Table Twenty-Four: Joseph Suglia

The sky is not the color of sapphire. The sky is not the color of lapis lazuli. The sky is not azure. The sky is not cerulean. The sky is not an oceanic blue. The sky is not the color of anyone’s eyes. The sky is the color of a Blueberry Popsicle, and that is that. It is a cloudless sky, and its color is exactly the color of a Blueberry Popsicle.

Double-glazed windows blink in the sunlight behind balustraded balconies. The sun smears the white planes of the apartment buildings, the jutting balconies forming ridges. Pyramid-shaped office buildings rise around you, engulfing you and the crowd. Conical protrusions are looming, imposing cone-shaped buildings. Concrete boxes with glass-cubed fronts. They are steel structures with concrete bases, monoliths of steel surrounded by arterial beltways.

People mill about. They are walking in the middle of Clark Street. These people—they are like mountaineers searching for a mountain. Instead of mountain ranges, you have Walgreens, Starbucks, and Nordstrom’s.

They look into the shop and restaurant windows. They emit phatic expressions disguised as questions (“How are you?”; “How’s it going?”). A fatherly man in wire glasses is standing by the Dunkin’ Donuts. He looks through the window.

Vicious and viscous insect-devouring plants are covering the Urban Outfitters, the inside and the outside of the bauble store.

The sweep of plants that you sweep aside, as you enter the Urban Outfitters, is a virulent green.

Plowing your way into the Urban Outfitters, you are greeted by a vibrant burst of animal life. Simian life. Monkey life.

A proboscis monkey throws itself through the air, hurling its body on to the rack of pre-faded designer jeans.

Chattering gibbons and springy lemurs scale the walls.

Crazed monkeys are radiating in all directions, langurs with white-sideburned and white-crested heads, thick black rats’ tails snaking back and forth, scrambling and scampering, screeching and shrilling. Crawling over everything and shattering everything. They destroy the novelty coffee mugs, the turntables, the faux-vintage LPs, the incense candles, the portable game consoles, the disposable ‘selfie’ cameras, the disposable radios, the Gummy Bear kegs, the bobble heads, all of the baubles and trinkets and junk.

Look up. There are bats. Bats crawl across the high ceiling, strange slit-faced bats with rabbit ears, bats with heads like hyenas, crawling bats, long-snouted chiroptera.

(Chiroptera are volatile mammals—the only flying mammals—with hands like wings.)

The bats umbrella their black wings, their ballooning wings, waiting to descend. A cluster of roosting bats: The ceiling is alive with sucker-footed bats, bats suckering the ceiling above you.

Ring-tailed lemurs pad the ground with their pads, swishing their bushy black-on-white ringed tails, projecting their canine noses upward. Lemurs with their massive liquid brown irises, seeing everything, are mounting the walls, climbing on to the ceiling fans, and playing playfully, grooming one another. Stretching their arachnoid bodies spider-like across the ceiling, leaping through the air, the lemurs dominate the space. They wrap their bodies around the glittering disco ball, performing their arabesque calisthenics. They ring their tails around the wooden ceiling beams. A cluster of angry lemurs, their black-and-white masks unsmilingly surveying you.

Shuddering monkeys are in the rafters, giggling and chattering, swinging black-and-white colobus monkeys swinging and swaying above you. The monkeys seem to be impersonating the stupidities of human beings, their inferiors.

See the marmoset on the check-out counter frenziedly chewing on the smartphone that it holds in both hands.

A howler monkey hurtles itself through the air, from rack to vibrating rack.

Nothing sounds more terrifying than a howler monkey. The howler monkeys shrill their shrill, skin-shriveling shrieks. They loose their bone-grinding howls, which resound from two miles away.

The capybaras give their barks. The howler monkeys howl.

The Urban Outfitters is a reeking, unruly zoo. The artsters and the hipsters, the emos and the scenesters can no longer practice their unpracticed irony there. Where nothing is normal, there can be no irony.

Copyright 2014 by Joseph Suglia

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Table Twenty-Nine: Joseph Suglia

You are walking across the Clark Street Bridge, that connecting tissue that links the North Side to the Loop. You hear the echo of your own footfalls on the rust-purple metal as you tread across the great bridge, from tower to tower. Looking at the skyline, you see familiar structures. Buildings shooting up into the sky like giant hypodermic needles, the great black, auburn, white, grey, and silver verticalities: the John Hancock Tower, the Westin Hotel, Marina City, the Trump International Tower & Hotel, the Reid, Murdoch & Company Building, the 300 North LaSalle Building, Merchandise Mart, the Sears Tower. And yet these once-familiar structures are now transmuted into strange things.

The John Hancock Tower is covered in mobile orange flowers, blooms that resemble zinnias.

Like a giant Texas Instruments calculator belted with Venus Fly Traps and snapping carnivores, the Westin Hotel stands gloriously. It once stood miserably, the ugliest building in Chicago.

Behind the Westin Hotel, there stands Marina City. Twin ridged cupped buildings, decoupled, looming like chalk-cliff corncobs. Marina City is bursting with green from within, as if the interior structure were an overstuffed and insistently growing botanical garden. A corncob shadow creeps up the nether tower.

Trump International Tower & Hotel pierces the sky like a steel dildo, its structure wrapped in succulent green tentacles.

Vines engarland the promenade of the Reid, Murdoch & Company Building.

Sunlight reflects against the sheening metallic plane surface of the 300 North LaSalle Building. A mirrored monolith, it absorbs the blue sky and clouds around it. Throbbing black leaves striate its specular surfaces.

Merchandise Mart is enveloped in greenery, a dense jungle thicket.

The Sears Tower is engulfed in feathery white flowers and green vines. It stands there, seeming a jungle pillar.

Pythons wrap themselves around the pylons.

Skimming over the bridge are cantering antelope, horses, and wildebeest.

And then you notice that the Chicago River is gleaming whitely in the midday sun. The water of the Chicago River has lost its limpidity as it is infused with jets of milk. The milk soon fills the river.

The Chicago River is white with milk.

Walking across the Clark Street Bridge, you turn your head and gaze at the flowing milk river. You see the mellifluous ambrosia flowing.

Looking down, you survey the milkscape. You see human families and once-aquatic beasts frolicking, swimming in the milk.

You see caribou and zebra dipping their heads into the milk.

The milk has risen to the level of the walkways and the embankments and overflowed the walkways and the embankments.

There is a large-buttocked man with his two children. He is wearing rippling blue swimming trunks. He stares at the wagging grey tail of a giant elephant, a milk-beast of the milky Chicago River.

Glimmering with milk and godlike, the elephant crawls out of the milk river. Out of the river the beast shimmies. It lowers its tongue-like trunk and spurts milk from its tongue, cascading milk that douses the squealing humans on the river bank.

Effusions of hopeless giddiness seize the humans as they delight in the milk.

You climb from the bridge, down a rusty purple ladder. You land on a grassy slope. You descend the grassy slope to the milkway.

The bank of the river is suffused with a milky mist. Ever-thickening, the mist drifts into the thicket of scraggly trees.

Like hamadryads, young girls are hiding behind mossy trees trunks.

(A hamadryad is a tree-dwelling nymph.)

The first thing that you notice are the black wormy shapes that striate the unbroken creamy surface of the milk. These shapes belong to black snakes. Swimming with the black snakes are black Snakebirds. The black Snakebirds are swimming, their heads raised loftily above the milk, their darting heads. They swim with the black snakes in swift jaunts.

Lying prostrate on the embankment, there is an old man in a fisher’s outfit. He is shoveling handfuls of milk into his lipless mouth. Does the milk possess regenerative properties? Is this the River of Youth?

You look at the milk. The wind passes over the milk, rippling its film, massaging its film, creasing and caressing its film, wings of ripples. You walk down a trail that borders the river.

The shadows of rare birds are passing over you and above the flowing current of milk. You see the shadows of the birds dancing on the milk-flow.

There ahead of you, one hundred feet from you, in the milk, is a blonde-haired woman rowing in her coracle, a small boat shaped like a halved walnut shell. As she passes you, drifting by, her eyes seem peaceful. Her hair rustles almost imperceptibly.

You resolve to join the blonde-haired woman. There is a raft shifting by the shore, shifting in the unsteady milk.

You walk down to the bank of the Chicago River.

Wiping your forehead, you gaze downstream. There is the raft. Climb over the railing. Climb on to the raft.

You climb over the railing. You climb on to the raft. You seize a long branch—an oar that will propel the raft. You drift forward on your raft, rowing with the long branch, sticking it javelin-like into the river without reaching its bottom. Around you circle creatures of the milk, sharks and eels. The sharks bob their heads up to greet you. The eels sinuate through the silky milkiness.

You drift down the river on the raft.

Look at the splashing manatee, splashing in the milk! You wish that you could swim with that manatee or swim on the back of that manatee, the milk streaming down its bulbous, blubbery back, the milk streaming down your back, its enormous, bristly lips snuffling, its eyes nearly invisible, its flippers prehensile and humanoid, the West Indian manatee, bearing you downstream. Undermilk, the manatee holds a bird’s nest in its flipper-fingers, which are indeed indented like the fingers of a human being, and nibbles at that bird’s nest. See the manatee devour the bird’s nest.

Look at the large-buttocked man! On the embankment. He pulls out a container from his suitcase, opens that container, and places his hand inside of that container. He smears a thick, dark substance over his energetic flesh. What seems to be a pungent brown sauce ripples over his blubbery skin. He spreads the gooey matter over his rich stomach. He covers his flabby body with the viscous unguent before climbing on to the railing and plunging into the seething, brisk, effervescent, cool milk river.

Jammed with slamming bodies, the river is clustered with life.

Within the milk is a collection of swimming and floating creatures. All around you, milk-creatures. Denizens of the milk, they swim and float with and around you. You turn on your back. You look at the sky. You see the crows dance in the sky. You see the clouds and the crows, the whiteness of the clouds and the blackness of the crows’ feathers.

Like sea monsters, the sharks, the octopuses, the dolphins, and the porpoises inhabit the gooey milk.

SMELL THE MILK.

The milk has no smell. It must not be milk. Real milk is fragrant because it decomposes. All that decomposes is odiferous.

This is milk that does not decompose.

The weeds and the reeds to your left are whitishly stained and saturated. You see creatures on the shore. You see animals all around you. You see surfacing fish, sailing birds, and trotting beasts on the land.

Sinuating through the syrupy milk, there is a whale shark. You study the whale shark. The whale shark gapes its mouth impossibly, sedately swishing its mottled tail, slowly floating in the deep, as exquisite yellow-and-black orioles circle above the bubbling froth left in its wake.

The suctional mouth of the shark forms a black halo. Its mouth widens abyssally. Its diamond head disappears silently into the milk.

As you drift along the shore, the silvery-white heads of porpoises surface, the ephydriads of the milk.

(Ephydriad = “water-nymph.”)

A monkey with the body of a human swimmer leaps its way through the milky river. On the shore, an orange bulky orangutan protrudes its unstupid lips and sucks up milk from the flood.

Now, the orangutan climbs the railing and lowers its body into the river.

You gaze at the children wading happily on the shore, wading happily in the milk, petting the platypuses, and howling in delight at the tapering bottle-nosed heads of the porpoises as they lift to the surface.

Through the green foliage, you look at the animals engirding the milk river. A lion stalks the underbrush. A grizzly bear is maundering. Coyotes are hunting, foraging for fresh meat.

A ritualistic death match between two bears is forming in the milk river. Parents and their children swim to the bank and lift themselves out of the milk. Dripping with milk, they lower themselves behind dark green bushes as the two bears lock jaws.

As you drift along, you see black bears climbing the trees. Arboreal bears, bears that think they are birds. Scratchings and etchings on the trees, ursine writings.

To your left, in the clearing of the forest, a four-legged car crusher, a black bear is mounting the roof of a car, a red Hyundai, and jumping up and down. The roof collapses, the windows shatter, the doors burst. In the car, coolers and suitcases.

A fat brown sausage, the bear squeezes into the Hyundai. No humans in sight. You can smell the smell of chicken cooking and hear the distant wailing of a human male.

Along the shore, bears are lifting themselves and roaring. The quail in the grass are quailing. You are quailing as the bears are lifting themselves and roaring. Deep guttural roars fill your ears as you trudge on through the sludge, floating on the sludge. The milk is guttering through the grasses.

Nuzzling its muzzle against an elm tree, a brown bear caresses the bark. Other bears are diving into the milk, foraging for fish, clams, and crabs. Leaping into the milk, a bear is charging a llama that is grazing on the opposite bank of the river. A woman is screaming. You cannot see the woman who is screaming. A kingfisher plunges into the milk.

You observe a woman, a man, and a child wading in the milk on the surface of the embankment. They are all wearing sunglasses. They stand in the milk and look at you soundlessly. Perhaps someday humans will develop gills and they will circle in the milk, along with the fish, platypuses, whales, and eels.

Bathing knee-deep in the emollient, a cult of women is rubbing milk into its skin. Their epidermis absorbs the lactate and all of its rejuvenating properties. The milk has a softening effect on their skin, an emollient effect on all that it touches—the gluey white fluid, the milk unguent.

A retinue of children attends them. They, the women, rub the milk into their children’s skin, flowing milk flows.

Lowering themselves into the milk, the women moisten their calyxes.

(A calyx is the outermost part of a flower.)

Their clothes saturated with the milk, they submerge.

Two children—one girl and one boy—are floating on the milk river on what looks like a massive stiffly-ribbed milk hyacinth.

The girl is holding aloft a toy windmill and smiling ridiculously.

Another harem of women, there. The harem of women is steeped in the thick milk. They, the women, are surrounding a massive brown horse. They are washing the great horse with sponges. Milk drizzles down the sleek brown hide of the horse.

