wolf & cub part 2

    Driving into Chicago reminds me of my brother.  He always complained about there being too many tollbooths.  I've only been to Chicago once & that was to make a plane connection.  The city smells.  It smells like dead bodies.  I know every place smells like that a little, but here it seems worse.  I guess because of the size of the city there are probably at least a few million bodies that were never buried, but I haven't seen any walking around on the interstate so far.  I take the exit for Congress Parkway & the streets are hard to get through as soon as I pull off the exit.  There are a lot of wrecked & flipped over & burned out cars & some pieces of the street are missing; it looks like a scene from some eighties post-apocalyptic movie like Threads or Miracle Mile.  Erika's keeping an eye out for the post office or courthouse & I keep looking between the seats to make sure the shotgunís handy & already pumped.
     Erika asks, "So have you ever been to Chicago before?"
     "No, but my brother used to come here a couple of time a year."
     "What for?"
     "I don't know, some kind of rock & roll shows."
     She's giving me a confused look when I glance over at her & I say, "He was a musician.  Before all this he was a musician who loaded airplanes & I was husband & dad who painted cars.  It didn't used to just be about trying to stay alive."  I smell smoke & I stop the car while saying to Erika, "Do you have your gun?"
     "Good, let's go."  I grab the shotgun & lock the doors.  It's hard to tell where the smoke is coming from.  With the tall buildings I can't see it anywhere & I'm trying to tell which way the wind is blowing when I hear an explosion. A lot of dust kicks up & I see one of the shorter buildings sinking down.  So I guess this means somebody must still be alive in this town.
     The dust is still thick when we get to the collapsed building, enough that it's a little hard to see.  Iím holding Erika's hand & then she's pulled out of my grasp & I hear her muffled scream.  I'm swinging my shotgun as a bat just over the height of Erika's head & running in the direction she was pulled.  The fifth swing makes a connect so solid that my whole right forearm hurts, but I can feel whatever I hit falling to the ground.  I bend down & it's a man & he's still alive, but unconscious.  Erika's not with him.
     I grab the man's hands & drag him into a building with me.  I take his belt off & use it to tie his hands & feet together behind him while heís laying on his side.  I take his revolver out of his pocket & it takes two minutes of me sitting & staring with his gun pointed at him before he wakes up.  When he wakes up he tries to kick his legs & it pulls at his shoulders & he looks at me & sighs the word, "Fuck."
     "Where's the girl?"
     "What are you talking about?"  He sounds more scared than confused.  I stand up & am trying to decide where to kick him when he says, "Wait! Look, I don't know who you're looking for, but I'll help you find her."
     I sit back down with the gun lowered, but still in my hand.
     "Did you just lose her in the explosion? Do you know that she made it out?"  A little blood drools out the side of his mouth onto the floor when he's talking.
     "We weren't in the building."
     "Well, I don't know where she went, man.  That was the only militia house we knew about."
     I lift the gun & shoot his left leg.
     "Fuck!" His body spasms & it pulls his right shoulder out of joint & spins his body around so I need to get up & walk a few steps for him to be facing me.  "What the hell's the matter with you!"
 "You're the kind of guy that killed my brother."  I shoot him in the head & go back to the car.  I grab my rifle & a handgun & fill a book bag with shells.  I move everything else in the car into the trunk to keep it from being visible.  I disconnect the battery & leave the car figuring I'm an easier target in it.  I write down the name of the intersection, Dearborn & Monroe, & put it in my bag.  I go back to where the explosion was & there are a few dead bodies trying to get out of the rubble, but no one alive seems to be around.  How the hell am I supposed to find her in a city this size?

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