Did you hear the news yesterday? Did you read about the latest trends in financial crises? Did you hear the news the day before yesterday? Did you learn about children using technology more sexually? Or about the tense negotiations about the price of money?
Let’s be blunt. You spent five minutes, or thirty minutes, or perhaps only ten second learning about industrial nocturnal emissions, about short selling votes, or about das capital punishment. While doing dishes, you turned on NPR. When fortifying yourself for another hour of desk work, you skimmed the New York Times. Let’s ask the unasked question: why? What is different in the world today, because you heard the news yesterday? What has ever changed in the world because of your knowing more about it? Let me answer this for you. Nothing.
Certainly, you could argue, there’ve been small changes. The biggest one? The one you can immediately observe? Depression, yours. Distraction, you at work. Apprehension, constant — about large things that change too quickly, or about diffuse things that cannot be changed.
You are wasting the great cycles of your mind. Preoccupation with manufactured powerlessness has made you unhappy. But there’s a cure for this. And that cure is Stupidism.
Who is most happy? A person who, on hearing information, can act to rectify wrongs or prolong righteousness. And what’s the opposite of the news? Art. Therefore, the most meaningful art addresses a place that you can change immediately, with the powers of a feudal lord. Yes, my friends, consider restaurants. The specials are reported, and you make a choice. You have the powers of edict, be it food allergies or mere distaste for, perhaps, cilantro. It is as if by will alone that a pepper grinder becomes manifests and seasons your food. The dessert menu arrives like a late-breaking bulletin. You choose what you want. At the end of a meal, your thoughts have been about what you can control, and nothing else. This is Stupidism. This is happiness. Join me, and we will photograph our food, which has been subjected to advanced foaming technology, and we will photograph our lattes, which have been decorated with foam leaves, and we will eat and drink our foams. We will write great exegeses from the plate, memoirs of snacking. This is the highest art, because it is art of the tangible, art of the changeable, art of the stupidly present.
Stupidism doesn’t end at eating out. Another terrain of total domination is my sofa, and whether I’m seated or lying back. We will sketch, with charcoal on drafting paper, our physical inclinations. What station my television is set to, and what six or seven or perhaps twenty tabs are open on my web browser — these are entirely under my control. We will write sestinas about web surfing and compose sonnets of ass scratching. We will consider living rooms the same way transcendentalists looked upon nature. All we describe will be within our control. All art will make you think of yourself as more powerful.
We are in charge. We will be in total awe of ourselves so long as the little things comprise our art. Because nobody, not even the rain, says how I put things in my mouth or sit on my ass. Stupidism — we savor like champs.
We’ve got work to do, with a daylong festival in Nashville on Saturday, a drive to Chicago on Sunday for readings Monday and Tuesday evening at Quimby’s and Hungry Brain, respectively, then back Wednesday. It’s all in the name of celebration of 10 and more years of writing published in these halls, which makes it sweet indeed. Below is a listing of the events upcoming, with links to
more information for those interested. Hope to see you out at one.
And here’s a picture from All Hands On‘s first Chicago date this past Monday — with featured writers Lauren Pretnar, Heather Palmer and Mike Zapata at Katerina’s on Irving Park Road. Jacob Knabb snapped it, of Zapata wearing a most apropos t-shirt for a T2H event, I’d say. Apes unite!
