Storytime: Overheard Outside the Chicago Field Museum, December 2000.

April 6th, 2017

“What is it?”
“Look in here.”
“I’m looking, mom, but I don’t see –”
“Through that window. You see?”
“What are they?”
“Those are your grandmother’s bones.”
A long, slow silence, broken only by the shuffle of thousands of human feet.
“They’re awfully big.”
“Things were bigger back then. We were bigger back then.”
“When? Is this about before the buildings?”
“Before that. A long, long time before that.”
“They look like rocks.”
“They are. She’s turned to stone. See how heavy she is now – once she was as light and hollow as you and me.”
A siren sounded, approached, arrived, and departed.
“Can we go for lunch? It’s almost time for the man with the br-”
“No. First you need to understand what this means.”
“I know, I know. It’s a big old-”
“That’s two important things you just said. Think about what they mean.”
“Big and old?”
“Exactly. Think about time, my son. Think about time that exists beyond your imagination, and what it does to us and the world. Think about being big, my son. Think about life that spends generations on a scale unimaginable to us; above our heads, below our notice. Think about spending aeons with flippers; claws; wings. Think about what your grandmother did, and how she lived. Look at her teeth, each half as tall as you are, and stout to boot. Look at her legs, built to run and chase. Look at her bones, and what has been done to them. There they stand, alone in splendour, held high above everything else in this place. Think about what they think of her, and tell me this now: what is the lesson that is being taught here?

The son preened himself over three times in nervous thought. His eyes darted among the great concrete skyscrapers from building to building, height to height, and despite his best efforts his conclusion became inescapable.
“Everything dies, no matter how big it is.”
“Good!” said the mother approvingly. “Very nearly correct. And?”
“I don’t know.”
“Everything dies, no matter how big it is, but as long as you look good first, it doesn’t matter. Now come on, it’s past time for the man with the bread to show up in the park.”
And in a flurry of feathers, the bones were alone again.

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.