Springsteen’s “Thunder Road was playing from the window of a car somewhere. Jack was sitting on a bench in a small doggie park along Dearborn, resting his head in his hands. A memory trapped him of a cross-country drive one summer with Eva before Jeffrey was born. It seemed a thousand years ago.
…Throw roses in the rain
Waste your summer praying in vain
For a saviour to rise from these streets
Well now I’m no hero
All the redemption I can offer girl
Is beneath this dirty hood
With a chance to make it good somehow
Hey what else can we do now ?
Except roll down the window
And let the wind blow
Back your hair
Well the night’s busting open
These two lanes will take us anywhere
We got one last chance to make it real
To trade in these wings on some wheels…
It led him to thoughts he’d prefer not to torture himself with. He shook them away and stood to stretch the aches and knots from his body. There was just a hint of the chill reluctant to surrender its hold on the city. The sky was a field of unblemished blue. Trees were in full spring hues of bright and deepening shades of green, the leaves fattening earlier than usual thanks to a spate of unusual March warmth. The breeze was soft from the south. The day was barely an hour old.
Jack had hardly slept at all. What there was came as moments of absolute exhaustion to his weary and demoralized body and spirit. He’d spent part of the night on the Blue Line train before conceding to a spot on the floor at Grace Church on south Dearborn Street. Father Ted, who sheparded the place was a friend to Occupy and welcomed him without reservation, apparently not having heard what had happened at the GA a few days earlier. Tall with intense and whimsical eyes, Father Ted in dress shirts and khakis more had the appearance of a high school Phys Ed teacher than a minister.
He walked a few blocks to the McDonald’s at Franklin and Jackson for a cup of coffee. Someone had left a Sun Times on a table. Jack scooped it up, went into the restroom and changed into a Blue Cubs Tee shirt and baseball cap before heading to the river where he could more or less hide out until he figured out a way to sort through all of this.
After leaving the train the day before, Jack withdrew a hundred and twenty dollars from a nearby ATM. That and the eighteen and change he’d left the house with would have to do until, well, it would just have to do. He didn’t dare take anymore, as Eva and Jeffrey would need every cent. That done, he ditched his jacket and hat, broke up his ID and credit cards and stuffed them down a sewer hole.
At a Salvation Army store in the West Loop, Jack spent twenty-seven bucks plus tax for a black jacket, wool cap and gloves, a backpack and Cubs gear which he could use to blend in with the waves of tourists visiting the city.
The heavy police presence was growing daily in the loop He was just crossing Franklin when three police cruisers came racing down Jackson from the river with sirens screaming. Jack turned and started back up Jackson, his heart racing. Even as he cursed himself for panicking and looking only too obvious, his body seemed oblivious to those curses. He went quickly, almost at a trot, sweating bullets.
The roar of the police cruiser’s engines, the heart ripping cry of the sirens nearly compelled him to run. There was an alley up ahead. He thought better of turning down it for fear of being cornered. Now nearly on top of him, Jack realized he had nowhere to go. He stopped and turned as the cruisers ground to a stop at the curb, and nearly a dozen officers in riot gear spilled out, each drawing batons. One of them nearly collided with Jack. Their eyes met through the officer’s protective face shield.
“Gonna get run over if you don’t get out of the way, friend,” said the cop in a friendly but unequivical way. There were shouts up the street as a protest by Metra Union employees grew loud and boisterous, and defiant along Wells beneath the El tracks.
“Yeah, no problem,” said Jack, turning back down Jackson, making straight for the river.
At the river he skimmed an article about the $2 billion loss at the nation’s biggest back, JP Morgan. The bank and its CEO ,Jamie Dimond, was smug, spinning it as if it wasn’t catastrophic, adding they would likely show another $800 million loss for the coming quarter. It was derivatives that were behind the economic collapse of 2008. Derivatives, an innocuous term describing how the capitalists had sold risk on real things like mortgages, then sold risk on top of risk on top of risk. When that illusion of wealth evaporated, as illusions do, those behind the schemes left taxpayers to pay. As jack read the story he found it curious how republicans complained about the debt and the Fed printing money, but never once indicted or accused capitalists of simply inventing financial schemes for which there never was any currency backing it, nor could there ever have been enough printed to cover that amount of fraud. But no one went to jail for all of that back in 2008. No one lost their fortunes, none of the truly wealthy anyway. The taxpayers covered their losses.
Jack couldn’t take any more of the story. It made him think of the movement, and how he longed to be among them, lending his incredulity and outrage to the crimes being perpetrated by the elite, powerful and 1%.
Jack turned the next page and, to his shock, found he was staring at a picture of himself, well a younger self. The headline read:
Occupy Protester Sought in Possible NATO Summit Plot
It took a moment to realize what he was looking at, and for the first time since all this began found cause for hope. There were any number of recent photographs Eva could have given to the police. The picture was taken while they were in college. He was easily fifteen pounds heavier then, with long hair and goofy-looking mutton-chop sideburns. Jack knew her well enough that it wasn’t a mistake. She purposely led the police astray, only, as he sat there by the river, the racket of construction along Wacker, Jack couldn’t know that Eva was working on a plan of her own. There was that old saying about a woman scorned, but Eva was defending her family and out to save the man she loved with a determination not even she knew she possessed.
Eight days until the summit and protest. Events and lives were on an unstoppable collision course. The only question remained how it would end; with the wicked brought to justice and the innocent redeemed, or in blood.