NASHVILLE: Saturday, Oct. 1, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.: Handmade and Bound Zine Festival, Watkins College of Art & Design, 2298 Rosa L. Parks Blvd., Nashville, TN. THE2NDHAND will be tabling with the new book and a new broadsheet and editor Todd Dills will be giving a workshop tour through THE2NDHAND’s history in a practical, conception-to-nuts-and-bolts-type program titled “Toward a self-sufficient, long-lived zine”, 12:30 in room 503: http://handmadeboundnashville.com
CHICAGO: Monday, Oct. 3, 7 p.m.: All Hands On released at Quimby’s Books, 1854 W. North Ave., Chicago, featuring AHO contributors Jonathan Messinger (Time Out books editor, Featherproof publisher, Hiding Out author), Jill Summers and Kate Duva, as well as THE2NDHAND editor Todd Dills: http://the2ndhand.com/THE2NDHANDTXT/all-hands-on-launched-at-quimbys-oct-3/
CHICAGO: Tuesday, Oct. 4, 8:30 p.m.: All Hands On @ So You Think You Have Nerves of Steel?, THE2NDHAND’s monthly variety show at Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, Chicago. This month’s installment brings together longtime THE2NDHANDers with new faces, featuring AHO contributors Joe Meno (The Great Perhaps, Hairstyles of the Damned), Rob Funderburk (visual artist/designer, formerly THE2NDHAND’s design man), THE2NDHAND coeditor C.T. Ballentine, editor Todd Dills, Fred Sasaki and Marc Baez. Also featuring Chicago writer Matt Pine, music by Young Coconut, and Nerves host Harold Ray: http://the2ndhand.com/THE2NDHANDTXT/nerves-of-steels-special-all-hands-on-edition-tuesday-oct-4/
King is an Army veteran, visual artist and creative writer. His poems have appeared in Number One, The Chiron Review, and other publications. He enjoys sports, the outdoors and almost anything associated with the arts in and around Nashville.
The Army is usually a man’s plan B or C or D — that’s the first thing I learned through military service.
I believe Michael Stewart to be a model example of the caliber of person who matriculates there: A habitual liar to a poetic extent, Stewart was supposedly a starting tailback at a Texas college and he also played baseball in the minor leagues. These were a couple of his lesser fibs. He was 5-foot-6, about 125 pounds, and he resembled a leprechaun both in voice and persona — not exactly a vision of athletic domination, needless to say. For any fool who believed a single word he had to say, the Army was definitely Stewart’s plan B, as a blown-out kneecap had ended his journey to NFL stardom and The Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Yet the Army was thrilled by his busted kneecap, and they jumped at the chance to acquire his services: Therein lies the eternal rub, even one the great Stewart could not wholly explain.
I hated his guts when I first met him — mildly insane and completely annoying as he was — but one day I saw him in a different light. He was fairly drunk and in a truth-telling mood and finally confessed that he was merely a loser — 25 in the Army was a “loser” to him, and I was shocked to have witnessed the truth behind his lies: deep-down he possessed the spirit of greatness. He wanted more but did not know exactly where greatness could be found, or the form in which it may reside within himself.
I tried to console him, to assure him that he wasn’t a loser, but he would have none of it: He was certain of his plight. He was also certain he was going to hell for his lies, and I saw a man broken, beaten down by life. I was a dopey nineteen-year-old who harbored his own illusion of greatness, and I felt horrible for Stewart and what he believed.
Yet the very next day he was bouncing from the walls — Stewart had returned from the precipice of hell just as brazen as ever, and I learned to accept him for who he was. We even became half-ass friends or something of the like.
I inherited that same bravado, an alcohol problem, and a tangible madness from Stewart and the U.S. Army. He’s lost somewhere in Texas combing the deserts on LSD or just whacked on Guinness — spinning grandiose tales in suicide taverns to the half-ass cowboys and the haggard drifters. They’ll consume his bait fucking hook-line-and-sinker. Michael Stewart, now 41, could put Twain to shame as far as timeless yarns.
Chicago writer Woods co-edits Red Lightbulbs alongside his wife, Meghan Lamb, and has published poetry in New Wave Vomit and Dinosaur Bees. He has an ebook, With Swords, forthcoming from Pangur Ban Party. A combined version of the three poems below ran in Hip Hip Hooray here.
A thousand nails
My exoskeleton of silliness is
like one thousand and five
nails on five hundred and
I want to drink sand and take
pebbles like pills and stick
hairs from the shower drain
between my teeth (like floss)
and leave them there (not
I am so excited about dogs
Hold on I need to check my
hair to make sure it’s messy.
