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Like an addicted fruit bat, I knew I would return to Walmart. Where else could I commit near-illegal acts, in the name of justice, against the world's biggest retail bully, and get away with it? All I had to do was move lemons to send a clear signal that Walmart sucks.
So far I was a free man, in spite of run-ins with the cryogenic corpse, and corporate stink, I swear, of Sam Walton. Overconfidence can be the downfall of a revolutionary. Previously, however, I had escaped the Walmart trucks, the omnipresent clones, that constantly tail me from town to town. Maybe I was getting cocky but I figured Sam, in his linear thinking, would not expect me to return to the scene of my last crime. So I headed back to Newport, Oregon, where I had Shop-Shifted before; that is, moved produce into provocative positions, as signs of protest. I decided to stick it in Sam's eye.
Ok, a banana. But you get the point. Disorder drives Sam nuts. Anything unconventional sends blood clots careening down his coronaries. For an old farmer, rows have to be straight and furrows deep. Conformity is the crop of choice. If everybody moved a banana, or lemon, Sam would have to pay employees to put them back. It would create more jobs in America. It would also be a karmic cleansing for consumers whose small towns have been destroyed; yet they have no choice but to shop at Walmart.
I moved up the aisle. "You want lemons, Mr. Frowny Face?" I moved a half-dozen lemons. There was no limit to fruity possibilities. I was a kid in a candy shop.
"Whaarf!" Suddenly, the ice cream door swung open. I felt a cold breeze. I had been here before. But frankly, I was tired of crawling through Nutty Buddy aisles looking for the frozen corpse of Sam Walton. I knew he wanted to rise like a reconstituted Fruit Bar, and wreak big W's on anything that moved, including our babies' behinds when they got baptized, and tattooed in the name of Sam. In fact, I could see a W stamp tool hanging out the door. Had Sam, the master of domestic habit, guessed my plan?
I jumped. Sam's horrendous mask protruded from behind a box of Brown Cow. I was familiar with his frozen face, but this was different. The jaundiced jowls had been sewn like a zipped hacky sack. He had regained some girth, like a wasted prune in water. Gumming a Fudge Bar, he wore a grimacing happy face, tending to the gangrenous side, but how?
"Preffy funny", his lips quivered like Elmer Fudd, "although not o-wiginal." He frowned at my lemon fruit folly. He climbed out of the freezer. He definitely seemed alive, as alive as a former frozen Frankenstein can be.
"What?" I said. "I can't understand you."
"Wuff you expect?" His arms moved like flippers. He spoke with a disingenuous tone. "I'm thaw glad to see you!"
"Sam Walton!" I looked closer. "We meet again!"
I could see associates in the aisles. One of them, a reedy youth with a bad complexion, came up, and spoke to Sam. "Is there a problem, Mr. Wang?"
"Wang?" I puzzled. "You mean Walton?"
"It's Wang!" Sam's face shook like rotted road kill. "Call me Wang!" He patted his cheeks. How do you like my Big Box Botox now?
"Sam Wang?" I said.
"Fool!" he frothed. "You never fully understoot!"
He took a popsicle and pressed a purple button. A large TV clicked overhead. Big W's danced on the digital screen, flashed three times, and changed into a weird symbol.
"Do you know what that is?" Sam's cheeks swelled like an algae patch on a putrid pond.
Two W's fornicating?" I ventured. "Sideways. Tantric-style?"
"Ach!"--he screamed--"It's Chinese text for Wang!--the most common name in mainland China! There are 98.22 million Wangs on the Chinese mainland. More Wangs than anywhere in the world! It's Wangs that made me rich! It's Wangs that will make me richer! Even if they have to work like chain-gang Wangs in sweatshops!"
"That's a lot of Wang," I puzzled. "So?"
"So!"--he screamed and clicked his popsicle--"Feast your eyes on"WANG-MART!" Above, the giant letters changed from Walmart to Wang-Mart.
"That's crazy!" I said.
"Everything come from China! Land of Wang!"
I noticed he had affected a Chinese accent.
"People like you!"--he continued''--"try to give Walmart bad name! So I change name! Problem solve!"
"You mean?"--I considered--"Instead of Big Box, it's Big Wang?"
"What wrong with that?" Sam pulled an ice cube from his ear.
"Because they think you are giving them the shaft?"
"You have dirty mind!" Sam bellowed. "Wang means kingly in Chinese!"
"Right," I said. "Kings and peasants--The homeless employees outside your store--what are they, peasants?"
"No peasants!" His bruised face began to sag. I could smell smoldering stitches.
"Well," I held my camera, and hit the button. "I have a film."
"I remember her," Sam started to choke up. "What happen?"
"Probably you shafted her like everyone else. Kept her on part time. Made her get food stamps for her kids. Refused to pay decent health care. Maybe fired her for talking about a union. Maybe her husband lost his job because you shipped it to China?"
"She like me back then!"--Suddenly, tears fell and froze into icicles--"She really, really like me! Employee number 543,873,112!"
"You remember her?" I said. Maybe Sam really did have a heart.
"She say I change?" Sam's face grew hard again, as a dark force took over. "She want spare change? Maybe I change my name to Chang! I want all the change!"
"I gave her a dollar," I said.
"You are un-Chinese!" Sam's head swiveled. "Make American government pay for her!" Icicles clotted his eyes, and clogged his gaze. "That my money! You are lemon lunatic! I remember you. This was my last store before I die."
"Right, Newport," I said. "1992. We fought you. You got your store, but I think the sight of small children protesting was too much for your ticker. My son was nine years old when he testified at City Council about you destroying the ocean view forest and wetland right next door to his home. Said the place was like heaven to him. The little girl who lived next door testified, too. Something about destroying a bear cave. Basically you guys laughed and got your store. It was your last store, however, since you died. Maybe your curse was to continue on as a corporate corpse that lives forever. I think they call it a vampire."
"You mean empire!" Sam hissed. "Now I arrest you! Make you banana split!"
I could see associates seal the aisles. Sam did not know, but I had a plan B.
"Stealth lemon!" I cried.
"What?" said Sam. "You crazy!"
His associates looked at each other. They checked the bins--lemons, limes, even the corn.
"Nothing," the skinny one said. "He's bluffing."
"Right there," I pointed. "Are you guys blind?"
Sam pried off an icicle, tried to use it as a lens. "I can't see!"
Of course he could not see. I saw an opening, sprinted for the door, with a pack of associates on my heels. They collided with a geriatric greeter, got tangled in his suspenders, and went down in a pile. I made it to my truck, hit the key, and sped away with a roar of four-cylinder Dodge power.
"You not escape Wang-Mart!" I could hear Sam's cry--"We find you on Google Map Street View!"
Right, I thought--maybe they could follow--maybe Sam had his own spy drones. Maybe he bought Google under a Chinese name. I did sense strange whisperings in the sky, lately.
In my mirror, I could see a big Wang following, those omnipresent W trucks, that gradually faded into a small Wang. For the moment, I was free from Wang World, but I knew my fight with Sam was far from over. Twenty years ago, we had killed him. Now apparently, it would take more lemons to finish him off. Maybe some metaphorical silver bullets. People could post their shots on the Facebook blog: Lemon on Lime.
Meanwhile I could band with the homeless Walmart people and live in the camps on the Walmart parking lots where one can live free, like Sam dreamed. I could dress in a tattered hoodie, like a corporate coolie, and sleep under the shadow of the Big Wang.