The pair of overalls rested neatly on the shelf. They had dark blue and white stripes. They had been steam-cleaned and pressed and ironed and folded beautifully before being placed there.

Of course the blue on them looked a little faded, the freshness had been replaced by a mildly stale smell and the whole garment was now slightly radioactive.

That was to be expected. Particles of Plutonium-239 and Radium-226 were in every part of this room in what had been a luxury accommodation block for squaddies in Wiltshire. As it happened the window was open but it made no difference: the radioactive elements were outside as well.

The overalls had last been used by a gentleman called Darius when he'd detailed a group of his comrades to wash down one of the new Z997 tanks prior to its being sent over to Italy. That tank had melted not longer after its deployment as a result of Great Britain's reprisal bombing of Rome.

Two days before Darius had worn the overalls (much to the laughter of all his troopers) Darius'  mother had bought them for her son from a shop in Dundee.

15 days before that they had arrived in that shop in Dundee. The shop owner, Mr. Sayeed Zamler, had stared at them open-mouthed.

"Why are they blue and white, please, will somebody tell me that? Am I going crazy here? They're normally just blue, aren't they? Why are they stripey like that? They're looking ridiculous like that! We're not selling it like that!"

His team had spent the morning calming him down and persuading Mr. Zamler that if they put them out at half the usual price they'd still make an 18% profit and it'd be a loss-leader and bring other customers in. Everyone was, of course, shielding Gregory, the new boy, who was a bit of a dreamer and had ordered the novelty overalls by mistake because he had been so in love with the voice at the other end of the 'phone that he'd just wanted to keep her talking and talking.

The voice at the other end of the 'phone belonged to Nilima, a young woman from Assam. She was the toast of the call centre after she had made that deal. She had only just started at Relmaz & Co. three days earlier and yet she had managed to sweet-talk some Scottish guy thousands of miles away into buying those silly overalls that no-one had wanted to buy! In the short time she had left to live she managed to pull off many such spectacular deals. She had a very soothing, yet slightly flirty, voice and a gently persuasive manner.

But why were they stripey in the first place? Well, there's a story there, of course - there always is. But I don't know every story. And the people behind that story are no longer here to tell it, of course.

And if you go back further in time than that, you'll find some bolls of cotton blowing gently in the wind in South Carolina. It was a healthy wind back then, of course - not full of the Caesium-137 and so on that you'd get in the radioactive winds of South Carolina today.

Little did the bolls of cotton know that they'd end up one day as a set of blue-and-white-striped denim overalls folded neatly and slowly disintegrating on a shelf in a deserted English barracks.

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The End

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