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What Town? What City?
By J. Ray Paradiso
*Editor's Note: Originally published at Dime Show Review.
I was standing in a car. A car on a train. A train like Metra’s North Line to Kenosha. And the train was outta control. Like a Mexican jUmPiNg bean. Moving faster, then s…l…o…w…e…r, then faster. Every-which-way.
Suddenly, both car doors ope--ned. While the train was still m-o-v-i-n-g. So I clutched a pole. Playing Jack to the beanstalk in an English fairy tale. As the train jErKeD outta the city. Farther… and… farther… and farther. Into deep-shit space.
I screamed, “HELP!” to two passengers. In the car in front of me. But they couldn’t hear me. As if their ears were plugged with Walgreens’ cotton balls. Or they were deaf like Beethoven. Or dumb as Mississippi mud.
When the train slowed, I saw a passenger leap to the platform. Starboard. So I followed.
I searched for place-telling signs. Like East Bank Club, West Loop and North Avenue. But all were generic. Like drug store, restaurant and COLD BEER.
Walking through a tunnel, I saw cool graffiti. Like pieces by Bansky. Or Nicky “Krylon” Procaccini. My subversive college roommate from Provo, Utah. Which I thought about photographing. Imitating Ansel Adams. Or Annie Liebovitz. Or SONY sightseers on the Magnificent Mile. But didn’t. To save my iPhone’s power.
Two people walked toward me as scary as Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula. From Transylvania and a descendant of Attila the Hun. If you believe him. One looked like a William Penn-Quaker. The other like a Krushchev-KGB agent.
I asked the Quaker, “What town is this?”
She just stared at me. Like I was a tourist from Poughkeepsie. Or an alien speaking Urdu.
So I asked, “What city?”
But she sleep-walked away. Like Bela Lugosi. On morphine. In a low-budget, Ed Wood movie.
I asked the agent the same questions. But he only spoke Pусский.
So I tapped Maps on my cell. But it was dead. As a clichéd door nail. And the sea in the Jordan Rift Valley.
All local businesses were CLOSED. Except one. Which looked like an art barn I visited in Nowhere, Oklahoma. 14 miles northwest of Anadarko. Its owners glared at me. Coldly. Like the neurotic farmer and his daughter in Grant Wood’s American Gothic at Chicago’s Art Institute.
“Where’s the nearest public phone?” I asked.
Farmer-man didn’t reply. But pitchforked me around the corner. To a rickety-oak, Bell System phone booth. With a rotary pay phone.
I had enough ca$h to make a call. Luckily. But the phone was OUT OF ORDER.
Farmer-daughter, dressed in a colonial print apron, recommended her hair stylist. From Angie’s List. Who came right over. But couldn’t fix it. Cuz his tools were calibrated in a foreign language. Metric.
“I took an Advil, fell asleep and my back feels better.”
“The bad news is, I had a nightmare.”
“What was it?”
“I was standing in a car. A car on a train. A train like Metra’s North Line to Kenosha. And the train was outta control. Like a Mexican jumping bean.”
“Ah, sounds like control, about not being in control.”
“Are we leaving for the movie at 10:00?”
“I thought you said 10:00.”
“9:25. We’ll walk.”