The horse snuffles through its nostrils and scrapes the pavement with its hooves.

A milky eel sinuates over the blanket of milk.

Families, more human families, are swimming in the milk river.

The Purple Heron unspools its long, serpentine neck. Lightning-quick, it thrashes its awl-shaped bill into the milk, snatching up a milk snake.

You drift forward on your raft, using the long tree branch as an oar.

A Flightless Cormorant is standing on the railing with its giant webbed feet, gaping its monstrous hooked bill, lighting its lunatic blue eyes, beating its stubby wings maniacally, pushing out its fat sooty belly, screeching its terrible screech.

An elephant calf is sucking elephant milk through its hose-trunk. It lifts its head, nuzzling between the mother elephant’s pillar-like front legs.

A manatee rears its head out of the milk and snuffles, its whiskers quivering, whiskery sirenian.

(Sirenian = sea-cow.)

The lips of the milk-mermaid tremble. It warbles a silent song, working its heavy lips, moving its heavy thick mouth. Turning from you, the sireniform manatee disappears into the milk.

(Sireniform = shaped like a mermaid.)

Squatting on the shore is a chignoned woman. You see the chignoned woman soaking her fingers into the creamy milky wetness.

Plastered with milk bubbles, a colony of shrews lifts itself from the lacteous profundities and disappears into the tall grass.

Bathing old men are bathing in the milk like bathing brown bears. Wading old women are wading in the milk like wading storks. The milk is moving sloshingly, slushingly over the waders and the bathers, lubricating their skin and their hair.

Slickened with milk, the slack-skinned old women emerge from the white river rejuvenated. Their hair is vibrant, their skin is glowing.

The children are going swimming in the thickening milkiness, dragging their mothers by the wrists.

By the milk shore, cattle are tippling, dappled in milky dew.

(To tipple = to drink in small amounts.)

You hear a noisy splash and see a sloth of big milk bears bringing up to shore slothful crabs and wriggling eels, swimming milk bears with buoyant fur and digging paws. They lay the crabs and eels on the shore, releasing them from their jaws. The more vigorous bears are already ashore, dining on the crabs and the eels, with their white teeth and pink tongues. Alone, there is one straggler in the bubbling milk. Poor lone milk bear. The slothful bear emerges from the slushy froth like a sad sloth.

You follow with your eyes the slow glide of the platypus, the gentle propulsions of the aquatic duck-beaver. The platypus flaps its webbed fin-claws, maneuvering through the waves with its flat tail. It lifts its spongy black bill and then submerges into the depths. A brown bear emerges from the pond, milk streaming down its dense fur.

With a galvanic jolt, a blue-and-orange kingfisher plunges into the milk, arrow-like, seizing a wriggling trout in its merciless black-red mandibles. It pulls back its wings, and then springs into the air, its vibrant wings galvanizing, powering its flight.

Stretching its heavy black-and-white accordion wings, a red-faced and red-throated hornbill seems to be running through the air, pawing the air with its claws as it runs in flight, pursuing a raft on which a husband and wife are cowering as the raft is being sucked into a whirlpool, not to rescue the passengers, but to prey upon them.

Black-feathered, the condor takes wing, soaring on the breeze. Its head is a skull draped in a sheet of wrinkled and folded pink skin. It circles in the air, looking down menacingly at a clutch of baby sea turtles lying on the rocks.

Thirty feet to your right. A culvert is releasing milk into the river. Gushes of milk. Milk is pouring noisily out of a drainage culvert and rippling into the river. The parts of the river that were once water are whitening into a whitish mistiness, a flocculent creaminess.

A steep fall of milk is rushing and splashing into the deeps of the unplacid milk, where otters are courting and mating.

Rushes of milk are rushing between milk-slippery rocks.

You catch a glimpse of a woman stretching out her legs on the grass. She is slipping her feet out of her dainty shoes and slipping them into the alabaster flood.

(Alabaster = a white mineral that is used to create statues.)

You waft past another dark green forest. In the forest, there is a fortress. Survivalists have constructed tall wooden and steel palisades to shield themselves from invading animals. Through the colonnade of trees, the humans wander, with rifles at the ready. The only jungles they have known are the cyber-jungles of cyber-realms.

Looking at the overlapping waves, you lie down on the raft. The milk seems to be forever retracting. Following with your eyes the sinuous path to the mouth of the river, you survey the manic splashing happy animals and humans in the milk. A crowd of humans becomes perceptible in the creamy whiteness.

Boys are slinging milkballs at one another, milk that has calcified into a mucky solidity. A boy in orange trousers is splashing milk at another boy who looks exactly like him. Semi-clothed men are wading in the milk, bearing children on their shoulders, hulking on the banks of the river.

Office buildings loom along the milkshore.

You hear the swish of the milk, the flow of the silken milk.

There is a great white, a beautifully white shark, folding its body above the milk. You see the knife-teethed giant sailing through the air and landing into the milk again with a sloppy splash—milk-kraken, vicious kraken of the milky deeps.

Swifts are flying low, dipping their lower beaks furtively into the milk. A cluster of swifts, their sharp wings scissored, is nesting on the side of a rock.

The emu bounces along the shore, leaps, and plunges into the milk.

A pair of strange aquatic birds—their heads aloft, their white chests pushed out—are paddling their feet manically, propelling themselves across the surface of the milk in a unified formation, barking and trilling: weeooooow, weeooooow, weeeoooooooow! They whoosh across the pond and swoosh down the river.

Mermaids and mermen are swimming in the milk—humans perhaps someday will grow gill-grills and flapping fins.

A woman in an orange dress is sitting on the bank of the river. She shifts her soft legs into the suppurating milk-spasm. She smiles at you a gamesome smile.

A urine-stained thong floats on the river’s surface.

Through the foliage, you see dancing children. Children are gamboling through the forest and lolling under the cherry trees.

The gulls skim low over the milk crests, swooping and snapping on fish and shellfish. You listen to the gulls bellowing and chattering, after snatching their prey.

Before you storms a milk-geyser. The geyser spurts upward, and then the milk cascades downward in a milkfall. The milk splatters.

A flock of flamingos soars overhead, honking and squawking. You never knew that flamingos were capable of flight.

You see a stork above you, battling the heights. Its orange bill noses the air uncertainly, its orange feet dangle awkwardly downward, its torso sinks weightily. Its wings flap, and the stork elevates ten feet. Its neck outstretched, its broad wings beat more heavily, and now the stork is gliding. Levitating gracefully into the sky, almost hovering. The wings of the stork keep it afloat, the torso of the stork tends toward the earth.

The milk never grows fetid in this boggy region. It simply stays unfresh without ever curdling. On the surface of the milk is a waxy film, a yellowish pellicle.

(Pellicle = a thin skin, film, or membrane.)

But the milk never curdles. It never waxes rancid. It never grows waxy.

This colloidal, mucous-like substance—what is it?

(Colloidal = like gelatin.)

Hippopotami, fat milk pigs, are basking on the pavement and bathing in the overflowing white milk, the hippopotami of the fountain. An oily-black hippopotamus cools its gluteus in the milk. The oily-black hippopotami cool their glutei maximi in the milk.

No, the hippopotami are not fat milk pigs. They are the horses of the river.

Hippopotami, horses of the river.

Standing on a milk-rock, on a single leg, a flamingo is shaking its algae-stained feathers. It casts a lollipop-shaped shadow on to the surface of the pearly lagoon.

There is a pangolin on the shore. A pangolin is creeping stealthily through the grasses toward the milk. The pangolin, a coil of scales, looks like an animal with pinecone skin, its scales superimposed one over the other, interleaving scales. It laps at the milk with a stringy tongue.

You see a walrus in the shoals. The walrus, fanged and gruff, lunges and lurches, using its fang-like tusks as if they were ski poles. Its face is whiskery, and its bulk is blubbery. Big and blubbery, the walrus plops into the gooey white ooze, sending bubbles of milk everywhere.

Afloat, a flotilla of pelicans shakes its wet plumes, the pelicans’ bill-pouches distended, their webbed feet sloshing through the streaming milk.

You watch the great cormorant, standing tall, unflying. Its wings are open, forming zigzags. The great bird with open wings—with great brown-black wings blown out—stands aloft, the sun shining around and through its wingtips. The cormorant turns its head to the left—majestic, dignified. It seems shy in the way that most birds seem shy, and yet its apparent shyness hides a curious self-absorbedness.

As the sky deepens to a somber lavender, you stretch yourself out on the raft. No daydreams come into your head. All about you is a vigorous and luscious dream.

A blizzard of buzzards is fluttering maniacally overhead.

Sturgeons with throbbing gills traverse the flood.

A school of otter shrews thrusts sinuously through the milk with all of the celerity and agility of a professional diving team, wavy brown stripes furrowing the white.

Place your bare arm into the milk.

Threading through the milk, a platypus claws the waves with its webbed claws and steers its self-propelled boat-body with a tail shaped like a cricket bat. You move your bare arm away from the streaming milk-flood.

The wind is picking up, gathering force. The waves, newly swelled, are rocking back and forth, and the humans are weltering in the welter. They are alone in the milk and surrounded by animals. Some of the humans call you, summon you. You drift down the river unheeding.

You look through a semitransparent milk patch. Below the surface of the milk river, there is an octopus, yellow but pocked with green mottles and ringed with blue rings. Supple and soft, its multi-suckered tentacle-fingers finger the cushion of the cushiony milk. Its betoothed tongue darts in and out of its titanium beak.

Fear the octopus.

You can imagine that there is an aquarium of creatures unseen in the milky depths—seahorses, jellyfish, men-of-war, and so forth.

Ruddering through the milk, a lone boat is drifting lonely. On the boat is a mother cradling her baby. She is milking the baby.

The mother looks with brightly dark eyes at a raddled bear on the shore.

Her former husband is struggling against the milk tide, wading toward her uselessly. The man is swashing and swishing through the milky wash, waving his arms around, trying to push back the insistent waves.

You see a woman on the shore. Her skin is pale. She is about twenty-eight. Her hair is purple. A silhouette of flourishing vegetation profiles her head and body. Above her, fifty feet in the air and wild, an insane-looking crested serpent eagle sweeps through the air, a crazed Quetzalcoatl, flapping its wings violently and flying awkwardly, mad cockatrice.

Look at the shore as you drift with the current. A band of mongooses is slipping and sinking into the milk. It almost seems as if the mongooses are being liquefied by the milk, becoming one with the milk that swallows them. Drifting on the surface of the pond is a milky milk lily, buoyed by the ebullient up-bubbling milk.

Clumsy-eyed teenagers battle the wavelets.

A green turtle drives itself down the milk-river, flapping its foreflippers.

Frogs are throbbing in the milk shallows. Thrusting its scythe-like bill into the mud, the sacred ibis unleashes its force, snatching up a frog, scooping it up with its long, heavy, curved, black bill, the frog’s legs uselessly dangling.

Sharks are soaring through the milky deeps, occasionally ascending to the surface. The sharks do not frighten you; the sharks do not frighten the fish or the birds or the tortoises.

The humans seem afraid of the other milk-creatures. But the non-human animals that immerse themselves in the ever-spreading ambrosia—they are unafraid of the milk-wading humans. There is a zoo of oxen, storks, flamingos, and bears splashing and diving and otherwise inhabiting the cool turbidity of the river. The ever-churning babblingly unsilent river. The animals and the humans form an ungentle congregation, neither devouring nor tearing at one another. They coexist uneasily, dwelling in the frothing flat milkshake.

No longer afraid, no longer frightened of the sylvan and milk-dwelling creatures, you drift with the herd. They will not attack you, and if they do, let them.

The pear trees, and the pears on the pear trees, on the left bank, are drizzling with milk.

Sunfish rise to the surface and slurp the air. They greet you with their lipless joyless smiles.

Beside the river is a sunning half-naked man. His forehead and face-cheeks are covered with the marzipan of an artificial suntan.

He is sitting hunched over, staring at his unreflection in the milk, which is opaque yet glistening with the dying sunrays of the dying day.

The waves roil and boil as you drift along the milk-shore.

You see humans balancing on a solitary rock in the middle of the gushing river. Like survivors of a shipwreck, they are balancing on a single rock in the middle of the gush.

A bespectacled dentist waves at you. He is bathing in the waves. Naked to the waist, he bathes in the spume.

The waves ascend into crests of foam. Then the waves subside again.

The cedars are growing taller and loom over you and along the milk river. They throw their mottled shadows on your face.

You gaze at the pear grove. A glossy-eyed woman is plucking the pears that grow from the pear branches. She is wearing a green apron and is smiling redly.

Shift your body to the edge of the raft.

You lower your legs into the milk. A thin film of milk is skimming over your legs. Your toes are caressed by the viscous ooze.

You look at the sky. Flecks of sunlight fleck your skin.

You feel ashamed in the presence of all of this verdant glorious blossoming exploding beauty, in the beautiful presence of so many up-growing trees and so many angelic birds casting themselves into the sparkling scintillating shimmering air.

There, an orangutan couple. He attends to his ape-spouse with all of the devotion of an uxorious husband.

(Uxorious = wife-loving.)

Both of them, ape-wife and uxorious ape-husband, are grooming each other in the luxurious foliage.

The grottoes are brimming with milk, the aqueducts are bearing milk to distant places.

Look at the constellation of rocks immersed in the milk. Sun-bathed alligators bathe in the last remnants of the sun.

The peach and orange trees give their shadows to the river. The crocodiles are sulking in the semi-darkness of the shadows. They skulk forward together, together in a dark phalanx, ready to grip their prey in their saurian jaws. Their prey, the kingfishers. They sight the kingfishers with their resplendent blue-green-orange plumage. They creep toward the kingfishers. The kingfishers fly away. The crocodiles sight the white cranes, white and feminine. They slither toward the white cranes hungrily.

