People were calling it the Chicago Spring, reminiscent of the social assertions towards subjective comprehensions of freedom. Movements had swept across the middle East and northern Africa, some reasonably benign as in Egypt, others bloody as with Libya. There was an Islamic character to those movements. How could there not be? But at their core was an angst that the society no longer functioned for the individual, but favored dynasties, dictators and despots. It was dubbed the Arab Spring. Feeling a kinship, which many of those foreign revolutionaries acknowledged, Occupy Chicago began to describe the contempt for NATO becoming the enforcement wing for corporations, oil companies and arms dealers accepted the moniker with pride.
The historic significance of the Chicago Spring was yet to be determined. For the moment that significance teetered, where it might well be forgotten or recalled for generations. But given the fear anxiety and outright hostility it evoked from authorities, political parties, the media and the nation’s power elite, that significance was substantial already. The authorities continued their ruse of blaming the austere and archaic security measures by state, local, federal and international agencies on the protests, when, even at its largest and most boisterous Occupy protest the previous October the Chicago Police Department hardly assigned more than a hundred and fifty officers.
The rain moved off during the night, the sun coming out in earnest to warm and dry the streets.Still, Jack Murphy could not shake the cold that invaded his body overnight. He’d managed a cot at a night ministry on the south side, but they were fresh out of blankets. Even in all of his clothes, damp as they were. Jack shivered in an uneasy sleep through the night.
He sat up at the edge of the cot and groaned, working the soreness from his shoulders. He was thinking of Eva, and how he might explain any of this to her. He missed Jeffrey and could still recall the scent of his hair when he kissed him that last time.
His gaze was to the floor. Jack closed his eyes a moment, and when he opened them he was staring into a small Styrofoam cup of thin black coffee. The scent along, bitter and slightly burnt was enough almost to rouse him and return a bit of life to his body, if not his spirit.
Jack looked up into the face of a solidly built black fellow. His face was square and deeply carved by the years. He was smiling. Jack was quiet for a moment, lost in the beauty of the man’s merciful face.
“Go on, take it,” said the man. Jack took it in both hands, his fingers lingering of the man’s calloused ancient hands.
“I, uh…” is all Jack could muster.
“Seen you tossin’ and turnin’ all night. You was moanin’ like you were haunted. Mind if I sit?”
Before jack could answer the stranger was beside him. He stuck out a hand. It practically engulfed jacks.
“Name is Deacon. Ain’t seen you around here before.”
“Ain’t…I was never hear before.”
“Must be somethin’ bad brought you here.”
“Something,” Jack said savoring that first drink of hot coffee.
“Gets so after you been out here a while you can tell. ‘Sides, don’t see many white folks in here.”
Jack took another sip. “That’s awful.”
“The coffee? Its free.”
‘No, that you been out here that long.”
“I’m in and out, if you know what I mean. Seems that made this system so there ain’t no rehabilitation, no second chances, no redemption, like it says in the bible. Only a revolving door for folks like me.”
“Hell,” said Deacon, “now they got these privately owned prisons, and they signed contracts with the government that guarantees they stay full, you know, for profits and all. Ain’t that a peach! So, I stole a bottle of brandy a few years back. See, rich folks have a drinking problem they go to rehab, write a book and go on that ‘View.’ Poor folks, we go to jail.”
Jack nodded, listening intently. He was better than half way through the coffee already. Deacon continued.
“One day the guards tell us we’re going to work, making toasters and what-not for Target Stores. Fifty cents a day. No sick time, no vacations, no weekends, no maternity. If you refuse, that corporation running the place adds time to your sentence. They finally perfected slavery, you get me?”
Deacon stood and took the cup from Brian’s hand.
“I still have a little…”
“Another cup’ll do ya. Beside, get it while there’s some to get.”
Just then two police officers appeared at the front door. They strained to see. It was much lighter outside and their eyes hadn’t adjusted quite yet. Jack noticed them right away. It was a simple equation for Deacon to make. He turned blocking the cops line of sight to Jack. Jack looked up at the big man. Deacon’s expression was serious but calm.
“Somethin’ tells me I ought to be doin’ you a favor. So do what I say. You’re going to swing around to the other side of the cot and stand up. There’s a door at the back that leads to a lot. We’ll cut across . I know a place where you can catch your breath a bit.”
Jack did just a s he was told. He stood, his head light with fear, his legs moving but only grudgingly. They were almost to the door when the cops spotted them.
“Hold it!” one of them shouted, but Jack and Deacon were already pushing through the door and bounding down the steps from the ministry. They hit the ground running, sprinting across the lot and down an alley. The footsteps thundered in Jack’s head, the world confused and haphazard; a blur of fear and shadows that left Jack unable to say if they were being chased or not.
Deacon slammed through a rusty metal security door and into a musty dark all that smelled of piss and rot. Outside there seemed to be sirens everywhere. Jack felt trapped, and lost, following Deacon into the darkness, deeper and deeper into the bowels of a decrepit building. They came to another door. It opened to a trash strewn lot before the adjacent brick building. Deacon took a quick look around and pulled Jack out into the lot. In seconds they were in the next building. They went up a set of concrete steps. On the landing, illuminated by the dingy light from a broken security window was and old mattress, blankets, a gallon of water some clothes in several trash bags and a paperback Koran with a tape-repaired cover.
“I stay here sometimes,” said Deacon. “You’ll be safe here. Best wait awhile till they leave, then let’s see about getting you where you belong.”
“I, uh, I don’t know what to say,” said Jack, fighting to catch his breath.
Deacon flopped heavily onto the mattress and leaned against the wall. He gave a heavy sigh and held his chest. He touched the Koran. “Don’t believe I asked for nothing.’ Hell, maybe after all the sins I committed this maybe buys me points back to heaven.”