The First Time I Saw Giant City / 14 April 2002
My childhood was eventful, as you know. It got a lot of coverage last election which I don’t think I have to remind you was won by yours truly with room to spare. I’m proud of the holdups and the divorce proceedings and all. Every hair on my chest represents a hard-won victory in this life, and anyone who’s been down to Alaquin Rec knows there’s plenty of hair going on.
There are kids in my office all the time, running around, knocking over books and papers, stealing pens, putting sticky fingerprints on the pictures (not that I care — there’s a statute that forces me to prominently display photographs of every mayor of Giant City and being stared at all day by row after row of jowly, dead-eyed, veiny swine makes me sad and agitated) (this is maybe why I’m so eager to cut ribbons and christen ships and give keynotes and do anything else that’ll get me out of here for a couple of hours), and I have no idea where they come from. But that’s the kind of place City Hall is, my friends. It is open to all, a place for the people, even shoppers who want to drop off the yard apes for a couple of hours just to clear their heads, have some alone time. Who am I to complain about a vibrant economy? I am no one.
So these kids are tearing up the joint and invariably one’ll ask me about the scar and I’ll tell them how I got it the first time I saw Giant City, when I was about their age (if they’re shorter than waist-level, which they usually are). And they’ll say something cute and unintelligible and I’ll tell them — I tend to call them Big Guy or Little Lady, depending on the gender — I’ll tell them about the kidnapping, being stuck in the trunk of a Cadillac for seven whole days, sometimes getting food thrown in at gas stops and sometimes not, scared and lonely and nauseated.
And then I’ll tell them how fear turned to boredom — “Fear will always turn into boredom if you wait long enough,” I should have that etched onto a brass plaque considering how many times I say it around here — and I started fiddling around with the locking mechanism and realized that it was just a simple latch there next to the spare tire well. So I started working at it with whatever I could find there in the darkness, and what helped the most was the spine I tore from this hardcover book (its title remains a tantalizing mystery), jabbing it into the tight crevasse, sliding it inside the biting snatch of the lock, and then, and then, and then I broke my index finger, and then — success!
The trunk door flew open and I tumbled out onto the churning asphalt and scraped my chin (thus the scar!) and skidded and rolled. When I got to my feet, I looked up and there was Giant City, dominating the horizon, gleaming in the sun, blinding and deafening, mighty and eternal, offering asylum with enormous steel arms. I started walking toward it, tears clearing a path through my oil-caked cheeks, a smile on my face for the first time in a week. Then I heard the squeal of the Cadillac backing toward me at thirty or forty em pee aitch, its rear windshield blocked by the open trunk. The bumper clipped me and dislocated my knee and a moment later my captors had me back in the trunk and we were off again.
A month later, the ransom paid, back at home, I told my folks very seriously that when I grew up, I was going to live in Giant City, and they laughed, kids, they laughed, but if you go to my old house right now, cutting a path through the weed-choked lawn, jumping over the crumbling front steps and the collapsed porch swing, covering your face with a handkerchief to ward off the stench of decay, and if you lean in real close and listen at the front door, guess what you’ll hear? You won’t hear any laughing, that’s for sure.