Okay. It’s messy.
It is your job to shoo birds
away from diners’ lunches. It
is also your job to read from
Leaves of Grass in a Homestar
Runner voice. It’s okay, it’s
okay. Let’s go look at some
Though we be in the business of the creation of new things, it’s old-home-place week at So You Think You Have Nerves of Steel? Oct. 4 at Hungry Brain, with THE2NDHAND editor Todd Dills, former design man and janitor emeritus Rob Funderburk, writer Joe Meno and a cast of sundry others on hand for a run through the past, present and future. Harold Ray, as always, plays hosts to this reunion of the Chicago Stupidists. Prepare to be browbeaten by Stupidist Manifestos, live art, maybe some ukulele and exquisite storytelling, no doubt, as we celebrate the release of All Hands On: THE2NDHAND After 10.
Here’s the digs:
Live viz-art by Rob Funderburk, former THE2NDHAND illustrator and design man, known for murals, interior performance spaces, paintings, and more, Funderburk’s illustrations are featured in All Hands On.
Master swordsman Joe Meno (depicted here in an illustration by Rob Funderburk featured in All Hands On), author most recently of the novel The Great Perhaps. (And also: Hairstyles of the Damned, The Boy Detective Fails, a few different short story collections as well as stories going back to THE2NDHAND’s third issue.)
T2H coeditor C.T. Ballentine (featured also in All Hands On) with his band Young Coconut.
And T2H editor Todd Dills up from Nashville to perform with a crew of T2H writers including Balletine, Matt Pine and others. Leather may be involved. Perhaps pink bandanas.
All Hands On contributors Marc Baez and Nerves alumnus Fred Sasaki round out the blowout.
ALL HANDS ON @ So You Think You Have Nerves of Steel?, Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, Chicago — Tuesday, Oct. 4, 8 p.m.
THE2NDHAND began its life in the year 2000 as an 11-by-17-inch block of black text on white paper peppered variously with photo-illustrations, comics, line drawings and distributed in storefronts first in Chicago, then in an ever-growing list of cities around the U.S. New writing, simply, has been its focus since editor and publisher Todd Dills (author of the novel Sons of the Rapture) founded it—a small format its physicality, but a loud mouth and a big heart its most important parts. And without Quimby’s bookstore in Chicago (1854 W. North Ave.), where we began hosting readings shortly after we launched, we would never have built the community of writers and readers we now enjoy.
We return to Quimby’s with our new 10th-anniversary collection, All Hands On: THE2NDHAND after 10, on Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. with an all-star cast (all contributors with special sections in the collection) joining Todd Dills, up from Nashville, for the program. Details follow (all illustrations here by Martin Cadieux):
All Hands On @ Quimby’s Book, 1854 W. North Ave., Chicago, 7 p.m. Oct. 3.
Jill Summers‘ work has been featured on National Public Radio and in Stop Smiling, Ninth Letter, Make and others, including THE2NDHAND. Find more in her special section in All Hands On.
Jonathan Messinger is one of the driving forces behind Chicago-based Featherproof Books. A prolific short-story writer in his own right, his first collection, Hiding Out, was released in 2007. Messinger you’ll also know as Time Out Chicago‘s books editor.
Kate Duva grew up in Chicago in a bar; she still lives in the city. Outside the pages of All Hands On, her work can be found at, among other spots, her blog.
Todd Dills plays host for the night, joining the others in a collaborative effort at its nadir, part of THE2NDHAND’s ongoing Pitchfork Battalion series of collabos, also featured in All Hands On. Today, Dills lives in Nashville, Tenn., with his wife and daughter. He is the author of a novel, Sons of the Rapture, and edited All Hands On‘s predecessor collection in 2004.
Andrew Battershill is the co-editor of Dragnet Magazine, a quarterly publication of short fiction. He lives in Toronto.
