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Cart Cowboy


Another excerpt from Taking Stock, my novel-in-progress.

I follow him to the coat rack near Lane Five. He tosses me an orange vest with reflectors and takes one for himself. As I struggle to get my arms through the right holes I ask him why we have to wear them. “Regulation,” he says as he walks briskly toward the exit. “If we get hit by a car and we’re not wearing them, we can’t sue the bastards.”

An elderly cashier glares at Casey’s back from Lane Three.

Casey goes to the Kart Korral on the left and directs me to the other. On the way I almost have an opportunity to sue the bastards, but the black SUV stops just in time, the driver leaning on his horn and scowling. I arrive at the Korral and start fumbling with the carts. Almost immediately I squat my thumb. Shit. Across the parking lot Casey is moving at superhuman speed, swinging the carts from the stall and swiftly assembling them into a line of twelve. That done, he leans forward so his head is nearly level with the first cart’s handle and pushes with all his might. I can see the tendons on his neck from over here. He’s a regular cart cowboy.

He makes quick work of his Korral and comes over to help me with mine. He forms a line, but before bringing it in he points out a sign hanging from the Korral roof. I didn’t notice it before. “CARTS ARE PROVIDED FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE. PLEASE RETURN THEM TO THE KART KORRAL.”

“Now tell me this,” Casey says. “See if you can explain this one to me. Why would they put a sign asking customers to return carts to the corral right on the God damned corral? Isn’t that sort of preaching to the fucking choir?” He spins around and starts pushing his carts toward the entrance. “Morons!”

We finish and head back to the coat rack. He hangs up his vest and holds out his hand for mine. I give him it, and he says, “You know, you had this thing on backward.”

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