The Manager called them One, Two and Three. He said it was in order of their employment, that he always did that with ‘The Trolley Boys’ – but there was good reason to suspect otherwise.
“He never remembers our names. He can’t even say them,” said Ridhwaan.
“Doesn’t want to try,” added Zain, tugging irritably at his fluorescent tabard.
But Muhammed-Mahdi believed that there was more to it. “We’re not people to him. We do not require names – perhaps not even human … to this man who himself likely knows nothing of Kierkegaard or Kant.”
The other two shrugged. “He knows nothing of anything,” Zain stated with disdain. “He works in a shop for his whole life.”
“Well, you don’t even work inside that shop,” Ridhwaan chuckled. “You are the lackey of this Nothing Man … so what does that make you?”
Zain stood up to his full five feet and stuck his chest out. “You know I am only here for a short time. This is not my life.” His indignant look and the staccato turning of his head made the others’ smiles turn to open laughter. Zain couldn’t help but relax just a little.
“Ah, yes,” nodded Muhammed-Madhi, “each of us could say the same. But in this moment, here we are. This is what we are now so what does the past or the future really mean?”
“The way they look at us …” Zain tilted his head to some passing shoppers, “… we are these Trolley Boys … that’s all … not men with education, families, problems …. They would never think that we might have many languages and qualifications – because we don’t have enough of theirs. …”
“I don’t know …” Ridhwaan stated with the tone of the worldly wise, “I think they see that we have problems – wheels that won’t move, treks to rescue strays from canals or abandoned on empty land …” He shrugged ruefully.
“We are the slaves of these metal donkeys … that is all we are,” Zain nodded through his despondent gaze.
“No, no, little rooster,” Muhammed-Madhi corrected, “to them maybe.” A shopper strode past purposefully and disappeared through the supermarket doors. “And to Mr One-Two-Three. … But to us …?” His eyes narrowed and his gaze was wistful. “We are the kings of a fleet of steel, without which all these people would be burdened … hungry. We bring them – and our families – the means by which to live, to grow. And all we must conquer are the small obstacles of seized wheels and wasteland.” He lifted his chin proudly. “This is who I am for now.”
Then he turned to push the snaking line of trolleys towards the supermarket door, leaving his voice to drift between the jangles of the swaying metal spine. “You can be who you want to be.”