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BLACK OP: BLACK FRIDAY

(For maximum enjoyment, should be read out loud in a Clint Eastwood voice.)

0500 Hours I wake up. No, scratch that, how can you wake up when you haven't slept at all? Just thinking about what today brings keeps me awake. I lumber out of bed, stomach swollen from the turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie I'd consumed a few hours prior. How could I be so stupid? This extra food will do nothing but weigh me down during my mission!

0530 Hours The troops are loaded into our transporter. They may call it a "minivan" but I call it the Eagle, its giant wings getting us out of more jams than I care to count. There was that time, that mission three years ago when we lost Schmidt. We lost him in the Best Buy. Yep. He grabbed the last iPad and ... well, I can't talk about it. It's too painful. But I'll leave it at the fact that he was a brave man and will be missed.

0531 Hours We turn around and drive back to the house because SOMEONE can't remember her wallet! Cough, cough. Mom.

0545 Hours We're halfway to our destination. The youngest scouts babble excitedly. "This is gonna be so fun!" "I'm gonna get so much stuff." Ha, if they knew what they were walking into, they wouldn't be so eager. What? You don't think that Schmidt thought any different before he was - nope, I'm sorry ... I can't talk about it.

0600 Hours We pull into the battlefield, also known as International Plaza. Looks like there has already been some contact with the enemy. It's going on 30 MINUTES and we have yet to find a parking spot.

0630 Hours Still looking for a parking spot!

Haven't found one yet!

1016 Hours Finally we park the Eagle - a good 2 miles away from the entrance - and start our long trek to the front line, officially identified as Neiman Marcus. As we exit the Eagle, the scouts and I synchronize our watches, and we say in unison, "Go time. Go ahead. Make. My. Day." We've got word from intelligence (my aunt) that there are some sweet deals at See's Candies. Sights set. Brookstone on the radar.

1049 Hours We've gained a foothold at Brookstone after a good 10 minutes of fighting. It is absolute chaos in here. People are flying everywhere, items are being thrown about. As I purchase a much-needed body pillow for $1, I sniff the air, ahh, I love the smell of deals in the morning.

1102 Hours It's been 15 minutes since I sent the scouts out to look for our target, a tool kit for Dad; 15 minutes is a long time in the heat of battle, Schmidt was gone for just 10 minutes when he ... no, I'm not gonna think about it anymore.

1142 Hours We're dug in at the checkout line at GameStop Kids, firmly entrenched with our items, a Blu-ray copy of The Adventures of Tintin and a $75 copy of Call of Duty: Black Ops SPECIAL EDITION. Yes, there comes a time when even the best soldiers succumb to high-ticket video bargains (even if I already own Black Ops but I don't own SPECIAL EDITION). But something is missing ... the scouts! They still haven't returned. After 40 minutes they are most likely gone by now, but I will find them! I can't leave anyone else behind! I ease out of the comfort of our trench. Let's see, they were last seen heading to Sears. Wait a minute. There's no Sears at International Plaza. It's times like these that I wish I had never enlisted to go shopping on Black Friday. I blame it on the medicinal, charming pumpkin pie my mom serves after turkey on Thanksgiving. Black Friday changes people.

1155 Hours I'm deep in enemy territory (in front of Victoria's Secret) and have acquired a visual on the scouts. They are being held down by a barrage of fragrance-spritzing clerks. I'm going to have to move carefully. I head between the racks of silk pajamas and towering stacks of glittery spray products that could make any mortal sparkle like a Cullen.

I finally get close enough to the scouts for them to read my sign language: "Thank God you're all right. I've been worried sick. Stay there until I signal your move. Also, if you get the chance, check out the fuzzy robes, I need one for Mom! Just saying, this is our one chance to marvel at the comfort of fleece."

I slowly crawl into position. I am now near the menacing spritzers. Trying not to inhale, I suck up my courage,knowing my actions could have deadly consequences. I stand up and shout: "Good Lord! This skin spray has a 2 million glitter count per spritz, and it's only $10!"

Everyone in the store (including the spraying commandoes) turns attention to the spray display. In that moment of diversionary calm, the scouts are able to dash out of the store. I wasn't so lucky; my path was blocked by a malevolent mosh pit of glitter-crazed shoppers.

1230 Hours Finally, I make it out of the mayhem and return to the original trench to ponder the morning's collateral damage. This is what Black Friday does to us. We turn into animals. As I lie back to rest my weary bones, I think to myself, "I'm getting too old for this."

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