He fondles the steering wheel as he waits for his wife to join him. The street is torn up and burned out.
You watch her as she briskly paces back and forth, moving her legs together. She is wearing purple high heels. She is smoking a slender cigarette.
His neck-skin is as loose as a turkey’s wattles. He is a flabby, shabby-looking man with shaggy eyebrows. He is succulently chewing a wad of gum. He is wearing a purple silk vest.
He is waiting for his wife to finish her cigarette. His left arm dangles out of the window. The black Toyota is purring and humming. The back seat is jammed with luggage, a ballast of baggage.
It is a bright day. Now that the city is renewed, the sun is as red as a McIntosh apple. Before the renewal, the sun was as pink as a Macintosh iPhone.
You see a pink girl walking toward you, breathing into her mobile telephone. Her shirt is pink, and her yoga pants are pink.
Her mobile telephone is pink. Emblazoned on her left thigh is the word PINK. She nearly collides with you. She is not speaking to you. She is speaking to her mobile telephone. She says to her mobile telephone:
—He has a girlfriend now, so he’s doing good.
The girl’s pink boots cut through a knot of croaking toads. She is walking into the Rock ’n’ Roll McDonald’s.
You follow the girl into the Rock ’n’ Roll McDonald’s.
The Rock ’n’ Roll McDonald’s is a two-tiered building. Two yellow arches slice into the structure. The arches are sixty feet tall—ten feet taller than the cement-plaster top deck, which serves as a sunshade for the diners in the restaurant. Though you cannot see the top deck, you imagine that it is now a flourishing terraced roof garden.
No, the arches are not golden—they are yellow, and they are made of steel. Wrapped around the first story of the building is a red-and-white metal ribbon.
Swing through the revolving doors. You squeeze into the dining area. An oversize man in a mailman’s uniform is gorging himself on French fries. A supersize woman in a nurse’s uniform is gorging herself on a cheeseburger. They are loving it.
At the center of the first-floor dining area, a solitary lamp is fizzling, emitting fizzles of light. It is a Torcher floor lamp.
You walk toward the ordering area. Above the ordering area is a shadow box that frames the McDonald’s logo and a wraparound with video screens.
You look through the window. You see the copper statue of a steatopygous woman.
(Steatopygous = having large, excessively fleshy buttocks.)
You see a statue of Ronald McDonald impaled by a unicycle.
You look through the window. You see statues of the Beatles. All four of the Beatles seem to be shaped out of vanilla pudding, their faces contorted into grimaces of agony.
Two young boys are inserting tokens into a red-and-yellow kiosk, which dispenses one-inch injection-molded figures. The machine dispenses plastic dinosaurs, Grimaces, and Hamburglars.
Within the see-through display cases are backlit figures of Ronald McDonald, the Hamburglar, and Grimace. The display cases function as divider walls between the seating areas.
You see tall glass panels with digital images of Chicago residents blissfully eating hamburgers. They are eating cheeseburgers in ecstasy.
The second tier of the building is held up by mirrored stalactites, mirrored pillars, and mirrored columns.
On the transparent video panels of the mirrored columns dance holographic images of floating food: French fries, milkshakes, and cheeseburgers. The French fries, milkshakes, and cheeseburgers are smiling zoomorphs.
(Zoomorphism = having the form of an animal.)
Grinning surprised cheeseburgers.
At the center of the building, there is an escalator and a de-escalator separated by a red-and-yellow staircase.
A man in the bile-colored uniform of a railway conductor descends the staircase in search of his wife. The man has a wide and wild face. He calls for Nancy. His wife’s name must be Nancy.
As you ascend the escalator, you see a row of LED video screens. On each of the flat screens, Anderson Cooper is declaring the end of the world.
In the seating area on the second floor, you see an egg-shaped chair that recalls both the late-1960s British television show The Prisoner and the late-1970s/early-1980s situation comedy Mork & Mindy. You see butterfly chairs and wire-legged side tables.
The Clark Street windows and the Ontario Street windows are made of three layers of glass buckled into titanium banding.
Through the Ontario Street windows, you see a Sports Authority, a billboard for a morning radio show called The Eric and Kathy Show, and a British Petroleum gas station. Through the Clark Street windows, you see a Walgreens, a Hard Rock Café, and a Rainforest Café.
You see a crowd of people beneath the billboard at Clark Street and Ohio Street. The billboard is smothered in vines.
