He headed across the parking lot and the green space to the twin apartment building on the next street. It had a brick retaining wall near the entrance where carts were often left. For some reason, the grocery cart guy seemed to miss these. Walking ‘round the end of the wall, Ed discovered that they were gone. He stood there wondering what to do. The closest likely place was the parking lot at the plaza. However, it would be two blocks there and two blocks back– more work for his arthritic knees. Well, he didn’t see an alternative at the moment.
Half an hour later Ed had the flyers loaded in the buggy and was heading out on his route. Fortunately, it was a temperate day, at least for December. The light coating of snow was hardly more than an inch anywhere, and he could easily push the big cart through it. Most people had already cleared their sidewalks.
Ed was rolling his cart down the street in the direction of his first house, when he saw the grocery cart guy’s truck approaching. He glared at it. This guy was really trying to clean up today. The truck pulled up beside Ed and the old guy jumped out spryly and came around the cab.
“Hey, buddy. I need that cart.”
“Funny. Looks like you’ve already got a few.”
“Hey, you’re talkin’ about my business. Returning carts to their owners.”
“Well, if you want to drive me around my route, that’s your call.”
“Tell you what. I’ll cut you a deal. If you give me 3 bucks, you can have the cart this time.”
“Thanks, but no thanks. Meanwhile, I’ve got some flyers to deliver. Catch ya later.”
The old man flipped out his cellphone. “Looks like I’m gonna hafta call the cops.”
“Be my guest. Seein’ as I won’t be here when they show up in an hour or so.”
“Look, buddy. I’m just tryin’ to do my job. These carts belong to the Big Boxers Corporation. You’re stealing their property.”
“Well, if you’re ready to duke it out for Big Boxers, I’m your boy. If not, stop wasting my time!”
The guy settled down a bit. “Look, buddy. I’m a poor stiff just like you, tryin’ to do a job. These guys at Big Boxers aren’t so palsy with me either. This here new manager tries every which way to screw me around. A couple months ago he told me they were only gonna pay me $2 a cart instead of 3– take it or leave it. So I left it. I had my whole lawn and backyard full of grocery carts. Finally, he got the message and agreed to pay me what we had already agreed on.”
“Yeah, well, I have a story too. I’m gettin’ paid just about nothing to deliver these flyers. I need a cart to do that. And I fetched this one from the plaza. So I guess I’m doin’ your work for you– gatherin’ up carts and bringin’ ‘em back to the apartments. I even pulled one out of the creek in the summer.”