When Chicago Fell Over By Matthew C. Douglas

July 25, 2016 Comments Off on When Chicago Fell Over By Matthew C. Douglas

When Chicago fell over, there was a long stretch of silence. El trains with no tracks to grind, desolation muted cab horns and bus brakes. In Loop offices and eateries, conversations turned to stone or were smothered by it. The business of business stopped.

But then a thousand Gold Coast toy dogs squealed under the weight of Grecian marble shards, and things started moving again. Downtown, dazed survivors with stiff Midwest upper lips crawled from underneath piles of brick. Rats joined them. A street preacher climbed to the top of the ruins of a popular cathedral and insisted, through the shrill feedback of a cheap speaker, that he’d warned us this would happen. He scattered handfuls of pamphlets down below. Grateful, people used them to dab their missing limbs.

As the last of the debris settled, The Bean wobbled along the remnants of Michigan Avenue like a giant drunken cashew. It crushed a bewildered family of Iowans who, trying in vain to interpret a map with no landmarks to orient them, hadn’t been paying attention.

On nearby Dearborn Street, professional women hastily made up their scorched faces, sputtering blood bubbles through bouts of vocal fry. Twenty-something bankers, mostly dying, moaned about microbrews and Michigan football statistics. One of them struggled to Instagram a photo of the street sign jutting from his abdomen, but networks were down, and he couldn’t find his breath. A  cyclist, with a badly singed beard, shouted at him to get out of the bike lane.

Meanwhile, the still-ambulatory shifted their focus to survivors stuck in the smoldering rubble. A large group of arts-school students roamed the oblivion, chanting energetically that Buried Lives Matter, while  a cohort of responsibly concerned psychotherapists called down to survivors, wailing in agony under smoldering asphalt, to acknowledge that they must be having a very difficult time and to encourage them to keep sharing. Nearby, a vagrant pulled a woman to safety. She pressed a low-calorie dessert bar into his palm and swore that’s all she had.

Others weren’t so lucky. A lawyer near Daley Plaza was severed at the waist. When he looked down toward his feet, he strenuously objected, and pleaded with God to set his death over to a future date.

On State Street, itinerant junkies all started to kick at the same time. They squatted in foxhole prayer and shit themselves. The fetid goop oozed toward Wabash Avenue and drowned a trapped Lithuanian jeweler who’d been searching for a better life.

Near City Hall, a group of engineers with identical bald spots surveyed the damage. They crouched over a broken cinder block and debated how best to piece it back together. The damage on the South Side was unknown. They hadn’t thought to check.

I wandered, at once aimless and deliberate. I met an Asian monk who bowed and handed me a gold amulet. We prayed briefly and uncomfortably. He clasped my hand and implored me to donate ten dollars. I gave him two and swore that’s all I had.

© 2016 Matthew C. Douglas

Matthew C. Douglas graduated with a B.A. from Florida State University’s Creative Writing program. He lives in vibrant and/or disastrously inclement downtown Chicago, Illinois, where he practices criminal and civil litigation and teaches undergraduate courses in law. He can be found online at www.matthewcdouglas.com


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