First: A story featuring a male keeper and a female Kept.
Previous: Buying and Selling
The second customer left having actually paid – traded – for their goods, just as a third one stopped to finger the silk blouse Jasper’d wanted Mélanie to keep.
“You have a knack for finding the prettiest things, Jasper Fox,” the man told him. He was an older guy, his beard long and braided into several pretty braids on the sides and his hair almost completely gone. “I don’t know how you do it – and no, I don’t want to know, either. Some secrets are better kept, hmmm?”
“Indeed, my old friend, indeed. Mélanie, this is Doug Carter. He’s a good customer – and if you ever need to buy something from him, count your change when you leave, but he’ll have the right stuff, mm, Douggie?”
“I always have the right stuff, my man, but you’re never buying. No worries, Tonya down the lane was buying so I have this honey here, and, let’s see, oh, no, you don’t need eggs, do you, but how about some very nice cured sausage? You know Jake makes the best stuff…”
“That sounds like a deal,” Jasper agreed. “Jake makes the best sausage,” he told Mélanie. “And he’s right, we don’t really need eggs. I’m starting to think we need more egg recipes – the hens like you.”
“I talk to them.” She smiled. “They like that.”
“Most animals do, I’ve found. And people. Mmm?”
“Jasper, I am not going to ask where you found this beautiful woman, but I am going to say this – you hold on to her tightly and don’t let her get away, because she is more than you deserve.” Doug delivered this speech with a very intense look aimed at both of them.
Mélanie knew she was blushing. She took a step back and looked down at the table, straightening something – anything, the socks. The socks clearly needed to be sorted better. “I think,” she muttered, “it goes both ways.”
“It can’t go both ways, can it?” Kearney moved a sock out of her reach. “I mean, if you’re more than he deserves, how can he be more than you deserve too? I mean, either you deserve each other or you don’t, isn’t that?”
“People, my young friend-” Doug punctuated this with a light belch “-ah, I’d missed beer. Glad it’s back. Where was I? Ah, yes. People, my young friend, they are as varied and complex as the leaves in a forest and as similar as the grains of sand on a beach – have you seen a beach? Have you seen a forest?”
“Seen a beach in pictures. Looked cold.” Kearney put the socks back. “‘Course I’ve seen forests.”
“Then you understand. They deserve each other and do not; they are better than the other feels like – or should – deserve. This young lady is a treasure. Our Jasper is more of a copper penny – he has some interest, especially for the year he was minted, but no real value on his own.”
“Hey!” Mélanie glared at Doug, not sure why she was suddenly so irritated. “You don’t know me from Eve, and if that’s what you think of Jasper, you don’t know him either! That’s not what he’s like!”
He raised his bushy eyebrows at her. Realization dawned with a sinking feeling – she was yelling at a customer. “Ah. That is-“
“That is very well put. I think I will buy this scarf, too. And you two hold on to one another.”
He left, leaving Mélanie a little bit confused but smiling.
“He’s harmless,” Jasper reassured her. “Friendly and cheerful and he likes soft things. But sometimes you get the feeling he’s existing on another plane. I mean,” he added hurriedly, “he’s right, you are better than I deserve, and you are a treasure, but that’s-“
“Weren’t you going to go shop?” Kearney gave him a light push. “Stop stammering and making her blush and go.”
Jasper glowered. “What are you up to, kid?”
“I’m up to telling you not to make an idiot of yourself. She already knows she’s wonderful; you’re going to make her sick from the sugar. Go buy her something nice instead.”
Jasper snorted. “You’re not too dumb, kid.”
“Lived this long, didn’t I?”
“I guess you must’ve, yeah. All right, all right.”
He left, leaving Mélanie staring at Kearney. The kid shifted and squirmed uncomfortably. “Too much?”
“Well, we do hardly know you. But, you know – maybe you had a point. He gets uncomfortable about the oddest things.”
“Well, he’s in love with you. An idiot can see that. And you’re smitten with him. But – oh, look, a customer. Hey, ma’am, looking for some shoes for that barn dance?”
Kearney turned out to be an amazing salesperson, although maybe that came with being a thief. When the kid started to make up lies, Mélanie would cut them off, but otherwise she let Kearney have free rein.
They ended up selling three shirts, a pair of paints, and an unlikely pair of boots before Jasper got back, his arms laden with a bag of goodies.
“So I got you some yarn and a few other things, and I got some food for all three of us – oh, well done.” He smiled at their little stash of bartered goods. “I miss cash, I do, but there’s something to be said for being able to eat – or wear – your profits.”
“How did cash work, anyway?” Kearney frowned. “Wasn’t it just a bunch of paper? I mean, this sausage, you can eat it.”
“Well, more or less, it worked by agreement,” Jasper began.
The lesson on fiat currency took them past lunch and into the afternoon, after which they discussed the mint and gold as a currency. They had sold almost everything on their table, including a couple resales. Kearney helped them pack up and then, with a sort of wistful look, suggested they ought to be on their way.
“Mmm.” Jasper narrowed his eyes, looking thoughtful, and nodded, as if to himself. “Listen.”Want more?