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My car tried to save my life.

Such a brave thing for a little econobox. When it idled at the drive-thru, something in the engine started squealing horribly. It was like someone was throttling the hamsters.

I was afraid the kid at the other end of the intercom wouldn't be able to hear me. It didn't stop me, though. The addiction was too strong.

"Would you like to super size that for only 39 cents extra?" the kid asked. Of course I did. Does anyone ever say no to that?

"Anything else?"

I cleared my throat. The next part was a new dimension to my addiction. I was still embarrassed about it. "Yeah, uh, I'll have a small Butterfinger McFlurry."

Instantly I heard the change in her voice. She told me how much my total was, but she wasn't happy to be talking to me anymore. I let her down after a promising start. I should have stuck to the simplicity of the value meal, but it was too late for that. I ordered one of those pain-in-the-ass McFlurries.

Luckily I was expecting that, and I had a plan to put into action. When I pulled around to the window to pay, I also gave her the envelope, prepared in advance.

"This is for you," I said.

First she looked confused. She smiled a little when she saw the "Happy Holidays!" I wrote on the envelope, but when she opened it, the smile went away. She stepped out of sight, and then the manager came up to the window.

"We're gonna be a few more minutes on your fries," he said. For some reason he sounded a little nervous, but I figured he was just new on the job. "If you could park in one of those spaces over there, we'll bring your food over to you when it's ready."

"No problem," I said, glancing at his nametag. "But could I have the McFlurry now, Ralph, so I can start on it while I'm waiting?"

He looked just as unhappy as the girl sounded before, but he made the McFlurry himself, and it seemed like he even put a little extra Butterfinger in it for me.

"Thanks!" I said, and headed to one of the parking spaces marked with the little golden arches drive-thru logo. I started working on a nice sugar buzz.

In between spoonfuls, I looked up to watch the kids. They're fun to watch there sometimes. They just love those high-tech plastic indoor playgrounds Mickey D uses to lure in parents looking for a few precious minutes of distraction.

Then I saw something odd. I wasn't even halfway through my McFlurry when the manager came out into the play area and talked to the parents, with nervous hands fluttering in front of him. Some of them glanced out the window, but looked away quickly. They had scared expressions on their faces. They rounded up all the kids and headed for the exit on the opposite side of the building.

By then I could tell something wasn't quite right, even with the powerful narcotic effects of the soft-serve icecream already coursing through my veins.

I looked around in the direction they'd been looking, trying to see what had them spooked, but everything looked normal and peaceful to me. Just a few people entering and leaving the auto parts store next door, and not much happening at the bowling alley across the street, and lots of teenagers over at the Taco Bell, but none of them looked any more threatening or surly than they always do.

Of course, none of this looking around stopped me from spooning up bite after bite of my pre-lunch dessert. I munched the stale buttercrunch pieces, drenched in their creamy chemical soup of things we'd all rather not think about, some of which allegedly got near a cow once.

When my McFlurry was depleted, I tossed the spent container onto the sticky floor of my car's long-unused passenger side, and sat back with a deep sigh, enjoying the all-too-brief rush while it lasted. After a few more minutes I started to wonder what was taking the rest of my food so long. Did they forget about me? I was thinking about walking inside to ask what was going on.

That was when the patrol cars pulled up behind me and blocked my car in, and then before I could blink, they were pointing guns at me and the loudspeaker was blaring "KEEP YOUR HANDS ON THE WHEEL!"

I've never been stupid enough to resist arrest. The cops weren't too careful about being gentle with me, but I probably shouldn't complain. They were just doing their job. We all have to do our part in the war on terror, and that day, my part was lying face down in a parking lot while half a dozen guys held guns on me and the one in the biohazard suit gave me some nice shiny bracelets.

Anyway, they only kept me in jail a few weeks, until the test results all came back clean. I guess it's a good thing I never had any suspicious political affiliations. They might have decided to spend a lot longer investigating my background. In these troubled times, it's bad enough to just be a little funny-looking and socially awkward.

They finally believed my story when they found out how few friends I have. When it came time to let me out, they even looked a little sorry for me. That was probably the worst part, the pity in their faces. I almost wished they'd go back to the hate and suspicion.

Maybe it's a little pathetic, but giving a hundred dollar bill to the kid at the drive-thru window doesn't mean I'm a total loser, does it? I thought it was kind of creative, personally.

I understand now why they thought it was so weird, now that I've had a lot of time to think it over. I'm not even going to sue McDonald's or the government.

It sure would be nice if someone would help me put my car back together, though.

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