DIS: Chapter Five: I Have My Books and My Poetry to Protect Me.1

As the red line train rumbled out of Armitage stop headed north, taking up its usual argument with the tracks, Aaron found himself wondering, as he often did, why he no longer owned a car. Chicago was not a convenient city to get around in by transit, although the traffic was no less enjoyable. He imagined his old Toyota was still rusting away by the curb out front of the apartment the four of them had once shared. Or maybe Eric, for the sake of completeness, had stolen that too.

At Fullerton, a half dozen men and women in trench coats, each carrying some sort of satchel, loaded into the car. They gave no indication of knowing one another, but Aaron kept his eyes on them. For a moment, it occurred to him he was about to die in a terrorist attack, but the faces of the men and women, actually boys and girls was closer to the mark, were all those of bright, cheerful white people. Unless everything he had been told about terrorists was wrong, he was probably safe. That, and the likelihood of terrorists attacking a train outbound red line seemed low. Still, Aaron lifted his book higher to allow himself to eye them without their noticing.

Two more stops passed without incident, but after the train had pulled past Wilson, the trenchcoated youths all opened their bags and pulled out paper masks of Wile E. Coyote, which they pulled over their bright, cheerful Caucasian faces. Each of them approached one of the advertising panels in the car and began to wallpaper over it with posters. When the masks came out, Aaron remembered where he’d heard the name Iktomi before. It hadn’t been in a chat room or 4Chan but in an anthropology class in college. Iktomi was was a Lakota trickster god, a local version of Coyote, the more celebrity Native American trickster. Aaron moved towards the nearest poster as the masked, trenchcoated boy plastered it up.

CTA discriminates against the poor. #CTAkers, the poster read. Below this statement was a chart showing the median incomes in Chicago neighborhoods and the amount spent by the Chicago Transit Authority on repairs and safety upgrades in those neighborhoods. From CTA according to its ability. To Chicago according to its need. #ELementarymydearmarx, read the slogan below the chart. And a third one, more oblique, with a Mayor Daley’s face photoshopped onto a nude fifties pin-up body and a slogan that read Along Comes a Spy, Dear. #CallAuntNancy. As the train slowed into the Argyle stop, the trenchcoated youths finished smoothing down their new posters and approached the doors. Aaron grabbed one of them by the sleeve. The boy turned his cardboard mask to Aaron, the overconfident smirk of Wile E. Coyote, that most hapless of tricksters.

“Are you with Iktomi?” Aaron asked, strangely sure this was the right question.

“Of course we are, Aaron,” said the boy, the mask muffling his voice, which was already buried in the screech of the train’s brakes. “Aren’t you?”

The boy shook himself loose from Aaron’s grip and stepped off the train, leaving Aaron holding the upper bar as the train continued on past his destination.

“Now I am quietly waiting for the catastrophe of my personality to seem beautiful again, and interesting, and modern.” -Frank O'Hara

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