Table Eighteen: Joseph Suglia

Black rhinoceroses dash in the paths of oncoming cars, as paratroopers fast-rope into the city from hovering helicopters.

Charging, in a galvanic surge, overthrowing and overturning the cars, the rhinoceroses are merciless. The rhinoceroses, they are such bulky bullies.

A white rhinoceros, built like an armored tank, swings its body toward you, sweeping and swinging. An ancient-looking creature, it could have lived for aeons. It might continue to live for aeons, for it knows no temporal limits. The beast might be thousands of years old.

You are fascinated by the sweep and the swing of the white rhinoceros. Its lips are like teeth, grinding up a pomegranate, pomegranate juice like baby’s blood staining its powerful mouth. Its horns are steel cones. Its ears are steel radio cones, swiveling like antennae, attuned to every sound that you make. The white rhinoceros, it is a tank with four steel cones on its head.

Snapping pictures of the rhinoceros, the American tourists near the gnawing animal. Raising its heavy head, the rhinoceros releases a roar. The American tourists stumble backward.

At first, the rhinoceros seems petrific, frozen, still. At first, it resembles a statue. Now, you see that it is a self-moving vehicle moving with enormous force. A powerhouse, heavily galloping.

The rhinoceros gallops toward the exit to Lake Shore Drive, ambling along the side of the road. Soon it will be thrusting its head against the immobile vehicles stalled on the highway, smashing its head through the windows, and crushing them beneath its massive bulk.

Hooves flying, the reek of animal sweat. A whirlwind of stamping hooves and gnashing teeth overcomes the intersection. As a cavalcade of Thoroughbred horses rushes past you, you think of a time when such a thing would have been remarkable.

Your eyes follow the choreography of the stampeding herd. The horses are like dragons—great, frothing dragons. Dragons that seethe through their chompers.

The horses have scimitar-shaped ears, wild mustangs flashing across the street like switchblades. Horses with triangular heads, sawing the air. The horses pierce the clouds of powder like missiles through a sandstorm.

Champagne-colored horses are waving their legs. Wiry horses are convexing their backs as they run. You hear nothing but the drumming of charging hooves as the herd veers past you.

Hot-blooded horses, their coats sheening, are giving off a golden gleam as they run, their coats almost metallic in the light.

They glide, their gait buoyant and undulant. The folds on their arch-shaped necks open and close. Their eyes are brazenly blazing, their shoulders are sloping as they gallop. Strong hindlegs are propelling them forward. The horses stop running and genuflect at a merchandise altar—a shrine of washing machines, laundry machines, and refrigerators abandoned on the side of the road.

Slower now. Galloping Clydesdales and galloping Alsatians, not quite as fast. The horses drag to a trot. Dressage horses are stamping the ground, heading for the Caribou Coffee. Hopping and bobbing their big heads, the Westphalian horses prance down the street. Making their way to the Stout Barrel House & Galley.

A walnut-haired girl in a blue pinafore throws her arms around a foal’s brown neck and kisses its hide. Her eyes coruscate bluely. She scratches the horse behind one of its delicate folded ears. The charming foal, charming and diminutive, is licking her face with a purple tongue.

The Icelandic horse raises its magnificent head. The girl pats the horse’s head and smoothens its brown mane with her fingers. With an ineffable grace, she lifts a leg and mounts the croup.

You walk further southward down Clark Street.

A woman with long black hair is cantering down the street in black yoga pants, her ears plugged by iPod plugs. Her face is hard. Her features soften slightly as she follows the gait of the ambulant llamas, the llamas that stride 200 feet in front of her.

Sprinting across the market are two zebra lovers. Launching their haunches forward, the zebra leap in clean arcs. Into the street they come. They traverse the street. Then slow. The zebra stamp their piano-key hooves as they trudge into the Taco Bell. You follow the travels of the zebra with alit eyes. See the swaying zebra, their dewlaps swagging like wagging testicles.

A herd of zebra is coming now, galloping in a V-formation. And residents of Chicago are filming the zebra with their digital cameras and their mobile telephones. A zebra rears, showing the undersides of its piano-key hooves, as if posing for the camera telephones and telephone cameras. The humans are twittering about the zebra on their social-networking Web sites. Look-ups are spiking.

Look at what’s trending now.

A herd of camels is coming now. The residents of Chicago and the tourists are shooting the camels with their iCameras and cellular telephones.

Standing beside a covered bus stop, an elderly man is threatening a camel with his cane. Daubed with sweat, the old man is moaning unsilently.

Your eyes follow the sloping moving humps of the camels, unencumbered by human riders. They stilt themselves up on their skinny legs, the big silly heads of the camels jerking back and forth and rotating on curved silky necks. The camels move at a halting pace, working their split-lipped mouths and tusk-shaped teeth and gawking, pushing their heads forward, heads propped on slowly elongating, unspooling, serpentine necks. The camels are ruminating, ruminant camels.

Through the candy store, priest-like in its sacerdotal gait, a single-humped dromedary ambles, cleft-lipped and tusk-toothed, its smooth sand-cream skin catching the fluorescent lights. The dromedary licks the creams, the chocolaty chocolate creams.

Above you, the sky is a clear blue, with only a few wispy, whispery clouds tattering the blue. The white clouds serenely drift by.

You cross Clark Street through a pack of circumambulating mules.

Beside a fire hydrant, you see a boy wearing a white sailor suit and a white sailor cap. He is an orphan, orphaned by his human parents, migrants on some yacht, sailing to a dwindling civilization.

You perambulate further down the sidewalk and glance again to the right. Through the shop window, you see a gleaming pyre of television sets—not television sets that have been set aflame, but television screens that are giving off sparks, electrical imagery and static frost. Before the screens recline human vagabonds, gazing into their surfaces, their faces blank and illuminated. Strewn on the floor are frozen dinners and soup cans.

Sitting on the window ledge above you is a blonde girl with dangling white sneakers. Clinging to the ledge, she is sparklingly laughing. Her blonde hair is rumpled. Her brown eyes are moist with tears. Her hair is so long, draping the sides of her face, that she seems earless. She is enchanted by the flamingos and the camels below.

You feel the city. There is a kind of festival atmosphere in the city now. Humans are free to do what they please. Wafting through the air is the feeling of Epiphany, as if a terrorist had been captured and executed or a sporting event had been won in the city’s favor. The new enchantments of the city could not be visible on any postcard.

And everywhere, among the beasts, are wandering human revelers, celebrating the end of the old world and the beginning of a new world.

The traveling revelers will never unravel the city’s mysteries.

Copyright 2014 by Joseph Suglia


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