No sign of the shooter yet, so I go on through the crowd and try not to draw attention to myself. I take in my surroundings, noting exits and hiding places. Behind a movie display or a rack of clothes, maybe under a food court table. Last month someone hid in the fountain, using a straw to breathe, which I thought was clever. Now that it’s been done, though, I figure he’ll remember to look there. I enter a store, and part of me doesn’t know what I’m doing here. I’m taking this risk for what? New pajamas. A juicer some friends registered for, that they’ll maybe use once after their wedding. But they say we’re supposed to keep living our lives normally, so here I am, making an effort. As I check out, the credit card reader keeps giving error messages, and the salesclerk laughs. Computers, right? He tries running the card himself. I ask if he could hurry. I tell him the shooter could show up. I try not to yell. He shrugs and says, I don’t worry about things I can’t control. He looks at me as if my worrying is the real problem. He fumbles with the machine, and I suspect now he’s taking his time out of spite. Finally it goes through, and I run out to the parking lot. I freeze at the sound of footsteps behind me. It’s my time. I wait for the blast, wondering how it will feel. Most survivors say it’s a burning sensation, but the one yesterday said she barely noticed it. Although I think she might have just taken shrapnel. I look up at the shooter-shaped clouds. Nothing happens. I turn around and see only a man with my purse. Here, you dropped this. Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you. As I drive, I look for the shooter in passing cars, on street corners, by the bumblebee sign outside an apartment complex. If you lived here, you’d bee home now. Bullet holes in every other letter. I pull into the driveway and hop out. I leave my bags in the trunk for now and dart inside, where I go from room to room, searching. I check under my bed and in the closet and underneath the couch cushions. All clear. I sigh. I flop down in front of the TV, thinking maybe I’ll watch the news and see where the shooter turned up this time, but when I pick up the remote there he is, perched on top of the power button. He laughs at me and takes aim.
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