by Robert William Iveniuk
“Pass the can,” Olson begged, his hand making a pathetic grasping motion at his associate.
Wind blew through the old store, sending scraps of paper and shredded cardboard across the ground. Emptied shelves flanked the duo, and burnt-out lights hung above their heads. Long-dead and withered, a man in tattered clothes lay in front of the aisle they stood in.
Fumbling with the old tin, Kimura snorted back, “Get your own.”
Olson rolled his eyes. “That’s the only one left in the store,” he complained. “Maybe in the whole world. Pass the can.”
“Why?” the other man wondered, looking up from his quarry. “You hate tuna.”
“Yeah, but I love eating. So hand over the fucking can,” the taller man said.
Kimura turned round and stuck his tongue out. “No.”
“Come on, man,” his friend groaned, scratching a gray patch in his beard. “I saved your ass too many times to count. You could at least do this for me.”
Kimura’s spindly fingers danced along the rim and strained against it. “I found it, I’m eating it. Get back.”
Olson sighed. Arms folded, he pressed himself against a shelf. Silently, he watched the man struggle to wrench the lid off his prize. In-between his friend’s grunts and strains, Olson would turn to look through the blown-out shop windows to the bleak hills and dead trees outside. Somehow, he found them less depressing than his friend’s resolve.
After a minute of the scavenger’s clumsy persistence, Olson kicked himself off his roost. “Need help?”
“No!” snapped Kimura.
“Yeah, you do. I have a knife, you know,” he said, pointing to the blade on his belt.
The stubborn man snorted. “So do I.”
“You said you lost it.”
“When did I say that?”
“When we woke up? You said someone took it off you when we were sleeping.”
He turned red. “I did not!”
“You so did!” he shouted, hands in the air. “You were all like ‘oh no we coulda been stabbed in our sleep we’re defenceless against the cats now oooohhhhhhh.’”
“I don’t talk like that.”
“You so do.”
“Look, I got this, alright?”
“The hell you do. Pass the can.”
“Crawl in a ditch and die!”
“Aw, muffin,” Olson mocked, striding forward and unsheathing his knife. “Give it.”
Kimura turned pale and stepped back. “No!”
The taller man rolled his eyes before making a lunge and screaming, “Fucking give!”
In a heartbeat, Kimura put his hand up and blocked Olson. The beanstalk of a man kept his knife up and ready, clawing at empty air as his opponent held the can out of reach. With all of his weight behind him, Kimura pushed.
Olson stumbled into the dried cadaver blocking the aisle. He lost his grip on the knife. Grasping blindly with one free hand, he seized Kimura’s jacket and pulled him down. They hit the ground, becoming a tangled blur of swings and ham-fisted holds.
Something caught Olson’s eye as he rolled through the store.
Seconds later, Kimura was on top of him. Kimura had him by the collar and pulled him up. Olson turned to look into the mad eyes of his friend. Balling one hand into a fist, the little man raised it high and tensed.
“Dude, wait!” Olson shouted, hands over his face. “Wait!”
“Why?” shrieked his opponent, shaking with anger but holding steady.
Nervously, Olson pointed to something behind them. Underneath a bottom shelf, something wide and cylindrical sat. A faded yellow label decorated with a red emblem stared at the duo.
“Dude,” Kimura said, his body relaxing. “Canned tomatoes.”
“Keep the tuna,” Olson said, throwing his friend off. As Kimura tumbled away, Olson scrambled for the yellow tin and seized it. Excitedly, he eyes darted around the store for his knife, finding it beside the old corpse. He leapt for it.
Shuffling back to his friend, the smaller man held the tuna can up at him. “Um,” he began, “I’mma need this opened.”
Olson gave his comrade a hard look. “Oh, so now you want my help.”
Screwing his eyes up, the little scavenger bit his lip. “Forgive a dude?”
A moment of silence, and then Olson shook his shaggy head. “Don’t straddle me again and we got a deal.”
Kimura laughed. “Sorry about that, man.”
Olson laughed back and aimed the knife’s handle at the man. “Nah, no worries. I was being a dick, too. Go nuts.”
Expertly, Kimura took the blade and jabbed it into the metal shell of his prize. Sweet smells filled their nostrils. With five quick strokes, the tin was open. Wiping the blade on his pants leg, he passed it back to Olson, who got to work stabbing at his own meal.
“Lemme ask,” Kimura said, discarding the lid and taking out a strip of tuna.
His friend popped the tomato can’s lid off. “Yeah?”
“What do you miss?” he asked, popping the fish in his mouth.
Olson licked a stream of tomato from off the back of his knife thoughtfully, then replied, “K-Pop.”
His friend made a face. “K-Pop?”
“Korean girls are fucking smoking, man.” He chuckled. “I swear I had so many music videos cued up on the old Youtube when I was a kid. You could not believe the babes coming out of that country.”
Kimura shook his head. “Sucks so hard what happened to the South.”
Pursing his lips, Olson finished carving his can up. “Yeah. What about you?”
“Museums,” he said, pulling the strip of metal aside. “I miss the bones and the mummies and the armour. Now they’re all, like, safe-houses and deathtraps made by crazies and it sucks.”
The taller man laughed. “I know, right?! Every one we find-–” he stopped; his eyes went wide as light glinted off something inside his friend’s can. “Hang on.”
Kimura raised an eyebrow. “What?”
Olson pointed at the tuna. “Is that a finger?”
Kimura made a face and reached into the mass of fish, pulling the appendage loose. He groaned. “Ah, shit.”
Robert William Iveniuk is a panicky yet pleasant Toronto-based writer. He regularly updates I’ve A Nuke – A Collection of Literary Mishaps.
Marco Attard is an accidental traveler through various points in time and space. This unfortunate condition makes him continually feel lost and confused, not to mention the constant vertigo. In between orientating himself to different times and histories, he reads, writes, and continually avoids deadlines.