The wheel

“Yo cartwheeler!”

That’s what those kids called him. Who could blame them? He was, after all, the man pushing shopping carts at the supermarket. Not that it was anything to be shamed of, he told his reflection every morning navigating floss around his teeth.

But he had a name.


Growing up he’d often wonder if his parents detested his existence so much so as to bestow upon him such an uncharacteristic name. Not a childhood day had gone by without him repeating and spelling it out for people to understand.

And even then perplexity clouded their face whenever they uttered it. As if they’d rather not. As if something wasn’t just quite right.

It was still better than “cartwheeler” he thought.

They even told random shoppers about his nickname, pointing him out, the long, brown, migrant who stumbled through the car park collecting empty carts people thrust away. Shoppers who’d smile jovially at their juvenile innocence—they were just school kids, hanging out at the mall during the holidays.

It was all good fun for everyone, of course. Seasonal cheer hung in their air, overnight rosters hung over his.

Three years of regular supermarket shifts had served him well, though. With the weekends off, he’d taken up to flipping burgers for additional bucks. He was now the proud owner of three high-visibility vests, a third-owner car that needed service, and a son who’d be starting school next year. He was already a year behind others of his age. Ruman’s wife had taken a second job too, to save up for school. 

He seldom had time to talk to her. 

Never mind. He’d be cartwheeler as long as it took. Nothing mattered more than a good school for his son. Whatever necessary so his son didn’t end up at the mall catcalling another migrant, “Yo cartwheeler!”

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