All tagged Chicago Fiction
She spent the majority of her day sitting at that wall unit writing summary judgments and answering the flurry of emails that poured in. Many of them were only one or two sentences — conversations that could have been easily had over the phone in less time and with less interruption to her train of thought. There’s nothing more distracting for a working writer than to have an email notification going off in the corner of the computer screen every other minute. When she needed a moment to think, she would lean back in her chair and look at the shelf just above her computer at the two framed photographs of her and Lou.
Louise walked out into the waking morning with an ache in her throat and neck she identified as the desire to cry.
Two days later, Lehman Brothers Holdings collapsed, causing a massive wave of panic throughout the financial world. The Great Recession had begun. That day, with no companies to call on, Lou’s entire team was glued to streaming videos and news stories about the collapse. Lou played online Tetris.
Lou finally began making a little bit of money when he broke through to the Chi Star, a free daily paper owned by the Franklin News. It was designed to be a newspaper with training wheels in hopes that as the young readers aged, they would make the switch from the free commuter rag to a more mature newspaper subscription. It was the struggling newspaper business’ effort to survive by adapting the drug trade’s tactics; get ’em hooked for free when they’re young.
When I was three years old my mom said, “If you don't start shaping up we're going to have to let you go.”
By mid-November, Lou had been living with Michelle for two months. She provided half of the dresser for him and cleared out space in the bathroom cabinets and her closets for him in an effort to make her place his place, too. But she refused to let him hang any photos of his friends or family. And there was no way he was putting his film trophy on display anywhere.
The week that Lou arrived in Chicago, Franklin News, one of the largest media companies in the nation, laid off a thousand people. In the three months he’d been back, many other companies in his field had done the same. He wasn’t picky about whom he worked for, he just needed a gig. But every newspaper, magazine, radio station, marketing firm, advertising agency and public relations agency he could find wouldn’t even meet with him.
Lou hit the San Francisco city limits just as night was coming down. He used the hostel book as promised to find a well-rated spot with a good view of the city. He’d never stayed in hostels before and was curious. He’d hoped to meet a few strangers he could make friends with for the night and explore the city with, but the place was pretty empty. It was too early in the summer for college students or Europeans to be backpacking their way through the country.
I couldn’t walk away. But most important, I had my pride. I tried to act like I could give a shit, but getting canned would fuck with my ego.
Years of overeating and not exercising had finally taken their toll on Chuck’s mom. She collapsed from a heart attack in her Indiana home — the same small, rundown place where Chuck was raised. She was recovering at the nearest hospital a few towns away. It was a massive attack requiring surgery to add stents and to repair the lining of her heart’s wall. She also had a deadly case of type-2 diabetes. Her body was crumbling. She was in a fragile state, and death seemed imminent.
A MONTH LATER AT WORK, JUST BEFORE LUNCH, CHUCK BURST FROM HIS OFFICE into the area where Lou and I sat. He ran his hands through his short hair, clawing his scalp.
“Fucking Jesus!” he said.
Lou and I swiveled our chairs toward him and leaned back ready for the meltdown.
“Department meeting!” Chuck said. “Now! Cuba Café! Neal, you drive!”
“I can’t. I have to get gas.”
“Good. Get it on the way back.”
LIAM OPENED HIS EYES AND JOLTED UPWARD AS IF HE’D BEEN ELECTROCUTED. Bridget, standing beside the king-sized bed, shook him like he was a salad that needed more dressing. Liam winced in pain — Bridget wasn’t helping his shoulder arthritis. He looked at his wife: her grey hair blended with the white concrete wall behind her, and her green nightgown — a massive tank top that covered her naked body — blurred against her pale skin as if he were gazing into a kaleidoscope.
Moonlighting as a drunkard, Chuck Keller was the assistant manager of the communications department at palm gaming, the largest hotel and casino company in Las Vegas and the world. After Chuck graduated from Nevada State, he was hired as the news editor for Valley Life, the alternative weekly rag, where I worked as the A&E editor.
SHORTLY AFTER THE HEIGHT OF AMERICA’S FLAGRANT PATRIOTISM FOLLOWING 9/11, and just before the dawn of The Great Recession, there existed a wonderful Italian restaurant called Bella’s Ristorante. It was built into the foothills of the Black Mountain Range just outside of Las Vegas in Henderson, Nevada, a few short and dusty miles from the Strip at the edge of a wealthy suburban subdivision. My best friends Chuck Keller and Lou Bergman adored the place.