I knocked. There was a long silence. Were they ignoring me, hoping I’d go away? Where could I go? I needed stuff.

Most people need stuff. I can’t remember why (nobody can) but there just isn’t enough stuff to go around. Nobody will pay us to make stuff so we don’t have much money (some from the old days, but not much) and nobody’s making stuff so there’s nothing in stores to buy. So, I go door-to-door, trying to get stuff I need—or when I’m feeling flush, just stuff I want.

A middle-aged woman comes to the door with pink plastic curlers in her hair. I feel like I’ve been transported to an earlier age. But I stick to my script. I’ve honed it over the years and it’s the best I can do.

“Good morning ma’am,” I say. “My name is Carter and I’m wondering if you have anything to sell. Canned goods, maybe? Or old rags that could be washed and reclaimed as clothing?”

She scowls. “Another one? I’ve sold everything I have to sell. And I’m not getting anymore.”

I smiled with feigned ignorance and continued. “Sure, you don’t, ma’am. You’ve just forgotten what you’ve got. Check the basement. Surely you got old useless newspapers. Or perhaps an empty paint can. Almost anything will do.”

The lady of the house was thinking. Bingo!

“Why not just take a look?”

“Wait here,” she said. I heard her walk down some steps.

My back was turned as she came back. I was looking down the block scanning for anything useful left by a curb.

“How about some bullets?” she said, raising a rusty but still menacing shotgun.

I didn’t stick around long enough to see the bullets fly. But I came back at night to pick up the rusty spent shells. I’m melting them down now. I’m sure they’re good for something.