Arthur was not his real name. Your real name gives your enemies power over you, so Arthur kept his real name secret. He chose the name “Arthur” because it seemed to him a proper name to have adventures with. He had heard once that there was a king named Arthur off in England who had a wonderful time of things.

It also came at the beginning of the alphabet, so Arthur was very often first in line. He claimed later that he had done this on purpose, but since Arthur never learned his alphabet satisfactorily I find this hard to believe.

When asked what his last name was, he as often said he didn’t have one or claimed that it was Arthur too. Arthur didn’t have parents. When he was about a year younger than you,

“How long ago?”

A year younger than you, so about two years ago.

When he was about a year younger than you, he was adopted by a politician who needed a son. It helps to have a family when you’re trying to get elected, and he didn’t have one, so he rented one. He also rented a wife, but no one knows what happened to her. Last I heard she was at the Betty Ford Clinic for Cookie Dependency.

One day after the elections, Arthur was in the mall with his adopted father, who had successfully become a Senator. Arthur said something the Senator didn’t like. It probably had something to do with the poor. Arthur could never win when it came to the poor. If he said something sympathetic, the Senator told him it was their own fault. If he said something the Senator agreed with, the Senator told him not to say that in public. In private, of course, Arthur wasn’t to say anything at all. “Little boys should be seen, and not heard,” said the Senator, “at least until they learn to follow the teleprompter.”

Whatever Arthur said, the Senator slapped him. Arthur started crying, and ran away. He didn’t run away very far. He ran into a corner and hid behind a mannequin. Arthur didn’t really want to run away, he just wanted the Senator to feel sorry and follow him. If you ran away in the mall, your mother would follow you, wouldn’t she? But your mother bought you for keeps at the supermarket, she didn’t rent you at the video store. When Arthur looked back, his father wasn’t running after him. His father had just walked out the door and into the parking lot.

Arthur pouted, but not for very long because his father was getting into the car. Arthur jumped out from behind the mannequin and ran after his father, but he tripped over a homeless person, and when he got out the door, his father was driving away.

Arthur tried to run after the car, but it drove faster than Arthur could run. When Arthur was sure that he was lost and didn’t know what to do, he stopped by the side of the road. He was tired. Usually Arthur liked being lost and he liked not knowing what to do, but liked it only when he knew that he could easily enough go back to being found and letting other people tell him what to do. They would tell him to brush his teeth, take a bath, clean up the spaghetti that he’d tossed against the wall. And he would complain, but he would do it anyway, because it was better than the alternative which was not being told what to do.

There was no one at the side of the road to tell him to brush his teeth. He was next to a little stand of trees. He thought he heard one of them tell him to go home and clean his room, but that was probably his imagination. So he walked into the trees to be sure. He walked into the trees and out the other side and that’s when he found the graveyard.

“A graveyard? Wasn’t he scared?”

It wasn’t a human graveyard, it was a shopping cart graveyard. The shopping carts weren’t really dead, but they pretended to be so that they wouldn’t have to carry any more frozen meat and canned peas. Shopping carts don’t like to be cold, and they don’t like cans, especially canned peas. The metal hurts their skin. So when they get old, they sneak out of the store and head for the shopping cart graveyard. Some of them sneak out even before they get old.

Some of them get lost, and they end up in other stores. If you look the next time you go shopping with your mom, you can see them. They’re the tired-looking carts with the wrong store name on them.

Arthur lay down underneath an old Rabbi’s shopping cart. It still wore the yarmulke. A shopping cart isn’t much cover, but it was better than nothing, and Arthur was very tired.

He fell fast asleep. When he woke, it was night, and the shopping carts were having an argument.

He felt a throbbing pain in his legs. His left hand was still asleep, so he felt down with his right hand. He felt rubber and steel! He sat up quickly and bumped his head on a metal bar. He’d forgotten that he was still beneath the Rabbi cart. The metal and steel was the Rabbi kicking Arthur with his tires.

“Ouch!” he cried.

“Wake up, kid! I have to go!”

“Go where?!” asked Arthur, not knowing what to make of it all. He’d seen shopping carts before, but they were always neatly stacked in a line or being pushed around by shoppers. They only rarely talked and he’d never heard one in an argument.

“I’m old, kid. I just have to go!”

“Go where?”

I think it had to go to the bathroom.

“Shopping carts don’t go to the bathroom!”

Of course they do! Have you ever gone to the supermarket in the afternoon and seen the sticky goo on the floor? That’s ‘cause shopping carts have to go to the bathroom too. And since we never let them alone, they have to do it in the open.

Arthur realized that the shopping cart was talking to him. He also realized that it wanted to go to the bathroom. He scrambled out from beneath it and the yarmulke-clad shopping cart rolled off into the grove of pine trees.

…the imagination of nature is far, far greater than the imagination of man. — Richard Feynman (What Do You Care What Other People Think?)