José went inside and stopped to get a quick drink at the fountain, which ended up being a mistake because Margie found him there.
“Are you on break again?” Margie said. She was holding a clipboard that probably had the names of all the co-workers who were going to be disciplined today. Margie’s clipboard made Santa’s naughty list look like the Gospel of Christ.
“I was just going to the bathroom and then getting rope for the carts outside. I’m showing Veronica how to tie the carts together.”
“Oh, I see. Good. I can always count on you to do a great job with carts.”
Margie scribbled something (probably horrible) on her clipboard and left. José made sure to go to the bathroom so he wouldn’t be caught in a lie. He unspooled a fifty-foot rope from the maintenance room and met up with Veronica outside. She had four more carts waiting for him.
“I ran into Margie,” José said, speaking like someone who had just escaped the clutches of death.
“Ooooo scary!” Veronica jokingly chattered her teeth. “What did she say?”
“Not much. She doesn’t know what we’re doing out here.”
“Well, we are technically still doing our job.”
“Just maybe not in the most efficient way.”
She crossed her arms and looked down at the ground. Her actions were a clue that she was about to ask a question. Other girls at school did this all the time.
“Why aren’t we using the CartCaddy to move the carts?”
The CartCaddy (or cart caboose as José liked to call it) was a motorized cart pusher that could move up to 10,000 pounds of carts on its own. It attached at the back of the carts, allowing an individual to guide the train while the CartCaddy did the heavy lifting. It was standard procedure (there was that phrase again) to use the cart caboose on busy days, that way large volumes of carts could be moved at a much quicker pace. Because it was a $5000 piece of equipment, and because it was powerful enough to do some serious damage if not handled carefully, José rarely used the cart caboose unless Margie told him to do so. It was also hard to waste time using the cart caboose. José knew that the most important part of working a low wage job was wasted time posing as hard work. Pushing carts without the cart caboose was hard work. It also wasted a shit load of time.
“The reason I’m not using the cart caboose—”
“Cart caboose? You even have a nickname for that thing?”
“The reason I’m not using it is because Donald didn’t when he broke the record,” José said. “If I use it, then my record will be tainted. There will be an asterisk.”
“You definitely don’t want an asterisk.”
“You want the judges to give the grand prize to you fair and square, no debates.”
“You really have thought this whole record thing through, haven’t you?” She uncrossed her arms and put her hands on her hips. “And here I thought I was being a loser when I stacked boxes of penne on top of each other to see how high I could get them to go.”
“How many did you get?”
“I can’t remember. Around 37 I think.”
“That’s pretty good.”
“But you’re still a loser.”
“What?” Her hands slapped the side of her legs. “What do you mean?”
“You said ‘Here I thought I was being a loser’ when referring to stacking boxes. What part of my answer leads you to believe that I disagreed?”
He pointed at her and began to laugh. “I’m just messing with you. I’m trying some of that sarcasm you’re so good at.”
“Oh my God, I was about to be so pissed. I mean, I know I’m a loser. It’s all pretty grand if you think about it. But I was seriously about ready to punch you in the face.”
“And curb stomp you.”
“Take a hint, José. Now I’m messing with you.”
She grinned (no corn!) and took the rope from his hands. “Show me where to attach this.”
José was a deer in headlights.
“Hey, show me.”
He helped her attach the rope to the first cart, then draped it across the tops of the carts and let it hang off the end. Veronica’s four carts brought the train up to 48. They went to corral’s nine and ten and rounded up 15 more. Veronica insisted (begged was a more apt description) that she have a chance to push them over to the train. José let her have her shot at glory. Being the novice that she was, her shot was over in about five seconds. She couldn’t quite figure out how to turn the long train of carts without them bending inward like a snake slithering across the ground. She almost face-planted onto the parking lot when her feet slipped and went in the wrong direction.
“Dammit!” she said, and then at the carts: “Won’t you stop turning?”
José butted in. He was still technically training her and she was doing it all wrong. “Here, let me help you with that. Sometimes, it’s better to go at it from the other side.”
“That’s what I’ve heard.”
Veronica had her hand over her mouth, silencing a laugh.
“Wow, you have a dirty mind,” he said.