A building is smoldering somewhere in the distance. You sight spires of smoke lifting into the clouds.
Above the reflecting city, the sun is high in the sky like an orange.
You look around you. Ceiling mounted fixtures for accent lighting. Flat-screen video screens. Display cases imprisoning the figures of Willard Scott and Ronald McDonald. Guitars dangling from support cables. A guitar pick-shaped panel with displays on both sides: a frappe mocha drink and a strawberry lemonade. Ellipsis-shaped panels framing the images of fizzing effervescent beverages. At the McCafé, freeze-dried yogurt flakes and McDonald’s mouse pads are sold.
Displays that resemble gigantic straws and soda cups. Stand-up tables by the Ontario Street windows. Plasticine statues in the shape of soft-serve cones.
Before you is a bloated teenage boy. He is oozing over the table. He is wearing a Megadeth T-shirt and a Hustler baseball cap. He holds an iPhone absently in his hand while chewing his Chicken McNuggets. Upon the table is a Styrofoam cup in which a mulch-colored colloidal substance is contained. Leaning against the steel railing of the balustrade is a yellow-shirted and Bluetoothed security guard.
The security guard barks, clapping his hands:
—Time to go. Hip, hip. Come on! Time to go.
The boy lifts himself from the booth. His arms dangle in front of him as he walks. His indifference is extraordinary.
—Whatever, he drawls and then drops upon the sofa, sprawling himself.
On the soundtrack—the soundscape of the entire building—is “Arthur’s Theme (The Best That You Can Do)” by Christopher Cross.
It is then that you notice the birds. The birds’re in the rafters.
The birds are descending from the rafters.
The flesh-eating raptors—vultures and eagles—hover and then launch their air strike against the hamburger patties.
You see the three hooded vultures.
The three hooded vultures are all aquiver. They spread their wings and soar into the kitchen, where—in a flurry of brown wings and white plumage—they frenziedly strip the semi-frozen hamburger patties, ripping them into shreds. They are towering over the naked pink meat like three old men in long brown coats and white pants unswaddling naked pink babies.
The caracaras—they, too, are drone-striking the kitchen. They are tearing at the hamburger carrion, pulling it apart with their talons and curved beaks. They are devouring the chicken carrion, cannibalistic birds.
The next thing you see is the Northern Red Jungle Fowl flying—no, floating—impossibly across the foyer, ballistic basilisk. It, too, attacks the hamburger patties and the chicken patties.
You see the golden eagle scratching the yellow wall with its talons, its massive pinions flurrying behind it.
See the man with his digital-video camera. Arching his back, the camera-holding man frames images of the gyring vultures and buzzards, the revolving serpivolants.
Swarming vultures loft on the statues and throw out their wings.
A Big Mac is lying on the red-and-white tessellated flooring. The falcon descends on its quarry, hooking the Big Mac with its hooked beak, and then flies upward with deep pulsing wingbeats.
You see boats and boats of Duck McNuggets, Duck McNuggets scattered across the floor.
See the Andean condors descend with unfolded wings on to the Duck McNuggets. They tear into strips the anatine flesh. The entire flock collapses into an orgy of pecking and pulling, tearing and ripping, lacerating and swallowing; the Andean condors are devouring the breaded duck pellets.
On the tables, the crows.
The crows pick up and pick at the pickles with their beaks, a whole mob of them picking up and picking at the pickles. They rattle and croak, the predatory corvids, ignoring you as you steer through the glistening black crowd.
(A corvid is a member of the crow family.)
The crows are devouring the pickles. They are loving it.
There: A fiftyish man in a muted-blue business suit is grappling with a jungle rooster, a male red jungle-fowl. But the bird seems more powerful than him and is beating its wings violently, rapidly, menacingly, refusing to submit to the predations and depredations of the man in the muted-blue business suit. The man in the muted-blue business suit is unarmed, but the bird has pointed spurs and flesh-scratching claws. Beneath his muted-blue trousers, the man is wearing a thong, which is exactly the color of the rooster’s crown.
Owls loft on the video screens and befoul them, blasting them with their syrupy excrement. The owls have reason to be afraid.
There is an anaconda in the Rock ’n’ Roll McDonald’s. The anaconda will wrap its slow and heavy body around the slow owls, drowning the owls in its incalculable bulk. It will swallow the owls, swallow the owls whole.
