A Quick Visit
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"What's Chicago?"

"I'll show ya."

And so the next day, they took a short walk from their squat house to the train stop. It was very empty.

"Is this Chicago?"


The train arrived at 12:48 PM, hissing and squealing. The old uncle and his tiny nephew boarded. The nephew wanted to ride on the upper level, so they climbed up and grabbed the two-person seat at the far end. The nephew stared out the window for the entire hour long trip, nearly pushing his cap off of his head. A few other passengers boarded on the way, but it wasn't a crowd.

Half-way there the nephew repeated the question, to which the uncle replied "I looked it up before we left. I'll know it when I see it, don'chu worry. It's old. So old even the people who live around it don't remember what Chicago is. At least a history teacher said that once. But I learned what it is. I'll keep an eye out for it." He scratched his rough face.

When the buildings started to creep onto the horizon, the nephew asked "Is that Chicago?"


The train stopped underneath a vast, wet concrete structure, open to the exposed are on the left hand side. It felt cold, although it was 70 degrees out.

The uncle held his nephew's hand and led him towards a set of doors at the end of the platform. Through the doors was a drastic change in atmosphere, the walls, floor, and columns composed of shiny browns, reds, oranges, the air conditioned to be a comfortable warm.

"Yup, here we are. Chicago," said the uncle.

The nephew in fact was staring back through the doors. He'd heard a fluttering, and saw a couple pigeons fly in from the outside, landing on the tracks.

"No, I don't think that's it," said the uncle, and he dragged his nephew away.

Up an escalator was a food court area. A few more pigeons strutted around like they owned the place. Bored workers hunched over the counters, at least in the areas that weren't completely empty. There appeared to be no one at the tables, but the nephew didn't have a chance to get a good look, as the two went straight towards the next escalator without stopping.

Outside were empty sidewalks and streets. The buildings suggested to the nephew that there should be a lot of people around. When he asked his uncle, he said "I don't think we're looking for people; we're looking for Chicago. Besides, it's not rush hour. Yes, that's right; I made sure we got here outside of rush hour."

As the nephew followed across a nearby bridge, he looked down towards the river. It appeared as an olive green. Was it filthy? Or was it the sunlight's fault? Hard to tell.

The uncle stopped abruptly. The nephew looked up, and when he saw his uncle nearly falling backwards, tilted his head even farther at the building in front of them.

"That is Chicago, I believe."

The building was in fact tall and shiny. Maybe "Chicago" was just another word for "shiny". However, the nephew turned around and saw a building that was equally shiny. He tugged at his uncle's coat, pointed, and asked "What about that?"

"Nah, I'm sure this is the one," replied the uncle.

After a few minutes of staring at the sun's reflection, the uncle held his nephew's hand again and continued in the same direction. At the next intersection, the uncle nearly jaywalked in front of a lone car. After a pause, he chuckled and said "Heh, sorry. Sun spots." The nephew's cap had mostly protected his eyes.

It was a much longer walk to the uncle's next stop. As they moved, the buildings went from tall and chrome to stout and red, like old bricks. A number of them held colorful murals, some unfinished. They passed under an elevated train track that almost looked abandoned. The nephew wondered if maybe any of these were Chicago, but it was all the exact opposite of shiny.

They finally turned left when the street went no further. They passed an important looking building with lions out front. Then they passed two very strange fountains with faces on them. Finally, they climbed a set of stairs and stopped in front of a large, silver bean. To the left was a single stranger. Yet more pigeons pecked at some of the crumbs that fell as he ate his hotdog.

"Yeah, this should also Chicago," said the uncle.

"Because it's shiny?"

"Huh? Eh, no, no. It just is Chicago, I guess."

Now the nephew was really confused.

"There were other things I saw called Chicago, but these three things were what was listed the most."

The nephew turned to the stranger, who's head was pointed slightly away from the bean. Slipping out of his uncle's hand, he approached and stood at the stranger's legs until he was noticed. The stranger, feeling like there was a mistake, his mouth full, said "I'm, um… waiting for someone."

"What's Chicago?"

The stranger swallowed, licked a bit of mustard off his lips. He eventually replied "I… don't know. Sorry. I keep hearing it's somewhere around here, but I've never had a reason to look for it. I've only seen buildings and… people, I guess. Not as many people as there used to be, but still, lots of people."

The nephew shrugged, a little disappointed, and went back to his uncle, who whispered "Eh, I wouldn't listen to that guy. I bet he can't even tell you what that hotdog's made out of." And he laughed a little.

It was approaching 4 PM when they started back. A few clouds were blocking the sun. The streets were starting to get a little busier. The nephew had resolved by then to keep an eye out. Maybe if he could independently pick out something that was "Chicago," it would all click.

So he observed. He observed someone leaving an old art store, taking his supplies down a nearby alley. He noticed people in the windows of the short apartment buildings. He heard a train rattle on the rusty yellow tracks, elevated above them. When they reached that bridge again, the water had shifted to a deep blue, and an approaching boat could be seen in the distance. At the food court, the cooks and cashiers were chatting with the few customers that had shown up. Approaching the 4:35 train, they by chance had their tickets checked by the same conductor, who recognized them and wished them a happy trip home.

The nephew wanted to sit on the lower level of the train car this time. It felt nice, to be only slightly closer to the people around them.

Halfway there, the nephew asked his uncle if he had visited Chicago before.

"Oh, today's the first time. I'll show ya some of the tourist sites I read when we get home."

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