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by Michael Gunn

We did not get welcomed to Walmart. In fact, Spencer and I were asked to leave and not come back.

Apparently, they were not appreciative of our stopping on the way home from a hunting trip and not wanting to leave our rifles in the truck. The more I argued that there was no way I would leave my expensive gear in their parking lot — it was a Walmart, after all — the more employees they kept summoning to the front. In no time, we went from just talking to the greeter to talking with two managers, some security guys, and a handful of employees that I can only surmise were meant to be intimidating but were anything but.

Spencer tried to use reverse psychology and told them that he didn’t want to give them his business anyway, but that didn’t seem to work in our favor too well. I refused to back down. I pointed out that everything we had on us could be purchased in a cheaper, knock-off, version inside their own store so to try and keep it out was both meritless and senseless.

At that point, someone I hadn’t seen sneak up put their hand on my shoulder and called me “friend.” He was dressed like he had just been at a biker movie marathon and he talked like he was on my side but I was not fooled by his rhetoric. I know enough about retail to recognize an undercover security officer when I see one. For them to pull him from the floor where he had no doubt been busy peeping on little kids pocketing toys and give away his identity so we would leave was a big deal.

Just a short distance behind him stood a mousy girl in her early twenties. She was watching as well and not sure whether to act like she was with the group or not. I gave an uncontrollable smile and nodded my head only half-aware that I was doing so. It would have never occurred to me that a store of this size in the middle of nowhere would employ two undercover security officers for this shift on a day when there weren’t that many customers around.

“Maybe we really ought to go,” Spencer said and the nervousness in his voice was apparent.

“I’m good,” I whispered, then cleared my throat and repeated it louder for all to hear: “I’m good.”

“Maybe you ought to try Target next,” some smartass shopper yelled as we turned and headed out the door.

“Well, that was certainly fun,” Spencer said with sarcasm dripping like slobber from the corners of his jowls as we climbed into the front seats of the truck.

“Yeah,” I agreed and started the ignition.

Already knowing the answer, I turned to the backseat and to our wives who had gone in the store five minutes ahead of us. “Any trouble getting the TVs out during the commotion?” I asked.

Michael Gunn is a national park ranger who enjoys writing short fiction. Previous stories have appeared in Shotgun Honey and Burningword Literary Journal. He can be reached at michaelgunn264@yahoo.com.