By the shore: caimans and crocodiles. A caiman scuttles, elbowing its legs, before you, through the newly grown grass and flowers, and dives into the pool of milk.

Dinosaur-like crocodiles move forward, bejeweled with crazed eyes atop of their heads, gilt eyes.

The crocodiles watch the golden sparrows performing their aerial dance. They wait for the golden sparrows, patiently. They wait to snap the sparrows in their jaws.

A drift of fish is drifting through the opalescence, making its way through the eddies of milk. Fish you cannot see. Your legs are steeped in the milk, immersed in the milk. You can feel the fish brushing against your legs.

Through a horizontal vacancy in the leafage:

You see a toucan in a peach tree. Its plumage is blazing in the sun with an almost preternatural glow.

You see human beings. Human beings are trapped on a promontory. You can hear the wailing of the stranded humans, of the humans stranded on the promontory. Before them, the milk. Behind them, a grizzly bear sulking. You can hear their whimperings.

Splashing in the milk and snorting is a massive hippopotamus. The hippopotamus stares at you. The massively distending nostrils of the hippopotamus frighten you.

You see snowy herons standing tall in the river, as if standing on snowy ice.

The sleek heads of the otters follow you with their tiny eyes.

A man who looks like Lou Reed is flopping about in the shoals. He writhes in the milky mud. He writhes happily in the muddy milk.

Crocodiles recline on mattresses beside the river with their thin jaws pointed toward you.

To your right: milk gathers in a sucking milk pool. You see llamas, llamas drinking from the milk pool, lowering their furry, fuzzy necks and sucking and drinking.

Jets of milk rise into the sky. Fountaining milk, the milk is overflowing, coming out of the river in jolts and spurts.

There is a milk-sodden polar bear. The white slop is glistening on her fur. Her snout is glittering with white droplets.

The polar bear is followed by a fiftyish woman. Her skin is milky white. Her prominent, almost crocodilian lower teeth are visible.

By the shore: A crocodile is golden-eyeing the birds that walk on stilts. The springing, snatching saurian is eyeing a tall white heron. His serrated mouth seems to smile.

There, before you, a man’s head is surfacing like a manitou’s head, coming up through the milk.

A boat of humans silently speeds down the milk-way. Monkeys leap from the trees. They spring into the boat. Crocodiles sinuate through the tall grasses.

Low-slung and web-footed, the slippery otters are slipping into the milk river; they submerge into the mire and then resurface again, skimming the surface of the milk, paddling furiously with unseen feet. Now they are slouching on to the shore, shaking milk from their heads, and padding through the tall grasses.

Gorillas are bellowing in the forest. They tumble down the grassy slope and into the milk.

Around you, around the raft, a tumble of dolphins. The milk is slippery with dolphins. The dolphins sheer away awkwardly from what seems the mounting swell of a great Black-and-White, an orca rocketing through the milk, moving powerfully and muscularly like a missile, a rocketing leviathan.

See the bottlenose dolphins. Vigorously gymnastic, the bottlenose dolphins leap robustly into the air, twirl, and then capsize downwards into the splashing milk.

Fishing for trout, thrashing the milk, a polar bear. Now the polar bear is sinking into the shimmering white protoplasm. The bear seems to be melting as it sinks, melting into the white ooze. Only its tapering head is visible—then you see only its black nose—and then the polar bear disappears altogether into the mucilage.

You look into the sky. You recline supine on the raft as it drifts, rudderless. The sun is glazing like a phosphorescent pineapple. The sun is growing smaller. The sun is disappearing.

Coming from the shore, you see a cream-colored bear thrashing its way into the milk. The cream-colored bear pads forward, jerks its head back, opens its mouth fully, and exposes a horseshoe-shaped row of canines and molars.

You look into the forest that borders the river. Down the mangrove-bordered street, couples walk hand in hand.

And from your vantage, you see the milk-flooded streets. The milk is evicting the boarders. Milk is coming up in the city. Tidal streets, milk flowing up, bubbling up from the sewers. Human beings are lifting milk out of the streets in pails.

On the shore, there is a mound of Android telephones, iPhones, and iPads. Geese—Canadian and Greylag geese, to be precise—are perched on top of the mound of Androids, iPhones, and iPads.

A crocodile’s eyes appear from the milk. A crocodile’s eyes appear through the milk. The insensate brute floats there inanimate. Then the crocodile starts. The crocodile is moving. The crocodile is more animated now, floundering about. His mouth a horrible man-trap, the crocodile widens its jaws.

Porpoise heads raise themselves to the surface and gasp. Porpoises are floating through the white goo. They drift in the open milk. There, on the shore, hippopotami. Getting back into their lacteous environment, the hippopotami sink into the warmish ooze.

In the shallows, a brood of crocodiles. There, warm crocodile eggs.

You pass a flock of flamingos. A many-feathered cassowary lifts its slender legs high into the air and prances forward.

Some foolish human male is dancing in the underbrush. Ensheathed in crocodile hide and emblazoned with flamingo feathers, dressed like a pagan deity, the man pretends that he is one of the inhuman animals.

You turn your head back to the spreading milk. The heads of seals surface like so many bobbing scrotums.

On the far bank, you see animals prancing and herding. The wallabies and the kangaroos, released, are jaunting across the lawn.

There is another crocodile rising through the milk to greet you. On the chessboard of the crocodile’s square scales, a seagull is flickering its wings. The flailing tail of the saurian monster brushes aside the frogs and the toads from the oozing milk-mud.

Macaque monkeys swing and fling their bodies overhead, from tree to tree.

You see a retinue of nuns parading through the underbrush on the left bank. Like virgins to a sacrifice, the nunnish nuns parade toward the milk river.

One of the nuns is wearing a black T-shirt.

Her T-shirt reads: Being a Nun Don’t Mean No Fun!

Into a cavern they spelunkingly venture, the nuns. The cavern is garlanded with roses and vines.

There is a whitish stone on the raft. You heave the stone. You hurl the stone into the milk pool. It swiftly sinks without creasing the yellowing surface of the milky reservoir.

Lazing in the littoral mud, the alligators sleep. The alligators gaze at the nuns as they vanish into the cavern.

The alligators follow the nuns into the cavern.

Raising its fierce weight, standing on its hindlegs, an alligator silently roars.

Smashing down on the surface of the river, a milk-bird captures some squirmy milk-creature in its talons. Crashing blow, coming down.

Spinning its mass through the viscid muck, a shark is spinning.

A centaur-like man is bathing himself in the milk. He is an idiotic idiot.

A jimber-jawed sea lion swallows a penguin.

(Jimber-jaw = a lower jaw that is longer than the upper jaw.)

Your raft drifts down the river. You see a bus flipped over on its side as you pass.

There is the bus driver babbling to himself. He looks like some repulsive robot. His skin is like a beetle’s carapace. The man with beetle-like skin is jumping up and down idiotically. Straight-jacked by the passengers of the bus, the man is dragged into a neighboring trailer park.

There is a writer manqué. There is nothing for the writer to write, now that the existing city landscape has become imaginary.

He lowers his hands into the cool milk. His sandpapery hands are being washed in the milk flood.

One hundred feet before you: An alligator is surfacing. Holding a paddle in its jaws, the alligator raises its head and then descends again.

Around you: A school of alligators. The alligators cough. In the mud: Caimans are laying their eggs.

With the velocity of a missile, a shark spears the flow.

The armed jaws of a crocodile smile at you as you waft past. He fixes his watery eyes on you.

Thrashing in the milk, a bear is foraging for undermilk creatures.

Poised over the milk, a beautifully pink flamingo searches for fish-meat.

A stork ruffles its plumage and settles into the milk.

Paradisiacal, sylvan, a faunal dream, Milk River is now an oasis in what was once one of the more modernized cities in North America.

You might as well be floating down an arterial jungle tributary. It is difficult to believe that Milk River was the Chicago River not more than twenty-four hours before.

In the green forest, you see puffy white flowers. The puffy white flowers look like balls of vanilla ice cream.

A gush of dolphins—jaunting, slippery, shiny dolphins—jumps into your line of vision. Their emergence ripples the foam. The foaming flood ripples through the grass, across the surface of the river, and to your raft.

Forty feet to the right: Otters are folding themselves and fondling themselves, curling themselves into semicircles. The otters dive into the milk, propelling their sleek bodies across the milky slick. You admire the chocolate fur of the otters. Furiously barking giant otters, they are barking furiously.

Somewhere below, somewhere beneath the frothy surface, a school of manatees is spiraling through the milk.

An acrobatic porpoise lifts itself from the froth and then descends in an arc back into the whooshing milkshake.

You look to the left: An owl-faced priest is pounced upon by playful giant otters.

Hoatzins (beautifully blue-and-orange tropical pheasants) spread their wings, asthmatically wheezing as they whiz from tree to tree in the spontaneously growing jungle.

You hear the pumping gaspings and groanings of a howler monkey, grumblings that give way to a full-blown clarion bellow.

A boat of humans speeds into the offing. They call you. The hominid family disappears into the crests of foam.

Squealing and squeaking, the giant otters lower themselves into milk river.

On the bank: A man dressed in a mail carrier’s uniform is standing opposite a mighty bear. The bear is squatting there cantilevered, staring at the human who is staring back at the bear.

The mailman breaks into a run. He moves through the ragged forest like a ghost, keeping pace with the thrusting survivalists. He rushes to the fortress. A mist is thickening into swirls of airy ice cream all around him, as he rushes toward the crenellated tower, across the damp field.

You gape at the emergent heads of seals, slick sea dogs.

The sunlight dances on iridescently sparkling stretches of milk.

A water buffalo, followed by a train of otters, slips through the arch of a viaduct. A leg-dangling boy is squatting on the viaduct. An unharnessed musk ox is there, dripping with milk. The musk ox squeezes into the viaduct.

A beautiful scene unfolds before you. Cherries are being plucked from the lush branches of the cherry trees by cherry-plucking human families. It is refreshing to see human beings so cheerfully adjusting to the jungle environment.

You gaze at the milky river as it moves inexorably into the obscure distance.

You look at a bubbling rippling path in the middle of the river. There, where the ripples are bubbling, you see ascending and circling bluefish, arcing and descending. There, the milk is impenetrably white.

Fifteen feet to the right: There is a tribe of humans performing their mid-afternoon ablutions. They wash their brown and white flesh with the milk.

Hauling milk out of the pond with their cupped palms, the orangutans are stooped along the bank, swooping the soupy milk into their mouths with eager scoops, their hulking forms hunkered down.

There is a grizzly bear in the milk, charging a heron. The heron flies away briskly. Milk-logged, the grizzly bear is sighing seethingly.

Heavy and sopping with milk, the survivalist men stupidly flop about and wade about pointlessly. What are they doing? They surely are not going hunting or fishing. Assuredly, they could not be so stupid, you can be assured most assuredly.

The beautifully slippery black caimans are there in the milk, the unstupid caimans. In their crocodilian paths are herons and flamingos and storks.

Nothing is more frightening than the fearsome alligator—intimidatingly serene, terrifyingly placid, doing nothing but wallowing in the shallows. The thick, rounded jaws of the alligator unclose slightly, jagged teeth protruding from its half-closed mouth.

There you see horrible gharials—aggressive mutant crocodiles with bizarrely tube-shaped and protrusive snouts, their mouths lined with a chain of terrible bone-grinding bird-snatching bone-teeth. Their spiked tails are like thorny cat-o-nine-tails. Misevolved they were from their saurian ancestors.

The calloused snouts of the crocodiles you see now, eyes boggling atop of their warty heads, crocodiles sunning themselves.

Around the crocodiles, the milk pool has grown swampy. The milk there has grown a fetid cast—a green sheen, a green silky slick.

You see the moist, rotting bark of tree roots dipping into the milk pool. The bark and the roots are moist with milk. They are sucking up the milk. The milk makes the trees grow taller.

Through the forest are fairy-like girls running. They blend into the forest dream.

A pool beside the river. The pool has become a wallow for pigs and bears. Muck-happy boars are mucking about in the pool.

A man is bathing his wounds in the milk. He is wearing black shorts. A bright-red gash is visible above his left knee.

The sky is a melt of blues and greys, colors that seem to be melding together. From the blue-and-grey sky comes a bald eagle.

The bald eagle dives into the weltering flood, plunging amazingly from the air into the milk. It returns, remerges, clutching a glistening trout in its strong talons, leaving expanding ripples in its wake, and transcends to the clouds.

Delicate and elegant, a flock of cranes is wading, foraging in the thin milk, plunging their wedge-shaped bills into the mucky slime.

Quails are hobbling along, sweet birds.

Children are climbing the trees, not to escape the animals below, but because they want to live like the animals. The animals have liberated the children, freed them from the world of adults. The children, unafraid of the raptors in the trees, are living like raptors in the trees.

Do you see the tiger shark sinuating through the milk? No, it is, not a tiger shark. It is, rather, a hammerhead shark. A hammerhead shark is sinuously sinuating through the milk.

You continue to walk along the shore, never tearing your eyes from the magical Milk River.

The hammerhead shark returns to the surface. You see its blade teeth, its mouth glinting a serrated smile. You see its long head. It is slicing through the waves, down river. It has long green fins, fins that drive it through the milk, that propel it across the river. The shark dives deep into the bubbling milk. The shark then remerges, looking around with the eyes at the tips of its hammer-shaped head.

The shark dives again, deep downward. It twists and turns through the ruins of the drowned city, through the rubble of televisions sets and computer monitors, through the heap of telephones and Blackberries that is now a coral reef.

