A Chance Encounter, Part II


Michael McGuire

Barry the shopping cart’s old corner was packed. Where Silver met Mitchell. Carts everywhere. In drum circles. Getting high on W-D 40. All looking for peace, love. Fighting oppression. Called the corner their “Haight Ashbury.” Barry – a musician, beat poet and founding member of Carts for Arts, a militant student group – was the face of their wheeled-basket counter culture. He was their god.

They saw us coming by the Murray Mansion. Is that him? He’s alive. He has risen! They laughed. They cried. They rolled to Barry and rejoiced. He had ditched the hooker outfit by now. Took it off in Memphis, after he’d earned enough money for two cheeseburgers from the dining car.

“We were so lost without you, man,” carts told him. They asked about the suicide note, and why he wasn’t dead. Barry accepted the blue and yellow can when it was his turn, took a few pulls from the little red straw sticking out of the top, and told everyone everything. How it had all been a lie.

“It’s all making sense now.”

“What’s making sense?” Barry asked.

“Everything, Uncle Barry. After you were gone things got weird. Scary. Most of us haven’t left the corner. Don’t want to vanish like all the others.”

“Vanish? Like the others?”

“Disappearances – there have been seven so far, eight now including yours. Beatings, too. We didn’t think there was a connection. Just thought the world had gone crazy. But after hearing your story… ”

Another cart spoke up: “Tell him about the murder.”

Native American shopping carts believed that huffing W-D 40 opened the doorway to a spirit world where they could see the past, the future and the present at the same time. See all their was to know.

All Barry could see was the inside of a toilet:

“Blewwwwwachunkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkka! Blewa! Blewaaha! Blewwwwwwwaaaaaaaaaachunkkkkkkkaaaaaa!”

“You all right, man?”

“Too much W-D, is all,” Barry hollered back. He was lying. It was the story about the dude they found dead that made him hork. Gruesome. Poor guy was new in town. His handle bar said “Great American.” Sherburne, maybe. Probably hitched down here after the store closed. Looking for lube. He was beaten to hell, caved in on the sides, and left to rust. Wheels torn off and everything. A note taped to him said ‘Not Welcome.’”

Barry wiped the front of his cage. Nasty in that port-o-john. Everyone called it the “Honeypot.” He went to exit but got locked up on the right side. Tipped him sideways into the wall. Nearly toppled the stall. He looked down, tried to roll forward. No dice. His right front wheel was jammed. Must be something wedged under there. He backed up. Yup. There it was. A small piece of metal, square. Picked it up. Well looky there.

It was a computer chip.