Fungible Smith never did find the perfect moment to ask her parents about her name. In this way she was fortunate because, whatever reasons her parents may have had for naming her as they did, it is almost impossible that their reasons were as varied, charitable, or whimsical as the ones Fungible imagined over the course of her long and varied youth.
After a hard day of work tagging frogs in Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, our hero called her friend James on the way back to her vehicle and, after a couple of non-starts, Betty rumbled to life. Betty was a 20-year-old pickup that Fungible had bought for $435 on Craigslist. The truck was a faded red, its paint bubbled up with rust. It had no internal heating whatsoever, but Fungible loved the car, in part because Betty’s constant overachievements, like starting on cold days, reinforced her good feelings.
As she slowly made her way toward James’ house, our hero smoked a king-size Player’s out the window and mentally re-checked the fact that she was not a cynical person. Several of Fungible’s close friends had recently been taken in by a particularly obnoxious strain of doomsday prophecy and historical revisionism. When Fungible disagreed with their certainty about aliens having built the pyramids and a dark Cabal of (mostly) Jewish people running all the world’s affairs, she had tried to communicate to her friends that it was (mostly) the strength of their certainty that troubled her. Her friends had not understood what she was saying, and by the end of the conversation had all decided that she was just too cynical to believe their truths. She had dropped the issue, but had been deeply troubled by their use of “the c word” for several days after. As she passed the “Welcome to Medicine Hat!” sign the correct response occurred to her, and she told it to the open road in front of her, waving her cigarette in a sinuous pattern that corresponded with the dips and rises in her tone:
“I’m not cynical. Let’s get that clear. I am not a cynic, I believe in complexity. I believe that the world is a beautiful, challenging, wonderful place, and to think that you have, or need, anything more than a guess about how or why things are the way they are is just disrespectful. It’s disrespectful to the confusing things that make life worthwhile. So don’t call me a fucking cynic because I don’t believe something you read on a forum, when you’re the one talking about aliens and Armageddon, and I’m the one talking about how nice it is to sleep in freshly washed sheets, and how pretty the trees are.” She paused and took a long drag. “Motherfuckers.” She laughed into her softening filter and flicked it out the window. She patted Bumpy, her stuffed elephant purse, twice on the head, and then rubbed his stomach before using the lighter, which was attached to her bag with a tiny retractable cord, to start another cigarette.
Cypress Hills was the home of North America’s largest dark sky preserve, no artificial lights were permitted in the area. And almost every night after work Fungible would drive into town, pick up a friend, head right back to the preserve and smoke perfectly rolled joints under the dark, glittering sky.
They were re-paving the highway into town, and a thin layer of dirt floating up from the gravel was always in the air. As Fungible rolled cautiously by she saw Karen, a girl she had known but not spoken to in high school, walking along the road and pulling marked pieces of rebar out of the ground before the paving machine came by. Karen pulled as hard as she could on one rebar, and it didn’t move. She lost her grip and fell down, and when she hit the ground her helmet flew off, her bangs fell into her eyes and she started laughing. And then, without moving any other part of her body, she blew upward and got the hair out of her eyes.
Fungible didn’t own anything that she considered replaceable. Her room was filled with garage-sale trunks and hard-sided suitcases, each suitcase stuffed with artisanal crafts, clothes, and other objects that reminded her of someone or something. To her, every object represented its own unique set of memories and people, and each suitcase represented its own cobbled-together universe, memories grouped together as living creatures are grouped together: randomly and with a deep, unspecific care. Even the stuffed animal purses she switched between were not interchangeable. They were carefully chosen observers of different distinct eras of her life.
Although she’d only been using Bumpy for a week, tufts of his fur were already congealed in hard clumps along his side. But Bumpy was an exceptionally reliable stuffed animal purse, he had an incredible amount of storage space, and his trunk curved upwards and slightly to the side in a way that Fungible found endearing.
By the time she arrived at James’ house she felt calm and glad to be spending the evening with, by far, her most relaxed friend. When she pulled up he was pacing, happily, and inspecting his apartment building’s plants. He saw her and, as if it was part of his pacing plan, shifted his direction toward her car, his limbs hanging customarily loosely. He struggled with the door for a second before getting in the car with the sheepish, contented grin with which Fungible had become familiar.
