The Conspiracy

For a while, I always seemed to get a lame  shopping cart at my local grocery store. It confused me. I knew there were good carts, but I just couldn't find them. This streak culminated one afternoon when my vehicle’s right front wheel was so misshapen that the carriage slammed up and down with each rotation. I sounded like a repeating car crash rolling through the grocery store. This called for a drastic action. I left a cart full of groceries standing by the cheese aisle, got another cart, brought it back, and began the very public spectacle of transferring my food from one to the other. In the middle of this, a gentle and sympathetic employee stopped by and asked if there was a problem. I told him to take the cart out back and shoot it.

“Oh, I know,” he said. “I always push mine around in the foyer for a minute or so just to make sure.”

This seemed fussy to me, but after getting burned a few more times, I decided enough was enough. I arrived for my Friday shopping determined to select the perfect cart, no matter how ridiculous I looked running it around the foyer, no matter how long it took, I would be careful and selective and I would get the BMW of carts.

How many times, after all, in my own work had I rushed things and paid the price? How many dead characters had I dragged through a story, listening to them crash and clatter, too stubborn to cut them loose? No, more. This man was going to pay attention, was going to measure twice and cut once.

I marched into the foyer, my editor’s eye scanning the carts. I’d pick a new-looking one. I examined their wheels, their baskets, found what seemed like the cleanest model. I pushed it around the foyer once, twice. Yes. This was it. I had learned my lesson and paid attention and now let the quiet shopping begin.

But something magical happened. As soon as I left the carpeted foyer, as soon as my lovely cart and I arrived at the produce to begin our shopping, she began to rattle and thump. At first, I simply denied what was happening. I’d paid close attention. It had passed the foyer test. But another circuit though the lettuce and broccoli confirmed the impossible. Feeling betrayed, I stopped where I was, stopped and looked down at the this devil that had somehow disguised itself to complete the conspiracy against my shopping, and there, taped across the handlebar I’d been gripping since I first dislodged her from the other carts, was a long white piece of paper on which was written, in large block letters, this one word: BROKEN.

Oddly, that was the last lame cart I ever got.

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