A whale is beneath the surface, swallowing the milk.

You follow the milky tributary with your eyes. Into what does it issue? You realize now that this may be the source of the milk, that all of the milk that is emanating from this milky source is irrigating and fertilizing what was once the city of Chicago.

The sun, high in the sky, casts spangles on the milky wavelets.

Submerged in the whirls and swirls of the milk, hippopotami slumber.

Asmear with the buttery semisolid milk-substance, the humans flounder about or float on their backs.

Sliding into the flood, the youth-seeking women seek to reclaim their youth.

The slow hypnosis of the elephants sinking into the foam.

The jetties of milk are spiraling. Spirals of mist, effluvial and white. Lacy mist-gusts.

The slope slopes steep into the seething milk.

Standing on a wind-whipped knoll, an albino mountain goat looks over the city.

Half-disappearing into the milk, a gorilla is going down.

A fish eagle broadens its gorgeous brown wings and swoops down into the shoals. It lifts itself back up and takes the air, a milky milk-fish squirming and dripping in its talons.

A heron is stabbing and spearing the milk with its sporting bill, stabbing and spearing at prey, prey that swirls within the shallows, in the swirling milky opacity, flapping their wings to flush out their prey, the mollusks and the fish in the shallow milk.

A cabal of shoebills, like a cabal of old heresiarchs, is standing in the milk, pecking for prey.

(A heresiarch is a heretic king.)

The birds seize milk-wet snakes in their gigantic flat scooper-bills, scooping up wriggling turtles, capturing writhing frogs in their scoops. There is so much life in the frothing milk, so much fecundity, squirming fecund life. Scooping shoebills on the shore, too. A mother shoebill regurgitates frog-meat into her chick’s waiting eager mouth.

The pelicans are doing their fishing, their throat-pouches bulging, standing in a circle, flushing the fish into their circle, herding them into the ever-narrowing circle and then sucking them up with slapping slurps. Above you drifts a flock of pelicans, flapping through the sky in a V-formation.

Waves of milk are hissing to the shoreline.

A cormorant spreads its wings widely to dry them in the punishing sun.

Milk tigers are sulking and stalking storks in the shoals.

The flamingo’s plumage is vibrantly, radiantly pink.

The sentinels of the lacteous swamp—the flamingos, the frogs, and the tortoises—keep their watch. They seem angry guardians of the river.

As the human beings slosh through bucketfuls of milk sludge, they forget the world of the city. They are dwellers of the river, and it is here that they will spend the rest of their days.

An eel is swimming undermilk—a thick, long, golden monster. A sinuating sea snake.

Fishing on the wing, the kingfishers fly over the rippling jelly.

Immersed waist-high in the shallows, a middle-aged man is muttering to himself. He is a failed musician.

The milk is gleaming with blue fish, fish the color of gun-metal, and pufferfish. Puffins dive into the white waves.

A mother and her son are drifting, in a bamboo skiff, across the lagoon of milk. The mother gestures at the antelope, the moose, and the giraffes that prance on the shore. You observe the antelope, the moose, and the giraffes as they dance their mid-afternoon dance.

Their tails lashing, the stingrays steer through the mucky milk. They are smoothly moving, their flimsy, pancake-shaped bodies waving in the waves, their pectoral fins flapping. They move smoothly and poetically, the stingrays, gliding on the surface of the milk pond like so many automotive lilies.

On the shore is a cube of solid milk. A wild boar is tusking the cube. The beast pushes its tusks into the mucinous mass.

The elephant herd comes down hurriedly to drink at the milk. A herd of zebra stampedes down the hill, following them.

You see an elephant and her elephant calf. The calf twitches her flanks as she buries her head between her mother’s corrugated legs.

Toward you is squawking a flock of mallards. All of the ducks scramble around your feet, squabbling and squawking.

A fox on the bank of the river is eying the geese and the ducks.

Sloshing its webbed feet through the white thickness, the Graylag goose honks his honking call. The gander’s wings are raised triumphantly, his neck slung back.

A strange bird with shiny blue wings and a large orange beak spirals and whirls and wheels around you in a friendly way.

The fox vanishes into the underbrush where the goslings of Graylag geese are hatching.

You see a crested blue ibis amid a flock of ducks.

Ducks lose their power of flight in captivity. Here, by this paradisaical river, they are relearning how to fly, how to soar through the air.

Basking in the sun, the hippopotami mesmerize you.

You recognize, staring at this milky birthplace, that the voyage of the humans, beasts, and birds ends at the Milk River.

Young girls are sponging and scrubbing a mammoth elephant in the Milk River, now whitened, beneath the LaSalle Street Bridge. Swigging it as if it were ambrosial nectar, the elephant sucks up and down the milkiness.

An inflated man, around thirty, is caressing the rough hide of a water buffalo.

Heavy, fleshy people are there, waddling about, humans of a glutinous, gluttonous obesity.

The elderly are vitalized in the flood of milk.

They are lapping up the milky zoo cream.

Slippery galactophages.

Sticky galactophages.

The human beings that bathe in the river of milk are revivified. It is the river of milk that has revitalized them. They are more alive now than they were yesterday, living with a new aliveness.

Humans are throwing their telephones into the milky muck. They are casting their iPods and iPads into the mucky milk. Androids and BlackBerries are splashing into the swallowing milk basin, leaving distending ripples in their wake.

The sun glistens on the milk-waves, and you wonder at all that is unfolding around you.

You see a girl with black hair. She is floating on a raft, much as you are. The shark rockets toward the raft, milk spraying on both sides, with jaws agape. Fins slice through the frothy milk lid. And yet the shark does not attack the girl on the raft. It rifts the waves and plunges deep to the bottom of the river.

Porpoise heads surface and laugh merrily. They bob their heads up and smile at the girl in the raft.

Humans sitting on the bank dip their feet into the river. Seals rub their whiskery noses against their brown and white human legs.

White crocodiles are swiveling their reptilian forms in the milky waves.

See the clumsy moose ambling through the grass. The killer whales lurk in the milk, waiting for the moose to tramp along.

They want to seize the moose in their jaws while the walruses, blubbery pinnipeds, look on.

Grasping the air with their tentacles, the octopuses raise their bubble bobble heads. The air is dimming around them.

A tall man in blue swimming trunks stands on the shore, raising his arms. He takes in a lungful of air and lunges forward, plunging into the milky bubblings.

The swimming man stands aloft and runs his fingers through his milk-saturated hair. Covered in the thick milk sauce, he seems a yeti or an abominable snowman.

The milk has a pearly sheen in the decaying sun.

Jaguar-sized giant otters, river tigers, are lurking in the shallows.

Grinning sharks pop up their parabola heads, ready to catch the flying birds in their toothy smiles.

The giant otters, their heads shaped like bullets, dive one after the other into the rush.

Milk is splashing over the rocks. A milkfall is splashing over the rock staircase.

Swimming guanacos are swimming in the glaucous-white flood, friendly camelids. The camels, the llamas, and the alpacas—they are floating in the glaucous-white flood.

You look up and stare at the NBC Tower, which is green with vines and red with flowers.

Paddling through the milk, four boys are exploring the deeps for lost treasures.

Flicking from branch to branch, a wave of butterflies flit and flutter along.

Cormorants spread out their milk-soaked wings on the rocks to dry.

Curving cetaceans—porpoises and dolphins—heave and plunge through the froth.

Sharks with steak-knife teeth tumble in the swell.

As the milk caressively laps the shore, the humans play in the flood.

There is a blonde woman, about twenty-five, bathing in the milk. She lowers her head into the milk completely. Only her blonde hair is visible now. Her blonde hair sways rhythmically in the tide.

An armada of sharks is coursing across the frothy milk.

Antelope are impending their lipless mouths over the welling and weltering ooze.

There is an old man, wearing a fisher’s jacket and a fishing cap, drifting in his canoe down Milk River, riding on the cushiony bouncy waves.

You see a shoebill spearing the milk with its bill.

A herd of moose congregates by the shore.

In a happy drove, the capybaras are swimming through the bubbly milk. Above the milky surface, the flat jagging heads of the capybaras, with eyes, noses, and ears on the tops of their spade-shaped heads. A lone capybara is jagging the jagged trunk of a fallen tree, gnawing at the wood. Wood chips are flying.

Water buffalo are attended by creamy butterflies, plasmatic butterflies. Yellow-and-black butterflies are swirling around a water buffalo that is standing on the shore. Butterflies are lofting on its long horns.

A dolphin springs into the air and, flipping, descends in a clean arc, slicing back into the milk, wagging its flippers. Twisting upward and downward, the dolphin ascends and descends spectacularly.

See the flocculating milk, the ever-streaming, ever-gushing milk, as it douses the humans, flowing all over them slipperily.

Here, human and dolphin commingle cheerfully.

Burgeoning from the milk, three shaggy brown bears climb to the shore, their furrowed fur glistening. You see the white teeth of the shaggy brown bears.

Marooned in the milk, a triad of humans waits for the milk to subside. It will not subside.

Bugling and honking, two geese rumble in the water.

Indifferent penguins are cooling in the milk. They are trumpeting, barking, and cawing. There are loons beside them, trumpeting and screaming like lunatics. A pair of exotic birds you cannot identify are yodeling, cackling, and cooing. A flock of birds with long yellow bills are shrieking, grunting, and croaking. They are fencing, snapping at one another with their bills. Another bird—reddishly plumed and yellow-billed—is calling, its call like the lashing of a whip.

A teenage girl squeals with glee as she wades into the milk and keels over on her side.

Kneeling in the milk, sinking into the murky eddies, the humans prostrate themselves before the milky wonders, the elephants and the hippopotami.

You see beasts and birds dancing alongside the river. This is a ceremony of some kind, a ceremony in which the boars and the flamingos are dancing an incomprehensible ballet.

Along the river bank dances the glorious menagerie. The animals are dancing, dancing along the river bank. You are alone in your raft. The animals are dancing for you. They form a queue, dancing their line dance. The boars, the flamingos, the rabbit, the dromedaries, the alpacas, the raccoons, the foxes, and the moose: All of them form a dancing bestiary.

Look at the river.

Somewhere in the depths of the milk is the gaping mouth of a sea anemone, its tentacles ensnaring its prey.

The snow geese are whitely beautiful and beautifully white. Their webbed feet are powerful and propel them through the milky whiteness.

Propped on their forefeet like crutches, a harem of female seals with O-mouths flippers forward. Spindle-shaped, square-flippered, the seals plunge into the milk from the milk-slickened rocks. Twisting and turning, they pirouette beneath the milky film, mammoths of the deep. Bursts of bubble strands bubble up to the surface.

See the old man with a stick in his hand. His stick points toward the suctional gravity of the rushing river.

Swimming in the white, the hippopotami and the polar bears are silently calling your name.

Milk-moistened elephant seals bask on the rocks. They honk and snort, beached seals, yelping and barking.

Resting its head sleepily on a rock, a seal calf sighs. Long-muzzled, a mother seal nuzzles its baby.

A seal stares at you obliquely and curiously, seal-head atilt. The seal is bored. You bore the seal. It lurches forward with propulsive foreflippers, heaving and hauling its long spindly body, and lunges into the milk, which responds with a resounding splash and splatter.

Squirming in a milk-pit like Plath’s mussels, the mussels are squirming in the cratered pit.

A pod of walruses reclines on a rock at the center of the milk river.

See the pod of walruses.

From where you are, the walruses look like long-tusked gerbils basking in the sun. A massive pile of long-tusked gerbils, a horde of overlapping, interleaving gerbils with long white tusks and slipper feet. Look closer. Walruses look like boars—like marine boars or tusked sea pigs. Scrutinizing the walruses, you can see their thick skin, creased and folded. A huddle of mustached rasping walruses are huddling together. Bull walruses, mustached with vibrissae, are making knocking sounds, sounds that sound like the clanging of bells. They make clicking and clacking sounds, the bull walruses.

The milk is thickening, growing and growing gooily gluey.

Vicious leopard seals, seals that prey on crab-eating seals, are lurking on the rocks, watching the crab-eaters slip silently into the milk.

Skuas, roving seabirds, are describing beautiful arcs in the air.

A tumble of sharks, their dorsal fins diving in and out of the milk, is churning the milk.

Trousers rolled-up, a high-school teacher is wading in the milk. He is muttering to himself, lecturing an audience of students that no one but he can see.

Writhing pleasantly in the mud, a giant river wolf squirms and worms about.

Reclining luxuriously on its back, an elephant seal luxuriates in the cold sun.

Lowing cows are taking draughts from the milk stream.

The children seem almost amphibious as they dive into and sinuate through the milk.

The bottlenose dolphins plunge into the milk, pirouetting to the bottom.

You see the beak-shaped snouts of whales rising above the milk.

The humpback whale is flapping its flipper-wings and oozing through the milk. You see whales spouting milk-spouts through their blowholes. Through their blowholes, ascending into the sky, milk-geysers. The milk geysers upward and cascades downward, splattering on the milky film.

All over the white river are beautiful white breaching whales, white whales breaching the white milk.

Jets of milk jump into the air. The waves leap up and clap hands.

A killer whale swims upward and snatches a tree branch in its jaws. The branch snaps. The killer whale swallows the branch without chewing the branch. Though orcas have few teeth, they are powerful teeth.

How could any river hold so many cetaceans, and where did they come from? Some renegade marine biologists must have transplanted them from the aquarium.

Dolphins are mating in the milk. Dolphins are mating with the milk. You hear the strange squeals of the dolphins in the foam.

Leaping dolphins are leaping above the milky froth, spinning dolphins are spinning through the milky heaviness. Under the milk, a school of dolphins is dividing into smaller agglomerations.

