Thursday, February 26, 2009

Dakota Daring: The Shopping Cart Kid. A Hero's Tale.

Dakota Daring taking a newly repaired cart for a test drive. His parents
stand behind beaming with pride. Denver is in the cart with his animal crackers.

The Darings live at 533 Maple Tree Lane in Cloverdale. It was Thursday afternoon. Mrs. Daring was on the phone with her mother. Her mother was upset over a family quarrel and needed to vent. Mrs. Daring knew the discussion would take at least an hour. The shopping needed done and the Daring's twelve year old son Dakota needed collecting from Confederacy Elementary School. She couldn't take care of her mother and pick up Dakota and go shopping at the same time so she sent her very reluctant husband, Mr. Daring. She insisted he take Denver as well. Denver was their youngest child. He was in her face all day and she needed a break. Besides it was good for Mr. Daring to spend quality time with his sons.

Mr. Daring waited outside Confederacy Elementary School for Dakota. The bell rang and a stampede of half crazed, half starved children poured out of the school like water storming out an open spillway. The sound of screaming, yelling, laughing and occasional crying could be heard nearly one block from the school.

Dakota never had a problem finding his family’s PVan (People’s Van from Confederacy Motors) in the maze of cars filling the school’s parking lot and lining up and down the street. It was pea green with a bright yellow smiley face Styrofoam ball crowning the top of the radio antenna.
“Let’s Go,” Dakota shouted as he jumped into the front seat and slammed the door behind him.
“Gurgle Gurgle, Belch......drool,” was little Denver’s reply. Denver was the baby. He was happy when his face was stuffed with food and a nightmare when it wasn't. Mrs. Daring understood and kept plenty of animals crackers within his reach. The plan worked most of the time except on days he had to ride in the van. Baby Denver got car sick. The more he had in his stomach the more there was to find its way out half way to your destination. The Daring tried to keep their trips relatively short. Denver was strapped into his ‘Child Locker’ safety seat. It resembled a miniature straight jacket that attached to the back of the car seat. Denver was drooling over a half chewed, spongy and entirely gross animal cracker. One fourth of the cracker was spread over his face. One fourth covered both hands, one fourth was on the car seat and strangely enough, the last fourth was on the van’s ceiling. How it got there, nobody knew.

Mr. Daring moved out into the flow of traffic, careful not to hit the hundred or so children ignoring the crosswalk and the shouting and cursing of the crossing guard to cross the street anywhere they saw an opening between the exiting cars. Mr. Daring always bit his lip on a Thursday afternoon pick up. He was sure some day he would hit someone. He had one of his premonitions. He came close last year. He nearly ran over Dakota’s teacher as he attempted to make an early escape without the principal’s knowledge. He slammed on his brakes. Dakota was thrown forward and got a real close look at the van’s front dashboard. Mr. Daring cursed while blowing the horn. He was always careful to blow the horn while he cursed. He didn’t want his choice of words to get back to Mrs. Daring or their would be heck to pay. Of course the principal heard the horn, looked out his window and saw the teacher.

Ten minutes after leaving the school the Darings navigated the PVan into a narrow parking place at their local Piggly Wiggly Grocery Store. Dakota opened the van door and promptly dented the door of the car next to the them. Mr. Daring saw what happened and blew the Van’s horn. Ten seconds later the horn went silent. He was done describing his feelings on the accident. They got back into the Van, pulled out, and parked in another section of the parking lot. It wasn't proper to leave the scene of a mini accident but it was all he could handle that day.

Once in the store, Dakota carefully hoisted Denver up into the shopping cart making sure not to get animal cracker goo on his skin or shirt. Mr. Daring began pushing the cart while attempting to decipher his wife's handwritting on the shopping list. Dakota walked ahead to select all the delicious goodies his mom would never buy but his dad would because dad didn't pay attention to anything Dakota put into the cart. For this reason alone Dakota loved going grocery shopping with dad. Half way down the bakery isle Dakota heard a horrible crash. He spun around in time to witness his little brother spill out of the overturned shopping cart and roll across the isle slamming into a Wonder Bread display, which teetered for a moment and collapsed onto his little brother. He saw his father’s face. It was turning various shades of violet. He knew he was nearing the edge of the abyss. He saw it in his face. He was holding in a violent string of cursing that would darken the entire store. There was no horn to sound so he held it in while Denver filled his lungs with enough air to nearly burst the eardrums of every onlooker with a shrill scream. Denver was properly inflated. Mr. Daring was nearing a stroke. Then Denver screamed. Dakota covered his ears to block the worst of the sound. He watched his father’s mouth as the words blew out like cannon balls. He couldn’t hear what he said but he knew from the slight frothing at the mouth they were good.

Little Denver. What a Mess!
Thirty minutes later calm returned to the store. The Daring’s were in the manager’s office. Denver had four boxes of animal crackers ripped to shreds around him. His face was stuffed with them. The others would be found here and there in the manager’s office for the next four years. The manager apologized to Mr. Daring for the accident clearly caused by the wobbling wheel of the shopping cart. Evidently the wheel began wobbling violently as they started through the bakery. Mr. Daring thought he had run over a bit of chewing gum on the tile floor and decided to push his way through it. That decision to push harder upset the cart sending Denver crashing to the floor.

While the manager and Mr. Daring discussed how many weeks of free groceries he would need to be convinced not to sue, Dakota crept out of the office and down the stairs to inspect the cart with the wobbly wheel. Dakota prided himself on his mechanical skills. After all, he spent much of his free time in the family garage with his dad working on the PVan.

Dakota looked at the wheel. He saw the problem and searched the store for the tools he needed to make the repair. He found a toothbrush from the pharmacy and a can of WD40 from automotive. Within five minutes the wobble was corrected. The cart pushed perfectly.

Dakota pulled the manager and his father from their meeting and showed them what he accomplished. Mr. Daring was impressed. The manager saw a possible way to solve his problem.
“Dakota, we have several carts with wobbly legs. Do you feel you could fix them?” he asked.
“Sure mister,” Dakota replied. Dakota was a shrewd businessman and saw a chance for some real money. “Five dollars for each cart I repair plus an hourly wage for doing monthly maintenance on every cart in your fleet.”
The manager noticed a smile grow across Mr. Daring face. He could see he was impressed with his son’s impressive aptitude for a quick buck. That might get him off his back.
“Deal,” said the manager.
“Deal,” replied Dakota.
“Deal,” added Mr. Daring.
“Gurgle belch and spit up,” was Denver’s contribution.

Today Dakota Daring is the King of Shopping Carts in Cloverdale. For a 12 year old he makes a good living repairing and maintaining shopping carts. His clients include Piggly Wiggly, the Red Owl and the Food Amazatorium.

Dakota’s next project is to design a new shopping cart with safety restraints and roll bars. He just needs to spend more time learning how to weld. He nearly burned the Daring home down a few days ago.

And so the sun sets on another day in the Confederacy of Dunces. A cool breeze brings the smell of rain and steaks on a nearby grill. Somewhere a dog is barking. A perfect evening is forming from the departing light of day. Time slows as it passes through our village on the edge of forever.

Remember, there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow - its called Cloverdale.

1 comment:

  1. Dakota is way over the top amusing!!!
    I'm curious as to where and what this kid will buy with his hard earned "cart cash"?...does this make him a "cartographer"????? :)