It’s very hard to describe the sound of a wooden baseball bat hitting the base of a stop sign, especially when the metal has been wrapped in a pillow to muffle the noise. It isn’t a clang. There’s no resonance, and I firmly believe that the word “clang” applies only to sounds that can echo. It isn’t a thud, either; there’s a more metallic flavor to it, and thuds feel, to me, entirely wooden.

Positioning the bat for the final stroke, I decided it really didn’t matter.

“Got it!” my partner grinned, wrenching the last of the twisted green metal off of the tiny stump that remained. George was a big guy and probably could’ve broken the signs off in fewer strokes than me, but he was also tall and couldn’t hit far enough down by the base. We needed all the metal we could get from these things. Every little bit helped.

George swung our latest prize up on his shoulder as I picked up the pillow and trotted to catch up with his long strides. The bat went over my own left shoulder. It was nothing compared to the five stop signs George was already carrying, but I consoled myself with the knowledge that as the one with the much smaller frame, I was the brains of the outfit. I was the one who’d picked this spot for harvesting, after all, and look what we’d already found.

The development had been abandoned for years, and most people still thought they’d die of radiation sickness the moment they set foot on the streets. Of course we knew better, but that was our advantage, and it was probably the only reason why the other harvesters hadn’t already decimated this place. George and I were only a two-person team and couldn’t compete for the big territories. We usually just got run off, the victims of superior numbers. This, though, was a fertile ground, and I let out a girlish squeal as I saw our next target.

“George! A yield sign!”

His head turned and he grinned while I blushed, trying to pretend I’d been big and manly about that. It wasn’t like I was ashamed of my sex or anything, but there weren’t too many girls in the harvesting business, and I was damned lucky to have George for the heavy stuff or I wouldn’t be able to pull my own weight. Some people say harvesters are scum, just picking the bones off of the dead, but I say—hell, the dead aren’t using them. Let the living eat for another day. I mean, sure I could go up to Jersey and work in a mini-mart or steal some skimpy clothes and become a whore, but I like harvesting better, even if it doesn’t pay as well.

The yield sign was in remarkable condition. Smelters pay extra for these, because the tiny bit of alloy in the red paint has become exceedingly rare in the modern era. I grinned up at George and he grinned back. He dropped the rest of the signs with what could legitimately be described as a clang. I tossed him the pillow and raised my bat in the air. American pastime, indeed.