They awoke the following morning. They cleaned themselves outside using a tub of cold water. The dirt and memory of the previous day, washed away. Icy water dripped down the torso of the older brother, over numerous scars; long and white and hardened like bone.

The younger was turning to fat. He grumbled and complained; his breath warming the air between them. The older was silent and ponderous. They shivered into their clothes and warily made their way across the still frozen wasteland. The older reached the drivers side of the truck. What was once green, with wooden struts along its bed, was now a mixture of clear steel and rusty blue. The struts remained, but were untrustworthy and not put to use. The engine spluttered into life.

They reached the town without incident, meeting no-one but the few lumberjacks who found business in the local rural mills. Pulling up, in front of the cafe; the engine shuddered and halted. Boots smacking the pebbles, they strode inside. It was steamy and the air was thick with the smells of frying bacon, sausage and egg. The burning of toast and the dripping of coffee.

The scarred soldier and the young recruit were sat at a four man table near the centre. Everybody had given them a wide birth. The brothers sat with them, for they were indeed not everyone. Gesturing to the table, the younger brother barked an order of breakfast for the four. It was payday and this was on him. The scarred man had a bag; the young recruit looked downward at the floor, almost in a trance, at a centipede trying to find a way around a table leg.

The scarred soldier, openly agitated, twisted the bag he held around and around creating a tangled goose neck. He dropped the white and red plastic shopping bag in front of the elder brother, the dull thud of heft rang out. The soldier had twisted it tighter and tighter to avoid the temptation to steal it; to take it home. Each twist kept it further away from him. It was not his business. He told the kid that, over and over again. It was not his business.

The young recruit sat motionless and said nothing. This was not his business.

To Chapter Nine – Family