The Greater Good

Entry by: Alobear

25th June 2015
The Greater Good

Marcus flicked the reins and got an unhappy twitch of the ears from his horse in return.

“All right, old girl,” he called softly. “Just a few more yards and then we can stop.”

It was a hot day, and his exposed seat on the front of the wagon was uncomfortable, so he sympathised with the horse. The settlement they were making for was just up ahead, though, and he had high hopes for a profitable afternoon.

Out here, in the barren wilderness, it was a hard life for those who tried to set down roots. Working the land was back-breaking and few had much money left over at the end of the week to spend on frivolities. But a break from the daily drudge was always welcome, and Marcus relied on novelty value to bring people out to his stall. Once they were there, it was up to him to be persuasive enough that they would part with a few coins.

He was already drawing interested glances as he manoeuvred the wagon down the town’s one main street to an open area in front of what looked like the general store. He pulled to a stop and jumped down onto the dusty ground, throwing his most charming smile at anyone who caught his eye. A young girl in a patched frock was playing with a stick and a hoop nearby, and he beckoned her over.

“Hello, young miss,” he said brightly, producing a ha’penny sweet from the pocket of his waistcoat and holding it out to her. “Go tell your friends there are more where this came from if they can bring their parents out to see me.”

She grabbed at the sweet greedily and sped off around the back of the building. Marcus had learned that bribing children was an easy way to increase his audience, and a handful of sweets was a small price to pay for the return he hoped to get.

As people started to drift slowly towards the wagon, he hobbled the horse and started setting up the stall. First, he retrieved some blocks from underneath the driving seat and placed them carefully on either side of the wheels. It was highly unlikely that the horse would take fright at anything and try to run away, but it was always better to be safe than sorry. One unfortunate mishap and his entire stock of wares could easily be destroyed.

Then, Marcus turned to the main part of his set-up. He reached up to unfasten some latches and the entire side of the wagon folded down to create a flat counter and reveal a banner painted in colourful letters beneath. He reached inside the wagon and brought out a crate of bottles, which he proceeded to array on the counter. Once these were in place, he walked round to the back of the wagon and unhooked the folding stairs that normally allowed access to the inside. These he placed to the side of the counter top. Finally, collecting his hat, he placed it on his head at a jaunty angle, climbed to stand atop the steps, and turned to face his audience.

“Gather round, friends! Don’t be afraid – there’s plenty of room for all! My name is Marcus Goode and I’m here today to tell you about a wondrous cure for all that ails you! This marvellous concoction can be drunk, anointed – even bathed in, should you wish to purchase enough! The secret ingredient has been procured from the jungles of South America at great personal cost, so that I can offer it to you today for a mere pittance! Step closer – that’s it – this is a one-time only offer of this incredible potion that I like to call – The Greater Goode…!”