The Pusher

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seven

Veronica raised her arm, making her hand into the shape of a gun. “On your mark …”

José’s hands were tight around the bar.

“Get set …”

So tight that his knuckles cracked.

GO!

He leaned forward and dug his feet into the parking lot. He pushed the cart train …

And it went nowhere.

He grunted and tried again, his feet running in place.

Nothing.

It was too heavy. He was too weak.

Utter failure.

“Come on, José, you got this!” Veronica’s words were encouraging, but they didn’t feel realistic. José felt like his triceps were going to tear in half if he pushed any harder. How much did this thing weigh anyway? More than a ton. Easily. José was a cool 125 pounds. He wasn’t pushing a cart train; he was pushing an actual train.

“José! José! José!” Veronica was no cheerleader (she lacked the proper rhythm), but her tenacity was making those butterflies flap their wings faster. Perhaps he could use the excess wind to blow the carts forward. “You can do it José, José, José!”

He squared up his body again. He noticed something he hadn’t before. There was a decline in the parking lot. Very little, but it was there. If he could get the train to move even three feet, the first cart would catch the beginning of the decline and gravity would do the rest. Gravity to the rescue.

“José! José! José!”

“Can you do a backflip or something with your cheering?” José asked.

“Can you do some cart pushing with your grunting?”

“I’m really going to do it this time.”

“You better.”

“Watch me.”

Perhaps the arrow that Cupid had shot him with was making him lightheaded from all of the blood loss, thus giving him the illusion of confidence. But false confidence was still confidence, and maybe a little of that was all he needed to get over this hump.

He considered trying a different strategy: pulling on the sides of the carts to gain some momentum. Donald pushed his 77 carts into Meijer, but maybe he had to pull on them first to get them going. The beginning of Donald’s record-breaking push had little to no documentation. All that mattered was getting the cart train into the store by his lonesome, without the help of another person or any kind of external aid. They didn’t need to be pushed the entire time, José figured, only moving.

He went to the front and started pulling on the sides of the carts. He started about ten carts into the train, then worked his way back. They began to move. The first few carts found their way past the beginning of the decline.

Ten at a time. Slow movements.

He was getting there. He was in the zone.

“Ah, it’s happening!” Veronica said. She ran to the front, acting as a lookout.

José was at the 50 cart mark, yanking on the sides, swearing under his breath. At this point, he would rather be pushing drugs than pushing carts. Why couldn’t he have picked a different record like eating 80 wings, or doing 80 sit-ups, or giving 80 kisses to Veronica? Something else besides this ridiculousness.

Because, I want to go big. I want to be heard. I want to be … the GREATEST CART PUSHER TO HAVE EVER LIVED!

He was glad there was a reflective vest covering his polo. All the sweat dripping down his back was not something that needed to be seen by any human eyes, specifically the eyes belonging to Veronica.

“Look at them go!” Veronica said. She walked alongside the carts, putting her hand on them but not pushing. He was starting to notice her nice smile. It was very pretty without all of the corn.

Give that girl an Invisalign and hang her photo at your local dentist’s office. That smile’s a million bucks!

Everything seemed to be going swimmingly. The carts were moving. The people outside weren’t affected by the long train. Margie hadn’t come out to see what they were doing. Veronica thought he was the shit right now. It was everything he dreamed it would be.

A boy, no older than seven, ran up beside José and asked, “What the heck are you doing?”

“Pushing carts,” José said.

“Why so many?”

“Why not?”

The kid’s mind must have blown at that point, for his eyes got big and his mouth opened up to say something, but only silent air came out. The kid ran over to his parents who were loading their car with groceries. He tugged at their shirts and pointed over to José and his cart train. The parents stopped briefly, looked in his direction, then went back to their unloading. Apparently, 80 carts were not deserving of their attention. At least the kid had been freaked out.

At this point, the train had moved past a total of three parking spots. Slow and steady. It was moving, though. That was all that mattered. The one thing he didn’t take into consideration was the noise. The sound of 80 carts grinding their way across the parking lot was making his teeth rattle. If only there was some music playing to make his pushing feel more epic.

Veronica was ahead of him, banging her arms together in the shape of an X. She kept saying something but he couldn’t understand her.

“What?” José said.

“Waf ope!”

“What?”

“WATCH OUT!”

That’s when he realized this thing didn’t have any brakes.

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