The consummate grocery cashier readily becomes the assassin. ... In an idle moment, he spies four flashes from the light above lane 6, and his REGISTER CLOSED sign drops like a jam jar from a little kid's hand: suddenly and without fail. ... Flying coach non-stop to London, the cashier savors this sit. In his mind, the cabinet of dossiers sits beside a warehouse of PLUs. ... Among dignitaries he mingles in a cordial mask his face has learned to accommodate. ... His third hour flattened behind the ambassador's hotel room curtain, the familiar ache crawls up his still frame. But how soothing to be aching here! ... The cashier draws the blade across the jugular as he would a tube of cookie dough across the scann

"Pericles!"

A line of ink immortalizes my hand's startled sprint across the page. My eyes had snapped up into Alice's.

"What'd I say about the notebook?" my supervisor said.

As I rose from my slouch over the register, I closed the notebook and glanced about. All the customers were way over on the other end of the checkout.

"Yeah," I said. She was already midstride, pointed toward the busy end of the store. A couple lights shed above registers. (You switched your light on when you needed a manager, either for help or for that card with the register's security override.) They switched off after about a minute; propped up on my elbows, I watched them until my shift ended.

* * *

For another month I had that job, then I didn't. The team leader (or shift manager, or whatever he was called), Guy (or Greg, or whatever he was called), cited "problems with timeliness". That was a little BS if you asked me, who had it on good authority that there were employees who skipped work often and without hassle. Ten minutes was my worst, thanks to traffic. But I'd gotten pretty quick on the scanner. The schedule was stuffed to the gills, though--maybe Greg learned somewhere that you lay off the new guys.

I smoked a Lucky Strike in the parking lot. A plane emerged from behind a cloud. Maybe one of those guys Guy spared was in Dubai, playing hooky behind a curtain.