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December, December

photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

The fog rolled in, gently encasing the valley. Growing. Swarming. Leaving nothing to chance, I continued on, my goal to do one thing: make it out of Walmart alive.

It was Saturday, the holiday rush in full throttle. Lord hear my prayers.

Traffic snarled, the growing gray abyss of no help to my cause to get there quick. It was a fool's mission, I know. Plans go awry all the time when Walmart is involved. Why would this time be any different?

Parking can destroy the will of any man during the holiday rush. Preparation is the key. The options are limited. Choosing not sit idly by, like the man with his blinker on for an eternity waiting for a closer spot, I opt to park farther away. My legs will have to carry me to the building, saving my soul for the patience that will be surely tried inside.

The Gods are smiling upon me, as generous cars let me pass in the intersection of the parking lot. I'm halfway there, my eyes scanning the area for drivers not looking behind them for the man dressed in a gray sweater. The fog provides for me an uncalled camouflage. I did not ask for this, but it is Walmart day after all. Always expect the unexpected.

Inhaling the chilly air into my lungs, I take a final deep breath before entering. Will I survive? This isn't Black Friday after all. How much harm can be done? In and out. That's the goal. I need one gift and some suction cups to hang lights on the window. Christmas and toys go hand and hand. The sections will be close together and success will be mine. 

I weave in between families with children ranging free and grandmas with out of control carts. There are men in the doll section, women in the cars section, and sullen teenagers looking for any escape from their parents. Others move slow, but not slow enough to impede my progress.

The gift is acquired quite easily. It is the suction cups I cannot find. In the process, an ornament has ended up in my hands. I barely remember it landing there, but it has. Focus has now found the tinsel, shiny colors dancing in my mind. I reach it for it as my mind snaps to. In and out.

With a little help from a new found friend at Walmart, the suction cups are now in my possession. Smiling, with a mouth full of missing and chipped teeth, the man with the blue vest attempts to sell me candles, lights and more, all while holding a dancing Christmas tree. My mind races, the Walmart spirit sucking me in. A polite "thank you" sends the man on his way, lost in the maze of shoppers and aisles forever.

The check out is within my site when I detour again. The call of the school supply section beckons me, hoping to find some Harry Potter pencils for my niece. Three aisles later, a glaze over my eyes, my mission has failed. No pencils, but my hands are now full of toys, ornaments, a board game and some woman's scarf. It may have been fleeting, but I think we briefly made out in the home decor section. 

I need to get out. Thirty minutes have gone by but for all I know it's been days. Can I survive? Will Walmart be the end of me? Seriously, how did I get this scarf? And who was that woman?

In my effort to answer my own questions, I find not only have I been speaking out loud but am now at the self-checkout line. How I got here, I don't care. The mission is almost complete.

The line is long. An old man removes his jacket, remarking how warm the store is. His gaze does not leave mine. Small talk is about to ensure, my heart racing, looking for something, any thing to get me out of this. Unfortunately, my brain does not connect to my mouth in time. "Guess that's what happens when we've been in here so long."

I'm given a chuckle, probably as a courtesy. I attempt to follow up with something more witty, but am given pause. In my weariness, I find I am looking in a mirror. I have a full cart of stuff next to me. I glance at my watch. Three hours have passed. There are bags under my eyes, my stomach is empty and I look like I haven't slept in days. I recognize nary an item in the cart, save for the woman's scarf I'd so gallantly acquired. I'm left with my reflection, and a lost kiss I may never experience again.

You win again, Walmart. You win again.

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