Written for the 10th anniversary of Julius Caesar Gallery, Chicago where I once was co-director.
Assembly worker John’s car echoed Nate’s defeat. The hollow grind of tire over gravel spoke of the failed campaign.
John had invited Nate to accompany him on a visit to the local steel mill. Both men were looking to climb the town’s small government ladder. John spoke to the people about practicality. Nate spoke to their hearts of UFOs and of renaming the town, Portland. The latter was a mission to increase tourism. Portland, Montana.
The thinking was to be like Oregon, the Portland of the Midwest. But there was already plenty of other Portlands floating around - North Dakota, Minnesota, and they didn’t have much to show for it. John explained to the town that it would cost more to rename everything than the revenue it could produce. Unfortunately, even the saucer seers couldn’t back Nate.
He was doing it for his wife. She was a tour guide for camping groups. Bringing them into the woods, she appeared and disappeared whenever at home. He explained his renaming proposal to her — increase tourists, better for her business. But she was barely there, her mind haunting the woods.
The ride to the steel mill was silent except for John’s facts about the history of steel in town. As they pulled up the candidates topped off their heads with hard hats and entered. Meeting the supervisor, the agenda was laid out, the glowing ballet of gigantic caldrons began.
The scene reminded Nate of the Terminator battling the T-1000 to protect humanity’s future, John Connor. It became hard to think of anything else while meeting and greeting. Nate began to question his own role, was he John? Sarah? The Terminator? Or perhaps the mimic and hunter of humans, Prototype Series 1000?