By the time Arthur awoke, Fisher was asleep, as were all the rest of the shopping carts. Shopping carts live at night. The reason that you don’t hear shopping carts talking is that you always visit them in the daytime when they’re sleeping. If you were to sneak into the grocery store at two or three in the morning you would hear them having a raucous time. That’s why they leave the lights on in grocery stores at night.

Shopping carts hate 24-hour groceries. They never have any privacy. If you go into a 24-hour supermarket at two or three in the morning, you can often hear them complaining about it.

When Arthur awoke, he was hungry. He didn’t have any idea where he could get food. He didn’t even know what the shopping carts ate, although he suspected that it probably wasn’t anything he could eat. He was correct: he discovered later that shopping carts eat broken glass. That’s why the grocery store employees are so quick to collect glass that breaks in their stores. They need it to feed their captive shopping carts.

Arthur wandered off past the rusted chain link fence that separated the shopping cart graveyard from a little bicycle path. Beyond the bicycle path was an empty riverbed. There were still puddles, pools, and even small ponds in the riverbed. He didn’t actually go down into the river bed because it was very deep and the sides were covered with sharp rocks. When he considered climbing down the side of the riverbed, the sharp rocks looked up at him and glared. So he followed the riverbed’s shore away from the sun and stayed away from the rocks.

Beneath the bridge a caged monkey slept. Arthur stared at the caged monkey all the while he passed it. It wasn’t actually in a cage, but you could tell it was caged all the same.

Very soon Arthur heard the barking of dogs ahead of him, so he walked faster. Arthur liked dogs. He had never actually had a dog. The Senator didn’t believe in such things. He said that pets did nothing for you and expected everything in return. If he had had a drink recently, he would go on to compare them to voters. He did once promise to rent a puppy for a campaign appearance, but never followed through on it.

The orphanage, of course, didn’t allow pets either, but they didn’t make up any reason, they just said you couldn’t do it.

Still, Arthur knew what dogs sounded like, and he knew what they looked like. He’d seen them on cartoons. He knew from the cartoons that he liked them and he thought they would like him.

By mid-morning he found himself on a beach. Well, he arrived at a beach. He hadn’t quite found himself yet. He was still as young as you. Many people take “a year off from the world” to “find themselves” when they turn eighteen or twenty or twenty-three. Arthur’s “year off from the world” came a little earlier than most, however. He came a good bit closer to himself during this year than he ever would after the year was through.

The beach was mostly empty, except for the sand, which was hot. He’d taken off his shoes as soon as he arrived at the beach, because he knew it wasn’t nice to walk on a sandy beach with shoes on. He had no sandals.

The beach was mostly empty, but not completely empty. There were a few people walking their dogs on the beach. On this beach, it was really the dogs that were walking the people. The dogs were playing with each other and the owners were following where the dogs led. When the dogs saw Arthur, they ran over and started playing with him too. The owners were terrified that Arthur’s parents were going to sue them because they let their dogs play with Arthur, so they apologized heavily and said their dogs didn’t normally act like this. Of course their dogs didn’t normally act like this. But they always acted like this on the beach.

“I like dogs,” he said.

So they let him play with their dogs again. If they’d known he didn’t have any parents with which to sue them, they probably would have taken him home. But he didn’t tell them, and they didn’t ask.

If they’d known his latest parents included the Senator, they probably would have taken him home and forced him to go on television. The dog owners didn’t particularly like this Senator, because he was against “abortion”. Without “abortion”, the beaches would be too full of humans and there wouldn’t be enough room for dog owners to be walked by their dogs. The Senator was of two minds on whether he should support or oppose abortion. It never occurred to him that it was none of his business in the first place. On the one hand, “abortion” meant fewer voters, and anything that reduced the number of voters was a good thing in the Senator’s eyes. On the other hand, being against “abortion” meant that he could put lots of women in jail, and women never voted for him anyway. In general putting women in jail won out over reducing the voter population.

The Senator had once considered a program for retroactive abortion. The plan was very simple. It required answering a set of questions concerning who you planned to vote for in the next election. If you answered incorrectly, you would be eligible for retroactive abortion. The Senator was able to garner strong bipartisan support for this bill. The problem came up that once everyone had their say deciding which answers were incorrect it turned out that there wouldn’t be any voters left. In itself this wasn’t a bad thing, but unfortunately voters were also taxpayers and without taxpayers they would have to find someone else to steal money from. They might even have to work for it. So the plan was scrapped. Since then, however, many Senators have been working on a plan to separate voters from taxpayers. A number of ideas have been proposed but the problem lies in making it more attractive to be a taxpayer than a voter.

This explains many of the poor election choices that the major parties have presented to the voters, and is also the reason that laws have been passed making it harder for voters to become candidates. They want the voters to not want to vote so much that they’re willing to pay for the privilege of not voting.

Arthur played with dogs all day and ate a lot of the dog owners’ picnic foods. He had three ice creams and one hot dog. Hot dogs don’t really have anything to do with dogs, we just call them that to keep our pets scared. It’s the same reason we have catsup. Arthur also had one vegetarian ham sandwich, and a small vegemite sandwich. He decided he liked vegetarian more than vegemite. He didn’t know what the vegetarian was, but he liked the ham. As it turns out he didn’t know what the ham was either. He thought that ham was part of a pig, but this ham was a part of a plant grown in “the Orient”. He didn’t know what the Orient was, but he decided that if they made pigs this good out of plants he should like to go there sometime.


I want the kind of story that could be printed in a magazine of the year two thousand A.D. as a contemporary adventure story. No gee-whiz, just take the technology for granted.—John Campbell (The Way the Future Was)