“You just can’t let anything go, can you?”

One of last night’s dreams:

I am at a grocery store in Virginia with The Mole and Dr. Hmnahmna, presumably getting sundries for the Great Turkey Fry. We are at the end of a short line, waiting to check out at a customer service counter because the regular checkout lines are packed. The line is moving slowly, so I run over to the spice aisle to grab some thyme.

When I come back, the line has gotten much longer. I see that Mole and Hmnahmna are off to the side, having already checked out. I’m angry at myself because now I’m at the back of the line, delaying our plans.

But Mole, Hmnahmna, and the little old lady working the cash register are smiling and waving me up front. I look at the people in line ahead of me, and they’re smiling, waving me up front, and have absolutely no problem with me skipping ahead in line.

I walk up to the front of the line and hand the thyme to the cashier. She scans it, puts it in a bag with my friends’ groceries, and hands me the receipt. Beaming, she says, “And there you go!”

I dig out my wallet and ask what the bill is.

The Cashier beams, “Don’t worry about it, dear!”

I ask if my friends have already paid for it.

She shows me the receipt, and explains that Mole is a member of the store’s loyalty club, called the “Penny Program.” With every purchase, he builds up store credit. When he chooses to do so, he can redeem one dollar’s worth of store credit by paying just a penny. He used some of the store credit and the appropriate number of pennies to pay for the thyme. She points to a few pennies on the counter.

I am duly impressed at Mole’s thriftiness. I look over the receipt, and something nags at me. A little quick math reveals that we’ve used $15 of Mole’s store credit, but only given the cashier three pennies. I point out to the Cashier that we still owe her twelve pennies.

She looks at the receipt, and beams, “Oh no, it’s fine!”

I insist that we’re still a few pennies short, and that I’d like to pay the difference.

She flatly states, “That won’t be necessary, sir.”

Mole walks over and asks what’s going on. The Cashier speaks to him tersely. Mole responds in kind. I can’t quite follow the discussion, but in less than a minute, they’re yelling at each other.

I interject: “Look, I’ll just put it back, okay?”

Mole says, “I’ve already paid for it, and I’m not gonna give them anything else!”

The Cashier threatens to call the cops, and gets on the store phone and calls the manager.

A woman, about my age with dark, wavy hair, approaches us. She is dressed like a grocery store manager, complete with name tag.

I ask, “Are you the manager?”

The Brunette says, “No.”

The Cashier says, “The police are on the way.”

A gunshot cracks in another part of the store. A scream comes from that direction, and I can hear glass breaking and items falling from the shelves onto the floor.

A deep voice booms, “POLICE!” More gunshots.

The Brunette pulls out a gun. I get the sense that the cops are here for her, and not because of the dispute over the Penny Program. She starts firing in the direction of the police. A few other store employees gather around her, draw weapons and fire at the police.

Mole, Hmnahmna and I duck down, trying to slide as far from the line of fire as possible. We try moving down an aisle towards the front of the store, but hear gunfire from that direction, too, and try to find another way out.

The shootout escalates. I look at the convex mirrors that cover the security cameras and can see that more police are flooding into the store, blazing away. Customers have started drawing weapons and firing, though I can’t tell whether it’s at the cops or at the Brunette and her forces.

More noise: guns blasting.

Bullets zipping.

Children screaming.

Glass shattering.

Shelves collapsing.

Wares crashing.

Bodies crumpling to the ground.

Mole and Hmnahmna and I are lying on the floor, ducking the fire. They glare at me as I gently place the thyme on a bottom shelf.

I don’t know if Dr. Hmnahmna intends to use thyme in real life, and I can’t figure out what exactly Mole and the Cashier were arguing about.

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