“Hi!” He reached over to hug her and Fungible stopped him with a straight arm and leaned back to her window.
“No hug unless you finished your painting.”
James’ smile grew slightly wider as he dropped his head to his chest. “Umm, I’ve thought about it, but, uh, yeah. Not done.”
Fungible cocked her head to the side, to look him in the eyes. “You remember what this means? What you asked me to do?”
His smile reached full capacity. “I remember.”
“Are you ready?”
He raised his head and turned to face her, spreading his hands down to his sides. Fungible wound up and slapped him with an open hand across the face, and immediately afterward dove into a warm, firm hug. She pulled back and rested against her window again and watched in the streetlamp light as a slight pink flush went through his right cheek. James paused, looking at the floor for a few seconds, before he looked back at her.
“Wow, that was nice. I might not ever finish this painting, if I have that sort of cheap thrill to look forward to every week.”
Fungible laughed, put the key in the ignition, and started Betty. “You be careful smart-ass, or I’ll pink your other cheek.”
“I’m always careful.” He shifted in his seat, as Fungible shifted Betty’s only partially willing gears. James rolled down his window and poked his head out, looking at the stretching land beyond the roof of the car. He swung back in, with both cheeks appropriately flushed. This was one of Fungible’s favorite things about James, his cheeks flushed reliably at the perfect moments, which she took as evidence of genuine feeling. He ran a hand through his hair. “Now let’s go look at some STARS!”
Although Fungible had a very slight frame, and was about five foot four, she had an uncommonly rugged quality about her. She wore vintage dresses on most days, but would not hesitate to hike them up aggressively and climb a rock, or pull them up and pee behind a dumpster. She was in the habit of spitting strong, tightly packed balls of phlegm into the air. Her hair changed colour about once a month, and was at this time a gentle, faded green. She was not a vain woman, but was intensely proud of her calves, and would take any opportunity to point her toes and highlight the strong, curving line of her muscle, or to rest their sturdy sinew in someone’s lap.
She pushed Bumpy towards James. “Hey, get Snowflake ready.”
James took the elephant and started rummaging through it’s back. He removed her pipe case and bent-up pot-tin and started hand picking a bud into the bowl. Snowflake was a pipe Fungible had bought at an Arts Fair. It had a brown, dotted body, but the very top was white and sparkling.
James began to shake his head slowly. “I’m still pissed you didn’t take my name for this pipe, it was perfect.”
“What was that again?”
“Old Man with a Bowl Cut. Perfect fucking name, I’m telling you.”
Fungible laughed. “Well, Snowflake is a nicer sounding, and less long, name. Plus the fun I get in seeing you get mad every time we use that pipe is way better than the five chuckles I would probably get out of naming my beautiful glass-work Old Man with a Bowl Cut.”
James nodded his head from side to side. “Fairsies.”
As they got into the preserve light gradually disappeared. She turned off her headlights, and drove her car, illegally, into the empty park. The stars and moon were fairly bright, and the two friends were close enough together that their movements and facial expressions were still clear to one another, but it was impossible to make out their own feet under the dash. Fungible drove directly to her favorite part of the reserve, an area below a tall layered cliff that was sheltered from the wind but still allowed a perfect view of the sky.
Our hero tried to swing out her window and into the bed of her truck in one smooth motion, and on the way she hit her head against the outside of the window. She settled in beside James in the bed of the truck.
“I remembered a funny story just now. I hit my head and it reminded me.”
“Is your head OK?”
