Trapped in the checkout line, Youneda had no desire to give advice to baby dragons.
He was old and did not want desperately earnest questions that could not be properly answered.
As the oldest dragon in the store, Youneda was trapped between questions and broken cash registers.
A sweet slice-of-life fantasy, Checkout Line speaks of hope, change and the freedom of being yourself no matter what.
By Meyari McFarland
Youneda stalked through the grocery store aisles, his cart of cheese, tea and carefully chosen cuts of meat hovering at the end of his tail. Annoying to have to shop this time of the evening but he’d fallen asleep on his basking couch. The hours of sleep had done him some good. His wings didn’t ache as much as normal for the rain falling outside and his perpetual backache was down to a mere ache near the base of his tail, but the lack of pain didn’t make up for the number of people haunting the store with him.
Packs of werewolf children ran past Youneda, half of them in wolf form and yipping, the other half in human form and shouting. He growled at them. Not one of them noticed. Typical. A little dragon, not more than five or six years old, scampered after them. To Youneda’s relief one of the older pack members followed the baby.
He nodded as he passed Youneda and then squawked as the baby dragon’s nostrils steamed. “No flame!”
“Awww,” the baby complained. “But!”
“No flame, not in the store, Mori,” said the werewolf, Gary? Neal?
Youneda couldn’t remember. The local pack was a big one, easily thirty adults and three times that children of all ages. Not one of the alphas who fussed over everyone like matriarchs but that was all right. Every time Youneda interacted with Deidre they ended up snarling at each other which most definitely wasn’t Youneda’s fault. Deidre should have known better than to marry a fire-mage and then be upset when he chatted up local people who could control fire as well.
Though he was somewhat curious how the baby dragon had ended up in the wolf pack. It might be temporary but little Mori looked entirely too happy to let Gary-Neal-whoever run a hand over his wings and rub his knuckles under Mori’s chin.
Both Mori and Gary-Neal-whoever stopped and stared at the end of the aisle. Youneda did too once he arrived there, belly sagging and wings snapping out for an instant before Youneda tucked them tight against his body once more. No need to scare Mori with the sight of his ragged, scarred wings after all.
“What happened?” Mori breathed, steam rising from his nostrils unremarked this time.
“I have no idea,” Youneda said, equally surprised.
Every single check stand had a line, a long line full of irritated people. A centaur stamped over by the entrance, her head and shoulders clearly visible over the crowd. Fuwa, his book hoarding neighbor, was two lines away. Already he had added four paperbacks from the rack to his basket even though the boy had a house stacked to the rafters with books already. That left aside the wolf pack who’d taken four lanes all by themselves and a small group of highly twitchy elves who glared at the checker as if personally offended by the need to wait. He thought he glimpsed the traditionally peaked hats of witches further towards the deli but couldn’t be sure.
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