Wander: The Story of the Lonely Chariots


Michael McGuire

If you write it, they will come.

I heard the voice, I told the story, and now – I know why.

Not long after July 11, when I wrote an expose on the ramshackled lifestyle of local shopping carts, the steel bedouins began rattling their way to my home, weary and longing.

“Is this the best place to get full, sir?,” asked Barry, an elder cart from my story, as he rested in my driveway, not seeming to recognize me from our previous encounter. Confused, I nearly told him to go to Ponderosa. “I’m not sure Barry, I guess I’m not quite sure what you’re asking me.”

I knew full well what he was asking, I just didn’t know the answer.

“You will,” Barry curtly responded, as he rolled away.
Carts of all shapes, colors and sizes were waiting for me each morning when I left, and each evening when I returned. Their friendly stares removed any thought that they meant me harm, but it was creepy just the same.

Even creepier was the fact that nobody else saw them. “You’re crazy,” my family would say, “Aren’t you taking this a bit too far – It’s not funny anymore.” They couldn’t see the carts waiting for me.

Early one morning, far from sleep, I could feel them outside. “Who pushed you here,” I’d shouted to them from my front porch. “Do you think I have something for you? Do you think I can save you? Let me tell you, I can’t even save myself!”

“Yes, you can,” Barry responded from the sea of carts. Like a children’s choir singing “row, row, row your boat,” in the round, each cart chimned in various tones of “Yes, you can, yes you can, YES, YOU CAN…”

Falling back into my doorway, I realized what was happening. I realized what I had to do.

It was then that I awoke, surrounded by family and friends – not in my doorway – but in a hospital room.

Needless to say, my family was quite disturbed when my first words were “Eureka.”

I wasn’t sure how long I’d been out, but was quite sure how I’d gotten there.

“Do not use a fork to pry that from the toaster,” my mother warned, in what was probably the 1,000 such advisement she’d given me over the years. “You could get fried that way.”

“No you can’t,” I replied, wielding the fork deeper into my trapped and burnt Sara Lee raisin bagel, quite certain of my invinsibilty.

“YES, YOU CAN,” she said, when suddenly sparks flew from the toaster and a jolt raced through my body, sending me unconscious to the floor.

I was electricuted the day after writing the satirical story about displaced shopping cart’s. After being resuscitated by paramedics, I remained in a coma for over one month.
I guess it took being in a coma to realize how haunted I was by the shopping cart problem. It had always existed, but now I was consumed by it. One hang-up I could never shake was anxiety.

Never-the-less, how could people blatantly steal property from a store and go unpunished, and then waste what they’ve taken? It’s American to steal, but to then waste it – that’s stupid. You don’t steal silverware and plates from a restaurant and smash them in the parking lot when you get outside, do you? I guess stealing carts is like robbing money from a bank; you steal it, you blow it, and don’t have it when you need it again.

However, it’s understandable that some people cannot bring groceries home without the cart, for whatever reason; but why not bring it back? Heck, ask the store to work out an agreement with you to borrow it.

In my coma I figured out how to change everything – how I could impose my cart-conserving will on the rest of the population.

My mothers last words before I went under were echoed by Barry in my life-like dream; “Yes, you can.” Those words woke me up, they reminded me how I got into that silly situation, with the carts congregating on my lawn. Those words made me realize why I was having the dream – Electricity.

Barry and the rest of the carts may not have been real, but I firmly believe that all this happened for a reason, for them.

Invisible fencing. Yes, like the ones for dogs. Except this fence would be for people, people trying to take carts off of grocery store property. Wheel them to your cars, fine. Wheel them to the edge of the parking lot, fine. Wheel them into another store in the Plaza, that’s fine. Wheel them passed the great seal beyond the boardering sidewalks – and you’ll wind up in a gurgling heap, with an overturned cart that’s spilled the contents of your excursion. It is genious.

Each cart user will be given a neck bracelet with an electric charge upon signing a cart rental agreement, and just to be safe the cart itself will have one running all through it as well.

Any violators will only be out of commission for about 10-20 minutes, and repeat offenders will be provided with helmets and PINS (Persons In Need of Supervision) officers as a show of understanding and good faith toward healing the flawed human psyche.

It hurts so good.

I’m waiting for the stores to call me back, and when this thing takes off I’ll be raking in the dough. Millie and me will be able to blow this popsicle stand and head for Branson. But I’ll never forget Barry and the others, wherever they are. I’ll never forget their songs, their stories, and I’ll never forget our summer together, roaming the streets and dreamscapes of our lives, in search of our homes.