“Yes, yes, but so not the point. So, anyways, I got this text from a guy I knew from work inviting me to a party at his place. So I decided to go and I went at like eleven, because I thought it would be a house-party type deal.” She wagged her eyebrows. “But I got there and it turned out that that it was more of a gathering than a party. Annnnd obviously not such a good gathering because everybody was gone by the time I got there, so it was just me and this guy in his house, and whatever. So, he offers me a Coke and I drink it and then I get up to go and he gets all nervous. He’s like: ‘Can I have a kiss?” And I’m like: ‘fuck no, buddy,’ then he leans in and I pull back and hit my head on this weird stickyouty statue and he says: ‘Are you serious?’ So I just peaced the scene and then halfway home I realize I’ve forgotten my cell phone in the hallway. So I have to go back. I show up, and he opens the front door, and… Oh James” — she reached over and grabbed him, rolling her face into his shoulder — “you should have seen the look on this guy’s face. He really, truly, looked like he thought he was getting laid, like there was no way I could resist his question and lean technique. And I could see my phone, and I, gingerly is the perfect word, I gingerly step around him and pick up my phone, and back out without saying anything.”
“Well, after that I went home and knitted until like 3:30 in the morning.”
“That is not something that should happen to anyone over 15, and even then.”
“Dude, he was 35.”
They both started laughing, and James began tapping Fungible’s shoulder with an open hand. “No more, no more. I can’t even hear shit like that, it just kills me.”
They sat up, resting their backs against the cab of the truck, and looked up as they casually passed Snowflake back and forth. There were no clouds in the sky, but if there had been Fungible would not have begrudged them.
They sat in this manner for about an hour, smoking several bowls and talking about things they had noticed or thought about since the last time they saw each other. Afterward they both lay down flat in the bed of the truck and looked up. Fungible thought it was important to think about the world that was spinning underneath her as she looked up. She did not think about aliens, or astronauts, or the pyramids. After several minutes of silence James leaned over and kissed the top of her head, and they looked each other in the eyes for a beat, before he rolled back over and stretched his arms to their full length in front of him. Fungible looked over and laughed. She poked him once in the ribs and then raised her legs straight out. Her patterned polyester summer dress dropped down, exposing her whole legs and her conservatively proportioned tie-dyed underwear. She felt the summer’s cool night air against the back of her thighs, and then she lowered her legs and James lowered his arms. Fungible felt his arms bump against the metal of the truck as he brought them to rest behind his head. She reached down, straightened and smoothed her dress and took a long, slow breath.
A few days later she bought a small, pink snake, and named him Snakey.
He could not remember if he already took his pills. So, for fear of overdosing, he abstained. This process repeated itself until he never took a pill because he was afraid that he had already taken it and this is how his life ended, confused and fearful of both over- and under-indulging.
We’re happy to announce that All Hands On contributors Lauren Pretnar, Heather Palmer and Michael Zapata will join novelist Brigid Pasulka for an event of the Chicago Sunday Salon series on, well, a Monday. Details follow in the press release, but a big thanks goes out to the organizers for keeping this series going. Pick up a copy of the book there, or order here.
Event Moves to Monday this Month
In its ongoing efforts to showcase outstanding local literary organizations and publications as well as writers, Sunday Salon Chicago dedicates September’s reading to THE2NDHAND, a Chicago/Nashville literary magazine. Three writers featured in All Hands On: THE2NDHAND After 10, will read at this month’s event: Heather Palmer, Lauren Pretnar and Michael Zapata. And, to celebrate the return of school here in Chicago, novelist and Whitney Young teacher Brigid Pasulka will also read.
Sunday Salon Chicago is a monthly literary reading series featuring local and national authors.
When: Monday, Sept. 26, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Katerina’s, 1920 W. Irving Park Rd.
Heather Palmer, author of Complements, Of Us and contributor to THE2NDHAND.
Lauren Pretnar, contributor to THE2NDHAND.
Michael Zapata, co-founder, MAKE magazine, editor at ANTIBOOKCLUB and contributor to THE2NDHAND.
Brigid Pasulka, author of A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True.
For more information, visit http://www.sundaysalon.com/chicago-salon.
