After reading another story about Grocery Store Wars, I wondered: What if that were actually happening?

The front page would have splashy graphics, with a big red arrow sweeping up from Iowa to indicate the march of Hy-Vee forces and grim accounts from the front line:

“The Hy-Vee Eighth Mechanized Division overwhelmed defenders in Robbinsdale, the hardest fought battle in the Terrace Theater to date. Reinforcements from the nearby Cub were dispatched to repel the assault, but the morning after the battle the site was a blasted landscape of melted plastic carts and pricing guns abandoned in a hasty retreat.

“ ‘It was hell,” said Stocker First Class John Peterson, recuperating in a field hospital in Hopkins. ‘They came in with everything — glossy circulars, two-for-one sales, gas discounts, house brands camouflaged as national brands, the works. They opened up with a sustained barrage of discounted milk, and it was just chaos: You had former Rainbow managers trying to cut the price of bagged salad and generals from the head office sending memos on Thanksgiving store displays. Finally we retreat, and the wheels on the carts are wobbling so much guys are just leaving them by the road and running away.’ ”

The worst casualties are airlifted to Trader Joe’s, which has been converted to a hippie-spirited M*A*S*H unit, with idealistic-but-cynical employees in tropical shirts making angry anti-grocery-war speeches while they stitch up the wounded.

“I’m sorry if I don’t feel like saluting the flag right now, Frank, but my arms are tired from sewing up the sucking chest wound of some kid who was sent out to defend a 15 percent increase in ketchup prices. Oh, I know they’re godless Iowans who want to infiltrate the schools and replace fluoride with Hunt’s ketchup, and maybe I’m just un-American, but in the end both sides are dead and it’s just a condiment. Clamp, nurse! Suction!”

Lunds & Byerlys is the Special Forces. A stealth helicopters rises, blades turning noiselessly, sending operatives to engage in psychological warfare. They step from the shadows and show a soldier a simple, cleanly laid-out ad that says, “Gold’n Plump chicken breasts BOGO! Huge deal!” and the soldier is petrified: “Two for one on chicken breasts? No one does that. What else are they capable of?”

Word spreads, and the troops are demoralized: “A buddy heard from a friend that they overran a Jerry’s just by cutting prices on deveined shrimp!”

As the various forces struggle for control, they have another nightmare in mind: the Red Army, aka Target. At the moment it’s not a dire threat, since it has a new general who said he’s focusing on the tiny, strategically irrelevant province of Glutenfrei, but only a fool would count them out.

And, of course, everyone lives in fear of the Wal-Mart/Costco Non-Aggression Pact.

Me, I’m neutral. But at night I turn on my radio and send out messages for long-lost forces I wish would rejoin the struggle: “Come in, Red Owl, do you hear me? Come in, Red Owl.”