A pod of killer whales is soaring across the milk.

The rhinoceros is on the shore, watching the dance of the porpoises and the dolphins. The plump porpoises are surfacing to the shore. They make no sound. Porpoises are inaudible. The dolphins are surfacing to the shore. They are chirping and chattering and squealing and squeaking to the rhinoceros on the shore. The rhinoceros looks at the dolphins quizzically.

The dolphins are serenading the rhinoceros. The rhinoceros says nothing. The rhinoceros says nothing and listens to the dolphins’ serenade. The dolphins float away, ignored and sad, attended by pulpy doughnut-shaped jellyfish and pancake-flat stingrays. As they drift away, attended by the jellyfish, the dolphins are chirping their song.

Out of the milk, looking at you, is the big head of a beluga whale. It has a funny white head. It is a smirking head. It is a simpering head. It is a smooth, grooveless, featureless head, a marshmallow head with twin black beads for eyes close to the neck, and a slightly parted carved crescent of a mouth. The beluga whale is mooing and booing and cooing at you. It makes ringing and clanging noises, as if its mouth were a bell. It is clicking at you, producing clapping sounds with its lipless lips. It is bellowing and whistling at you. Funny beluga whale.

The ghost-like beluga whale sinks slowly into the milky deeps and joins its school, the spectral school of beluga whales.

Watch. The beaked whales are arcing out of the milk and into the milk again. They are encrusted with clusters of barnacles.

The bison huffs through its shiny black nose and shakes its milk-sodden head, shedding rivulets of milk in all directions.

A shore-bound elephant is sucking milk into its trunk, pouring it into its rubbery pink mouth-spout. Its teats are being suckled by an elephant calf. Snorkeling elephants are trudging through the milk. Snorting porpoises are sailing balletically through the milk.

The elephant plunges its trunk into its own mouth, the trunk reaching deep into its throat, sucking out milk from its throat-pouch. The elephant draws the trunk back out and douses its body with the milky regurgitate.

Showered with milk, the men and women are happily splashing.

You gaze at a gaze of raccoons, bandit beasts that are rubbing their paws and dunking their black-mask heads into the unquestioning welcoming white milk.

You peer at the beavers on the shore, flappy flapping rodents gnawing on sneakers and boots and Italian leather shoes.

You are sitting on the aft of the raft.

Giant otters are sunbathing on the rocks, relaxing their slick and sleek and silky bodies, unfolding their sharp-toothed mouths, yawning them, showing the pink insides of their mouths and teeth that could tear through zebra flesh, rolling their sinuous bodies over the stones.

Gorging on chicken sausages, the crocodiles haul their bodies on to the rocks.

You see them, stately, the bizarre birds. Red-beaked hornbills on the milk.

The dignified heron stands in the whispery milk. With a brisk thrust of its bill, the heron threshes at its fish-prey.

Through the glutinous whiteness, fish are glistening.

Wallowing in the milk is a Cape buffalo. At first, all you see are its upward-curving hooked horns. The horns traverse the surface of the pool, relaying ripples everywhere. Now, the ungulate emerges from the pool, the milk dripping down its grey hide. Its face is stupidly insane and insanely stupid.

Two children—one boy, one girl—sneak behind the woman and push her into the milk river, the deck chair falling in with her.

The head of a great white shark is ascending, towering above the milk, its gaping razor-toothed sucker-head high out of the heaving waves, its maw inflamed, its gill slits raging madly.

Propped on a rock, a Human Resources manageress waves her arms at you helplessly. Moored and marooned in the river, she looks around herself uselessly.

She sees what there is to see: The river is heavy with mammoth eels and giant lampreys.

Creamy with milk, an accountant crawls out of the river.

You see a shark’s wing-like fins, its spindly body.

Beside the river is a grey-haired woman. She squats on rotting bark, beguiling the fish from the water with the promise of oatmeal and rye. Sweat drops from her forehead into the milk.

Dragonflies soar across the milk. A milk snake slides through hissing reeds.

Wavelets lasso the rocks that surface through the milky lacquer.

With a galvanic lunge, a gargantuan carp heaves through the air and sucks the offering from her hand into its toothless mouth. The fish flips and splashes back down into the filthy, murky, stinking depths of the river.

Sipping the thinning milk, the chickens gather at the bank. They sip, they gulp, they squawk.

Steer the raft to the shore.

Sloshing through the slush, you steer forward. The steer are lapping milk from the milk-streams in the channels.

You steer the raft to the shore. You climb out of the raft.

At the shore you are now. Douse your pinkened face with pearly river milk.

You kneel down. You take off your clothing. Now you are naked. You enter the milk. You wade into the unwarm milk.

Penetrating the silky milk, the liquid flows over you. You look at the flowers alongside the bank before you submerge and submerse yourself. Plunge into the ethereal whiteness. You swim. You open and close your arms, spreading them before you. You fold and unfold your legs. You turn on your back and then spin around and float on your chest. You feel the cool milk beneath you. You feel the cool milk around you. You feel the cool milk swallowing you. The milk rushes sloshingly into your ear canals. Your arms are swallowed by the white milk. Whitish fish swim in the currents. The milk presses itself lovingly against your front and back—holding you, embracing you. The mucilaginous milk. The soft and yet hard all-emulsifying milk.

You descend into the milky bower of bliss, into the pool of ecstasies.

Your head emerges from the pool of milk like the snout of a sea lion emerging from a briny sea.

You are swimming through the milk, spreading your arms in front of you. Turn upside down. You are floating on your back.

Now, you put your feet down. Swimming in and through the milk are sturgeons and eels, weaving between your legs. The milk river is like some vast dairy, pulsating with human beings and jaunty fish. You play in the milk river, one with the piscine and human life.

Some of the milk is solidifying into an insoluble yellow-white gunk, a latex-like goo. The milk sticks to your skin.

Into the jellified ooze you sink more deeply now, mingling your flesh with the milk.

As you descend into the river, the holy milk lactifies your flesh.

The gelatinous milk bubbles up. Before you flows eternal whiteness.

As you enter the deeps of the river, the milk yields and molds itself around your form.

You resurface, your head and chest above the milk. Milk streams into your hair and down your neck.

You see dogs. On the shore, dogs. The dogs are lapping at the milky flow, which laps up to your chest.

There is still much confusion on the subject: How did these sea-creatures find their way into the Chicago River? And how has the rather fetid water of the Chicago River turned into milk?

No one knows exactly how the eels, sharks, lampreys, jellyfish, and stingrays found their way into the milky bower. The consensus seems to be that they are émigrés from an aquarium, transported by self-recriminating marine biologists who had given up their profession. And this is not a hallucination, as hallucinatory as it might appear: This is as real as anything you have ever perceived. You can see, hear, and touch the piscine and crustacean life. The milk pond is abuzz with outboards and asplash with aquatic life.

You notice the giant-teethed giant otters skulking in the reeds. Grime-slickened, the giant otters are throbbing angrily, and you swim to the shore quickly and silently.

You lift yourself out of the milk and walk away from the river. You ascend the grassy slope.

You can still feel the milk against your skin. You can feel the milk inside of you. Milk oozes into your pores and nostrils and follicles. Flesh is turning into milk, and milk is flowing into you.

As you climb up the slope, you are greeted by baby antelope. The fawns fawn on you, lapping your neck with their hard purple tongues.

Copyright 2014 by Joseph Suglia

Table Thirty-Three: Joseph Suglia

A ladder leans against a Chase Bank. You climb up the ladder to the rooftop.

Peering over the edge, you are astonished by what you see.

You gaze at the waves of green, the flapping green leaves, waving “Hello!” to you from below.

Standing on the rooftop, you survey the cityscape, which has now become a junglescape. Covering the tall buildings are semi-translucent, branching, short-stalked green leaves. Out of the windows some tenants have propped signs—signs that are illegible, so immense is the spreading furry leafage. You hear the whirring of sirens, the reports of radios, as the National Guard trundles through the city with flamethrowers and scythes. Scything and scalping and sickling and burning the vines. And then there is the vigilante corps—they slice and shear and shred the vines. And yet every time a bamboo-culm is severed or a vine-stem is amputated or a stalk is dismembered, a new one sprouts hydra-like in its place. You hear someone on the street below say that cutting the vines is inadvisable—simply let them overrun the city and wait for them to wither and brown in the winter. The vines, however, do anything but cringe—they creep forward, they coil, they wind, they vigorously thrust themselves upon the surface of the city. Cut them down, they reshoot. Tear them out, others grow in their place. Destruction leads to mass-multiplication. Uproot the plants and the city will be even more tangled in bamboo and strangled by vines. Every attempt at extirpation results in mass-replenishment.

And yet you see a squadron of police officers, hatcheting the trees with their red hatchets. The thicket is impenetrable and is becoming ever-more stiflingly impenetrable. The police officers hack away uselessly at the branches. They hack away at the branches, and new branches grow in their place.

Surveying the plantscape, you see a young boy playing with a purple-reddish flower, and you recognize that plants are very much like children—without adults, their growth will be stunted or stultified—but is this really the case for this new species of plant, if it is “new” at all? These plants seem to require no one. They certainly do not require human beings for their growth, maintenance, or sustenance. The plants that are overtaking the city seem indifferent to humankind in general. You could easily imagine the city devoid of human life and yet still a vast mobile garden that grows and grows immeasurably. In the winter, the plants will wither and die, of course. All that one must do is abandon the city now and return, perhaps, in the winter. A state of emergency has been declared, and evacuation is mandatory.

And yet where would you go? Perhaps all of North America is besieged by the monstrous, lustrous plants.

Look below: fast-growing, dense, evergreen shrubbery, frutescent growths bedecked with white flowers and five-lobed green leaves. Human beings roam across the thistly carpets of green leaves. You hear the cries of patrolmen, aiming their flare guns and firing at unseen targets. You hear the roaring of lawnmowers and the buzzing of chainsaws.

What is happening here? Is the entire city of Chicago reverting to a vegetative state? If this is the case, there really is nothing for you to do but watch as the city descends into green carnality, into a vegetative orgy.

Not merely Chicago.

Swathing the planet, you imagine, are gardens of all kinds, and animals are roaming these gardens untrammeled by human misery.

Looking down, you trace the patterns of the streets with your eyes, surveying their half-erased contours. The grid of the city is being reallocated. Streets are blocked by massive trees that sprouted overnight. Egress and access, everything is greened over.

You are suffused with anxiety. What if the new city were to become as boring as the one it is supplanting? What if this concolorous city, this city of green, were to grow every bit as monotonous as the human city?

(Concolorous = of one color.)

The new city will be one in which there is nothing but mindless predation—a city devoid of complexity.

You listen, somewhat absently, to a few stifled human screams. The jungle is filling every empty space, stultifying human movement, strangulating human life. You cannot even see the buildings anymore. Good riddance. Encircling the city is a mobile wall of green growth, a coliseum of greenery.

The sky is yellowing. The yellow sky irises the vegetative metropolis. Welcome to the Garden of Earthly Delights.

THE CITY OF CHICAGO IS RENEWING ITSELF. IT HAS TURNED INTO A JUNGLE. NOT A METAPHORICAL JUNGLE, BUT A REAL THROBBING JUNGLE.

What strikes you most about the jungle is its aliveness. This is not a mere city congested with weeds, some decrepit, post-apocalyptic ghost town. It is an alive city, a city bursting and bristling with aliveness, a city more living than ever before.

Focusing your vision on the ruins of the city, you see new growths everywhere sprouting through the rubble, transforming the rubble into something other than rubble. You fix your vision on the green grottoes that have formed where pizzerias once stood, on the lush waterfalls that are blossoming where there were once video stores, on the up-thrusting gardens where there were once tattoo emporia, on the groves where there were once hospitals, on the oases where there were once nightclubs, on the springs where there were once post offices. If this is not paradise, then nothing is paradise. If this is not the Garden of Earthly Delights, then there is no Garden of Earthly Delights.

You see the portico of a white house enveloped in green leaves. The Latin School is greened; the cinema is greened.

You see humans scrambling about. Against the ever-thickening greening, humans seem all the more pitiful, almost impalpable, as if they were holograms superimposed on the vegetative landscape.

Hundreds of feet beneath you, on the street: A bald girl. She stops and looks up at you. She stares blankly.  With waxy skin and no eyebrows, she seems to have shaven off all of her hair, a Pierrot in the Garden of Earthly Delights.

Large, heavy, leathery leaves balance on walking stalks, stalks that walk down the greening streets. Their spathes enclose lush inflorescence—blooms that will soon unfold in a rainbow of undreamed colors.

You see a spavined CTA bus stalled at the intersection of Clark Street and North Avenue, which is now overgrown with raspy weeds. There are weeds growing inside of the bus.

Where is the ladder? The ladder is gone. A seagull studies you puzzledly. No ladder, no door—only bamboo tree tops sticking up.

Slide down the bamboo trunk. You remember that, technically speaking, the bamboo is not a tree, but a grass. An invasive grass. How could a grass support you? A grass is not climbable.

You extend your arms and embrace a slender bamboo trunk, your face against the fragrant yellow bark. It is flimsy and yet solid. You cannot scale downwards.

You plunge, your legs, like the legs of a koala, wrapping the trunk. Will the bamboo trees cushion your fall?

A tree lifts you on its branches, you scramble in the air, they are snapping, you grasp at the branches, they are splintering, you flail your arms, they are collapsing, you flounder, they are capsizing, you flutter, they are folding and they are falling, you fall downward with them and plummet to the ground, the shards of shattered bamboo forming a thorny, thistly bed.

Falling on a cushion of leaves and twigs, a nest for a human bird.