Founded in Chicago in the year 2000, THE2NDHAND’s literary broadsheet and online magazine has been in the business of publishing fiction writing in various forms since the year 2000. This year, THE2NDHAND celebrates its first decade in existence with the publication of All Hands On: THE2NDHAND After 10, a reader including a large amount of unpublished work as well as previously published writing.
Chicago-based Heather Palmer (illustrated here by Rob Funderburk) is the author of Complements, Of Us, out in 2011 from Spork Press; her work has been published in a variety of magazines. In 2010 THE2NDHAND serialized her novella “Charlie’s Train” at THE2NDHAND.com, parts of which were excerpted in All Hands On.
Lauren Pretnar, who first contributed to THE2NDHAND in 2007, lives with her family in Chicago, where she remains hard at work on a book-length domestic horror. Past work in the Chicago arts community includes extensive experience in theater.
Michael Zapata is a writer and educator living in Chicago. He is a co-founder of MAKE: A Chicago Literary Magazine and works as an editor for ANTIBOOKCLUB. He is also a 2008 Illinois Arts Council Fellowship recipient for prose. Currently, he has been nominated for a Puschart Prize and is working on a novel entitled Children of Orleans.
The descendant of Polish immigrants, Brigid Pasulka spent most of her childhood in a farming township in Northern Illinois, population 500. In 1994 at the age of 22, she arrived in Krakow with no place to stay, no job, no contacts and no knowledge of the language. She quickly fell in love with the place, learned Polish, and decided to live there for one year. Brigid is still a frequent visitor to Krakow; she has also worked, studied or volunteered in Italy, Germany, Russia, England and Ukraine. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College, the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago (MA) and currently teaches at Whitney Young Magnet High School in the Chicago Public Schools. A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True is her first novel. It won the 2010 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award and was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection.
Find Chicago writer Pine’s second story for THE2NDHAND below. For more of his work, visit his site.
He’d be dead before lunch, if the mark showed up. But there were all sorts of cops in the Loop: on bicycles, on dune buggies, in squad cars, on horses, on Segways — a clash of transportation eras, downtown, at least when cops were involved. The mark was late.
The sun fell between buildings in milky strands and the air was cool, which gave the day an autumnal feel, although this happened in early spring. He wore sunglasses, a windbreaker, and carried a folded Redeye. He paced, trying to look like he wasn’t pacing. Intermittently, he took pictures on a disposable camera of the buildings he thought might appeal to tourists. The camera was out of film, but he continued to raise it to his eye, align the viewfinder with glass window grids, and press the button.
He was looking for three officers traveling on foot, two men and a woman, career friends to all appearances. Most days they walked out of the pedway beside the cultural center, laughing, twirling billy clubs, walking three abreast and entirely dominating the sidewalk. If he’d done any more planning, he’d have learned the cops’ names — or maybe he wouldn’t have, because that’d’ve meant getting close enough to read their nametags, and they might’ve read the look in his eyes, and that’d’ve spoiled everything.
But he knew their routine — hopefully that was enough — how nearly every day for lunch they cut over to Jewelers Row on Wabash, beneath the El tracks. One by one, they filled the doorway of a diamond shop, where in the back the owner maintained a falafel counter. Many times he’d watched them order three lentil soups, three chicken shawarmas, and three cans of Diet Pepsi. The male cops were white, with matching push-broom mustaches and large guts that squeezed from their bulletproof vests like frosting from Double Stuff Oreos. The female cop was also white, with a lesser gut and a fainter mustache. Most days, they took lunch between 12:45 and 1:30. But then some days they never came, and he didn’t know why, and there was no pattern to it. It was 1:35. Most days, they came.
He waited, and for a change, he was lucky. Real lucky, because just as the three cops came out of the Pedway, huffing from the double flight of stairs, a Brown Line train approached overhead going north, and a Green Line train looped overhead going south. This was too perfect! This was great luck! he thought, as he threw away the sunglasses and disposable camera. He took an X-Acto knife from his pocket and slipped off the safety cap. He crouched beside the door to the diamond shop.