I pride myself on always being the first to warn you, the reading public, when things are getting darker. Well, things are getting darker.

What with the pope giving up his red shoes, the sequester threatening to bring down the economy, Anne Hathaway having problems with her Oscar Prada dress, and OMG, another near miss from a space rock, what’s next? 

Is it true what we hear, that murderers and drug addicts are at the door and under the bed? Is it a fact that there are modern perils Pauline never imagined? (If you’re under 60, you can Google her.)

Things have gone so badly, it seems, that thousands of Americans are applying for permits to — GASP! — carry a concealed weapon. Does that mean that some of those smiling folks I pass each day in the marketplace, neighbors down the street and teachers who teach our heirs are actually carrying concealed weapons? 

So I gave myself some extra time on a recent afternoon to stand in the produce section of my favorite market to try to spot one or two of those who are “packing a Gat.” That’s Jimmy Cagney-ese for gun, in case you’re still in school.

I went about dropping a banana and the occasional avocado into my basket, while peering around the flower baskets to see if I could spot a “packer.” 

I’m old enough to have street cred in these matters. I learned from Cagney and Bogart how to spot them. In one such movie, Bogie said to a girl, “See that guy over there, see the way he’s carrying himself, listing a bit to the right? See how his coat hangs longer on that side? He’s got a gun in there. A big one.”

So as I drifted around the market, I kept my eyes open. There was a man with a big, baggy coat that hung unevenly to one side. You see? Bogie had it right. But I knew this guy. He’s a florist. Florists don’t carry concealed weapons. Do they?

Little things caught my eye and gave me a chill. The checkout lady, sweet, maybe in her 50s. I never noticed before, but she had a suspicious bulge in her left pocket. A cellphone? A handy bottle of Pepto-Bismol? Who knows? It could be a collection of keys, or a .38 or a Glock. I don’t blame her for being nervous and up-to-date. Some of these customers can be scary. She couldn’t possibly know when one of them, outraged at the elevated price of a tomato, will suddenly “pull” on her.

There was also suspicious woman in the cereal aisle, but then I recognized her as a local retired nun. Yes, I could dismiss her based on that. But what if she’s outraged at the pope for abandoning her? What if? Who knows what little thing could break her, and the next thing you know, she “pulls,” and everyone in the cereal aisle starts diving into the oatmeal rack?

They’ve got a new customer at my favorite coffee shop. He keeps patting his pocket as his eyes flit from customer to customer. Is he waiting for someone he’s terrified of? A former girlfriend or boyfriend? What happens when that person walks in? Will there be blood and extra-venti-double-shot-upside-down-skinny-caramel macchiato all over the place?

My barber appears nervous. He keeps a drawer near him slightly open. He keeps cash there. Who knows?

Driving home, I devised a plan. I’m going to apply for my concealed-weapon permit. Just in case this newspaper or any paper prints a list of permit holders, I want my name on that list, so that any miscreant afoot will know, or think, which is just as good, that a gun lives in this house, a really big gun.

Absent the list, maybe they could make up some signs like those “Beware of the dog” signs, only that say, “Gun permit owner lives here.”

I would think that would be enough to scare off the bad guys or girls. We could buy decals for the car, “Don’t drive so close; driver has gun permit.” 

Paranoia aside, do you think those red shoes will pop up on eBay? I’m just asking.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer. 

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