Hit the ground. You are descended.

You will continue your journey. You will rebegin your journey down Clark Street, which is immersed in a thin film of milk. Your legs are getting wet. Your hair, legs, back, chest, and arms are wet with milk. Exotic birds are released into the wind.

You raise yourself and scythe with your hands, cutting a swath through the wildness of the wilderness.

Copyright 2014 by Joseph Suglia

Table Thirty-Four: Joseph Suglia

You hear the noise of a vehicle. A white Buick cruises evenly over the flat street.

The white Buick coasts into the parking lot of a Walgreens.

The car brakes.

Out of the automobile clambers a heavy man. The heavy man is bald. He is dressed as if he were a financial accountant. He is holding a pair of pruning shears in his right hand. He clenches a basket in his left hand.

He waddles across the street to the shoe store. The shoe store is covered in vines. He opens the pruning shears. Like a gardener in a garden, the large man pries at the vines with the pair of pruning shears. The stubborn vines refuse to yield to his pruning shears.

From the vines are growing strange fruit. Eggplant-shaped, with shiny black skin. The accountant detaches the fruit from the vines. He fills his basket with the strange black fruit.

Now, he is waddling to the apple tree. The apple tree is growing before the Currency Exchange. He drops the basket and the pruning shears to the grassy, milky street. He breaks off a bough from the magically feathering apple tree. He throws the bough into the basket.

Then come the peach and apricot trees that are flourishing into the air.

Climbing up a ladder is a blonde woman of Eastern European descent. The accountant assesses her svelte, leonine physique as she climbs the ladder to the fourth floor of an apartment building and wiggles into an open window.

You make your way to the forest.

You glance at the tiger. Straight ahead of you.

The unblinking binocular orange eyes of the tiger are watching you. The unblinking binocular orange eyes of the tiger are following you as you enter the green passageway of the newly grown forest.

The tiger slinks closer, more closely now.

The snarler is one hundred feet before you. The tiger positions itself in front of you and studies you with non-indifference.

Glaring a thousand-mile stare, the tiger is fixing its gaze upon you.

The tiger is snarling and gnarling. You hear the chittering of the birds and the chattering of the monkeys.

The tiger freezes and stares its frozen stare, locking eyes with your looking eyes. Its eyes are the green of green Jell-O.

Staring as if it were attempting to mesmerize you, the tiger springs into a jolt.

It springs. The tiger rushes past you. The tiger is jockeying for the zebra and the antelope.

The tiger is moving its agile haunches as it advances on its quarry. Panting, vibrating as it pants, the tiger is coming.

Baring its yellowish fangs, the tiger leaps through the air and pounces upon the zebra.

You pass a Starbucks. Thick with cheetahs and jaguars, the Starbucks is their cage.

Surging down the street are leopards and panthers, running after their antelope prey. Cantering antelope are succeeded by the loping leopards and panthers, hungry for the former’s meat.

A lonesome puma, wandering and sad, is wandering through the Abercrombie & Fitch, a yellow polo shirt gripped in its canines.

See the puma walk. The puma’s gait is fluid and smooth.

The puma holds its head aloft, a swirl of red and green behind it, sprays of roses that are emanating from the ground.

The world of the leopards and panthers and pumas is slowly revealing itself to you, unclouding itself, presenting to you the fullness of its most intimate mysteries.

Skirting the perimeter of the street, you gaze at the wrestling lions. The lions are biting one another.

The lions unlock and quickly assemble into a pack.

A pride of cougars is hanging around in front of a 7-11. The cougars oscillate, waiting to pounce on the first human who will walk out of the convenience store.  The cougars are consuming courgettes.

Tigers surge into a hotel atrium, as pelicans soar above them.

Amid a swirl of leopards, a man turns. There is no escape for him. Wheeling around him is a pack of leopards.

Cat-obsessed girls are stroking the cats in the street, devotees of a felid religion.

A girl of twenty summers runs her fingers through the flaxen mane of a lion.

Two cat-obsessed girls are stroking the black-blotched hide of a cheetah.

You crouch down and join the girls. Peering at you with curiosity, the cheetah half-opens its mouth. You touch the cheetah, tracing the jigsaw of black and cream marks on its lush coat.

Your fingers plunge into the lush, deep fur of the cheetah.

The cheetah squats there, as if stuffed. Then, the cheetah moves. The cheetah arches its back and yawns, its ears swiveling like satellite dishes.

The girls are looking at you with annoyance. You stop stroking the hide of the cheetah.

Clouded leopards are lounging above, on the rooftops, staring at you, with their tails and forepaws dangling.

They see you rising to your feet. You resume your peregrinations through the city.

Adrift on the misty street, a lone wandering woman in a blue nightgown passes, zombie-like, a mother tiger licking her cubs.

A man in hiking gear—bald, blondly bearded, around thirty—marches proudly ahead of her.

Wildcats and pumas are bounding and bouncing across Clark Street. You see the whiskered wildcats and bouncy pumas rushing toward a mob of human beings.

The pumas are bothering the human beings, clenching the human heads in their jaws. But then the pumas grow bored and unfasten their jaws, releasing the human heads.

Above you, a spotted leopard is scaling an air duct, shaking its haunches meretriciously.

You see a black panther peering at you from behind a tattoo parlor. Lapping an invisible carcass with its flappy purple tongue, the panther is hungry.

You hear the terrible tearing sounds of a lion pride battening itself on a zebra, but you do not look.

After dining on the zebra flesh, the lions grow to three times their size.

Human families dismount from their trailers and gather to watch the birth of an elephant calf.

You see a lonely man. Crouching down. At the crossing of Clark and Superior. Is that man wearing a blue leotard? No, he is not wearing a blue leotard. He is wearing a blue Spandex unitard. A long-sleeved, to-the-wrists blue Spandex unitard and a Cubs baseball cap.

Shoehorned into the blue Spandex unitard, his fleshy body seems soft yet hard at the same time. It is a body of decrepit solidity.

The lonely man collects flowers, flowers that shove up from the pavement. This seems senseless in a world in which everything is flowering.

You stare at the street lamps and the telephone wires. A volcanic explosion of roses and orchids is twisting around the street lamps and the telephone wires.

In this Arcadian expanse, there is serenity—and yet it is a serenity that could be punctured at any moment by a lurch into unimaginable violence. At any moment, there could be a gobbling, a devouring that would perforate the silence.

The surface of the milk is spangled with motes of vanishing sunlight.

The windows of the tall apartment buildings catch the descending sunlight. They are studded with the decaying orange light.

You see a cloud of owls, ravens, vultures, and buzzards, raptors pirouetting in the sky. Above you circles a brown hawk endlessly.

Copyright 2014 by Joseph Suglia

Table Thirty-Five: Joseph Suglia

You sashay into the Devil’s Lettuce, a supper club at 2352 North Clark Street. A maîtress d’hôtel is perched behind the check-in counter like a plump black bird. You say to her ruffled forehead:

—Table for one, please.

Like most restauratrices and maîtresses, she does not know what to do with a patron who requests a solitary table. Such a request can only be considered bad for business. And yet to decline such a request is unthinkable. Though the dining room is three-quarters full, an anchorite diner, such as yourself, makes the restaurant seem almost empty—empty, and therefore unappealing.

“What kind of a patron dines alone?” one might reasonably ask.

A beautiful woman never dines alone.

Only one who shuns the social order dines alone. Eating is a social practice, and eating-together is a ritual that has marinated in our minds for millennia. By admitting you to the dining room, the Maîtress is compromising the integrity of the entire restaurant. You are compromising the integrity of the entire restaurant, of course, but you are compelling the captain of the restaurant to undermine her own integrity, as well. She knows this, and she resents you for placing her in such a vulnerable position. You have subjected her to the worst insult—you have forced her to go against her own nature.

She is someone who ministers to the dining room, who arranges the schedules of the waiters and waitresses, who makes sure that the tables are properly set. She is not expected to attend to isolated patrons. You are marking the restaurant as an establishment that accommodates solitary diners—and any restaurant that accommodates solitary diners is merely a restaurant that accommodates solitary diners and nothing more. It is not even worthy of the sobriquet restaurant, a place of restoration.

You know very well how the other patrons will view you. As a rejectee. As a stood-up. As someone who couldn’t find a date.

As someone who is socially undesirable. Which means that the restaurant has now become a place that shelters those who are socially undesirable. A soup kitchen, essentially.

—Table for one, please.

She queries:

—When are you expecting your guest or guests to join you?

—It’s just me.

—So when will they come by?

—When will who come by?

—The other members of your party.

—They’re not coming by.

—You’ll have to wait for the other members of your party. We’re not allowed to seat patrons until the entire party arrives, you understand.

—I’m just here by myself.

—I understand, but we can’t seat you until your friends join you. You’ll have to wait there—over there, in the lobby. Unaccompanied patrons are not seated at this establishment.

—No one is accompanying me. I am alone.

—That’s fine, but when will your friends arrive?

—Which friends?

—Your friends.

—I don’t have any friends. I have never had any friends. I will never have any friends.

Pause. Her mouth curls.

—Well, you’re just a fancy person, aren’t you? Right this way!

Sailing across the dining room, she docks you at your harbor: a table with neighbors and a vista that looks on to the bar.

From the central hall rises a broad staircase.

Across from you, a man in a black silk shirt sits slicing a melon. His eyes are a limpid blue.

The melon is moist and orange. He is sitting across another man who is wearing a wine-colored turtleneck sweater. To his right, a woman with blonde hair.

At the nearest table to your right: A young woman and her father are knifing their steaks. The young woman has a mole the color of a prune on her right cheek.

You listen to the sounds of the chicken-chewing and pasta-chomping women at a table behind you.

Swallowing their grilled micro-chickens, the diners look at their meals without boredom. Ravening like animals.

The man in the black silk shirt is speaking to the woman with blonde hair. His hand is dancing as he speaks.

They giggle, both of them. The confetti of giggles are falling over you.

As the man in the black silk shirt speaks, the woman melts into the jelly of his moist words.

It is then that you notice the serval sitting on the lap of the blonde woman.

The woman absently strokes the fur of the serval while forking her oven-roasted potatoes and knifing her filet mignon. Soon, you imagine, the serval will become the woman’s master, and the animal will be the one who strokes her mane.

You watch the blonde woman laugh. Her nostrils expand as she laughs.

She asks him a question. As if in response, he whispers into her broadening nostrils.

A man in a grey business suit greets a woman wearing a grey business suit and a skirt. Both are standing and lean into each other. The woman’s right hand folds over the man’s right hand. She folds her hand over his hand and squeezes his hand. As she squeezes his hand, he notices how moist his hand is.

Her coccyx bobs as she speaks. She touches his arm lightly.

As the woman lowers herself into her chair, she removes a pin from her hair and lets the flow of her black hair flow freely.

You look over at the entrance. Interlaced like serpents, the two humans are embracing each other. The lovers are in love, or at least, you pretend that they are.

You notice a black-haired woman in a white halter top titivating herself in the mirror by the entrance.

Twenty feet away, ninety degrees from where you are sitting: A woman is sitting in a white chair at a white table. She incurves her back while reaching over the table. She is slathering honey over a piece of bread. She resettles in her chair, convexing her back again.

Drinking your coffee, you observe her calmly.

The honey hangs stickily on the slice. A fly is circling above the bread. Now it is circling over her head.

She is shivering from the cold of the air conditioning.

The woman has peach-shaped cheeks. She is plump-faced, and her hair sheens blackly. She steeps a second slice of bread into a cup of tea.

She taps her red-lacquered nails on the table. Her husband is settling the bill, remonstrating with the manager.

The pig on his platter is drowning in a beach of salsa.

You look out the window, through which you can see the night cars streaming past.

The patrons behind you snuffle.

Nipple-shaped lights dangle from the ceiling. Above you, as well, dangle icy lights in the shape of icicles.

At the bar: The manager’s fat fingers clench the handle of a mug that reads Your Mom Pours My Coffee. Plumes of steam ascend from the liquid inside of the mug and dissipate into the atmosphere. Radiating from unseen speakers is a song called “My Love is Your Sausage” or “Your Love is My Sausage” or something along those lines.

He is drumming his phalliform fingers on the table.

Looking up, you see a hive of peroxided hair and a pair of asymmetrical, spangled ears. It is the head of a waitress, a waitress looking at you.

—Have you decided? the waitress’s face asks your nostrils.

Dressed in a blue robe, her face shaped like an apricot, she stands facing you. Her face is waiting for you to speak. You shoot back:

—A pizza, if you don’t mind.

—What’s the toppings?

—No toppings.

—Do you want cheese?

—Just cheese. No toppings.

—But cheese is a topping.

As she hovers across the floor of the dining area, green leaves curl at her feet. The skin of the plants is a chlorotic yellow. The skin of the waitress is greenishly chlorotic.

(Chlorosis is an anemic condition that affects some young girls; also known as “greensickness.”)

The restaurant is now a garden, but a garden without a master gardener—a circus, but a circus without a human ringleader.

To your far right, the open-air kitchen. The pizza maker spreads out a farinaceous disc. On this basis tomato puree and gobs of mozzarella are laid. The pizzaiolo stands back and admires his handicraft.

At the neighboring table, to your left, there is a girl with rabbity fingers, clenching her iPhone. She is relaying a message to someone who she imagines might listen to her.

She is wearing grey-and-black striped socks, thigh-high black-leather boots, and a black skirt. She has a grey scarf wrapped around her neck. She is garbed in a grey sweater. Her hair is brown and shoulder-length. She is green-eyed and bright-eyed. Her blue purse is resting upon the table. Beside the purse is a white cup on a white saucer.

