point.
"Un-hunh. You know where he's living now?" he asked.
Under the table he shifted, moving one leg up, bumping into her.
"Oh, sorry," he said. He blushed slightly.
"That's OK Willm," she said, smiling. "I always asked Bug what he did, and he would say the same thing, here and there, that kind of stuff."
Under the table she moved her foot forward next to his, touching with a calculated pressure. He didn't move. He coughed.
"Bug lives pretty far outside of town now," she said. "I don't know if it's a commune or what," she added, "artists I guess. I think they're artists of some sort."
The pressure of her foot against his increased. He coughed again then raised the glass and drained the rest of the beer hoping it would prompt her.
"Want some more beer?" she asked.
"Yeah, that'd be great," he said.
She stood, reaching over to grab his glass but without taking her eyes off of him, then she went to the counter where the bottle was. He stood too, moving quickly over to the counter in pretense of politeness, but really to be closer to the door, ready to leave. She smiled at him.
"So do you know where they live out there? Bug and the rest of them," he asked.
"Well I've never been there," she said, pouring out the last of the beer which looked syrupy with yeast, "but it's a place out by the Shrub fields. I don't know why they'd be out there, it would give me the creeps." Then she lowered he voice, "I was told sometimes you can hear them talking, the plants I mean."
"You don't know which house do you?"
"You're too young to remember, but I'm pretty sure it's what used to be Ynder Farms. The family disappeared around the time of Surrender."
"Probably got melted by Shrubs for those fields," he said.
"Probably, yeah," she said. She looked a little sad, staring at the beer in her glass.
"OK, it was great seeing you again," Willm said, slugging down the rest of the beer and suppressing a grimace.
"Aw, gotta go? You sure you don't want any weed?" she said.
"I'm good, thanks."
"Come here," she said. She held out her arms. Reluctantly he stepped in and she hugged him, saying "All grown up." He let her strenuously squeeze him for a few moments then he shifted his weight forcing her to let go.