by Jake Christie

a story.

Wally opened the door on the third ring and came face to face with a real-life honest-to-goodness all-American Boy Scout. The apple-cheeked lad was holding a large cardboard case, about two feet by two feet, presenting it with both hands like a sheet cake.

“Can I help you?” said Wally. He looked up and down the hallway but couldn't see any parents, guardians, or scoutmasters. The hallway was empty except for the Boy Scout and a small potted plant that was similar in size and stature.

“Hi–,” stammered the boy, cutting himself off with a big intake of breath. “Would you–, like to help–, the Boy Scouts–, of America?”

Wally looked from the scout's wide eyes to his case. It was made of the cheap white cardboard that you could buy at the post office, mass-produced stuff with the cuts and folds already perforated. The scout was struggling to keep it even, and Wally could hear some items rolling around inside. “Are you selling cookies?” he asked. “I thought only Girl Scouts did that.”

“No–,” said the Boy Scout. “Not cookies. But the economy–, has forced us–, to adopt similar–, financing structures,” he finished, and let out a long breath that must have been relief. His script complete, he sealed his lips and smiled.

“What are you selling?” asked Wally.

The Boy Scout opened his case in Wally's direction to reveal an assortment of pill bottles and plastic baggies, filled with generic but effective-looking pills, plants, and fungi. Each item had a small sticker on it that looked like a merit badge: a beaver on a pill bottle; a bow-and-arrow on a cellophane wrapper; a blue jay on a bag of leaves. The top of the case hid everything below the Boy Scout's eyes.

“You're selling drugs?” said Wally. “The Boy Scouts are coming into low-rent bachelor housing to sell them drugs?”

“We prefer–, the term–, 'supplements awaiting FDA–, approval,'” he said, muffled by the case.

“Is this legal?” asked Wally.

“My scoutmaster–,”said the boy, “told me–, it's a–, gray area.” He closed the case abruptly. “But if you don't want to do business...” he started.

“Hold on,” said Wally, catching the bottom of the case with his finger. “I didn't say that.” He lifted the lid slightly to peek back inside. He wondered how much of the sales pitch was scripted, if this hard-sell act-now limited-time-only spiel was part of the new “financing structure” or he was just watching a budding salesman perfect his craft. The speech impediment could even be an affectation. At one time he wouldn't have trusted anybody more than a Boy Scout, but if they were expanding into homebrew narcotics and illicit drug trafficking he didn't know what he could trust anymore.

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