You listen to your neighbor speak to her iPhone:

—I am so anal. I stole it from my boyfriend’s work. I’m a big hippie.

Her friend smirks and scoops a spoonful of crème fraise.

Two tables to your right: A boy is checking his text-messages and gobbling down sunrays of scrambled eggs. Finishing his eggs, he looks at and over the patrons of the supper club with indifference. Now he is gulping down a vanilla-colored smoothie.

He is sitting with a female friend. The index finger on her left hand is pressed against her lower lip. Her upper lip impends over her lower lip. She says to her pink smartphone:

—I like obliques. A man’s got to have beefy obliques.

She is wearing a blue knit hat.

She is wearing an aquamarine coat. A black leather bag is slung over her right shoulder. Her skirt is a lacy, semitransparent red.

Her left hand crawls freely over her face. Her left hand fastens to her left cheek like a crab. Her right index finger scratches her right nose-flap.

She has a supple white neck and tender white arms.

She raises her eyes to the boy and looks at him with parted lips.

—Just a sec’, ’kay?

She puts down the smartphone. She smiles as if she were throwing a birthday party for herself in the deeps of her mind.

She slices for herself a glutinous slice of cheesecake.

She swallows the slice of cheesecake in the way that an anaconda swallows a mouse.

From sheer jubilation, a dog yelps and leaps up and lathers the woman’s cheek with its doggy saliva.

The dog is on the woman’s lap. No longer eating. She is stroking the dog, which is the size of a rat. The dog is covering her face with doggy goo.

Swiveling your head back and forth, you gaze at the bar and the patrons of the bar.

Before you, crystalline and lambent, dances a play of blues, greens, purples, oranges, and reds—the backlit bar, the multicolored lights refracting through three symmetrical rows of scotch and whiskey bottles. The countertop is a daze of flickering yellows. Uplights swathe red curtains, cut through synthetic blue ferns, and profile the heavy drapery of red tablecloths. Walls of black onyx are striped with bands of red, sliced by white neon tubes, and broken by mirrors snapped and buckled into pythons of steel. Above circle steel ceiling fans.

At the center of this great concavity, this scintillating vastness, this acre of black nothingness, drinkers are salaaming over their drinks. There are three upon whom you focus your vision. Only one of these drinkers is standing—an elderly man whose resemblance you equate to that of James Carville, Professor of Political Science.

The old man’s bald head is shaped like a reptilian egg. His spectacles catch the backlights. His talons grip a glass of vodka.

He is speaking to a pair of women. Both women are blonde and in their mid-thirties. The first is wearing a white blouse and a beige pants suit. Slung around her shoulder is an enormous brown leather bag. She has narrow birdlike attributes and is frowning at her iPhone. Around her neck dangles a mother-of-pearl medallion. The second has a face like a coyote’s.

The old man’s voice becomes coppery.

He is still a little dizzy from the Jaeger Bomb, but he manages to fondle the left shoulder of the coyote-faced woman.

—Sweet cream puff. He emphasizes the words cream puff and is amused at the shocked reaction on her face as he pats her shoulders. To pacify the woman, he playfully paws her left earlobe.

The women are sheering and veering away from him.

He grimaces. His mind is a diabolical pinball machine.

The old man is studying the women as if through a camera lucida.

(A camera lucida is an artist’s tool that reflects objects on to a writing surface.)

He was once a handsome man and is a handsome man still.

A handsome man ages in a seamlessly stylized manner. He eases into maturity and settles there, brooding eggs of handsomeness. He has been handsome since the day he was blastulated.

So used is he to the gazes of women, he absorbs them and keeps them there, in his silvering heart.

Handsome man, you eat your meatloaf with contentment. You smooth your skin with pumice and wear primrose cardigans and walk the beachscape, you silvery he-vixen. Old handsome man.

Fifty feet away, in the corner: You see an infant and its mother. The mother is sitting by the window, holding the baby in her arms. She is wearing a blue shirt, blue jeans, a gold headband, and an iPod. Her hair is blonde with blue streaks. The baby’s T-shirt reads My Mom is Way Hotter than Your Mom.

The baby looks like nothing more than a blob of pink skin, but it is full of life and wonderment, life in all of its bustling newness condensed in a single being, wonderment for everything and everyone, absolute openness, a ball of life in the mother’s arms, wiggling its fingers and its toes.

The mother is engrossed in the baby, imitating the baby’s sounds. When the baby chirps, the mother chirps; when the baby caws, the mother caws. She touches the baby’s nose lovingly.

Now the mother is talking babyishly. When the mother talks babyishly, chattering and babbling, the baby imitates the words of the mother by producing inarticulate sounds. The baby makes upslurring and downslurring noises, splutteringly cackling, barking, clicking, twittering, wheezing, warbling in disyllabic phrases—ahah, ahah, ahah, ahah—buzzing, squeaking, squealing, cooing, trilling in ascending and descending patterns, singing its ventriloquial song.

She lowers the baby into its carriage.

She looks at you through the slanted slats of her black eyelashes.

She looks at you as she forks a slimily succulent piece of meat into her mouth.

Resplendent with venom, she is a nightmare in a black business suit. She looks like a black bat hanging lightly in the air, floating in a white cave.

Her mobile telephone shrills and trills. She opens up the screen of her mobile telephone.

She says to her mobile telephone:

—I wish I, like, had some balls. That was, like, so chickeny of me.

You listen to the pollinated phrases, the phrases pollinating the atmosphere.

You process the phrases in your mind, as if these phrases were means of forging your being and identity.

The mother looks at the screen of her mobile telephone.

Now, for the first time, you become aware that nearly your entire life has been spent in front of screens. Computer screens. Television screens. Telephone screens. iPad screens. iPod screens. BlackBerry screens. Kindle screens. Screens of screens. An infinite deck of screens.

Screens are before you when you are at work. Screens are before you when you are at home. Screens hem you in. Screens partition you. Screens limit you, and yet screens allow you to see. Screens are your horizons. Screens fascinate you.

You cleave to screens and are cleaved by screens.

Screens hypnotize you. The screens screen out everything other than the screens. The screens screen you—purge you, purify you of all external reality. You stare at the screen every waking hour.

The screen is an eye that is seen but does not see. You see nothing but screens. You are not seen by the screening eyes of the screen. Sentience is your screen.

There are screens in your eyes. There are screens in your mind.

On the table, you notice, is a wriggly squiggle of black hair.

You listen to the rattle of ice cubes in your water glass.

Look out the window. The sky darkens midnightly.

The street is creamy with oranges and lavenders, rainbow sherbet melted over a blank canvas.

You look to your left and see a giraffe-necked woman standing beside your table with a martini in her hand.

The giraffe-necked woman has pale and slender arms.

The tip of the woman’s nose is freckled. There is a pink bow in the blonde hair that tongues her shoulders. You ask her:

—Would you like to sit down?

Her eyes are motionless like twin green olives stuffed with pimento and pickled in a jar. Her eyeballs exophthalmically protruding, she looks at you before she speaks.

—Sure, she says. Why not?

She is wearing globular blue earrings that dangle as she speaks. They dangle to the rhythms of her speech.

She consents to sit beside you, transforming your table for zero into a table for one.

Copyright 2014 by Joseph Suglia

Table Thirty-Six: Joseph Suglia

The Trump International Tower & Hotel is overgrown with rasping weeds.

The Aon Center is covered in throbbing fleshy pulsers, pulpy leathery leaves, and fibrous roots.

What was once the Chase Tower is now a gigantic green tower.

Lounging on a branch 1,000 feet above the ground, a puma stretches herself out, her thick, pendulous tail swinging, her eyes shining like the moon.

The AT&T Corporate Center is wrapped in bright-green vines. Rows upon rows of tall green stalks form a thickly and densely knotted green wallpaper.

Glaucous leaves, leaves with a will of their own, are embracing the forty-four-story red pillar-shaped building known as the CNA Center.

Tufty buttresses extending to the sky.

311 South Wacker Drive is flowering. Some of the flowers are a glistening translucent red. Other blooms are bright orange. Their petals seem almost liquid.

The Chicago Board of Trade Building is entrapped in knitted nets of green leaves and branches. So many tangles of vines. Wood rats camouflage themselves, bury themselves, tangle themselves in the nets of vines. They, the wood rats, are fearful of terrestrial and aerial predators, such as vultures and buzzards and coyotes and panthers.

111 South Wacker: Surrounding this massive building are tangles of foliage, groves, meadows, and a landfill teeming with fire ants. Flashing orange lights radiate around the rim of the building.

The building looms. It dominates. It engulfs space.

Humans come with baskets fastened to their heads, baskets full of tomatoes. They ascend a 681-foot ladder that reaches to the pinnacle of the humongous pillar.

Aluminum and glass buildings, with high-intensity lighting. Buildings with plane glass buckled in steel frames. So many castellated pepper shakers towering over you.

Looking at a forest where a Banana Republic once stood, you no longer recognize your city as your own. What was once your city has become a natural reserve, as the entire metropolis has grown into a zoöpolis, a city of animals. All of Chicago has metamorphosed into an immense zoo.

A raft of chocolate-colored giant otters swarms swimmingly into the half-abandoned Banana Republic. There, they taste the winterwear and the underwear.

The sky is turning a necrotic grey.

The Apple Store stands luminous and large. It is night. It is night, but the Apple Store stands out in the night. It is nearly a mile away from you, but you can see it shining in the night like a lantern in the night, like a lighthouse. The Apple Store is like a hole in the night, a white hole that perforates the fabric of the night. The night, it is as porous as a Lifestyles condom.

Even from this vast distance, the Apple Store looks pure—immaculate, even. All of the muck that comes from the outside is washed away. The Apple Store is an immaculate white cube. Bathed in a pellucid glow, the Apple Store welcomes animal, plant, and human life.

You see bear cubs filtering into the cube.

You scythe your way through the mobile hedges. Before you, across a narrow shopping-mall street, lies a T.J. Maxx. Someone—a rowdy mob, most likely—smashed in the windows, and now swift-footed impala and sable antelope are running through the windows and into the storefront. The sable antelope are sleek and glossy black with white patches on their faces and undersides. Their horns are magnificent—their movements are elegant, even as they are running at full speed. The impalas are graceful and nimble—to your human eyes, they seem both masculine and feminine at the same time. They dart into the T.J. Maxx.

Ibises and ibexes populate the Mega-Walgreens.

There is a Victoria’s Secret.

A gorilla in the Victoria’s Secret is fondly fondling the female undergarments.

A tapir is in the Victoria’s Secret, her puckered lips pluckily plucking the brassieres from the rack.

On the thong table, ferrets are thronging into the thongs.

A pack of seething ocelots and a family of wobbling capybaras are devouring the PINK lingerie.

Lions are tackling the Victoria’s Secret mannequins, gnawing at the Plasticine angel flesh.

A triad of zebra zips from Victoria’s Secret to Express for Men.

There is the Macy’s Shopping Center.

Like a ruinous castle, the Macy’s Shopping Center has become a home for denizens of the night, for humans stranded in a world that is becoming increasingly inhospitable and foreign to them.

See the people run into the Macy’s Shopping Center.

A dust cloud ascends as the wildebeest herd into the Macy’s Shopping Center, a bouncing stampede.

You zombie into the Macy’s Shopping Center.

Raising its branch-like horns, the red deer steps aside, admitting you to the temple.

The shopping center has become a bizarre ranch of free-ranging animals and plants, of strange fauna and flora.

The food court is smothered by palm trees and flowering foliage.

Swiftly running black cattle are coursing through the shopping-mall concourse.

The lion is weaving its way through the mannequin maze, its bristling white whiskers askew, its frozen orange irises glaring at nothing and at everything.

Spearing the mannequins with their curved lower tusks, the boars make their attack.

The striped tiger strikes the mannequins with awesome force. It gapes its flesh-slicing and bone-shattering jaws.

Slashing the curtains and the dresses and the pants and the dress shirts with their scimitar-like tusks, the boars are on a directionless rampage.

Acrobatically scaling the walls is an army of monkeys.

A lone-roaming coyote you see, running up the stalled escalator. The coyote’s snout is moist and curious, its teeth are sharper than pins, and its golden hide is covered with white tufts.

Streaming across the display area of the clothing department are long-horned antelope, smearing hazel stripes.

A mosaic of orangutan, aardvark, and black bear unfurls its canvas before you.

A tapestry of boar, emu, giraffe, flamingo, and caribou unfolds before you.

All of these animals move together. They move as one pack, as if woven together.

Roused to hunger, the black bear advances on the escaping gazelle.

Peccaries with javelin-shaped tusk-stubs are nailing the display cases. The cases that contain bracelets and necklaces.

Alone on a black futon, you see a Geoffroy’s marmoset, a hybrid creature with the face of a monkey and the body of a cat.

The animal life within: There are bouncing, flapping, and slithering animals everywhere. Animals that snatch and animals that scratch and animals that catch.

Bats are pendulating from the ceiling.

Thrushes are thrashing in the green dresses like giant moths.

Monkeys are slaking their thirst at a milk hole that has swelled in the middle of the department store’s main concourse. You pass the drinking monkeys, the sucking and licking simians.

Hiding in the changing rooms, there they are. The human survivalists are hiding in the changing rooms.

They are the most ridiculous, the most comical, the most stupid guerillas imaginable. Makeshift guerillas combatting gorillas.

With their camouflage and painted faces, they are grotesque lampoons of what guerilla rebels should be.

You recognize instantly that twenty-first century Americans make terrible guerillas, inept survivalists.

Americans are not prepared for the Apocalypse, if this is the Apocalypse.

It does not seem like the Apocalypse.

It does not seem like Armageddon.

It does not seem like the End of the World.

It seems like the Beginning of a New World.

