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My bottle of maple syrup sat suspended on the conveyor belt as the check-out clerk finished with the customer in front of me. Just the maple syrup, that was all I had stopped for. I was in the “15 items or less” aisle, so it would be a quick trip.

The clerk scanned my syrup, then asked for my frequent shopper card. “It’s a store brand,” he said. “You might get a discount.” The price stayed the same after he waved the card over the scanner. “Guess not,” he said.

“No, actually it is on sale,” I told him.

“Well, it’s not ringing up that way.”

“Is there a way you could check, please?” I asked, feeling petty for quibbling over a dollar or two.

The clerk sighed, then asked a bagger to go find the product in the aisle for a price check.

“I’m sorry,” I said to the two women behind me. It was the fast lane, after all. And now, it wasn’t going to be so fast. The lady just behind me said, “no problem,” and the lady behind her, “yeah, it’s fine,” both suggesting they were in no hurry.

“In fact, I was hoping it would rain today so that I wouldn’t have to go to the parade,” one of them confessed.

“Oh, there’s a parade?” I asked.

“Yeah, it’s big,” the clerk chimed in. “The fourth of July is a big deal around here.”

I told them I wasn’t from Lebanon, that I was driving through from a smaller town North of here, Frankfort. “But I’m actually from Indianapolis,” I said. “I came down to go to Starbucks.”

“Really?” the young clerk asked, incredulous. The women were laughing.

“I’m a city girl,” I told them. “I’m having a hard time adjusting to small-town life.”

“Frankfort used to be a wonderful town,” said the lady with the frozen mac and cheese, and the chunk of fresh parmesan. “Back when it was a railroad town.”

“Things used to be better around here, too,” said the lady just behind me. She came in for potatoes and mayonnaise for potato salad but couldn’t resist the strawberries, shortcake, and whipped cream in a can once she was there, she had told me earlier.

“I think things are going to keep getting better,” the clerk said. He was the youngest of the four of us.

“I’m glad to hear you think so,” one of the ladies said, meaning it.

The store bagger still wasn’t back with the price of the syrup, so the clerk decided to go find her, or at least find the price himself. “She should have been back by now,” he told us just before he left.

Then there were three.

“I really hope the syrup is on sale after all of this,” I told the women.

“Don’t worry,” one of them said. “We’ve all had moments of crazy,” the other added, both telling me stories of when they thought the price was different and it wasn’t. We saw the bagger now mopping the floor, no sign of the syrup. We hoped the clerk would have better luck.

“It was on sale,” the clerk said when he arrived back a minute or two later. “You’ve been exonerated,” he added, observing my relief.

The shift manager helped him add in the discount that clearly wasn’t loaded in the computerized system; I paid with my debit card; and we all wished each other a Happy Fourth of July.

I walked out carrying the glass bottle of syrup unbagged, thinking about the baked beans I would make with it later this evening for our family barbecue. Mac and cheese and potato salad weren’t on the menu, but now they both sounded good.

I wonder why Frankfort doesn’t have a parade? I thought as I got in the car. Then I headed to Starbucks.

Photo by Zeetz Jones, used with permission under the Creative Commons License.