The owls shudder, shivering their soft plumes. Their yellow-eye masks unblinkingly stare at you as you pass beneath the video screens. Soft, round owls.
A buzzard alights on to the ceiling light fixture. You want the buzzard to grasp you in its claws, flap its wings, take flight, bearing you into the air, sailing across the city skies with you in its solid grip.
In the foyer: Glorious peacocks are strutting over crushed eggs. They, the peacocks, are screamingly beautiful. You marvel at the birds’ iridescent plumage. They are spectacular birds, their plumage a stunning array of blues, greens, and reds.
Now the peacocks are eating the French fries. They are loving it.
The Rock ’n’ Roll McDonald’s is a bird house, an insane aviary.
Swooping down from its aerie, the eagle owl spreads its wings wide and stretches open its curved talons. Its eyes are Halloween orange and blazing. The eagle owl is flying with its wings stretched out and its claws open, as red robins are wheeling through space.
The eagle owl is attacking the Egg McMuffins.
See the Egyptian vulture.
Nothing is more beautiful than the Egyptian vulture, with its bright-orange hooked bill, rapier claws, and pristine-white plumage. The Egyptian vulture pilfers the chicken sandwich from the table, picking and pecking at the chicken-flesh with its beak. Rapacious, the Egyptian vulture feeds itself.
Flying above you, the king vulture—with its flappy, blue-orange-yellow head and bespectacled eyes—fixes its hard stare on you.
You wonder at the toucan—with its banana-colored face, its massive beak the shape and color of an unripened banana with a hot orange stripe down the middle—and ask yourself, “How could such a gloriously exotic creature exist?” How could such incomprehensible beauty visit a city such as the one you called your own?
A preening, self-cleaning spoonbill cleaves its feathers with its bill. With rapid pecks and plucks, the bird nibbles its lush, snowy plumage. Sensing your approach, it crawls gingerly along the transparent plastic balustrade.
The woodpeckers chisel the bathroom doors with their chisel-shaped bills, pecking and plucking in stiff movement, their stiff plumage unmoving as they peck and pluck. Their skulls move mechanically forward and back, pecking and plucking.
The hummingbirds are fluttering their wings at unimaginable speeds, floating before your astonished face. The birds are right in front of you—they float there, before your eyes, and then suddenly transcend to impossible heights, spiraling upward to places you cannot see. They hover in a horizontal formation—then they suddenly disperse, flying backward, upward, downward, and diagonally at spectacular speeds. They hover, then upglide, downglide, sideglide, and backglide.
Ravens are soaring on the updraft, moving vertically on the windy air-condition current.
A hawk trances before your face, its brown wings featherily flapping, and then flies off.
Bluebirds are fluttering up before you. They circle in the air, carving invisible arcs, revolving fan-like. They lift higher, as if suspended by invisible threads.
It is then that you see the humans, cowering and scared. Humans are fearful of an animal backlash and retaliation and are hiding in the Rock ’n’ Roll McDonald’s.
A seagull glides beyond a beefheaded man who gapes stupidly at the seagull as it glides.
See the tribe of renegade children, giggling at the parrots. The parrots erupt into a crazed flight, liberated from their cages. The little girls titter as the parrots flitter. The tittering of the girls irritates you.
A grim North American turkey vulture is peering at you through sharpening eyes, super-seriously. You know that her eyes are keener than your own.
Peered at by the sharpening eyes of the North American turkey vulture, it is now the German family that is being observed.
The German family comprises two young children and two middle-aged parents. Two young children and two middle-aged parents compose the German family. The faces of the children are not expressionless. They are enraptured by the swirling and spiraling raptors.
Swinging her shoulders as she walks, a massive woman is swaying across the foyer to the counter. A radio is strapped to her right shoulder. There is no one to take her order.
You see a younger woman—blonde, around twenty-four—sprawled on one of the booths. She is asleep. A Brush turkey creeps toward her where she sleeps. A Japanese crane struts toward her where she sleeps. The Brush turkey creeps; the Japanese crane struts.
You strut out of the Rock ’n’ Roll McDonald’s. A gale is blowing against your face.
You glissade between the red streetlamp and the yellow sign that thanks you for choosing McDonald’s.
You look above and see an American eagle lofting on the red streetlamp—a female American eagle, brown and less resplendent than its male counterpart.
You hear the screeching of a Valkyriean jet as it slices through the clouds and then turns and spirals and dives.
