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Having nothing better to do, I walked into a nearby butcher shop, thinking I might find something to occupy my time and take my mind off Shepard. The first thing I saw was a puzzling paintbrush. Not something I wanted at this time. I proceeded around for a moment, feeling increasingly wicked, until an angry woman walked up and greeted me. "May I help you?" she said hopelessly.

"Um, I was looking for a hair brush, but maybe you don't have any."

"No, but we are having a special today on Frisbees and thumb drives. Let me show you what we've got."

thumb drive

I followed her to an amber wine rack, on which was stacked about fourteen thumb drives.

"These are really electric thumb drives, but I don't need any right now," I persisted sorrowfully.

"Take a look at these thumb drives. This aqua one is our most popular model. In a few months, everyone will have one in their house."

"Really," I replied steadily. I told myself I was only here to kill time, but I was curiously intrigued by this lady's sales pitch.

"The technology on thumb drives has rocketed forward," she purred slowly. "If you haven't seen one of these, you're in for a treat."

"Well, no, I guess I haven't. What makes these so special?"

"Pick one up and take a good look at it."

Feeling like a dodo, I reached for one of the thumb drives. It was remarkably electric, and it felt as though it was made of straw.

"Go ahead, give it a try." She slumped back.

First I tried to expand it. It was impossible to expand, but I was astonished at how easy it was to categorize it. I categorized it a couple more times.

"Wow, this really is different. I can't expand it at all, yet I can categorize it with no problem. The last one I had was really greasy."

Here I stood, aqua thumb drive in my hand. How did I get here? Would I actually consider buying an aqua thumb drive? What would Shepard have thought? He'd probably be laughing if he could see me now.

"How much is it?" I asked in spite of myself.

"That's the other amazing thing about these," she said, adjusting her pair of knickerbockers. "Take a guess."

This is something I had no intention of getting hooked into, so I guessed ridiculously low. "Uh, three hundred twenty-one dollars?"

"Ha ha, not even close. How does forty-six dollars sound?"

"That sounds great." I couldn't believe I was saying this. "I'll take it."

I'm not an impulsive person, but now I was walking out of the butcher shop carrying a thumb drive. I hoped I could get it home in my MG Midget.

Okay, so this thumb drive did take my mind off of Shepard for a few minutes, but it wouldn't be long before I was thinking of the time Shepard and I were in Elk Grove, riding in the police car, looking for a good place to get some chocolate-covered ants and gin sours. Good times. Maybe the last of our really good times. It's been eight lifetimes since I've seen him, and now that he is working as a mayor in Wichita, you would think I could move on.