The Druid Of Chicago, Chapter 1
by Tim O'Connell
Well, here's the first part of the first chapter of the novel that I've had in my head for about the last five years. Do you want to see more or should I just keep it to myself?
-------- The Druid of Chicago, Chapter 1, A Jack in Roger's Park--------
Jackie was coming down. He decided to stand in the train on the way home so he didn’t crash and get woken up all the way down to Howard Street. Three days hanging with Kat and Jules is enough for anyone. This night was almost already gone as it was. Hopefully Ma wouldn't already be up when he got home. He'd called, but that didn't always keep her from worrying. Especially if she'd been up late with her vodka and yummy lemon lime.
Kat was a "friend." She'd dated every one of Jackie's friends but no matter how often he'd been there for her, she wouldn't go out with him. "That would be too creepy. You're like my brother." Great. Thanks. So happy I can be here for you. He wouldn't mind if she wouldn't treat him like shit when she was dating someone else…usually one of Jack's buds so he had to hear all about it from both sides and then when it blew up, and it always blew up, she turned into a wreck in his arms.
Jules was another girl entirely. She was perfectly happy to sleep with Jackie but she was perfectly happy to sleep with anyone. She just refused to stay faithful to anyone. Which usually meant that another one of Jack's buds would think he was in love with her and she'd basically laugh at them and then shut them off. "I'm 17, what the hell do they want? Marriage? I don't think so Boyo." Jules was one of the few people that could get away with calling Jackie "Boyo" without pissing him off. His Gran was another. How or why Kat and Jules ever became "best friends" confused Jack to no end.
This had been one of those legendary Jules' runners. A little of this, a little of that, add some wine and some grass to take the sharp edges off the "that" and all in all, it was a mad way to spend a couple of days. He thought they'd hit every outdoor fest and party for Saint Paddy's da fair city of Chicago had to offer. Planxty had been jammin' and Jack couldn't get some of those reels out of his head.
Jack got off the El at Jarvis and decided not to hit the 7-11 around the corner. He'd been going without a break for over 72 hours. He didn't need a coffee, he needed sleep. He headed west on Jarvis, past Ashland and Pearlman's Pharmacy. At Paulina he hopped the fence and moved through the playground. He stopped and sat in one of the swings. He really missed the days when it was a painted wooden plank instead of these canvas things. The sandbox needed filling again. The slide needed a few kids to run down it on wax paper. He smiled at that, remembering his Gran pulling sheets of wax paper out of her bag for all the kids to slide down and get it good and slick. The big ol' 10 foot steel slide was getting old. Pretty soon the city would hit this playground and put one of those wooden monstrosities in here. Short slides. Swings you couldn't even slide off of at the top of the arc. Hell, they'd already pulled out the monkey bars. He'd been the pilot of many a space expedition in that set of steel bars.
"Okay Boyo…you're too young to be living in the past." Jack took out his pack of Marlboro Reds, thought about the last joint and decided to wait until he woke up for that. He lit a cigarette and held the smoke…then exhaled slowly. He shivered a bit in the spring too-early morning even though he was wearing a hoody under his leather. Fucking March. It was 70 yesterday and it was supposed to snow later today. Fucking Chicago in March. And OH FUCK Easter was in a couple of days which meant the church fight again. FUCK! Jack took a deep drag and decided, not this year, he wasn't having that fight this year. If Ma started up again, he'd just disappear for a few days.
He smoked some more, swinging around a little and then…froze. Someone was in the park…not here in the playground…Southwest, over by the Tennis Courts. What the fuck? How did he know that? He didn't know how he knew…he just knew. "Okay, calm down Boyo, you're coming down from way too much this and that and…" Okay, bullshit! He KNEW there were things over there…right by the magic bush and…they were trying to figure out if he'd sensed them yet.
The magic bush was right behind the Cullen's backyard. Actually it was about 6 different sticker bushes that formed a perfect cave if you were small enough to crawl under one end of it. Jack had first found it when he and his Gran picnicked over that way under the elm tree behind the backstop of Field 2. Gran had been the first one to call it "The magic bush." She taught Jackie how to used his imagination and pretend that cave would lead him through the mists to the Otherworld.
Otherworld. Suddenly the park smelt like summer instead of early spring and that just wasn't possible. The crab-apple trees wouldn't be in bloom until June.
Jack started moving along the fence line behind the swings, all of his senses focused on the bush and it's surrounding area. There were five of them, sniffing the air like dogs but looking almost human. He stopped at the edge of the basketball court. Moved behind the field house and moved along it's wall. They'd caught his scent the moment they'd appeared, but now they knew they were being hunted.
Hunted? What the fuck? What did he think he was going to do when he had them in sight? He didn't know, but he knew they didn't belong here and that they had to go back. Jack also knew that…they were more afraid of him than he was of them.
Jack moved from behind the field house to under the big oak behind Field 1. He could see them now…shapes in the dark, huddled around the magic bush…which, by the way, this wasn't weird enough, was glowing. Kat…where the hell did you find those mushrooms? This was some serious vision quest kind of bullshit.
But it wasn't. Somehow Jack knew that it wasn't. Those weren't men huddled across two softball fields from him wondering if he was going to close on them. They were something else. This was beyond paranoia. This was serious mind fuck shit out of one of Gran's stories.
Jack took a couple of soothing breaths like Sensei Chuck taught at the dojo and tried to tap into his chi. He wasn't surprised to find he could reach it with no problems. He found his center, tapped in, raised it up and out then looked at his hands. They were glowing blue. Of course they were. Tonight wasn’t weird enough yet.
Jack. "My name is Jackie Finn and I'm the biggest, baddest, giant killer in all of Chicago." And his Gran would just laugh at the little boy with his fists on his hips, his feet planted wide, and the gleam in his eye.
She never told him to hush when he got cocky like that. She'd tell him to hush if he was being disrespectful to his elders. She'd hush him if he asked the wrong questions about God from his Ma or the Fathers over at Saint Jerome's. But when she told the story of Jack the Giant Killer and he started swinging branches all she'd do was chuckle and tell him, "A Jack always uses oak Boyo."
Jack looked around the tree and found an old branch about a finger thick and about a foot and a half long.
He looked up and…and saw the summer sky in the stars. The warrior should still be out but the big and lil dippers were up there instead and suddenly, it was way too warm and moist for his leather and hoody. He didn't take them off though…he was Jack and he was about to go to war with some Otherworlder baddies and it was the only armor he had.
Note to self: Next time Uncle Mike and his SCA buddies wanted him to get some armor and join them, say YES for fuck's sake.