Look around you: at the Hard Rock Café, at the Walgreens, at the British Petroleum gas station, at the billboards, at the condominiums, at the office buildings.
The intersection of Clark Street and Ontario Street is exploding into a wild aviary, a bird typhoon. You whirl into the avian whirlwind. You dive headlong into the explosion of birds.
Seventeen-year-old girls with picturesque faces, faces that seem almost like holograms, faces that almost seem Photoshopped, are leaping about on the sidewalks.
He is wearing a white muscle shirt—the ex-convict, the man who is looking at you. He is strolling leisurely on the sidewalk and leering at you with leery eyes.
You see a woman in her mid-twenties blowing magical bubbles through a bubble wand. Dirt mats her hair. Her hair is a tangled mass of dirt and twigs, a messy dirty mane.
Squawking above you, perched on the wires, is a cult of ravens. The ravens shake their velvety black feathers.
The ravens squark and squeak and squawk and squork and squook and squack.
A solitary raven croaks throatily and descends from its celestial aerie, circling the tribe of frogs that pulsates below.
The ravens are shattering across the sky, shattering into fragments of black, breaking apart into shards of black ice.
You see a half-devoured apple on the street.
Whishing across the sky, its massive wingspan dwarfing the sun, a hawk suddenly arcs downward and takes the fruit into its mouth, pauses, flaps its wings, and then reascends, soaring back into its cerulean castle.
Looking sleepily at you through slanted eyes, two teenage boys zombie across Ontario Street. They are sleepwalking to the Rock ’n’ Roll McDonald’s.
One of the teenage boys is wearing a T-shirt that reads MILF Magnet.
The other wears a T-shirt that reads Never Approach a Cougar.
You look up. A girl is nestling in the tree. One blonde strand of hair describes a question mark on her lineless forehead. She scratches her elbow and looks past you at some unimaginable thing. Her father extends his arms upward. She slithers down the tree and jumps into her father’s arms.
Perched close together on the boughs is a flock of vultures, solemnly patient and patiently solemn. A cumulus cloud of ravens drifts above the tree.
The eagle extends its broad wings and vaults into the vaults of the sky. Its feathers resemble fingers, fingers that are playing an invisible celestial piano. The eagle makes its incandescent descent, the sun burning furiously behind it.
The large, powerful wings of the Greylag geese carry them through the air. They fly above the green buildings in a V-shaped formation. You watch their southern migration and wonder if you should follow them.
The crows rustle their shimmering metallic black plumage and release rumbling grinding clicking calls into the wind. A pack of humans shuffles down the street to look for other humans. The crows, rustling their feathers, watch the humans as they shuffle.
Bustards and cranes race around the Chase Bank, chasing the humans who try to outrun them.
The birds are taking advantage of the chaos, scavenging the abandoned houses and apartment buildings of the human beings for food. Pirates and looters of human scum. The human beings, on the other hand, are finding it harder to eke out a living in the reverse rodeo. They are less adept looters and pirates than the birds.
A police offer stands alone at the intersection between Clark Street and Ontario Street. He looks visionarily into the cloudy distance.
Great buzzards and massive vultures have lofted on the bright orange, green, and red awnings of the apothecaries, hair salons, liquor stores, and shut-down video stores.
A pair of puffins shoots past you, and all you see is a haze of orange feet and bills, black wings, and underbellies.
Crested wood partridges are delicately and ridiculously dancing on the ledges of the windows of the apartment buildings.
Now come the shrikes with outspread wings, turning and twisting, making air strikes and doing aerobatics. Their talons seem to be made of black insects; their beaks are hooks; their faces are hidden in Zorro masks.
The vultures and the buzzards and the eagles and the ospreys are propped on the ledges of the office buildings, on the parapets of the building-towers, looking down on the vine-webbed streets, silently awaiting the maceration of the city-dwellers.
(Maceration means “starvation and reduction.”)
Flying clouds of feathers above the human city, the birds are meting out punishment to the humans for years of imprisonment.
An eagle whirls past you in a white arc and then speedily resumes its lateral attitude, coasting and then soaring one hundred feet higher, flying straight toward the tall black buildings on the Chicago skyline.
You stare at the John Hancock Tower. The building rises four hundred feet to a tapered summit, a summit that is shrouded by the scissoring wings of crisscrossing blackbirds.
Copyright 2014 by Joseph Suglia