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I went to the CVS this morning to get some lotion and cat treats, and the place was surrounded by cops. I pulled in and cruised through and saw the gang of my CVS—the employees—sitting on a cinder block wall, smoking, eating pastries. I rolled down my window and asked, “What’s goin’ on?”
The manager said, “A little robbery."
I gasped in my brain. “I want to shop here but I can’t!”
The four of those employees sitting there in the early morning light, in the hazy cloud of their cigarette smoke, almost spontaneously and in sync lowered their hands that held the cigarettes.
“We want you to shop here,” their chorus called out, “but we know that you don’t have a choice!”
“I’m goin’ to Walgreen’s!”
I drove across the street feeling totally bad for everything that could have happened at the CVS. These were my people and I saw them most days. And then there I was at Walgreen’s, buying what I wanted anyway. The most cheerful and tallest and oldest and baldest check-out clerk waited on me that day. There was something about him that brought out the honesty in me. “The CVS got robbed,” I said. “That’s why I’m here and not over there.”
“We’ve gotten robbed before,” he said, looking around like a tall Bob Newhart. “Guys come in here with sawed-off shotguns up their sleeves. Basically, they want the pharmacy.”
I stood there, not exactly in my Sunday best, but held together. I wondered if this old bald man was the same one who used to sell me liquor on the other side of the store. That man had a bad case of psoriasis on his scalp, and this person does not. I get the twinge that I should have been paying better attention. My face makes the machinations of emotion, but my heart is slow.
“Well, I hope you have a good day,” I say as I tip-toe out of the store.
You go home and Lanacane yourself. The ants have been thick this summer. You often take your languishing body to the back porch, whether it is morning or night. You sit out there in uncomfortable chairs, getting bit by ants, because you want your body to get used to it.
There have been some birthdays lately that have made some people older, but these people are the same to you, so you didn't give presents. You could be looking at an iceberg with fangs in the ocean, still hoping for a good sail. You wish you were an animal sometimes so a whip would be in order, but since no whips or chains or harnesses are allowed anymore, you step onto the patio to give the ants their due.