THE GOBLET OF LOST CHICAGO
As the pair waited on the platform for the elevated train to arrive, the girl pointed to a sign on the opposite platform.
“What’s that mean, Grandpa?” she asked the older man standing next to her.
He strained his eyes to read the advertisement. “The Goblet of Lost Chicago…hmm. I never heard of it, Brie.”
“What’s a ‘goblet?’”
“It’s a glass. You know when we go to a nice restaurant, there are some glasses on the table and someone comes around and fills them with water? They call them ‘goblets.’”
Brie contemplated his answer. “But what does a water glass have to do with Chicago? And how can Chicago be lost? We’re standing in it, right now.”
Grandpa shrugged. “That’s a good question.” He squinted, trying to make out the smaller words underneath the title, but his old eyes just wouldn’t resolve the characters. “I can’t read it.”
“I can,” she said. “It says…” She squinted at the sign like her grandfather had done. “… ‘Come drink from the Cup of Oblivion and discover…Lost Chicago.” She looked at her grandfather, cocked her head and asked, “What does that mean?”
Grandpa shook his head. “I can’t say that I understand it, either, honey.”
“Let’s go,” she said abruptly.
“To the show! Isn’t that what it is?”
Grandpa considered the question. Her conclusion made sense. “Perhaps it is a show. Perhaps it is some sort of experimental theater production…”
“So where is it? When is it? I can’t read that part.”
“We’ll have to go on the other platform to read it,” Grandpa said.
“Okay!” She grabbed his hand and pulled.
“But…we might miss our train!” Grandpa protested. “Come, Brie, we have to wait…”
Brie let go of his hand and rushed to the stairs. Grandpa sighed, and followed after his granddaughter, albeit at a much slower pace.
By the time he reached the stairs, Brie was already coming out of the stairwell on the opposite platform. She ran to the poster and studied it. Looking over at him, she waved. “Hurry!”
Grandpa descended the stairs as fast as his old legs would carry him, and he was suddenly certain that when he climbed the steps to the opposite platform, Brie would be gone. He picked up his pace, crossing the station and starting up the stairway.
But Brie was still there, and when he reached the top, she pointed at the sign. “It’s tonight! And it’s not far from here! Can we go? Please?”
Grandpa looked at the advertisement. “I don’t believe there is a theater at that address,” he said, scratching his chin. “I think we should just…”
“But it’s tonight only! Please?”
Grandpa had always had trouble saying no to his grandchildren, especially to Brie. The eleven-year-old was a charmer, and she knew how to get her way. He sighed again and acquiesced. “Okay. But we’ll have to pay for the el train again.”
“I’ll pay for it, Grandpa! I have an allowance!” Brie grabbed his hand.
Grandpa read the smaller print on the poster. Come live in the Shadow City – Let the Waters of the Always-Full Goblet transport you!
He wanted to ask Brie what it was about this Goblet nonsense that made her so excited. But she was already halfway down the stairs; only her head was visible. Grandpa didn’t want to lose sight of her again. The city wasn’t always safe for anyone, let alone a pretty eleven-year-old.
He hurried to join her.
Brie stayed just far enough ahead of him to remain in sight, but if he stopped or she moved faster, he’d lose track of her again. He watched her rush through the turnstile and toward the exit to the station, following as quickly as he could.
“Brie! Wait for me! That’s an order!” He saw the girl pass through the station’s doors and pause, watching him.
She obeyed, waiting in front of the doors until he could catch up to her. “This way!”
Brie is far too excited, he thought as he caught up to his granddaughter outside the station. She tugged on his hand, pulling him out from under the elevated train tracks and down the street. He looked at the buildings on either side of the avenue. Old brick structures, the tallest of them around six stories, and none less than three stories. He wondered about their tenants; were they apartment dwellers or were they offices?
“It’s right there!” Brie said, pointing to a doorway ahead of them. Grandpa could see no signs, and it was the wrong angle to see the address numbers.
“How can you be certain, Brie?”
“I just know,” she answered, with the certainty that eleven-year-olds have in their own knowledge.
Brie let go of his hand and hurried to the doorway. “See?” she said, pointing to the stick-on numbers that were in the window above the door.
It was the correct address. Before he could stay her hand, she had pushed the buzzer.
Almost immediately, the door vibrated, unlocking itself to its visitors. Brie pushed it open and entered. Her grandfather did the only thing he could do – follow his granddaughter.
At the end of the dimly lit hallway a door stood partially open. Grandpa could see a stencil of the Chicago skyline, overlaying the outline of a goblet. As Brie entered, he thought that he really should take control of this situation and of his young granddaughter. But he said nothing as he followed her through the door.
The interior looked like a doctor’s waiting room. A tall, gaunt woman smiled at him from her position behind the desk as he looked around the room.
“Welcome, both of you!” she said. “We’ve been expecting you!”
Expecting us? How is that possible?
The woman continued. “This is our first, last and only night for the production known as “The Goblet of Lost Chicago,” she said. “And we’re so happy to have you here to experience it.” She pointed at him. “You, sir, look like you’ve seen some changes in our fair city, am I correct?”
Grandpa nodded. “I have,” he admitted.
“You will enjoy the exhibit and the opportunity to return to the better times of the past,” she said, nodding knowingly. “Take a look around the room at the city of Lost Chicago.”
For the first time Grandpa noticed that the room was adorned with photographs. He looked at the first one. “I remember this! Riverview Amusement Park! I spent a lot of my youth enjoying those rides and attractions! Brie, see? This is the original amusement park…Brie?”
He looked around, and noticed that Brie was not in the room. “Where is my granddaughter?” he asked the woman.
“She’s gone in to find her own version of Lost Chicago. Though, not having lived through as much history as you have, her version will likely be less enchanting than yours is.”
For some reason, this made perfect sense to Grandpa. He looked at the next photograph. “Comiskey Park! Even more of my youth was spent in that ballpark, rooting on my favorite team!” He moved on…there was Meig’s Field, the old Chicago Stadium, the Grenada Theater…all held memories…
Memories…what am I forgetting?
“If you wish to remember, you may drink from the Goblet and all will become clear,” the woman said. She offered the Goblet, an ornate golden vessel containing clear fluid. Grandpa touched it to his lips, tipped it, and drank.
“Brie!” he said as he felt the cool liquid flow down his throat. “I’m forgetting Brie!”
Brie had not drunk from the Goblet. She had plunged through the door, and found…playmates. Children of all races and ages, young, old, male, female. “Is this Lost Chicago? Where is the Goblet?”
“The goblet is not for you,” the children said, almost in unison. “Your grandfather shall drink…and forget. You are for us!”
“You are our new playmate!” they said. “Come play! We play hard, and we play for keeps!”
Brie looked at the kids and fear finally came to her. “But I don’t want to…I want my Grandpa! I want to go home!”
The children advanced on her. “You can never leave,” they said as they surrounded her. “You are lost, just as we are, now.”
The cold hands of the children grasped at her, and Brie screamed. “Help Grandpa! Help me!”
But Grandpa didn’t come, and her cries faded as the children took her into their numbers…the lost children of Chicago.
Grandpa vaguely heard a cry from somewhere nearby, but he didn’t recall what it was, or who it could be. He would never have guessed that it was his granddaughter calling out to him.
He was a young man, after all. Far too young to have children, let alone grandchildren. He smiled at the young lady who held out her hand to him, beckoning him to join her on the paddleboats. They would float the evening away, and then they would ride the Bobs, and he would comfort her as she screamed at the top of her lungs when their car plunged down the rollercoaster’s steep incline.
It would be a night to remember in Lost Chicago…one of many, and the thrills would never end.