SISYPHUS IN THE PARKING LOT
Welcome to Hell—
a superstore with enough shopping carts
to serve a third-world country,
where the customers keep coming,
ready to buy
what the jingly ads have promised—
at discount prices,
in a range of colors.
brought to you by
the makers of frozen
pizza, plastic furniture,
laxatives, hair gel,
ice cream, handguns.
Charge it all to the cards
that keep you in debt
and once you’ve stuffed
your SUVs and minivans
full of groceries and accessories,
there’s a guy
who will gladly take your carts.
You’ve seen him a million times—
lanky teen in khakis
and a button-up shirt,
bright orange safety vest.
Too shy to speak,
too tired for words,
he toils weekends and school nights,
saving up for a car he can’t afford,
but he takes pride in being the one
chosen to track down all those stray carts
ditched along curbs,
stranded like cars in a snowstorm.
He is their shepherd, their conductor,
gathering the clattering rattle
into a long train
pushed back to the station,
back to the store,
only to watch them escape again
and again, hour after hour,
night after night,
because the customers
and this store
Author’s Comment: I like to re-imagine stories from the Bible, mythological tales and other fantastical stories so they are told in a new perspective. It could be re-imagining a story in a different time period or telling the story from a different character’s point of view. So, with the story of Sisyphus (a man cursed for eternity in Hades to roll a boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back down again), I thought, “What might be a modern version of this tale?” Perhaps it’s that kid we’ve all seen in the parking lot, rolling those trains of shopping carts back into the shopping store, only to see them come right back out again, as if for eternity. No, Hades and Hell are not technically the same place, but for the modern reference I was looking for, Hell sounded better here. I wanted to observe the seemingly unending consumerism that you find at a superstore these days. And after the customers drive away, there’s something noble in the effort of this teenager working at minimum wage working out a debt that seems insurmountable.