Stop and Go | Our Town | Chicago Reader

Stop and Go 

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By Mario Kladis

The light at Milwaukee and Paulina is red. Four cars are waiting to go, but nobody seems to be in a hurry.

At the front of the line is a Ford Escort, crowded with a man and four boys. Eyes wide, mouths hanging open, they're listening to the Bears on the radio. Shane Matthews throws a touchdown. "Hell yeah!" shouts the man, as he high-fives the kids. Their cheers are smothered by the rumbling growl of a souped-up V-8 engine--a red Mustang has swerved around the end of the line. It crawls up alongside the Escort, sunlight sparkling off its windshield and bumpers. The polished hood practically glistens. The Mustang looks like a red bull waiting to charge--you can almost see its right front tire scratching impatiently at the asphalt.

The Mustang's driver grips the wheel with his left hand while he runs his right through his thinning bleached-blond hair. He doesn't look at the Escort. He glances from his sideview mirror to the Paulina light, anticipating the green. The Mustang is drifting forward when a little boy bursts out from one of the stores on Milwaukee. Clutching his pants, he might be mistaken for a shoplifter if he wasn't three feet tall. He sprints to the edge of the sidewalk. The Mustang stops. The little boy plants his feet on the curb, moves his legs apart, and pushes down the front of his jeans. He arcs one high above his head and onto Milwaukee Avenue--it lands with a splash a few feet in front of the Mustang.

The light turns green, but nobody moves. For five seconds there's just the hiss of the little boy's piss hitting the street. Finally somebody honks, and the Escort lurches forward. The boys have forgotten the game; they point and laugh. Two men in a truck slow down and hoot at the impressive stream coming from the small boy.

A long line of traffic moves in behind them. The man in the Mustang is stuck. He can't move without getting sprayed. He scowls at the boy and leans on his horn. He mouths the word "fuck" every time another car passes him. He revs the engine, as if to intimidate the kid. The boy doesn't notice. His pee starts to trickle out just as the light turns yellow. The Mustang jumps ahead, but squeaks to a stop when the boy lets go of one last gush. The light turns red. The driver smacks the steering wheel and narrows his eyes on the boy as if he'd like to spank him.

The kid pulls up his jeans and turns around as two older children, a boy and a girl, come out of the store. "Did you go pee?" asks the girl. The little boy nods. She rolls her eyes. A few seconds later, the Mustang gets the green and takes off, roaring down Milwaukee like a jet. "Cool," says the older boy, as his little brother takes hold of his Coke and sucks on the straw like he's drawing his last breath.

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