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I drove across town earlier this week, to a Goodwill store that often boasts books-bargains. The trip proved fruitless, and the browsers I encountered seemed less aware that COVID-19 has not vanished than it seems should be the case. I soon departed, removed my empties from the trunk, and walked to the nearby beer store. An employee asked us if we were buying, returning and buying, or just returning. The short, distressed woman ahead of me said she was buying. They let her in, and told me that I should enter and join the empties line once someone left.

The woman's purse barked. Repeatedly.

If she conveyed a sense of distress, it is clear that her dog had grown quite agitated, as one might when trapped in an anxious woman's purse on a hot day.

I entered, only to be forced to wait in a twilight zone of linespace. The dog-woman had returns stuffed in another bag, and had shifted lines. Of course, she had not put her cans in the pandemic-required returns box. While people tried not to react too strongly to the purse-pooch, the staff rapidly processed her returns. She next line-jumped the purchases, because she could find no Guinness on their shelves. A clerk went in back and brought forth a case.

"I just have enough for two," she explained, as her purse growled.

Her routine did get her out of the place quickly. That was some loud baggage.

My brother and his wife had come to town. Our planned socially-distanced get-together in our garden today ended up a morning event, and no one wanted alcohol.

After they left, an indifferent courier dropped off my advance copies of The Light Between Stars, an SF anthology which contains a story of mine.

I cracked open a beer.

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