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There was little left on the tables hastily pulled together other than a mighty pile of plates that bore the evidence of a feast well-attended. Dirty napkins, empty Nuka bottles, shards from more than one beer bottle tossed aside--these all were the awards of completion, of a meal hunted, prepped, and consumed amidst friends and strangers alike. A few still lingered at the tables, enjoying a last hour or so of warm sunlight before the night would inevitably fill them with the dreaded meat sweats.

These gatherings were rare, but always hosted by Grahm, and had anyone told Gamergrl that she’d spend an afternoon butchering meat, prepping meat, and then eating said meat with a super mutant that seemed to be able to converse with a brahmin, the laughter would’ve been swift to form. Grahm defied all of Gamergrl’s experiences with the rest of the super mutants scattered about Appalachia; and, she found herself shifting her perspectives on placing blanket evaluations. Grahm’s love of meat and his genuine concern for Chally the Moo-Moo swiftly won over the woman’s heart.

Skepticism shifted into camaraderie, and Gamergrl was now among the few that still lingered, enjoying the company of friends and Grahm. Unlike the others--most of whom were ready to pack up and waddle their full selves on down the road--Gamergrl was not going to be rushed. How often did one get a chance to chat about post-apocalyptic life with a friendly super mutant? Amidst the litany of prepared meats and the one-sided conversation with Chally, Gamergrl saw Grahm as something more than just another ‘thing’ in Appalachia.

In him, Gamergrl saw the difficulties of choices, of the social isolation that came from deciding not to give into the more barbaric tendencies of his kind. Grahm wasn’t a human, despite his trader mentality and willingness to work with humans. There would always be a divide between the two species. And, so Gamergrl was told, Grahm was viewed as a traitor by his own kind--persecuted every time he traveled too close to one of their strongholds. He was truly his own entity, moving through the land with only Chally to call family.

It was touching, really, and Gamergrl wanted to offer him something for his genuine kindness. With little of value that the super mutant needed, the only solution she could whip up before her companions simply just left her at the cook-out was to make the super mutant laugh. Everyone needed to laugh. Laughter was a balm for those moments when the isolation and weariness threatened to close in.

“A man walks into a bar,” she began, setting up the joke for the super mutant, “and as he sits down, he looks up and notices three pieces of meat hanging from the ceiling. He asks the bartender ‘What’s with the meat?’

“The bartender says, ‘If you can jump up and slap all three pieces at once, you get free drinks for an hour. If you miss even one, you have to pay for everyone else’s drinks for the rest of the night. Wanna give it a go?’

“The man takes another look at the meat, then says, ‘I think I’ll pass. The steaks are too high.’”

Gamergrl paused, eager expectation in her eyes as she waited for Grahm to respond. A second passed, then five, and the super mutant’s expression slowly shifted into one of consternation. Raising a hand, he scratched at his head a moment or two while Gamergrl shuffled back and forth from foot to foot, excited for Grahm to at least give out a chuckle.

“I don’t get it,” Grahm rumbled. He twisted to look at the brahmin, seeking help from the placid beast. “Why he not just try, Chally? Humans jump high,” he said as he looked back to Gamergrl.

The grin faltered on her face as it became apparent that the joke fell flat. Granted, there was some obvious nuance to that one that she hadn’t accounted for when it came to the translation of the pun. Maybe she needed something a little less wordy. Going for a second attempt, Gamergrl flashed a smile and tried again. “If meat-eaters are Alpha, what are Vegetarians?” Pausing just for the beat, she answered, “Alfalfa.” Behind her, Gamergrl could hear a new round of groans come from her friends that were waiting. She didn’t care, these were golden quips and she wasn’t going to apologize.

“Alfalfa. That greenies Chally eats.” Once again, Grahm was stuck on the translation of the joke. The brahmin mooed happily, perhaps because the mere mention of her name was enough to satisfy the animal.

“C’mon! You’re wasting your time,” one of her friends called, impatient to be on the road.

Frowning, she flashed her middle finger in his direction and turned back to Grahm. Gamergrl was determined to make the super mutant laugh. There had to be one that he would get--something so simple that there wouldn’t be any confusion. Suddenly, a broad grin broke out on her face and she reached out, touching Grahm’s shoulder lightly. Confident again, she looked the super mutant in the eyes and asked, “What's a frog’s favorite type of meat?” Pausing longer this time, allowing Grahm to really picture one of those irradiated animals hopping around. Once she felt that he had a good idea, Gamergrl answered the question with, “Riblet,” complete with making a sort of croaking frog-sound as she said it.

A beat passed and Grahm’s expression still hovered in the range of puzzlement. Behind him, Cally mooed placidly and shuffled forward a step. A second beat, and then, a great lungful of air was suddenly taken in by the super mutant. The laughter that burst forth was deep, guttural, and shook the super mutant. “Riblet, Chally. Sound little froggies make,” Grahm said through the belly-deep laughter. A massive paw of a hand was gentle in how it patted Gamergrl’s shoulder. “That funny. Chally think you funny, too,” Grahm said before lumbering around her to tend to the cookout camp. As he went, Grahm continued to chuckle, repeating the word ‘riblet’ every so often.

Triumphant, Gamergrl watched him move along. Thoroughly satisfied with herself, she grabbed her gear and headed to her friends who were shaking their heads in amusement. “Yeah yeah yeah…. Let’s go,” she said with a chuckle. Everyone needed a good laugh here and there; Grahm was no different. Maybe, she reflected, that was one unifying force for all of them. Once more grinning, Gamergrl fell into step with her friends as they headed down the hill from the cookout, saying, “I told Bobby a meat joke the other day. He said: ‘a steak pun is a rare medium, well done.’”

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