The water is close to freezing as I hit it hard, but my body is in good condition and functions well, responding positively to regular exercise and careful maintenance. Still warm after recent exertion and the short, brisk walk in a ski jacket from the Union railroad station in the late evening, I know that my life is ending now. The South Branch of the Chicago River under the West Adams Street Bridge closes over me. My bulk sinks quickly through the water and reaches a layer of fine silt. Slowly my body settles through the silt passing, strangely, what seem to be a human femur with a chain round the ankle. Then there is a discarded purse — empty — and a set of door keys. I reach firmer sediment and my movement stops.
I am cold.
I am alone.
What a waste!
There is no chance that I will rise to the surface through the glutinous mud and filthy water.
Nature gets to work immediately, breaking me down atom by atom and starting to flush me into Lake Michigan. My total dissolution will be a long, slow process in terms of the lifetime of a great city, but completely insignificant on the timescale of the earth itself.
Settled permanently now in the ooze and detritus of the river bottom, I reflect on my life of over 60 years. It has been relatively active with much travel and many companions although there have been long periods of idleness or, should I say, mindless waiting. I have been involved in events which have drawn some political comment, much police interest and on two occasions I came close to retirement. Would retirement have been preferable to this end? To me it would not have mattered. I am not exceptional so no relevant institution or specialist would want me.
My name is Česká Zbrojovka and my parents Jan and Jaroslav Kratochvíl conceived me in 1952, in Czechoslovakia. They lived in a crumbling apartment block a short way from the factory where they both worked. Their firm was trying hard to establish its own identity under Russian dominance after the Second World War, and their efforts as senior managers brought them to the attention of Moscow.
Earlier attempts by my parents had failed, but my birth was finally approved with a German, Dr. Werner Gruner, remotely involved in my conception. I was one of…