“Ma’am, is there a thrift store up here? The sign says so.”

“Jeffery, come on up!” The woman cried down the stairs, more or less ignoring my question. “Now! We can’t get your room ready without you in it!”

“Ma’am?” I said again, more insistently.

“Why are you wearing just a t-shirt in February?” the woman asked, acknowledging me at last. “And where are your shoes?”

“It’s a long story,” I sighed, shivering. “Suffice it to say that I didn’t get anywhere near enough sleep last night. But is there a thrift store up here?”

“Oh, no,” she said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. “They went out of business months ago and I bought their space to turn into an apartment.”

Dammit! I started back down the lobby stairs, holding the door open for the woman’s son, struggling inside with a box of toys.

“But there is a Salvation Army across the street,” the lady added. “Behind the McDonalds. It’s hard to see from the road.”

I barely touched the snow and slush as I dashed across the road–good thing, as I was in my socks. There were still a few hours until my date at 9pm. I could make it.

The Salvation Army was small, only a single room, but it had rack upon rack of wonderful clothes. I bought a warm sweater and a pair of pinchy but semi-formal shoes and socks. It devoured most of the $20 I had in my pocket, but there was enough left for a drink or two at the date, and I’d figure everything else out afterwards.

I decided to hang around to kill some time, and settled into a high-backed armchair. I flipped through a book and examined an old Professor X vinyl figure on the shelf, one that would have been worth a hundred bucks in good condition but barely ten now. Might be a good subject for a blog post, I mused.

Then suddenly the lights went off. I looked up; the store was dark and the doors shuttered. Apparently they were on a timer, and the clerk had closed up shop for the night when I was preoccupied–and invisible.

I was about to get up and look for a way out when I noticed a subtle red glow emanating from a socket on the wall. The store had a laser burglar alarm that was now live, and all the sweaters and shoes in the world wouldn’t mean anything if I tripped it.

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