In the Home Appliances department:

A proboscis monkey, a primate with a bluish-orange fur and a bulbous nose, is smashing the dinner plates and the tea cups to shards of porcelain and tearing the napkins and menus to shreds. Solemn-faced gorillas are hammering the tables with their fists. The tables buckle from the force, splintering and collapsing. Monkeys with pendulous tails are ripping up and biting the tablecloths.

Mice rush noiselessly into the kitchen cabinets on little pink feet. The refrigerators are covered with mossy green leaves.

An old woman is reclining on one of the mattresses. Her head shapes the pillow.

The wolverines, with bone-breaking glee, are shredding the mattresses. Shredding the mattresses, the curmudgeonly wolverines.

You can smell the thick, musty odor of the anal glands of the wolverines.

Todd Rundgren is crooning “Hello, It’s Me” a bit too loudly through the speakers as the wolverines and the badgers do their angry devouring. Their rabid chewing.

Grooming primates gather on the queen-sized mattresses, extracting human scum from their fluffy fur, while Japanese macaques float above them.

The grizzly bear swipes its protuberant, non-retractile claws, slicing apart the mattresses.

Languorously lounging on the chaise longue is a languid leopard.

Four white shower stalls have been installed at the center of the Home Appliances Department.

Wrapping its grappling claws around a shower-curtain rail, a three-toed sloth is swinging. Within the bathtub bustles a nine-banded armadillo. It scuttles around like a giant potato bug, with its grooved plates, long snout, and rat-like tail, thrashing its tongue.

Slashing through the shower curtains, zipping through the plastic curtains with scalpel-sharp webbed claws, the beavers are beavering in the tepid milky water, splashing about wildly.

In the Entertainment Department:

The fluffy-tailed skunks tunnel through the mass of Coldplay CDs. They find their burrow there.

The rusty-coated weasels squat on the check-out counter, chewing and shredding the Mark Z. Danielewski novels.

The gold-colored polecats defecate on the Dave Eggers novels.

The wolves devour the Wally Lamb novels.

They shred apart the Jonathan Safran Foer novels, the Jonathan Lethem novels, and the Jonathan Franzen novels.

The beavers rip through the hipster-trash novels, shredding, shearing, and slicing them with their heavy claws.

The beavers flatten the tables, shattering them with their heavy tails.

Perched on the television sets are colorfully feathered lorikeets and blackly feathered toucans.

Peach trees are growing right there—right in the middle of the Entertainment Department—magically growing magical peach trees.

Throwing television sets against the wall, smashing computers with their fists, bursting open DVD players, kissing the air obscenely, hooting squeaks and squeaking hoots, the orangutans are going wild.

Trundling through the display room, a bloat of hippopotami is squashing the plasma-screened television sets and computers beneath their pillar-sized feet—hissing television wreckage and computer circuitry gored open, electric sizzle. The hippopotami are smothering the iPads and iPods with their massive bulk. The iPads and the iPods buckle and crackle. An ibex lofts on the thick tough obsidian skin of a sleeping hippopotamus, sleeping beside a fizzing and fizzling television set.

Yawning, a hippopotamus shows its lower canine impalers, the mouth growing larger than the head.

Owls are screaming, shrieking, and screeching their cries of triumph, alighting on the television sets and computers, plucking at the iPads and digital-video cameras, and whispering to one another in sibilant murmurs. They ruffle their feathers and shuffle.

Music booms from the woofers as the dogs bark.

Like the clamor of a pet store, with all of its pet ferrets and fat parrots, the noise of the devouring animals rings in your ears.

Carmine-hided pandas scale the displays and tear the novelty T-shirts and novelty hats.

The ospreys, with their taloned feet, seize the baseball caps. With their sharp hooked bills, they fly at the bright lime-, lemon-, and cherry-colored designer shirts, tearing them open. The hawks are flaying the autumn coats.

There you see an entire tribe of lost humans sitting cross-legged or reclining before a row of television screens, staring into the screens. Some approach the screens and touch the screens as if longing to fuse, to merge, with some lost reality. Nordstrom nomads, deracinated, gazing into light-emitting screens. You cannot bring yourself to judge these lost people, for television transmits the illusion that stability exists somewhere in the world, and who would blame this uprooted tribe for desiring stability? The screens flicker, spewing forth light, covering the cultists in candy-colored coruscation.

The crows smash the television screens, shattering them with their wedge-bills.

The green-headed mallards are marching in circles around a mannequin family.

In the Department of Women’s Apparel:

Squatting on their haunches, the squirrel chew at and up the turquoise tank tops, holding the fabric to their chisel-shaped incisors in an almost human fashion. They tear at and up the turquoise tank tops with their teeth.

You observe the transports of the birds fluttering into the blouses and skirts.

Zebra are trotting through the Department of Women’s Apparel. Now they are bucking and stamping and spanking the ground with their clattering hooves. Beautiful zebra, avant-garde donkeys, asses with zagging white stripes, disappear into the dresses and blouses, clapping with their feet. You throw your arms around a zebra’s massive, heavy neck and kiss its dewlap.

A scratching is coming from the women’s changing room.

Out of the curtains pops the conical head of an anteater, a funny-looking tube with boggled eyes on the sides. The anteater’s cylindrical muzzle twitches. The anteater scurries, wiggling its wooly, funicular body out of the changing room, nearly colliding with your legs, its feathery tail high in the air.

The genets and the civets wrestle over the lavender blouse. The genets resemble cats; the civets resemble dog-cats.

Bejeweled birds are roosting on the female mannequins.

A bear wanders into the Department of Women’s Apparel. Lashing out with claw-daggers, the bear tears down and tears up the lime and grey blouses.

A stretching lioness is pulling down the white dresses with her mighty mouth and gnawing on the white silky fabric. The lioness is alone in all of her loneliness.

Littering the floor is a web of white and grey undergarments. See the toads leaping on the web of white and grey undergarments. The Eurasian toads secrete their toxic white fluids on to the undergarments, the marine toads lash their tongues at the undergarments, and the bullfrogs engulf the undergarments, swallowing them, putting them into their bullfrog mouths. The poison-arrow frogs stare at you.

Before you now is a towering American bison, gargantuan in its massiveness, a bull bison, snorting. In the storefront, a humped bison, with its massively bulky, wooly head, with its shaggy, wooly coat. Its lower body—its hindquarters and backside—is disproportionately small in relation to its front body—its head and hump. Its upturned, saber-shaped horns—give the overwhelming impression of gruffness, of force, of brute physicalness. Its head is comically huge, whereas its hooves seem almost tiny in comparison. He batter-rams his head against the changing rooms, shattering the mirrors and Plasticine mannequins, flinging hats and dresses in all directions, bearing them into the air with his horns.

The beast tugs at the sweaters, dragging them down, and then nibbles the knitted wool.

The rack of sweaters is toppling. The eagle is bringing them in a crashing heap to the linoleum. The eagle yanks at the sweaters with its sharp beak.

Champagne-colored antelope loll before the perfume counter.

A wave of whooshing milk on the second floor envelops the fragrance library.

You hear the rushing of the hissing milkfall as it cascades over the fragrance library, then cascades downward, wettening the magazines.

Eagle flocks cut airy paths over the perfumes and the facial creams.

Night-feeding lizards—geckos—and docile, happy llamas are grazing, sipping the cologne and the perfume.

In the overwhite glare, monkeys are eating the lipsticks.

The bushpigs are rooting and rootling in the makeup, their whiskers twitching, their splayed trotters knocking open the pots of candy-colored lip gloss.

A Maybelline-smeared woman is purloining lipstick from the display case.

She walks to the deep red-velvet chair in the corner.

She sits asprawl in the deep red-velvet chair, the bored woman.

Reclining on a neighboring futon is the bored woman’s bored boyfriend.

The bored boyfriend asks the bored girlfriend:

—Do you want to get something to eat?

She answers, following with her eyes the oscillations of a cat:

—Sure.

The bored girlfriend tousles her hair.

The swifts, in thick ashen clouds, descend on to the cash register and snare dollar bills in their beaks. Money-snagging swifts.

Hailing down from the displays, the earrings and the necklaces—so many meretricious things, so many baubles. Everything is useless in a world in which use-value is no longer a category of value. Money becomes mere paper. Ornaments revert to metal or stone.

You walk past the jewelry cases, where the bejeweled crocodiles are enshrined in the displays. Glinting crocodilians. Their scutes (ridges on their backs) are wet with milk and glisten like some kind of reptilian jewelry. Gila monsters, scaly intruders, have tunneled into the jewelry cases. They writhe.

Sitting upright and each looking rather self-immersed, a sloth of five pandas is chewing tough bamboo stalks. You notice that the pandas seemingly have six fingers on each forepaw, six digits that they use dexterously to peel and hold the bamboo stalks. They move their fox-like heads up and down, and it is very hard to see their eyes. So dark is it becoming, it is as if you are looking at five disembodied fox heads chewing bamboo stalks, the five heads phantasmally white, bobbing up and down.

You see the wild pigs. The wild pigs have broken free and are running free. The bristled monsters are tusking the drapes and curtains. Digging their snouts deeply into popcorn, the hogs are snortingly engulfing.

With long trunk-shaped muzzles, the crazed pigs unleash their fury on the human-created shopping center.

Swiftly coursing down the down escalator, the herd of pigs is coming for the dissipating crowd of humans.

The swine squeeze into the atrium and chase the flappy shoppers flapping their shopping bags.

The spiny-bristled, ugly, nasty, lewd boars are rudely prodding the legs of the shopping-mall humans with their insistent protuberant snouts, with their probing proboscises.

A wild boar turns its porcine head and looks at you. The disc-shaped cartilage at the end of its snout is smeared with maroon lipstick.

Its white tufty beard is spotted with red lipstick.

Go into the Godiva Chocolatier.

The tufty-headed warthogs are raiding the chocolatier, sticking their disc-shaped tubular noses into the wobbly viscous yellowish-white gelatin of the cheesecake and the spongy black-and-brown lard of the mousse. Snorting, snuffling, grumbling, grunting, groaning, the warthogs scuffle with one another over the cheesecake and the chocolate mousse. The babirusa seems to be laughing as it watches the warthogs scuffling and snuffling. The babirusa is chortling silently.

Crows are swooping down to feast on the scattered popcorn and peanuts.

Chocolate truffles, chocolate cigars, and chocolate pretzels are being devoured by the pigs.

White-lipped peccaries, mall pigs with bushy grey coats and pinkish noses, are slamming the showcase window, ramming the window with their snouts, raising their hooves to the window, breaking open the glass, the glass shattering.

The Macy’s Shopping Center is now a black forest of nightmare boars, tusking their way through curtains of air.

The fountain is the pulsating heart of the shopping center.

A smack of squishy jellyfish balloons in the fountain. A mad gorilla smacks the surface of the water with his paws.

Streaking across your visual field is a herd of water buffalo with grooved horns. The water buffalo are making their way to the fountain.

The beautiful Burrowing Owl sits on its perch, spying the lemmings, gophers, and voles that race brownly underneath the television sets. The beautiful Burrowing Owl wheezes and twitters.

Softly padding across the tables, the squirrel inspect the bright green and fuchsia polo shirts.

Swinging orangutans swish from pillar to pillar, catapulting themselves through the air. Some climb up the white walls, transporting coconuts into ventilation ducts. Others, squatting on the floor and swaying, burst open the woolly coconuts and mangos with their fists, juggling the coconuts.

Gliding above you, expanding their membranes into kites, a school of colugos are gliding on the air-conditioned breeze.

A Feathertail Glider glides through the air from the hat display to the check-out counter, expanding the parachute of its patagium.

(A patagium is a membranous fold of skin that extends from the gliding opossum’s forepaws to its hindpaws.)

Everywhere, the animals are eating and destroying.

The animals are eating the Frango mints.

The animals are eating the Heart-Shaped Cheesecake.

The animals are eating the Tommy Hilfiger Lobster Beach Towels.

The animals are eating the Ralph Lauren Flamingo Beach Towels.

The animals are eating the Lacoste Crocostripe Beach Towels.

The animals are eating the Martha Stewart Collection beddings.

The animals are destroying the glassware and china.

The animals are destroying the Merlot wine glasses.

The animals are destroying the serveware and vegetable bowls.

The animals are eating the Fruigurt.

The animals are destroying the indoor bicycles and treadmills.

The animals are destroying the luggage.

Torpid tapirs are chewing the jeans, the polo shirts, and the Zippered Sweetheart Dresses.

A pack of cheetahs undulates into the men’s lavatory.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The low-hanging vines are dangling in front of you.

In a trance of hazy love, you walk straight through the vine curtain.

Walk down the corridor.

The corridor leads to a door and is lined by glass-cased daguerreotype photographs that you do not take the trouble to observe carefully.

Walk toward the door.

You move haltingly down the corridor, stepping over the writhing snakes and tortoises.

You limp to the threshold, limping through the knot of leaping toads.

Birds coming at you with razor talons, you grasp the door knob, swing open the door, and dart into the unknown room.

You are in the dark room, the camera obscura.

Slamming the door behind you, you cover thirty-six steps in the darkness.

A cavernous room with white walls and a domed ceiling, the studio welcomes you. A bay window is opposite you.

A pair of dimly inflamed candlesticks is dripping on a support that resembles an ancient Greek plinth. The candlesticks are pitiful and are quickly dripping into the mere memory of candlesticks.

There is a standing mirror at the center of the room.

You look at the reflection in the mirror.

The image in the mirror is not your image. It is of an entity that mimes your gesticulations and expressions. It is not the reflected vision of your own being. It is a ghastly clone that is looking at your eyes.

Copyright 2014 by Joseph Suglia