The Fracas at Frascas
The Chicago sun was burning bright and strong on the intersection of Lincoln, Paulina, and Roscoe. Despite the occasional rumble of The Brown Line overhead, this intersection would be called peaceful, “an escape” by the capri wearing women that poured into every angle of the street corners.
On the North and South West corners sat two opposing hair salons. Both with large enough windows for the other to spy on the opposites client flow. Directly under the South West hair salon sits a locally sourced burger place, a good place that feeds the neighborhoods neoliberalism.
The Eastern corner holds Frascas, a parents only pizzeria. The outdoor eating area is big enough to hold four mid-size families and their guests. The tables inside are high enough to accommodate high chairs and booths wide enough for parents who have to cut their children’s pizza into small bites. Frascas doesn’t name itself a parent only hot spot, but unless you arrive early and have 2.5 children to claim seats you will not be able to get a table. On any given day Frascas was overflowing with Parent Patronage.
One afternoon, late into the summer, when the leaves had very lightly begun to fall from the trees, something unusual happened. The families were cutting their pizzas, the Mother’s drinking white wine and the Father’s drinking craft beer. Conversation maintained a level of polite mumble and grumble of their lives as young professionals. Unbeknownst to the Patron Parents of Frascas, down the South West stretch of Lincoln was an old man. And he was naked.
The Naked Old Man was walking freely in the open air of Lincoln Ave. With all five of his limbs swinging in the wind, he had the aura of a tree that had woken up and gone for a walk. His long grey hair and beard that flowed down his chest and back were all that he wore. The clean white of the sidewalk contrasted his dirt darkened skin as he walked on it. His brightest feature shined beneath heavy grey eyebrows, his eyes the same clear blue as the sky that day.
The Naked Old Man walked determinedly forward. He walked past the giant windows in the salons. The many mirrors inside created a dozen clone of The Naked Old Man. Clients pointed at him from behind their magazines, stylists laughing over their shoulder. He walked past the locally sourced burger joint where men in khakis froze before they put their grass fed burgers into their beef fed mouths. It appeared The Naked Old Man was headed to Frascas.
Bianca was savoring the last sip of her white wine. Her husband, Todd, was discussing his last golf game with MerriAnne’s husband Brad. She tilted her wine glass back for a final taste while watching her son Jameson smash two crusts of pizza together.
“Excuse me, we need more napkins.” MerriAnne snapped to The Waiter. The Waiter nodded, “Of course Ma’am.” Through the bottom of her glass, behind the final smudges of wine, Bianca saw something. As she slowly lowered her glass she could not believe what her eyes were seeing, The Naked Old Man, walking directly towards her.
Frightened beyond direct action Bianca slowly rose in her seat, her voice tied in a knot in her throat. “B, what it is?” MerriAnne asked only a little concerned. Bianca slammed her empty glass on the iron patio table, smashing it. The families around them gasped at such a sharply rude interruption.
“Darling, sit down.” Puffed Todd, eyes searching for the waiter for more water. Bianca stood trembling with eyes watering, unable to express the horror she watching unfold. She took a step forward, arms reaching towards Jameson’s eyes when suddenly MerriAnne gasped: “Oh. My. God.”
MerriAnne had seen the old man at the same time as Jameson, Bianca’s shaking hands moving too slowly to save him. Jameson began to yell, “Pee-Pee!” smashing his crusts of pizza. Bianca found her voice at the sound of Jameson’s but could only murmur, “Todd, Todd” while her head almost trembled off of her neck.
The family filled outdoor area experienced several levels of shock and disgust as The Naked Old Man crossed the street towards them. Moms started squeaking while rushing to cover their daughter’s eyes. A Dad or two put down their beers saying, “Good God.” MerriAnne’s voice cut through the air,“Call the police, someone call the police!” The unlucky Waiter appeared behind her, “DO SOMETHING!” Merrianne demanded.
“Oh no.” The Waiter saw The Naked Old Man, turned on their heels and ran inside.
Bianca was clutching Jameson to her chest as the chaos unfolded around her. She saw napkins being thrown and beers forgotten. She heard MerriAnne’s plea for the police. “Pee-Pee!” “Pee-Pee!” “Pee-Pee!” She heard the brown line screeching into the Paulina station.
Cradling Jameson close, she reached into her bag for her phone. “You can do this.” She affirmed herself. She shakingly dialed numbers she had never dialed before: 9–1–1.
The Naked Old Man walked steadily down Lincoln. His blue eyes never moved from looking directly ahead. He did not notice the unfolding disarray at Frascas. All of the cars came to a stop as he crossed the six-point intersection, never breaking his pace. A few people shouted and many people took cellphone photos. The Naked Old Man kept walking. His eyes were on the stretch of grass and trees across from Frascas.
By the time The Officers arrived the outdoor seating area of Frascas still had not recovered from the madness.
“Why didn’t you get here sooner?” MerriAnne howled from beneath her husband’s sports coat. Bianca held a sleeping Jameson while Todd, Brad, and The Waiter spoke to The Officers. After a detailed combing of the neighborhood found no suspects, The Officers recommended everyone go home and get some rest, lock their doors. The Waiter assured everyone part of their meals would be comped due to the evening’s events. “The least they can do.” Brad scowled to Todd. As the street lights came on The Parents and their children retreated to their respective streets.
The sun fell deeper into the sky as Frascas closed their outdoor seating area. The salons continued to watch the opposites clients flow in and out. The Waiter chained the tables together and The Officers drove off, the intersection fell back into it’s quiet peace. The brown line rumbled into Paulina and the cicadas came out to sing.
No one had noticed a New Young Tree with bluish leaves that appeared in the grassy lot across from Frascas.