On the Fourth of July, I was very American. I had the day off, and I barbecued in my front yard. I cooked steak, chicken and sausage on the grill. Then, we all sat in brown plastic lawn chairs and ate.
After we ate, I went to see my mother, who is no longer well enough to attend outdoor dining events. There must have been a lot of salt in those sausages I ate because I was suddenly very dry-mouthed.
On my way home, I stopped a corner store in my old neighborhood because they have Popsicles for 35 cents each. The supermarket always wants you to buy a package of eight, but the corner stores of the world know that there are people who can spend 35 cents for one, but can't spend $2.98 for eight.
The little store is kind of an ethnic history of the neighborhood. When the block was solidly Irish, it was a pharmacy with an Irish name. When my parents moved to the neighborhood, it was already a corner store. The owner was the son of French-Canadian immigrants. So was my father, and the two always conversed in French. When I moved into the neighborhood in 1993, the store was owned by a Portuguese immigrant couple. A year ago, immigrants from India bought the store.
Because it's such a well-stocked little store, and because I lived on the block, I've bought a great many of life's necessities in that store, including an eyeglass repair kit, work gloves, canned soup, aspirin, newspapers, soda, beer, ice cream, bread, candy bars and, of course, Popsicles.
On the Fourth of July, I parked my old white truck out front, walked in, picked an orange Popsicle out of the freezer, and walked to the counter.
The woman in front of me in line was short, with messy brown hair, a light-green moon tattooed on the back of her neck, and white sweatpants that were very dirty at the bottom.
She was buying eight miniature bottles of espresso-flavored vodka, four big cans of cheap beer, two packs of generic menthol cigarettes and six $1 lottery tickets. She took a long time choosing her tickets. We were the only two customers in the store.
The clerk was wearing a red polo shirt with blue horizontal stripes.
The woman paid for the liquor, the beer and the cigarettes with a debit card. She paid cash for the tickets. The clerk bagged her beer, and she began to stuff the little bottles of vodka into her black pocketbook.
The clerk beckoned me forward, and I held up the Popsicle.
The woman turned to me, suddenly kittenish.
"Ooh, an orange Popsicle," she said. "I'm so jealous. Will you buy me one?"
I handed the clerk a dollar.
"Sixty-five cents," he said, handing me my change. I could smell the liquor on her breath.
"Seeya," I said to the clerk.
I will see him, too. It's MY corner store, and it's on the way to a lot of places I go.
I don't know if that clerk is a citizen. A lot of people come to this country and never become citizens. It is not illegal to buy a corner store if you are not a citizen.
I know a lot of people who would say the clerk is not a real American. There are, after all, a fair amount of Muslims in India.
I told my wife about it when I got home.
"Two native-born Americans in that store, and one of us was drunken trash," I told her. "And it's the Fourth of July."
I'm patriotic that way.
To find out more about Marc Munroe Dion, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com. Dion's latest book, "The Land of Trumpin'" is a collection of his columns from the most recent election with a foreword by best-selling author Thomas Frank, author of "Listen, Liberal." It is available in paperback from Amazon.com, and for Kindle, Nook, and GooglePlay.